Married to the Empire

Friday, August 31, 2007

I've been awarded!

AnneK gave me such a sweet honor today. Besides letting me know that someone actually reads my blog, she gave me this:

Anne found me when I left a comment on another blog. She checked out my site and has been reading ever since. I've also been regularly reading her blog ever since her first comment here. We obviously saw something we liked in each other!

In the spirit of this honor, I'm to nominate a few others whom I find to be "rockin'."

Cathy is a friend I've known for a while. We met on a bulletin board a few years ago. I learned early on that we may have differing beliefs regarding religion, but that doesn't mean we don't have plenty of other things in common. She's just an all-around interesting person, and her blog is positively fascinating.

Meredith probably barely knows who I am, considering her blog is highly visited, and I'm just one of many. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if she's been named a Rockin' Girl Blogger numerous times already. However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention her. It was actually her blog that first piqued my interest in blogging. Her site is still one of the first ones I visit each day. Her philosophy of contentment and living a life of frugality and beauty is a daily inspiration to me.

Carrie has a great site. I can't even remember how I ran across it, but it's become one of my favorites. I enjoy reading about her daily life, and she seems like someone I'd love to hang out with if we ever met in person.

The Frugal Homemaker is an impressive woman. It was nice to meet another SAHW (no kids) online, and I've enjoyed reading about her life of frugality in order to pay off a student loan and the mortgage. Even though she's now working outside of the home, she's still trying to live as frugally as possible. I can't help but be impressed!

Mercedes has an amazing cooking blog. She has my undying gratitude for creating and sharing a wonderful meatless recipe that my husband loves! (He has kidney disease, and we really need to cut down on his consumption of animal protein. It's rare for him to really like a meal without meat.) Her blog is filled with creative recipes, lots of pictures, and the ability to incite the desire to cook.

Murky ethics

I now have an iPod, and I'm ready to start putting some music on it. I also have 3 CDs I checked out from the library. I liked one so well that I ordered it from Amazon. But the other 2 CDs aren't interesting enough to own the whole albums, just a few songs.

As Ruf and I were on a walk last night, I was asking him if it's wrong to put those songs I like on my iPod. He said it's only wrong if I don't delete them once I return the albums to the library. He made the point that we didn't buy the albums, so we don't own the songs; therefore, it would be theft to keep them on the iPod after the CDs are returned.

I pointed out that we paid for the CDs with our taxes. Then he said that we pay for video rentals, but I wouldn't dream of making a copy of the video, as that is obviously theft. Point taken.

I also have a book on CD from the library. It's an mp3 CD, and while I have a CD player that is made for playing that type of CD, it was acting up and being difficult. However, the CD plays just fine on my computer. But it's a major pain to haul the computer around the house with me so that I can listen to the book while working on stuff. Ruf said it's fine for me to put that book on my iPod, but again, it has to be deleted when the book goes back. That makes sense to me, especially as a multi-hour book would take up a lot of valuable space on the iPod.

No wonder the music companies were having fits when file sharing and single-song buying came about. It really does leave wide open the door for murky ethics. What constitutes theft, and what is acceptable? It's enough to make my head spin.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I've got an iPod!!!

Ruf and I had dinner with my parents on Sunday. I asked my dad if he has an mp3 player; he said he has three. My father likes technology, and he buys stuff when it first comes out, then he buys the newer, upgraded versions. So he tends to have lots of older stuff he's not using. I asked if I could have his old iPod, and he said yes.

My parents came over today, and instead of his old one, he'd bought me a brand-new iPod Nano! I have no idea how to use it, so Ruf has some work ahead of him tonight to show me how to set it all up. But I'm just so excited because I've really been eyeing these things for a while now.

Sorry it's all blurry, but there it is. A pretty silver. My parents said they weren't sure whether to get me silver, pink, blue, or black. I told them that I probably would have chosen pink, but silver is good because Ruf won't feel embarrassed if he ever borrows it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A salad alternative

I found a wonderful recipe for BLT cucumbers. Yes, that would be bacon, lettuce, and tomato with cucumbers.

The basic gist of this recipe (I find amounts to be rather subjective):

Peel cucumbers, cut them in half length-wise, and scoop out the middles.
Mix together some chopped tomato, chopped lettuce, bacon bits, some mayo (I use about 1-1/2 Tbls. for 2 cucumbers), and a good amount of pepper. Spoon this mixture into the cucumber halves, then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Ruf practically inhales them.

As good as a restaurant

Last year Ruf and I went to the birthday party of one of Ruf's friends. It was at a Mexican restaurant, and I was craving cheese enchiladas, but they weren't on the menu. I ordered something else, but I still had that craving. Since we didn't want to go out to eat again, I searched my cookbooks for a homemade version.

