Monday, June 30, 2008

Journeying: some updated thoughts

*A couple of months ago, I posted about needing to set some limits on the time I spent blogging. Taking Thursdays off has been a great decision for me. It was really tough at first, but now I find it's become a habit. Sometimes I've been tempted to check a blog on that day, but I just keep Bloglines closed so I won't know what I'm missing. =) It has made Fridays a little trickier because there are more posts to read, but it's still less clicking around than before. The timer is still a good tool for me, as well.


*I'd also posted in April about needing to be more consistent and intentional with quiet time. The move made beginning a new routine difficult, but now that we're settled, I've started having quiet time in the early mornings. It really is the best time for me, and I decided I just needed to make it happen. I still do some reading and journaling before bed, but I decided during my retreat that I wanted to do these 3 things before I started the rest of my day: read the Bible, spend some time in prayer, and think of someone that I want to specifically encourage that day.


*It's been harder to get in the habit of praying intentionally for my son. When praying for Eric, I use a little card that I've mentioned before, and that really helps me with what to pray. I recently printed something I found (via Joy's blog) about praying for our children, and
I've been using that in the morning to pray for Nathan.


Just wanted to share some updates as I continue on my journey . . .

Friday, June 27, 2008

Makeovers

#1
When it comes to "decorating" outdoors, I have little to no knowledge or creativity. So I haven't a clue what to do with a couple areas in our yard that need some attention. The area below was crying out for color, so with the prodding of a friend, I picked out some bright pink flowers--mini impatiens and some smaller petunias called "tiny tunias!" There is lots more that could be done, but this was a nice baby step in the right direction.
#2
I have gone to the same hairstylist for several years, and she always kids me for wanting the same cut every time. Lately, I've been feeling like I needed something shorter and fresh for summer. I didn't really have anything in mind, but I was also nervous because my stylist is much more experimental with hair than I am! I told her I wanted something different, but still low-mainteance and I wanted to be able to pull it back. So here's my cut--I really like it and am glad I decided to try something new! (Granted, it's not a drastic change, but I'm not really a drastic kind of person. The last time I did something crazy and impulsive with my hair, I didn't recognize myself in the mirror and left the salon in tears!)



#3
One of the displaced items from our move was this cabinet, formerly housed in our only bathroom for extra storage. Now we've upgraded to two bathrooms (wahoo!), but there wasn't really a place for it in either one. Though I didn't want to get rid of it, I wasn't sure what to do with it until my mom had a brilliant thought. She suggested I paint it to coordinate with the kitchen and use it as a cabinet for my mugs and tea/hot drink mixes. I loved that idea, and wanted to show you the results! Of course, you're all invited over for tea time. =)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Potato packets

This summery dish is quick, yummy and so easy to throw on the grill with the rest of your meal!


Potato packets


4 medium red potatoes, cubed (I've used various kinds of potatoes, and sometimes leave the skin on, well-cleaned, of course)
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium sweet red pepper, diced
1/2 t. seasoned salt
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. dried basil
1/4 t. parsley flakes*
1/4 c. olive oil


Combine veggies and seasonings (*I sometimes use an herb blend, instead of these individual spices--it's fun to experiment) in a bowl. Divide into 4 servings, placing one serving on a piece of aluminum foil. Sprinkle each packet with a bit of olive oil. Fold foil around veggie mixture and seal tightly. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 25-30 minutes. Open foil carefully to test doneness. Enjoy! (Thanks to my mom for the recipe.)


Besides the usual hamburgers and hot dogs, what do you enjoy cooking on the grill?


In the spirit of summer, I had to share this fabulous idea I just learned from a friend: instead of toting around chocolate bars and graham crackers for those inevitable s'mores, just grab a package of these instead, especially if you're camping. It's less fuss, and totally delicious!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Crossing it off the list

The other day, I wrote "get oil change" on my white board (aka my on-going list). My husband saw the note to myself and said he'd just read an article saying that the "3000 mile rule" (which I've really tried to adhere to) no longer applies. I was glad to read the facts in that article and learn that "it’s been a misconception for years that engine oil should be changed every 3,000 miles, even though most auto manufacturers now recommend oil changes at 5,000, 7,000, or even 10,000 mile intervals under normal driving conditions. Greatly improved oils, including synthetic oils, coupled with better engines mean longer spans between oil changes without harming an engine."


