Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sisters' Shoebox Swap: Cozy

Yeah! We're so excited to announce our 2nd Sisters' Shoebox Swap!! You may remember from our last swap that we have a one word theme. For this swap, our theme will be cozy. We're leaving lots of room for your creativity here and all we ask is that your items fit into a shoe box. Since the boxes will be shipped by November 10th - we'd love it if the boxes included goodies for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So, here are all the details:

  • Swap sign-up is open until Friday, October 7th OR until we reach 50 swappers. UPDATE: THE SWAP FILLED UP IN JUST OVER 24 HOURS--UNBELIEVABLE! FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO MISSED OUT, WE HOPE YOU'LL JOIN US NEXT TIME!
  • Swap partners will be assigned by October 10th. Boxes should be mailed by November 10th.
  • If you sign up, PLEASE be certain that you will follow through with the swap. We had a couple people drop out last time. We want everyone to have a GREAT experience!

To sign up, send an e-mail with your name, address, e-mail and blog address (if you have one) to You will receive a confirmation e-mail with a short questionnaire. These brief questions are simply a way for your partner to get to know you and your tastes to create a swap box you will enjoy! You do not have to have a blog to participate.

International swapping will be coordinated if anyone is willing to ship internationally. We will not assume you will ship internationally unless you specify that you are willing to do so. After we receive all the questionnaires back, we will coordinate partners and send out e-mails to you and your partner will all the info.

We hope you'll join this cozy fun!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Make your own mix: beer bread

This is the 3rd "Make your own mix" post--you can find the others here and here.

Last fall I hosted a home party for a company that sells various dip, bread and dessert mixes. The mixes are both tasty and simple, but they are certainly not cost-effective. A box of their popular beer bread mix costs $5 and makes just one loaf! While it was fun to give away some of the mixes for holiday gifts, when my mother-in-law said she had a recipe for beer bread, I decided to give it a try.

I conducted a little experiment, making one loaf using the brand name mix, and one homemade loaf. Several friends sampled a piece of each bread and then gave their opinion. All of them were able to distinguish which one was made from the package, as it was slightly sweeter and less dry than the homemade version. Next time, I may increase the sugar slightly, though some of the taste testers preferred the less sweet bread. For the savings, I think this version is a suitable substitute to the $5 mix.

Here's how to make your own beer bread, using just 3 ingredients:

3 c. self-rising flour (or 3 c. flour, 1 T. baking powder, and 1/2 T. salt)
3 T. sugar
1 12 oz. can beer

The bread is baked for an hour in a greased loaf pan at 375 degrees.

Though the mix wouldn't be very colorful on its own, you could still package the dry ingredients for a gift--it's so inexpensive and easy to make!

Note: The packaged version says you can make the bread with Sprite or even Coke, though I have not tried that yet with this homemade recipe. The box also suggests pouring a couple tablespoons of melted butter over the bread just after baking.
UPDATED: I tried these ideas in the days since my initial post. I made a loaf with a can of Sprite and poured one T. butter on top after baking--and it was delicious!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Isaiah 26

I've been reading through Isaiah, and marked these powerful verses in chapter 26:

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You. (verse 3--I have this on a chalkboard in my kitchen)

Yes, Lord, walking in the way of Your laws, we wait for You; Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. (verse 8)

Lord, You establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished You have done for us. (verse 12)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Out and about

First trip to the pumpkin farm Of course, we had to bring this little pumpkin home for "my little pumpkin's" room
Celebrating my friend Jody's birthday at a tea shop that was formerly a one-room schoolhouse

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lending a hand

Most of you know we live in a college campus. In the past week alone, students have stopped by at various times to borrow a ladder, a table saw and a rolling pin. We are glad to be helpful in these instances, but I just wanted to share with you our unique perspective since we have hundreds of neighbors.

I received quite a few random requests in my years as the director of a women's dorm: eggs, a road atlas, a flashlight, a blender (which the borrower dropped, breaking the glass handle), a scarf (needed by an unprepared California girl), etc.