I was pleased to find that The New Betty Crocker Cookbook (although not so new now as I received it as a wedding gift 9 years ago, and it has a copyright of 1996) has a wonderful recipe for cheese enchiladas. I always thought cheese enchiladas would be difficult to make, but they're quite simple. Cook up the sauce, roll cheddar and monterrey jack cheeses in tortillas, pour the sauce on top, and bake. Easy peasy! And so very, very delicious (and WAY cheaper than a restaurant).

I did learn an important lesson, though. These do not freeze well. The second time I made these, I doubled the recipe. I made a second pan to stick in the freezer. I was about to start a two-month tutoring position, and I thought it would make for a nice, easy meal after a day of working. I pulled it out of the freezer, stuck it in the oven, heated it for quite some time... It came out with a pudding-like texture. We ate out that night.

He just can't resist fresh laundry!

Doogie is attracted to freshly-laundered clothes. I took pictures of him last Tuesday and this Tuesday enjoying the clean laundry. (Tuesday is Laundry Day around here.)

When you're married to a Stormtrooper...

...sometimes the birthday gifts are a little weird.

Ruf worked very hard to get his garrison of the 501st Legion in the Neiman-Marcus Adolphus Children's Parade in downtown Dallas last December. It was a hit with both parade watchers and the stormtroopers, so they've been invited back this year.

One thing that Ruf learned last year is that it's hard to get people lined up and doing what they're supposed to do from inside a stormtrooper helmet. Very hard. So this year, he's planning to be dressed as an Imperial Officer. Yeah, one of those Nazi-looking guys from Star Wars. (He needs an open-faced costume, and he has to be a bad guy since that's what the 501st is all about. Bad guy costumes, that is, not actual bad guys.)

We're having a local seamstress make the costume itself, but he really needed a pair of screen-accurate boots. (Screen accuracy is very important in this group.) The ones in the films were actual German WWII officer boots. I did find some in great shape and in his size on Ebay, but they were too expensive, and it really creeped me out to think that they were worn by an actual Nazi. And then it had me feeling sorry for the cow that had to die to make boots for a Nazi. And when I start feeling sad for dead animals, we're going down a path I really don't want to tread.

Instead I found a guy on Ebay who custom makes reproduction boots. That was much more up my alley, so I ordered a pair for Ruf for his birthday. One month and two days later, they arrived. Don't they look nice?

And a picture of my future Imperial officer wearing his new boots, shorts and t-shirt, his stormtrooper belt, his ridiculously-expensive giant rubber gun that has a proper name but I can't remember it, and a friend's Imperial officer hat:

I'd ask, "Doesn't he look handsome?" but I'm sure you're too busy laughing to answer my question.

WFMW: Multiple Uses for a Drying Rack

I love my IKEA drying rack. The thing is huge, and holds tons of stuff. Or, it can be small to hold fewer things. It's great because it's made to stand up regardless of how much of it you want to have folded out. I use it for the typical drying of clothes:

But as a cardmaker and sometimes other crafter, I've found the rack to be most useful for drying inky cards:

I've also used it to air out old magazines. (Small tip: a fun and inexpensive gift is to find interesting magazines from the month and year someone was born.) I just set up the rack outside on the deck or in the sunshine on the lawn and let Mother Nature take care of airing out musty-smelling magazines that I've hung over the rungs.

I'm sure that given time I'll find plenty of other ways to use my drying rack. For more Works-for-Me Wednesday ideas, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New books!

I posted a couple of weeks ago about finally spending enough money with my debit card to get a reward. I ordered a $25 gift card for

It arrived today!!!

The best part of the timing is that because I pre-ordered the last Harry Potter book, I have a code to get $5 off an order of $25 or more, if I order by August 31. So, that's like $5 free to spend on more books! Can you tell I'm excited?

Monday, August 27, 2007

A tiny spark

Ruf finished The Chosen last week. He loved it. You have no idea how happy that made me! He even had me pull out my beat-up, marked-up copy so he could find his favorite quote to read to me.

"A man is born into this world with only a tiny spark of goodness in him. The spark is God, it is the soul; the rest is ugliness and evil, a shell. The spark must be guarded like a treasure, it must be nurtured, it must be fanned into flame. It must learn to seek out other sparks, it must dominate the shell. Anything can be a shell, Reuven. Anything. Indifference, laziness, brutality, and genius. Yes, even a great mind can be a shell and choke the spark." (Reb Saunders to Reuven Malter in The Chosen)

What an amazing thought. Truly, that spark within us must be treated and guarded as treasure, nurtured until it becomes a blazing fire. We have the ability to know God, to spend time with him, and to develop a more godly character as we go through life if we only will let him be an important part of our lives. But we can also choke him out. To do so would be to take away the best part of ourselves, the only thing that can make us great, and the only thing that makes us good.