I was more convinced to postpone an oil change when I read that "Used motor oil poses the greatest environmental risk of all automotive fluids because it is insoluble, persistent, and contains heavy metal and toxic chemicals. One gallon of used oil can foul the taste of one million gallons of water." Yikes!

I want to take good care of my car, but I also want to save money, time, and environmental impact. Therefore, I'm crossing that item off my list for a few more months.

Note: I wanted to confirm this by checking the site of my car manufacturer (Shout out for Saturns! Any other Saturn owners out there?) but was unable to find anything there. Can anyone confirm/deny this new research and recommendation?

Monday, June 23, 2008

And the winner is . . .

Jamie, who selected "Mixed Berries," which was a popular pick. Thanks to all who entered, and to Lisa for her generosity!

We all scream for ice cream

Our neighborhood ice cream social was a smashing success! Being the new kids on the block =), I had no idea if people would show up. Plus, it started clouding up right around 7 and I was afraid rain would keep them away. Instead, it cooled things off and made sitting outside quite pleasant. Yay!

We invited 14 households (most being empty nester couples), and 26 people came. Even better, the shin-dig lasted a surprising three hours. (When Eric asked if we should state an end time on the invitations, I said, "Let's just see what happens." I never imagined everyone would linger so long--what fun.) People brought their lawn chairs and spread out all over our porch and lawn. We and our co-hosts provided the ice cream, drinks and dishes, and we asked our neighbors to bring a topping to share. Esther made her special caramel corn, and June brought homemade hot fudge sauce. Delightful and delicious!

I admit I was skeptical when someone suggested we play a "getting-to-know-you" game, but it went really well. We each were given a slip of paper and a pen, and we had to write down something unusual about ourselves. Then the designated emcee read each statement, and we tried to guess who went with which fact. Having just learned that one of our neighbors is the former owner of the local butcher shop, I couldn't resist writing down "I don't eat red meat!" It was a fun way to learn something random about each person.

Several people thanked us repeatedly for hosting such an event. Many of our neighbors have lived on this same block for decades, and they said they used to have block parties a long time ago. I hope our little social will be the first of many more neighborly get-togethers!

Friday, June 20, 2008

My dog ate my housework

Literally. Yesterday morning, I baked 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies for our neighborhood ice cream social. I laid them in the middle of the dining table to cool, as I usually do and left for an errand.

When I got home, I couldn't help but notice the cooling rack on the floor. Our eight-year-old springer spaniel had jumped onto the table and devoured THREE DOZEN cookies! I was furious and banished him to the basement for the afternoon, though of course I let him outside periodically in case of indigestion. I couldn't bear to make another batch of cookies, so whipped up some quick brownies instead. I made sure that dog didn't get a single crumb!

Photography giveaway!

To celebrate her new Etsy shop, my real life friend and talented photographer, Lisa, is sponsoring a giveaway! One of you will win either a 5x7 print or a set of 5 notecards--your choice of image!

To enter, go to Lisa's shop, and look through the fabulous selections. Leave a comment with the title of your favorite(s)--I personally love"European Cafe." Comments will be open until Sunday, June 22 at 11:59 pm CST. Make sure I have a way to contact you, either via a blog or an e-mail address--thanks.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday: Ice, ice, baby

A few months ago, I did a series of posts regarding this book. My husband just finished reading through it, and his increased awareness has helped spur us both to find more ways to be good stewards environmentally.


Reading the book opened our eyes to how much energy it takes to keep our appliances running, and we are trying to take small steps to decrease this usage. The biggest thing we've done is to disable the ice maker on our new refrigerator. Did you know that little convenience uses considerably more energy than its "basic" counterpart?


According to Sleeth, "the auto ice-maker uses additional energy in two ways. The obvious one is the motor that can be heard (and in some cases grinding) ice from the storage bin through a door. The less obvious user of energy is the heating element that must stay on at all times under the ice-cube-forming tray. This allows the ice to 'slide' out of the ice-making area into a storage bin. The effect of the heating element is similar to leaving a lightbulb on in the freezer. To 'upgrade' your current refrigerator to a more efficient one, disconnect the electrical supply plug to the ice-maker unit and use old-fashioned ice cube trays."