One humorous "borrowing" incident occurred one evening while I was visiting with some guests. A student stopped by to ask if I had any bread, which was not a big deal. I pointed her in the direction of the loaf and promptly returned to my conversation. A moment later, the student came into the living room again to ask if I had any peanut butter and jelly. I thought it was so funny that she hadn't just asked if she could make a sandwich, though I came to find that not much surprised me anymore!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Autumn inside and out

Outside, the leaves are turning colors, falling and crunching under our feet. The days are getting shorter, and the mornings and nights are definitely chilly!

Inside, I've set out a few little decorations to celebrate the season:

I could not pass up these beautiful daisies, especially since they were half-price. The little pear-shaped gourd was locally grown and cost just 40 cents.

I love this little hurricane that I got last spring. The best part is being able to "personalize" it to each season. The caramel-scented candle smells delicious!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Falling into reading

I'm excited to participate in Fall Into Reading hosted by Callapidder Days. Here is my proposed reading list for September 23-December 21:
  • Shepherding a Child's Heart by T. Tripp
  • At Home in Mitford by J. Karon
  • Real Love for Real Life by A. Ashworth
  • Living More with Less by D. Janzen Longacre
  • Every Man's Battle by S. Arterburn and F. Stoeker
  • The Kite Runner by K. Hosseini

This list (albeit short) feels do-able to me. If I had put 2 dozen titles on here, I would find it overwhelming and NOT fun. If I get through these, I will definitely add more! You can check out others' reading lists here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Thank you, Crystal, for my wonderful shoebox, which came wrapped in pretty paper! Inside I found Fisher's scone mix (from the WA state fair--can't wait to try it!), flavored herbal tea, iris bulbs, stickers, a personalized journal that she crafted, handmade envelopes, a scented bath "fizzy," and lavender soap (which goes perfectly as our bathroom contains several lavender accents!) Crystal, your thoughtfulness is much appreciated!

Friday, September 21, 2007

A little milestone

At some point in the next couple of days, my blog will hit the 10,000th visitor mark. I thought it would be a great time to thank you for reading and also to invite those of you who've remained anonymous to come out of hiding. If you've never left a comment before--please introduce yourself. I'd love to "meet" you! (I've had quite a few visitors from all over Iowa lately--I'd especially enjoy meeting some of my "neighbors"!)

Thanks to those who regularly take the time to comment--I love hearing from you.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's back!

I had never seen Survivor before joining the staff of our college, but it's a tradition that our department watches it together every week of every season. We are hooked.

Tonight is the premiere of Survivor: China and I am so excited. Each person in our group selects one of the contestants to be our "person" for the season, and we receive points (or deductions) based on our individual's performance in the tribal challenges. We also complete a brief weekly survey before each show where we make predictions about who will be voted out, etc. At the end of the show, whoever has the most points wins a free dinner. Another free meal goes to the person whose Survivor wins the entire competition. It's such a fun team activity--we'll be on the edges of our seats this evening!

Do you watch Survivor? Any show that you're excited to follow this season?

Our first pizza

My husband is allergic to tomatoes. When it comes to pizza, I usually make one for him with alfredo sauce (which I don't care for) and a separate one for myself. We had never shared a pizza--until Friday night. A local restaurant makes a wood-fired pizza with their house barbecue sauce. Top that with chicken, garlic, basil, green pepper and pineapple, and our first joint pizza was a delightful experience!

The best deals

After hitting several garage sales in the past week, I came across a few deals I just had to share: a vintage popsicle mold (20 cents! You can't even buy a single popsicle for that!), an Old Navy winter coat (size 2T) in great condition ($4), a package of 5 swim diapers (75 cents), and a bundle of 4 pairs of toddler pajamas ($2).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A message I needed to hear

I've read this story before on various occasions. Sometimes it really "gets" me, sometimes not so much. But yesterday, as I read it aloud to my son, I found myself getting choked up. If you're not familiar with the story, here's the summary from Amazon:

"Every day Wemmicks [small wooden people carved by a woodmaker named Eli] do the same thing--either stick gold stars or gray dots on one another. The pretty ones, those with smooth wood and fine paint, always get stars. The talented ones do, too. Others, though, who can do little or who have chipped paint, get ugly, gray dots. Punchinello is one of these. In this delightful tale, children will love hearing how Eli the woodcarver helps Punchinello understand how special he is--marks and all. It's a vital message for children everywhere: that God cherishes them just as they are."