May I never forget to fan the flames.

Cards for the kids

Since school started this week, I decided to make cards to send to everyone in our Sunday school class to let them know that we're praying for them. These aren't the best examples of my work as I was trying to make several in a short amount of time. But they're decent, and they'll definitely serve the purpose. I think the kids will all appreciate receiving some mail.

For the girls:

For the boys:

Inside all the cards I stamped, "If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31" Hobby Lobby has a nice selection of bible-verse stamps.

Once they're all dry (pigment inks take forever to dry), I'll spend some time tomorrow writing personal messages in them and addressing them.


The kids are back in school. Not MY kids, mind you, as I have none. But our youth group kids. I've really enjoyed having them home for the summer because we were able to hang out more, have fun, and I got to know them all a little better. Now they're back in school and will be unbelievably busy since they live in an overachieving community. Truly, it astounds me how much homework these kids receive!

On the plus side, I can now go shopping during the day and not have to fight my way through aisles crammed with kids running around like banshees.

Friday, August 24, 2007

So frustrated!

I love audio books. I listen to them while I work in the kitchen, and they make boring tasks enjoyable. But for some reason, none of the library's CDs ever want to work right in any of my CD players! I tried to start a new book tonight (The Book of Names by Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori), but yet again, it just stops partway through. I don't know what it is about the CDs from the library, but they never want to play properly! This is especially frustrating as all the new audio books are on CD these days.

Remember Shrinky-Dinks?

I like to make notecards and otherwise pretend to be a crafty person. I've read in a few places about using shrinky-dinks with rubber stamps. I bought some shrink paper the other day and did some stamping with my super-cool new Alice in Wonderland stamps. I spent some time tonight coloring a few of them in. Then I went to shrink them.

Um, it went a lot faster than I realized it would. Like, seconds. I didn't get to them fast enough to flatten out the ones that curled up. In fact, I broke one attempting to pull it apart. Two of my best ones are now beyond hope. And they shrank WAY more than I expected! I guess I should have done a test run before I set to serious work. Oh, well. Lesson learned.



ETA: I just looked at the directions and saw that there is a "Helpful Hints" section. Apparently, you can put messed up shrinky-dinks back into the oven to soften them up and reshape them. I salvaged some of the messed up ones!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

R2-KT: A droid all Star Wars fans should know about

R2-KT is a very special pink astromech droid.

It was created for Katie Johnson, daughter of the 501st Legion's founder Albin Johnson. Katie was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, and R2-KT was built as a special gift for her. Unfortunately, Katie lost her battle with cancer in 2005, but R2-KT is still working hard to help raise awareness of pediatric cancer and raise funds for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Children's Cancer Fund. If you'd like to learn more about R2-KT and see ways in which you can help, please visit

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

All tuckered out

I was about to shut down the computer for night, and I happened to look down. I guess Calvin decided to wait for me to get off the computer, but like a typical cat, he couldn't stay awake. I just found it too cute.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

WFMW: Recipe Organization

I've never been one to use those cute, but tiny little recipe cards that fit in a pretty little box. Many of the recipes I make are long and involved. Many were printed on 8-1/2"x11" paper from the computer. And the ones I cut from the newspaper and magazines often have accompanying pictures that I want to keep with the recipe.

My solution is to use a 3-ring binder with plastic page covers. I slip recipes into the sleeves, which keeps food and grease off of them. I organize recipes within the notebook according to the type of food, such as breakfast foods or soups.

If I try a recipe and don't like it, then I can simply slip the recipe out of its sleeve and toss it in the recycle bin. I keep empty plastic page protectors in the back of the notebook for new recipes.

This has worked so well for me that I upgraded on Monday to a larger notebook since my recipe collection had grown.

For more Works-for-Me Wednesday ideas, visit Shannon's site Rocks in My Dryer.

A commenter asked what the recipe is on the left. It's for Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, published in The Dallas Morning News.

Thank-you card

I made a card today for the sweet girls in my youth group who gave me an un-birthday cake on Sunday. This is one of the easiest cards I've ever made, as it went together in probably no more than 5 minutes. I'm pleased with the result.

I hope they like it!

Making use of leftovers

Saturday night a friend and I hosted a very-belated birthday party for our husbands. We served fajitas, black beans, fresh guacamole, and a dessert I can't remember the name of but it involves apples, pastry dough, and hard sauce (butter and sugar). We were left with a bit of food after the party.