My husband cut a small piece of plywood and set it in the icemaker so we can set two "old-fashioned" cube trays on it. Disabling the ice-maker and thereby saving energy works for me!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

That still small voice

Note: this actually happened in January. I typed up the story at the time and saved it in my drafts folder, where it has stayed these past few months. After reading a similar experience on a blog last week, I knew I wanted to share this with you, because I am amazed at how God works in our lives:


One recent night as I was lying in bed, a family who I know only peripherally came to mind, and I sensed that I was supposed to bless them with a small offering. The next day, I was scheduled to have an hour-long massage (oh the bliss!), a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law. I felt a nudge to shorten my massage to a half-hour, and to give the difference in cost to this family. I dismissed the idea as absurd, but the next morning, I continued feeling that prompting.


I thought about calling the massage therapist to switch to a half-hour, but kept putting it off. It seemed kind of silly, and selfishly I wanted an hour's worth of pampering! A couple of hours before my appointment, my phone rang. Can you guess who it was? It was the massage therapist, asking if I could come earlier than our scheduled time because something had come up for her that evening. Though I could not arrive sooner, I meekly suggested we cut the massage to a half-hour. She said that would work out great for her. After I hung up, I said, "OK, Lord, I get it." But I still hemmed and hawed about the second part of the "assignment." I have no problem giving to worthy causes and organizations, but giving to someone I hardly know seemed, well, somewhat risky.


As I flipped through the mail that afternoon, I opened a birthday card, in which a crisp bill fell out onto the table--the exact amount I had felt led to give the family. Once again, I shook my head and smiled. If I couldn't get the message the first time--the first few times--He wasn't going to give up on me. Before I could even think about how else that money might be spent, I put it in an envelope, sealed it and sent it off with an anonymous note. Mission accomplished. Finally.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Housewarming

As a token of appreciation for the friends who helped us move, we wanted to have a housewarming party to show them the results of their contributions! We also invited a few (former) colleagues from the college.

I took advantage of our beautiful front porch by serving the refreshments there:

pink lemonade, garnished with lime slices (so pretty!)

apple tarts (so easy--I used these little pastry shells, and filled them with a small scoop of my canned apple pie filling) and brownies, baked in a mini muffin tin (thanks to my sis for that great idea!)

It was fun to visit with friends, and to share our home with them. We've worked really hard these past two weeks to get settled, because today's the first day of Eric's new job!

For having lived in this house less than 3 weeks, we've already hosted close to 50 people for various dinners and the housewarming, plus we have the block party later this week--whew!

I'm so thankful my husband and I share a desire for a ministry of hospitality. Our experience as dorm directors helped shape this, I think. While we were single, we each lived with 100 college students who were in and out of our apartments at all hours of the day. Because of this, having an "open home" policy comes pretty naturally to us, though of course it requires more effort, planning, and flexibility. The rewards are great, though: it's so important to share what God's given us with others--which means our home, food and time!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Updates

*Thanks to all who offered tips on removing the blue stains from our toilet bowls. I tried taking a picture to show how bad they are, but couldn't get it right with the lighting. I could only take so many pictures of a toilet! =)

Four ideas were given in the comments: bleach, pumice stone, Borax and vinegar, and the Mr. Clean eraser

I decided to try the Borax solution first, because it's natural and I had the ingredients on hand. As instructed, I mixed it, poured it in the toilet and scrubbed; then let it sit overnight. I saw no difference the next morning, though I'm sure the solution gave a good cleaning!

Next, I tried the magic eraser, which has proven successful for other tough stains. However, I had to press quite hard, and only saw minimal improvement.

Then I thought I should check out a pumice stone, which I purchased at Lowe's. The package promises that the product is unexcelled at removing hard water stains, and I have to say I was quite impressed. Thanks to Lisa and Ewokgirl for the winning suggestion!

*I also appreciated all your suggestions for praise CD's and am excited to look into some of them soon. After someone mentioned Selah, I remembered my husband had a disc of theirs that I'd never listened to. Wow--it was wonderful! This song gave me chills . . .

*Thank you for weighing in on my neighborly post. God works in mysterious ways. Just last night, we were all outside in the front yard, and our neighbors across the street came out and started throwing a frisbee. I was chasing Nathan, and when I turned around, the dad was making his way over to us. Yay! We met the couple, and their youngest daughter who's in high school, and ended up talking for a long time. It turns out their two sons attend school in my husband's hometown, so we had much to talk about. Then I asked the wife if she'd ever seen inside our house, and she said no, so I invited her in for a peek. There were plenty of toys strewn about, but I figured she's a mom, too, so oh well! The men stayed outside to chat, and it turns out this couple had thought of the same idea to gather the neighborhood this summer: an ice cream block party! They'd already decided they wanted to have it on or around the first day of summer, but just hadn't moved further with the details. I jumped right in and suggested we co-host, and a plan was born. We decided all the important details, and I already made the invites last night, which we'll hand-deliver this weekend. I'll let you know how it goes! (And speaking of hosting, we're having a little housewarming party here this morning--more to come on that later.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Won't you be my (friendly) neighbor?