The back of our abridged toddler version says, "It's a truth a child is never too young to hear." But I think it's a truth for people of all ages. Lately I've been caring too much about what others think, what their impressions of me are. But this story tenderly reminded me that it is my Maker who knows me best and who considers me one of His special children.

Here is the scene that spoke to my heart:

Eli: "What they [the other Wemmicks] think doesn't matter. All that matters is what I think. And I think you're pretty special."
Punchinello: (laughing) "Me, special? Why? I'm not very talented and my paint is peeling. Why do I matter to you?"
Eli: "Because you're mine. That's why you matter to me."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gifts from the blogging community

I used the word "community" in my title, because I have been so blessed by the companionship and inspiration I've found in the blog world. I'm happy to be part of it.

*Thank you (much overdue) to Ewokgirl for naming me a Rockin' Girl Blogger.

*I am honored that my sister, Monica, would bestow me with the Frugal Subversive Award! This award was to created to recognize bloggers who make an effort to reduce spending and consumerism and to be innovative in making and reusing things. What a great goal!

I would like to pass the torch to the following "Frugal Subversives":

Going a year without purchasing anything from W-mart is definitely a commitment to reducing consumerism. Learn more about Megan's challenge here.

Sara and her family recently hit the road in an RV that runs on used veggie oil! She is definitely committed to a less is more philosophy when it comes to material possessions.

I'm "seconding the motion" in awarding this to Stephanie (she's already received it once). You will find lots of ideas for simple and frugal living on her blog, and she is also the host of a weekly carnival that celebrates making things from scratch!

*Another expression of gratitude goes out to Kathleen Marie for sending me this book as part of the Pay it Forward Book Exchange. I've heard so much about it I figure it's time I finally jump in!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Autumn bounty

Carrots, honey and edamame from the farmer's market, with our final garden harvest of the season: several green and red peppers, a handful of green beans and a few tomatoes. We had to cover our garden this weekend as there was already a threat of frost. (I'm sure that makes all you Southerners want to faint!)

As if that wasn't enough fresh locally grown produce, the aforementioned acquaintances indeed blessed us with a large bag of apples (in addition to the ones I rescued from the ground).

We thank Thee, Father, for Thy care /And for Thy bounty everywhere;
For this and every other gift, / Our grateful hearts to Thee we lift.
--a common table grace

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Shoebox Swap!

This is the stuff I sent to my partner, Crystal, with a theme of the refreshing colors of blue and green: a notepad and journal, tea, homemade notecards, chocolate sweet and salty snack mix, peppermint spray and tealights.

My mom, who does not have a blog (yet!), asked me to share a photo of the gifts she received from Debbie. Her favorite item was the Cuddle Buddy, which Debbie makes and sells for a good cause--you can read more here.

Now it's your turn to share. Please add a link to the specific swap post, so we can all see your goodies! Thank you to everyone who participated! We're planning on another swap soon, so keep watching for details.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Harvest pumpkin bread

I love pumpkin recipes. I used this bread recipe to make 2 dozen muffins this week--some for us and some to take to a party. Delicious!

1 t. baking soda
1/2 c. hot water
3/4 c. vegetable oil
2 1/2 c. sugar
1 can pumpkin (15 oz.)
3 eggs
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
3 1/2 c. flour

Dissolve soda in hot water. Combine with other ingredients. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans or 24 muffin cups. Bake at 35o degrees: bread for an hour; muffins for 20 minutes. Enjoy!