This week is a little crazy because it's the last week of summer freedom for the kids in our youth group. The youth minister is calling this week The Last Blast Before Class, and we have activities every day. This means that we won't be home most evenings this week for me to cook dinner. This is where those weekend leftovers really come in handy!

Last night's dinner consisted of baked potatoes and salad. I chopped up leftover fajita chicken for the potatoes. Delicious!

I also cooked up a small pot of brown rice to put in the fridge. The black beans I'd cooked on Saturday with a little green pepper, onion, and cumin are just right for a meal of beans and rice. It's nutritious, tasty, and most importantly, easy to throw into the microwave when I'm in a rush to make it to a youth event!

Monday, August 20, 2007

So sweet

This is a very special cake:

Apparently, I had told the youth last week that I didn't get a birthday cake on my birthday. My birthday is Christmas Day, and we were in London for this past Christmas. My sister had promised me a birthday cake, but I guess she forgot because I didn't get one. I didn't even remember telling the kids about that.

Yesterday when I walked into Sunday school, our pastor's daughters greeted me with a birthday cake. They said that since I didn't get one on my birthday, I was getting one now. It was such a sweet gesture, how could I help but love it? Truly, teenagers are precious creatures.

The middle schoolers were thrilled because they got to have cake during Sunday school. And I was thrilled to realize what a privilege it is to teach such special people.

Friday, August 17, 2007

When Stormtroopers get together

My living room was clean and peaceful earlier today. Then Ruf invited one of his stormtrooper buddies over to work on their costumes. They're always adding bits and pieces and changing stuff up. This is how my living room currently looks:

Words like clean and peaceful are now gone. Tornado and disaster are what come to mind now. Times like these, I wonder why I bother even cleaning my house?


I'm a bit of a spice junkie. I really enjoy cooking, at least most of the time, so I love using really great spices. Meredith posted about a great deal she got on a spice rack, and she asked her readers how they organize their spices. I thought I'd just blog about it myself.

I have spices in a couple of places. First, there's my less-favored, but much-used spice section. This is in a kitchen cabinet not far from my workspace. It's a bit of a mess, actually.

Then there are the really good spices. There's a spice store in Fort Worth called Pendery's World of Spices. Penderys is one of my splurging stores. Their spices are truly stellar, and this Texan wouldn't think of going anywhere else for her chili powder blends or fajita seasoning! I keep these spices in my pantry door. The ones from Penderys are in plastic bags, and they take up an entire shelf. I have some other spices on a shelf below that one.

I probably have too many spices, now that I'm really looking at them. But I enjoy them so much! Having good ingredients really does add to the joy of cooking!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


My bank has a rewards program associated with my debit card. I get points for every dollar spent as long as I use the debit card as a credit card. (Why the distinction matters to the program is beyond my comprehension, but I do what I'm supposed to in order to get my points.) I've been saving my points for an Amazon gift card. I finally reached my goal. And I only had to spend $11,000 to get a $25 Amazon gift card. That's a lot of spending for that small of a reward, but I guess it's better than getting nothing for spending my money. I certainly won't complain about free books!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Speaking of cat carriers...

Really, after this post, I'll be off this subject!

We've had a problem with Doogie jumping on the TV in our bedroom to get to the top of my armoire. It's a favorite napping spot for him in the summer. I don't have a problem with him being up there; it's his method of getting up and down that's a problem. A 12-pound cat jumping up and down on a TV is not good for the TV. In fact, he's already ruined one television doing this. We don't want him messing up another.

We've tried things like putting his bicycle horn on the TV. That didn't work because he just walked around it. Then Ruf put a big Star Wars tin on top of the TV. It has a picture of Yoda making a very stern face, and Doogie once had a run-in with that Yoda and lost. He's terrified of that Yoda picture, so Ruf thought it would be a deterrent. Completely ineffective on Doogie, but scared the crud out of us the other night when Doogie jumped up there and knocked that tin off at 2am.

As I went to bed last night, I happened to notice a little addition that Ruf made to the armoire:

Since Doogie is terrified of carriers (he associates them with trips to the vet), we're hoping this works. So far, so good. My hubby is a genius!

A former vet visit

I can easily get Doogie in his carrier to go to the vet's now, but it wasn't always that way. The following story is an account of actual events that took place in my home:

It was time for Doogie to visit the vet, so I pulled the cat carrier out of the closet. I set the carrier in the middle of the living room floor with the door wide open. I then went to hunt down Doogie, who was hiding because he heard me get out the carrier. I found him and carried him to the living room, but I couldn't put him in because Calvin was already inhabiting the carrier. (He thinks cat carriers make awesome hidey-holes.) I tried to lure him out, but he wouldn't move. I had to set Doogie down, which meant that Doogie took off in a sprint, pick up the carrier, and proceed to shake Calvin out of it. Calvin slid out into a furry, disgruntled heap on the floor.