I had to smile when I read a comment on my post about the impromptu porch party about us having a friendly neighborhood. I'm sure the people that live around us are very nice, though we haven't met anyone new. The neighbors who stopped by last week are acquaintances of ours who work at the college.

I've been kind of surprised that no one has introduced themselves, especially since this is a small town in the rural Midwest. Am I naive or old-fashioned to think that this is a kind and reasonable gesture?

After living on campus for so long, where our neighbors were close friends and colleagues, this is a new ball game, despite our close proximity to our former home.

Don't get me wrong--I don't expect a red carpet to be laid out on our driveway, nor am I exempting myself from neighborly responsibility. I'm just wondering what that "responsibility" is. I mentioned to Eric that maybe we could host an ice cream social later this summer for the people on our block, so we'll see what happens with that. And of course my sister is an excellent model for reaching out to neighbors!

I'd be interested to hear from you--do you reach out to your neighbors or vice versa? What are some ways you've been a friendly neighbor to someone else, or how has a neighbor done something thoughtful for you?

Note: I had to laugh when I saw Amy's post on this very topic on Friday, as I had already written this post so it would be ready to go. She and I are often on the same wavelength!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Everything we need

Mid-way through my Saturday morning retreat, I realized the significance of the date. June 7 was my 25th "Christian birthday." (Although I was only 4 years old, I distinctly remember being on the swings at a neighbor's house and praying to ask Jesus into my heart. I ran home and told my mom, who also prayed with me. What a journey began that day. Thank You, Lord, for Your grace and mercy!)

After the stress of moving, taking this retreat was even more valuable than usual. By the end of my time spent reading, writing, praying, and just sitting, I felt like I could breathe more deeply and then step back into my other responsibilities.

As I reviewed my notes from my May retreat (it's always beneficial to me to see where I was a month ago), I was startled to notice a verse I had recorded during that time away: 2 Peter 1:3 (and following): "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness." I hadn't remembered highlighting that verse just a few weeks ago, but interestingly, it's the passage our pastor chose to preach on throughout the summer. Each week, our church will be challenged to grow in one of the different attributes listed in the chapter: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. I know I want to possess those qualities in increasing measure (v. 8)!

My retreats have been such a blessing--I am so thankful for this time and space to reflect and learn!

If you are considering taking a regular retreat, which I highly recommend, here are some tips I've learned this past year:

*Set aside a block of at least two hours
*Use a piece of scratch paper to write down any to-do items that come to mind so you can set them aside until later
*Try to find a location away from home, if possible (Saturday I went to the house of a friend who was out of town for the weekend. It was a win-win because I was able to check on a couple things at their house, and bring their mail in.)
*I like to have a balance of a plan/lack of plan. I don't bring any book that I have to read for a Bible study, etc., because I want to protect my retreat time from obligations. I bring my Bible, journal, this book (I read one chapter each month) and sometimes another book.
*I try to have a general timeline by scheduling my retreat around the first week of each month.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Random thoughts about moving

*After years of living on campus and using the college post office, I'd forgotten what it's like to get mail on Saturdays, and to be able to step right outside your door to both deposit and retrieve mail. (In fact, I've been taking things to the post office all week, because I forgot all I have to do is clip it to our box!)

*Similarly, on campus, we had to dial "9" to dial off-campus, and I keep pushing that number first!

*If you know a friend or family member who is moving, two of the most helpful offers we received were ready-to-eat meals and watching our son for an hour or two. I will certainly be passing those favors on to others as they move!

*Friday morning, we were paid a visit by the "city hostess," the local equivalent of the welcome wagon. Even though my husband and I have lived here a combined total of 22 years, apparently buying a house is what makes us a true part of the community. =)

*And now for a housekeeping question: both of the toilets in this house have what I would call a blue stain "ring" along the upper edge of the bowl--any ideas for getting it off?

Well, that's my random list. Do you have any tips to add for people who want to offer help to a friend or family member who's moving?