I also want to try this yummy pumpkin muffin!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A windfall

We usually receive dozen of apples from some friends who live on a local farm, but this year their harvest is minimal. I've been planning to purchase some from the farmers' market, but the other night I noticed a yard near our house that was laden with wind-fallen apples. The residents are acquaintances of ours from both work and church, so I thought I might as well inquire. I had a very Amy Dacyczyn moment when I e-mailed to ask if I could pick up some of the grounded apples. Not only did the couple say that was fine, but they told me they may have extras to offer once they pick from the tree. I guess it "pays" to ask sometimes!

I'm so glad I brought a plastic glove and sack along--there were definitely some squishy and buggy apples. But I brought home a bagful of pretty decent specimens, which will be transformed soon into apple pie filling and these.

Thanks to my mom for the clever post title--way better than what I came up with originally!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Drumroll, please

Thanks to all who signed up for the giveaway of After the Leaves Fall and to Tyndale for providing the books! I am thrilled to announce the winners:

Lizzie @ A Dusty Frame

Barb @ A Chelsea Morning

Heather (no blog)

"Mama" @ Life as a Mama

In addition, Tyndale would like to send copies to Nicole's former students who signed up--Eric and Julia! Congratulations to all SIX of you--you will receive an e-mail from me shortly requesting mailing info.

Again, thank you to all who signed up. You can find After the Leaves Fall on Amazon or check your local bookstore!


I am a big fan of the nationwide Babygarten program, which meets at local libraries and schools. Each season, babies and toddlers meet for 6 weekly hour-long sessions of reading and singing. We have a wonderful facilitator who leads us in songs with fun actions like "I'm a Little Rocket", "Baby Shark", and my son's favorite, "Choo Choo". Parents read the same pre-selected book aloud simultaneously to their children, and there is also a "structured" (ha!) play time and a "craft" (2nd ha!).

Sometimes the craft item is something the parents create, other times it's a pre-assembled item to take home. We recently finished up the summer session, and I wanted to share with you this project idea--a toy made from stuff you already have on hand.

To make the "wave bottle", you will need a clean plastic water bottle with the label removed, water, baby oil, food coloring, and glitter/confetti/small toys. Fill the water bottle half-way with baby oil, and then pour water until the bottle is nearly full. Add a couple drops of food coloring in the hue of your choice, and then sprinkle a few goodies in for added sparkle. We then used a hot glue gun to attach the lid firmly to the bottle, and sealed the seam with a piece of duct tape for extra precaution. The bottles are easy to make, and hopefully captivating to your toddler!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Customer service

Confronting the customer service of any business is a rarity for me, but it's happened twice in the past week.

On July 30, I ordered an ink cartridge for our printer. I decided to purchase the product on-line, which I thought would deliver the toner more quickly than I could pick one up. A few days later, we received the cartridge; however, it was missing a small piece and was thus unusable. We contacted the company, who mailed a replacement on August 13. When two weeks went by without receiving the item, I finally called to inquire about my order. Talk about getting the run-around. It was very frustrating, especially as the call was made on my own dime. I'll spare you additional details, but I had to make a second call on September 5--five weeks after my original request--and still nothing. Apparently, the package was lost in the mail, but the matter was handled in what I considered to be an unprofessional manner. I shared my frustration, thanked them for the effort that was made, and asked for a refund. I just hope the refund comes through!

I recently received a notice that one of the frequent flier programs I belong to adopted a new miles expiration policy. For those of us who are not travelers logging several flights a year, this strict enforcement (18 months with no activity) is a real discouragement. I e-mailed the customer service department, informing them of my disappointment in their decision. They sent a cordial reply, detailing several ways in which I might extend my miles through affiliate purchases, etc. I am thankful that some programs, such as Northwest's Worldperks, are much more user-friendly--Worldperks miles do not expire, and they are also transferable to family and friends.

Sometimes I hesitate to express my discontent with the service I've received. It can be difficult to temper one's, um, temper in a situation that has not been handled well. I try to be as diplomatic as possible, and when applicable, to offer thanks for some aspect of the service that has been appreciated.