I smartly shut the door to the carrier, then went to find Doogie again. When I had my little prisoner again, I brought him to the carrier. I opened the door and attempted to shove Doogie in. Doogie suddenly seemed to sprout extra limbs because cat legs were everywhere, and I absolutely could not get him in. He wriggled out of my grasp and took off running. I ran after him.

When I caught him a third time, I brought him back to his carrier only to find that Calvin was in it again. (In my rush to chase after Doogie, I forgot to close the door.) Not wanting to waste time, I picked up the carrier to dump Calvin out again, but Calvin, who is my smart cat, knew to hold on. He shoved his legs out to the sides and braced himself inside the carrier. (Seriously, this cat is intelligent.) I couldn't get him out, and I was running late for the vet appointment.

I remembered that we had another carrier in the garage. Only problem is that it was on the top shelf of the garage. I can only reach things on that shelf if I climb the shelves. Frustrated, but in a hurry, I scaled the garage shelves, moved things out of the way, and finally got hold of the extra carrier.

By then, 15 minutes had elapsed from the start of the get-Doogie-in-the-carrier ordeal to my entering the house with the extra carrier. When I re-entered the house, I found Calvin sitting blithely in the middle of the floor and Doogie was inside the carrier.

I swear I heard them both snickering.

WFMW: Getting Kitty in His Carrier

It's time for Doogie's annual vet visit, which means wrestling him into his cat carrier. This used to be an ordeal. But not anymore.

Doogie freaks when he hears the carrier being taken out of the closet. Freaks, as in, hides under the bed for a very long time. I've developed a system for tricking him into his carrier.

First, I get the carrier out hours before his appointment. This allows him to hide for a while, then forget all about the danger. I have to allow Calvin to go into the carrier because he's my cat who thinks carriers are awesome.

After Calvin has had his fun, I set the empty carrier up on its end like so:

Right before we have to leave for Doogie's appointment, I lure him into the bathroom (where he's completely forgotten the carrier is now residing) under the guise of drinking out of the sink, which is one of his favorite activities. Once he's in the bathroom with the door closed, I grab him and lower him back-feet first into his carrier. Shut the door quickly, set the carrier properly on its bottom, then pick it up to head to the vet's office. Easy peasy! (If you'd like to see just how much of an improvement this solution is to the old way, go here.)

For more Works-for-Me-Wednesday ideas, visit Rocks in My Dryer!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


I was lamenting here the other day that my husband is not a reader, and therefore, he's never read anything by Chaim Potok, my favorite author.

I went to the library last week to pick up some books on Judaism for him, and I decided to see if our library has any of of Potok's books on tape. They do! I checked out The Chosen on tape for Ruf to listen to in the car on his way to and from work. Bless the man, he's actually listening to it! I didn't know if he would or not, but he decided since it was important to me, he'd do it.

I married well. :-)

What is happening to childhood?

There are a couple of things I've seen recently that have had me wondering about this. First, I saw a commercial for something called Kidz Bop. This is a product in which children are recorded singing today's popular music. There is something utterly disturbing to me to hear kid voices singing phrases such as "Hey, you! I don't like your girlfriend/ I think you need a new one/ I could be your girlfriend..." (Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend") Or Fergie's "Glamorous." And what about Maroon 5's "Makes Me Wonder," which is about sex and contains a lot of profanity? Listening to a clip, I see that they cleaned the song up, but there is still no excuse for children to be singing (or listening to) that song! How do those songs somehow become more kid-appropriate just because kids are singing them? To me, that makes them even worse. Why can't kids listen to actual kids' music?

Then I read this creepy article: Meet the Pre-Teen Beauty Addicts. So many things about this article made me angry. First, why on earth would a 9-year-old need to take 2 hours to get ready every morning? Why is mom allowing her to wear makeup? And what is a kid doing using toner and moisturizer? Kids have wonderfully beautiful skin and don't need to use beauty products!

The thing that really had my ire up was reading that a 14-year-old boy was pursuing a 9-year-old girl. The mom seemed to brush it off by saying that her daughter told him her age and that she's not interested. But a 9-year-old girl should not be handling pursuers or looking old enough to have those admirers!

One mother was quoted as saying, "It's frightening, but I don't know what I can do to stop her acting and dressing like a mini adult." Um, perhaps she could stop buying those clothes for her daughter?