Praise music

Last week, after posting about wanting to create a more positive environment in our home, I felt like one change I could make is to listen to praise music throughout my day. I'd rather not have the radio on in the house (though we do in the car), as I don't want to hear all the commercials, but I have no idea what to look into in terms of artists or titles. I would love to hear your suggestions for CDs that you find uplifting. Thank you!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Our house

The kitchen, above, with its fabulous woodwork, and below, a corner shot of the living room
Our beautiful bedroom. We haven't even hung anything on the walls yet--they're already so pretty and peaceful!
I love how the blue turned out in the playroom!
More pix to come as we work on projects. My husband has been hard at work in what will be Nathan's room, and soon it will be my turn to put my touches on that space!

Friday, June 6, 2008

R+R

Thanks so much to each of you who commented on my last post. I appreciate your wisdom, support, challenges, and encouragement!

I think I pushed so hard during the move and leading up to it that now my body is crying out for rest. I've had a sore throat most of the week and am really tired. Since Wednesday night, I've taken a step back from my long list of projects to take care of myself so I can feel better and also care for my family.

Your comments gave me much food for thought. I needed to know that I'm not "alone" in feeling this way. I also needed a reminder to lower my expectations regarding how much needs to get done and that I need to be making space in my day for quiet time--both spiritually and in other kinds of rest and recreation.

Here's some of what I'm doing regarding breaks these couple of days:
*Yesterday, I went for a half-hour massage. I seriously almost fell asleep on the table--it was so relaxing!
*Today a friend will watch Nathan for a couple hours (I watched her son earlier this week, and I think we'll swap throughout the summer) so I'll have that time to rest or get errands done, depending on how I feel.
*Tomorrow is my retreat time. I am so ready for that--there is much to think and write about, and it will be great to have some quiet space to reflect.

Just wanted to check in. It's a goal of mine to take some pix of the house tomorrow so I can show you what we've been up to. Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Hep peas

("Hep peas" is Nathan's way of asking for help.)

I've been really impatient and easily frustrated lately, and I'm not quite sure what to do about it. I know we've just moved to a new house, and there is added stress, which also makes me more tired. But I also know I'm not being the wife and mom I want to be when my "trigger" is so short.

Yesterday at church, someone said that the best way to teach your children about faith is to set an example for them by living it yourself. This challenged me even more to want to model the fruits of the Spirit to those closest to me!

One of the verses I try to bring to mind when I'm feeling less patient with Nathan is Ephesians 4:2 "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." In addition to learning this verse, I want to find ways that I can be refreshed so I am more patient and eager to serve, and I also want to help create a more positive atmosphere in our home.
I'd really like to hear your thoughts on this subject: What do you do when you're feeling impatient or irritable? How do you refresh yourself, and how do you help contribute to a positive atmosphere in your home? (Thanks for being willing to share--I look forward to your insights and inspiration!)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Impromptu porch party

This house, for me, is truly an example of the verse that says God is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). As with everything else my husband and I have been blessed with, we want to be good stewards of this home. I think a piece of that is sharing it with others as opporunities arise. It's just funny that an opporunity "arose" so quickly!

Friday afternoon, just 2 days after Moving Day, I was unpacking clothes upstairs when the doorbell rang. Two friends had stopped by to say hi. I invited them to sit on the porch, and we visited a bit. As we were chatting, a neighbor came over with her baby to welcome us to our new home. Then her husband joined us, as did Eric, Nathan and my brother-in-law. After hanging out for awhile, someone asked what time it was. We realized it was 5:30, which is usually when we eat supper! I had planned to grill out that night, so Eric asked if anyone wanted to join us for the meal. Everyone wanted to stay, so I headed to the kitchen to begin preparations. Ordinarily, I wouldn't have had enough meat on hand for so many people. However, our friends that just moved away had donated the contents of their fridge and freezer to us. Isn't it amazing how God provides? (I have to mention the following irony for those who will remember this story from last summer: our friend that just moved and gave us so many groceries is the same dear friend from the "incident.")

As I chopped lettuce and tomatoes for our spur-of-the-moment picnic, the doorbell rang yet again. A friend who had been on my dorm staff for two years was in town for an interview and had tracked us down so she could say hi as well! It was chaotic, but fun, and I felt so blessed to sit on our beautiful front porch sharing a meal with these old and new friends. I hope it will be the first of many wonderful gatherings in our home!