I know my sister has bravely posted some of her own such correspondence. As with so many things in life, I find it difficult to find the right balance. In these cases, I want to be firm and direct, yet handle it with grace. I hope I've done so.

*I wrote a draft of this post a couple of days ago. Since then it has occurred to me that I took the time to address these minor personal "injustices," yet rarely have I been a voice for much more significant issues going on in the world. It's food for thought for me as I consider what that might look like. I did not receive any tangible benefit from speaking up in the above situations (neither company went above and beyond to remedy my discontent), but I hope I will make more of an effort to look outside of myself and speak on behalf of those who truly need it.


Where were you?

I was teaching 8th grade language arts in Colorado. I distinctly remember that it was school picture day. The staff had gathered around the sign in front of the building, and many teachers were saying something about a plane hitting one of the WTC towers. At the time we had no idea of the true impact.

Classroom TVs were on for much of the day--hard to know how to address grammar when people's lives are literally crumbling. I was also teaching in a high-military area--many of my students' parents had been serving overseas, and it defintely hit a nerve for them.

My thoughts today are with those whose lives were directly affected.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Free ink cartridge refill!

Just heard about this great offer from Walgreens and wanted to share: click here for a coupon for one free printer ink cartridge refill. Coupon valid only on Wednesday, September 12.


For those of us who have attended church for a long time, I think it's easy to fall into autopilot when it comes to familiar prayers and songs. How often have I sung the words to a hymn or other song without thinking about what I'm singing? How many times have I prayed the Lord's prayer out of rote memorization, with little comprehension of its power? Although many times I fall short in this area, I make an effort to be mindful of the words.

Sometimes I also feel unsettled when singing words I'm not sure I'm living up to: Am I really surrendering all when I sing that beloved hymn? Am I truly desiring to surrender all?

A few years ago, a student shared an insight that has really stayed with me. In a popular praise song, there is a line that says, "In all I do I honor You." The young woman said that phrase has always bothered her, because she knows it isn't true. She thinks it should say, "In all I do, I want to honor You". I think of that every time when I see these words--when I sing these words.

It's so easy to let our lips do the singing without engaging our hearts, souls and minds. I find it a constant mental battle to not drift into autopilot--but it's a battle I believe is worth fighting.

Friday, September 7, 2007

After the Leaves Fall

My sister-in-law, Kendra, who works at Tyndale House Publishers, recently e-mailed me saying she thought I would be interested in a new book they're publishing. She knows I love to read and how excited I get about small world things! Debut novelist Nicole Baart and I live in the same neck of the woods, we're the same age (give or take a year), have both taught secondary English, and we are both the only female in otherwise all-boy households. It's so fun to discover these connections!

Kendra sent me an advanced copy of Nicole's book, After the Leaves Fall, which is being released in October, and I devoured it in a few days (That's quick for a mom of a baby!) I have to say that I do not normally read Christian fiction, but I really enjoyed this story about a young woman named Julia. Julia is not a fluffy character--she is very real and I came to care about her! Because much of the book takes place on a college campus, I was particularly compelled to reading about Julia's collegiate experience. I'm really looking forward to the promised sequel!

Fellow blogger Laurel Wreath has written a more comprehensive review of the book, which you can check out here.

The really exciting news is that Tyndale has generously offered to share this book with some of you! Four names will be drawn to receive an advanced copy of the book. (FYI, these are marketing copies, so they do come with a label that says "for promotional purposes only" and may not be fully revised from the final edition.)

All you have to do for a chance to win is leave a comment. This contest is open to readers in the U.S. and Canada. (Nicole has dual American-Canadian citizenship, so we figured that would be appropriate!) If you don't have a blog, please leave your e-mail address in the comments so I can contact you. If there is no blog or e-mail address given, your name will not be entered. Contest is open until Wednesday, September 12 at noon CST. Winners will be posted shortly thereafter.