Why are parents so eager to allow their kids to pretend to be part of the adult world? Why would any parent not want to protect and encourage his or her child's innocence?

I guess what bothered me most about that article was that I realized that my oldest niece, who lives in England like the girls in the article, is the same age as the kid who wears makeup, hangs out at the shops, and looks like a mini-adult. I'd hate to think that my precious nieces are surrounded by kids like that. My hope is that those children in the article are the rare exception, not the norm.

Aren't they sweet?

It is so rare for my boys to cuddle. Doogie likes his space, so when I saw this last night, I had to take a picture!

Monday, August 13, 2007

I finished reading Eclipse

I really hate it when I look forward to something, and then I'm disappointed. Eclipse was like that. It was a good book and a very good story, but the ending left a bad taste in my mouth. Reading about love from an adult perspective has colored my opinion of how this book has ended, and it left me feeling depressed. To try to make more sense of it all from the character's viewpoint, I've now skimmed back through Twilight and New Moon, and I'm now re-reading Eclipse.

I'm hoping that a second time through will leave me with a better perspective of how this series is turning out.

Friday, August 10, 2007

On reading

My favorite author is Chaim Potok. Most of his stories revolve around Jewish characters and the role of their faith in their lives. In my 2 favorite books, The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev, faith is a point of conflict. If ever an author could write beautiful prose that makes me think about faith and relationships, Potok is it.

Ruf is on a Jewish kick right now, as admittedly am I. We've been studying the Old Testament with our middle school Sunday school class for the past 2 years, so we've become more and more fascinated by Judaism. In fact, Ruf recently contacted a local Messianic Jewish congregation to ask about visiting and asking questions. He's especially interested in Judaism in light of accepting Jesus as Messiah. It's an interesting faith combination.

Because he's so interested in all things Jewish at the moment, I asked him if this means I can talk him into reading Potok. Ruf, unfortunately, is not a reader. It's one of those weird opposites attract things. I have a degree in English, used to teach English, am a published writer, and yet, I married a man who doesn't like to read.

Ruf's idea of compromise on the issue of reading Potok: watch the movie version of The Chosen. *sigh*

Peaceful Day

The only thing on my agenda for today that has to be done is catsitting for friends. I have a very lovely, peaceful day planned for myself. After I catsit, I intend to curl up on the couch in my naturally-lighted living room with Eclipse to read as long as I want. There's a movie coming on cable later today that I've wanted to see, so maybe I'll watch that. But maybe I'll just read until the book is finished. Isn't this a peaceful-looking setting for reading?

I don't even have to pause to cook dinner or anything, as Ruf is attending a birthday dinner for one of his friends (I opted not to go for various reasons). The day is truly my own to spend as I please. I intend to enjoy it fully.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

If I'm not here much...

If you don't see me around much in the next couple of days, it's because Eclipse arrived yesterday. For the uninitiated, it is Book 3 in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. Vampires, werewolves, true love, friendship, adventure, danger, physical and emotional conflict... what's not to like?

Well, I do get frustrated at Edward's and Bella's obsession with one another; love shouldn't be that consuming. But these books are so well written with such depth to the characters that I can't help but read and get sucked more deeply into this series.

So, if I'm slow to blog, you'll know it's because I'm busy reading in my free time!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Great Pantry Cleanout

My pantry is tiny and oddly shaped, so it tends to be crammed. It finally bugged me enough to devote an afternoon to a serious cleaning out. Oh my. Lots of outdated stuff, the worst of which was a jar of coffee creamer that expired in 1997. I wasn't even married in 1997, so this jar obviously made many moves with me. And I don't even drink coffee. I filled 2 garbage bags with food items that needed to be tossed. Now my pantry looks nice and neat, and I'll be able to find things again.

The garbage:

I had to take 2 pictures of the inside of the pantry because there's a wall that prevented me from getting far enough away to get the whole thing in one picture. The turquoise baskets are a frugal purchase, bought with the intention of holding my most-used baking supplies. When baking, I can just grab a tote and carry the whole thing to my workspace. Please know that the spray can of Cheez-It is Ruf's. I happen to be a snob who believes that cheese is not meant to come out of a can.

To give our pantry more storage space, Ruf and I bought this wire rack for the door at the Container Store several years ago. Ruf installed it for me, and it has been wonderful! I have an entire shelf with just little plastic bags of spices from Pendery's World of Spices, which is an amazing spice store in Fort Worth. At the top are my many boxes of English Rose Tea from Whittard of Chelsea. I bought only 1 box when we were in London in December. I fell in love with this stuff, so my parents brought me back 6 more boxes when they were there again this past spring. Good stuff!

I'm just so glad that things are cleaned out, organized, and I'll be able to find things again!

WFMW: Cat Training Tool

When we adopted Doogie as a kitten 8 years ago, we tried to train him with a squirt bottle. However, Doogie isn't the brightest kitty, so the result was nothing more than a soggy, confused cat who was still firmly planted in the middle of whatever naughty behavior we were trying to correct.

Enter the bicycle horn.

Cats hate loud noises. It was a lucky accident that we discovered that Doogie was terrified of a honking horn, but it has become the best training tool ever. Both of our cats are startled and a little freaked whenever the horn is honked. They immediately stop whatever behavior they are engaged in. In fact, the mere sight of us picking up the horn is enough now to get them to stop their naughtiness. It took exactly 2 horn honks 8 years ago during Doogie's first Christmas to train him to keep away from the Christmas tree. He hasn't tried to climb the tree since, so the training has actually lasted!

Of course, since I wanted to post this tip today, I can't find the horn anywhere to take a picture of it. I asked Doogie where he hid it, but he's not talking.

Visit Rocks in My Dryer for more Works-for-Me Wednesday tips.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


I wound up hanging with the youth group today after all. We went bowling. I haven't bowled in years, but I wound up winning 2 out of 3 games! Not too shabby. (Although, none of our scores were very high.)

Of course, I'm feeling my age because my back is now killing me!

Feeling Guilty

Our youth group has been spending Tuesday afternoons together this summer. I typically don't attend because they're usually outside in the sun and heat, which are automatic migraine triggers for me. But today they're indoors with AC, so really, I should be there. But I'm not. I have so much on my agenda today. It's my laundry day, which is problem #1. And I need to clean out my pantry and reorganize it.

The guilt is piling on because there's a part of me thinking that those things aren't important, but spending time with the kids is. *sigh*

I think I've just talked myself into heading out the door.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Comfort Food in Times of Sickness

A dear friend had surgery this morning, so I made dinner for her and her husband. For a previous surgery she'd had a few years ago, I'd made vegetable soup for them, so she requested it again. It's wonderful sick food. In fact, whenever I start to come down with something, I make a huge pot of it. That accomplishes two things: I won't have to cook again for a few nights while I'm feeling lousy, and it ensures that I have healthy food to eat while sick.

In addition to the soup, I made my favorite yeast rolls.

I generally am not a fan of baking, but for some reason, I really enjoy the process of making bread. Part of it stems from having really good tools. I have a marble pastry board, and I love it! The surface stays cool, which is a necessity for working with dough. My pastry scraper is also a tremendous help. I can use it to cut dough, as well as scrape dough from the board.

Throw in a music CD or an audio book, and baking becomes a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A New Jeweler

I have two favorite pieces of jewelry: my engagement/wedding bands (they're soldered together to make one ring) and my Omega watch. The watch was my 21st birthday gift from my parents. I wear it every day and feel completely naked without it. Because it's an Omega, I won't let just any old jeweler work on it. I had my favorite jeweler about 30 minutes away for years, but then he sold his shop, and I don't like the new owners. So, I was dreading the day my Omega would need a new battery because I didn't know where to take it.

That dreaded day came today. I called a fine jewelry shop we pass on our way to church, and they said that they work on Omegas. Woo-hoo! I brought my watch in and spent time looking at all the pretties while the jeweler installed a new battery. As I was paying, one of the salesmen complimented my earrings. Then the girl handling the sale took a good look and also exclaimed how pretty they were. I thanked them and gloated a little on the inside. You see, I was standing in a fine jewelry store being complimented by the sales staff on earrings I bought at The Silver Jewelry Club for only $5.99.

This is a terrible picture (and I took 29 pics trying to get a good one!). The earrings are sterling silver and tiger's eye. They're quite different from my typical simple style, but they're fun and interesting.

This online store sells some really lovely pieces, and all of them are $5.99. I just found it a bit ironic that such inexpensive jewelry was receiving such high praise from those who work around fine jewelry every day.

Another Great New Recipe

Last night I tried Tammy's Baked Nachos. I forgot to take a picture in our rush to eat dinner, but let me assure you, this is a wonderful recipe! Because it's just Ruf and me, I pretty much just halved the recipe. I used one can of refried beans and pulled a 2-cup portion of The Simple Mom's All-Purpose Ground Meat Mix out of the freezer. I mixed a little salsa with about 1-1/2 tsp. of both cumin and chili powder. And I used a little less than 8 ounces of cheese. Oh, and since my bell pepper had gone bad, I didn't include that, but I will next time I make this. It is very good stuff! Ruf and I both loved it!