So just who is Nicole?! You can check out her blog for more great stuff, but she was gracious enough to share some of her own story with all of us:

Tell us a little about your family.
I have the greatest family! My husband, Aaron, is an ordained pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. He is currently the head and only pastor at a church called Bridge of Hope Ministries. Aaron is a dynamic preacher and a very caring man. He just loves people and it shows. I am so blessed to be his bride.
Aaron and I have two sons. Isaac is almost four and though he looks like Aaron, he has my personality. He’s very creative and full of energy. Judah, our youngest son, just turned one and he is our little spitfire. He was born in Ethiopia and brought home on December 1, 2006. I have never met a happier child in all my life.
For now, my house is full of boys. But we’d love to have more children and I certainly think our home will include an Ethiopian princess someday.

How did you find/make time to write while being a mom to two little ones?
It’s hard, but I really don’t have much of a choice. This might sound overly dramatic, but I have to write--it’s a part of me and I am not a whole and healthy person if I am not writing. So I make time.
Both of my boys still take naps, therefore sometimes I write in the afternoons. Also, my mom watches the boys one morning a week and I hire a sitter one morning a week. So I do have some scheduled blocks for writing. The rest of the week I am writing in my head. I have lots of time to think about a chapter before I put it on paper. That way, when I actually sit down to write, it doesn’t take me very long. I usually write about a chapter a week, and though only eight hours or so of that time is sitting down with pen in hand, I actually put a lot of thought into each word that ends up on the paper.

What surprised you about the writing and/or publishing process?
There have been lots of surprises! Personally, I was shocked at how quickly I was able to finish a novel. Before After the Leaves Fall, I had never completed a novel. I had started lots of different books, but I was never able to finish them. Then, suddenly when I had a deadline, I was incredibly capable of meeting it. Amazing how that works! It taught me a lot about myself though. Because I am creative I need structure in my life or I flit from project to project. I’ve always considered myself organized, but I’m not. I need to maintain order in my life or it becomes messy very fast.
Another surprising thing for me is how the creation of a book is really a team effort. I may have written the book, but so many people contributed to it! Todd edited my first draft, then Becky and Stephanie read and approved it, Lorie did the major edits, Jessie designed the cover, Babette and Vicky worked marketing magic, and the list goes on and on. I am indebted to everyone who made helped make this book what it is.

Why this story?
This story is enormously personal to me, but not because it is my story. In fact, Julia and I could not possibly be more different. I think the only things we have in common are a deep love for our grandmothers and a strong appreciation for the sometimes-veiled beauty of the Midwest. So I didn’t choose to write this particular story because it is, in some ways, my story. It isn’t at all. Nor is it biographical about anyone I know.
After the Leaves Fall really began with the character of Julia. As she formed in my mind, I just fell in love with her tenacity and strength. I wanted her to be an unforgettable heroine, but I wanted her to be real, too. I’ve read so many books that end with a neat “happily ever after” and it has often bothered me that life isn’t always (or ever, for that matter) as perfect as we read about in novels. I wanted Julia’s story to be real and honest, but also filled with hope and redemption--a story with a hopeful ending that is not necessarily rainbows and kittens when it’s all said and done.
The truth is, the story of After the Leaves Fall sort of came out of nowhere. Basically, I had a character and a vision for a book that was filled with grace, but that was also true and accessible and candid. It’s amazing how God works because I still can’t figure out how this all happened!

Now that you've met Nicole, I know you really want to win her book--so just leave a comment for your chance! Winners will be posted on my blog and also contacted directly.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

You say potato, I say potatoh

Somehow I think mashed potatoes (a favorite comfort food of mine) taste even better when the spuds are from your own backyard!

Sometimes the simplest things . . .

. . . can make the biggest difference!

According to green living, the most important thing to recycle is aluminum cans. The site says that a computer or TV can run for three hours because of the energy savings of recycling just one aluminum can!

Other facts from the site: It takes 95 percent less energy to make a new aluminum can from recycled aluminum cans. The aluminum can you recycle today will be back as a new aluminum can in 60-90 days.