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

I started reading a fabulous cooking blog last month called Desert Candy. Monday I made the recipe I found there for Creamy Chickpea Soup with Cumin Oil. It was so good that even my meat-lover husband declared it a keeper, even though it has no meat. The man was actually amazed at how much he loved something that didn't contain meat. This is good news because we need to cut back on his animal-protein consumption due to his kidney disease.

This morning I decided to try the recipe for Quick Cinnamon Buns. This really is a fast recipe to put together. I doubled it so that we'd have plenty on hand for Sunday's breakfast, too. I'm glad I did because these sweet rolls were delicious! And don't they look scrumptious?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Great Gecko Hunt and Gecko Hide-and-Seek

We have a lot of geckos around our house. A few of them manage to find their way into our house. This is the dumbest thing any gecko could possibly do because lurking inside my home are two furry little hunters. They think that geckos are God-given toys created just for them.

If a gecko is lucky, it will be hunted in sight of me or Ruf. When we find our little hunters huddled around something, we always know to check it out because it probably means that some poor creature has been cornered and is about to be tortured. The past couple of weeks have been especially joyful for our cats because several geckos have found their way inside, and we have not witnessed most of their hunts to take away their new toys.

How do I know about the hunts I don't witness? Well, the boys seem to enjoy playing a little Gecko Hide-and-Seek with me when they're done torturing the poor things. This means that each week when I clean house, I find their hiding places. Last week I found a dead gecko shoved under the rug in the entryway, and another was left for dead under the litterbox. I also find several tails that the little guys have dropped in their fear.

This week's victim was discovered in the guest bathroom. I sighed and swept the poor little thing up, but then it moved. Hallelujah! I could save someone! I scooped the little guy up in my hands, and I deposited him outside on the porch. He was scared, looked half dead, and he's missing his tail, but he's alive. I managed to get a somewhat-blurry picture of the saved:

And now you see the sort of excitement that is life in my house. I'm now headed off to give my little torturers yet another lecture about being nice to other living creatures. As usual, I expect they will tune me out and stalk off to await yet another victim.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Sharing Food

What happens when you bring 3 pounds of strawberries and 3 cantaloupe to youth group?

Total annihilation!

And I think there were only about 8 teens there tonight. The adults helped eat the food, too, but still... Kids can EAT! The fruit wasn't even the only thing there. They also finished off an entire container of snickerdoodles and a birthday cake that someone brought.

The fruit was on sale at the grocery store today, so I just decided to buy a lot and bring it with me to church tonight. The kids were excited about it (obviously), so I was glad I brought it. I enjoy sharing blessings with them.

Works-for-Me Wednesday: Accepting Teens

Today's Works-for-Me Wednesday over at Rocks in My Dryer is themed, "The Great Parenting Edition." If you know me, you know that I don't have kids. HOWEVER, I work with teens and have for years. So here's my parenting advice based on what I've observed over the years:

Accept your teenager for who he/she is.

That sounds so simple, yet too many parents seem to forget that. I've talked to countless kids over the years who feel that their parents don't like or accept who they are. I'm not talking about bad or wrong behaviors, as those definitely need to be corrected. I'm talking about things like having an artistic kid, but wanting a jock. Just because you were one way in junior high or high school does not mean that your kid will be just like you. If you've always desired Little Miss Preppy and Popular, but instead you wind up with Miss Has Her Own Quirky Style and Only Wants/Needs 3 Good Friends, please please PLEASE do not try to make her into your idea of The Perfect Teenager. You can't give her a personality transplant, so don't try. She may already be feeling awkward enough (remember how you felt as a young teen?), so if you don't seem to like who she is, she'll become that much more insecure and distrustful of you.

Also, please get to know their friends. Make a genuine effort. Just because the new friend he brings home is covered head-to-toe in piercings, it doesn't mean that he's automatically a bad influence. If you actually talk to him, you might find that he's a good, sweet, ambitious kid who just happens to have a lot of weird metal things sticking out of him. Now, if you get to know him, and he truly is a bad influence, then by all means, guide your kid towards other friends! But don't automatically assume that every weird-looking kid who crosses your path is bad news.

The thing I've learned through observation over the years (and from sometimes being the only adult that a kid feels like she can talk to) is that your kids WILL listen to you and your advice, but you have to actually cultivate a relationship with them of accepting and loving them for who they are. (Again, I'm not talking about accepting sin, just personality, sense of style, activities/hobbies, etc.)

I know this must sound like the most basic advice, but from what I've seen over the years, it's advice many need to hear.

Check out Rocks in My Dryer for other ideas.