I don't drink pop/soda/Coke/soft drinks (trying to hit all the different regional terms!), but my husband does, and we also keep it on hand for guests. I make it a point to recycle not just aluminum cans, but plastic and newspaper as well--it takes so little time and makes a big difference!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday: brand loyalty edition

This week's WFMW theme is brand loyalty, so I've compiled a list of some of our favorite name brands:
  • Shoes: Chacos! Read more here.

  • Paper/household products: I only buy Kleenex brand tissues, and for whatever reason, I prefer Angel Soft t.p. I am also a big fan of Uniball black fine-tip pens and Aquafresh toothpaste.

  • Food: As far as packaged/convenience products, we are loyal to reduced fat Wheat Thins, Kraft mac and cheese and Yoplait yogurt. We're also partial to Blue Bunny ice cream, which is made in Iowa's self-proclaimed "Ice Cream Capital of the World"!

  • Appliances: I have to say that we love our Dyson vacuum, which was a wedding gift. (Very pricey, however!)

I'm so curious to read what others have to say. Want more brand loyalty lists? Go here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Good times

I have been blessed with some very fun activities and interactions in the last few days, and just wanted to share . . .

On Friday, my dear friend Jody came over and brought the ingredients to make a fabulous salad. Mix the following:

1 can butter beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 diced avocado
3-4 diced Roma tomatoes
1 c. frozen peas (thawed)
1/2 c. chopped red onion
chopped fresh basil to taste

We topped the salad with raspberry vinaigrette, but I found it also tasted delicious without any dressing.

On Saturday, I had a surprise phone call from Kaori, a former student from my days as a dorm director. Kaori lives in Tokyo, so our communication has been limited. Isn't it such a treat to catch up with a friend you haven't talked to in a long time?

Sunday I attended the beautiful garden wedding of two former students who had gone with my husband and me on a hurricane relief trip to New Orleans. The color scheme was teal, brown and yellow--very unique! A funny memory of the night was that my shoe split in half just before the ceremony began--thankfully, I had a 2nd pair of shoes in the car!

Monday, friends and colleagues shared a delicious meal together and enjoyed splashing in a hotel water park.

What a fun long weekend we had. Thank You, Lord, for friends!

My sister, my friend

When I heard not long ago that there was a holiday called Sisters' Day, I made a note to write a special post on that date. I recently realized the official day slipped past me, but interestingly, according to Hallmark, Sisters' Day fell on the same date as Friendship Day. A coincidence? I think not. My sister, Monica, is one my closest friends, and I know you think she's great, too. Monica is crafty, generous, wise, creative, caring, and amazingly motivated. I love you, my sister, my friend!

I'm also grateful to have two wonderful sisters-in-law. Kristin has been a trusted source of parenting wisdom and encouragement, and I admire her discipline and her thriftiness. Kendra is a wonderful hostess, fun to hang out with, and amazing with kids of all ages.

Anyone else want to give a shout out to a sister in your life?

Monday, September 3, 2007

A radical invitation

On Saturday I "retreated" for the 2nd time, as I had committed to taking monthly retreats on the first one. The morning was sunny with a nice breeze, so I jumped on my bike and headed for a quiet spot outside.

I could hardly write fast enough to keep up with the thoughts that spilled onto my notebook, and then--I just sat quietly for awhile. During my first retreat, I began reading this book for the third time. The book truly is an invitation to solitude and silence. Solitude is pretty radical these days, and this book is a practical and insightful guide to getting started. I find myself underlining a statement on almost every page, as so much of what the author says resonates with me. Here is just one quote from the book by Ruth Haley Barton:

"To enter into solitude and silence is to take the spiritual life seriously. It is to take seriously the need to quiet the noise of our lives, to cease the constant striving of human effort, to pull away from our absorption in human relationships for a time in order to give God our undivided attention."

Barton is a busy working mom with a Type A personality--she definitely understands the challenges of creating space for solitude in our lives--but she's also come to understand the rich value of it. Time for quiet and contemplation is so important, and I encourage you to consider accepting this invitation.