Married to the Empire

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Have to Brag a Bit

While at youth camp last summer, our students came up with the idea to have a weekly youth-led bible study. They named it Mirror Image, and they've met faithfully each week since they came back from camp in July. In addition to taking turns teaching, they've been collecting money with the intent of helping others.

Last week they met together to go shopping for food for our local food pantry with their collected money. I was blown away by how much they bought, which means they gave quite a bit of their own money to help others. I delivered their collected items to the food pantry on Monday. Some of the stuff had already been unloaded by the time I thought to snap a picture. I'm so proud of our youth group!

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: I consider it such a privilege to work with such sweet, caring, generous kids!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Weekend Scenes

Wow. I had a computer fast that lasted nearly 72 hours. We had a really busy, but really good weekend. Friday night we ate out at our favorite Chinese restaurant, then strolled through Target and Walmart. Not exactly an exciting date, but it's always fun to stroll through the big-box stores and see the aisles and shelves lined with Christmas commercialism at its worst.

Saturday we had the stormtroopers over for an Armor Party. People in the 501st Legion, as well as a couple of prospective members, came over for lunch and to work on their costumes. I forgot to take any photos until they were packing up to leave, so this is all I got:

While the stormtroopers were out in the garage, I was in the house making a homemade body scrub:

I needed a gift for a birthday party that evening, so I thought I'd try the recipe from this book for a body scrub. I packaged it with some homemade lip balm and a Sculpey ornament with a bible verse.

In addition to celebrating a friend's birthday Saturday night, we celebrated the arrival of our new furry "niece" and "nephew." (We're a bunch of crazy cat people who consider ourselves aunties and uncles to each others cats. Really, this just means that we all love each others' pets and trade out catsitting, which is a great blessing.) Our friends Karen and Dan adopted 2 American Curl cats.

This is Asa:

And this is Asher:

It's been quite a few years since any of us have had kittens, so they were a lot of fun to play with!

Sunday was church, lunch out for yet another friend's birthday celebration, home for a nap, then back to church to work on the Christmas program our youth are putting together as a summer-camp fundraiser. Very exhausting weekend, but quite satisfying. We're very blessed to have so many friends, as well as a great church with a wonderful youth group. It's a good life!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Let Sleeping Cats Lie

Since I mentioned that Calvin is expensive and has been sick lately, I thought I should update to say that my furry boy is well again. At least, his bladder infection is finally gone. He still has kidney disease, of course, but he gained half a pound since his vet visit 3 weeks ago, which is fantastic! He was overdue for his rabies shot, so they gave that to him while he was at the vet's office. He's a rabies reactor, so they gave him some benadryl. When we give him benadryl (or at least attempt to), it's a tiny little dose (like 1/4 of an adult pill) that leaves him a tad lethargic.

Last night he climbed into Doogie's tacky cardboard box and stayed there. We left, came home, and he was still there. He didn't purr when we petted him. He didn't go to bed with us; he just stayed in his cardboard box. I was getting worried when he would barely even lift his head to acknowledge that he was being petted. So, I went to check his paperwork from the vet.

They gave him a shot of benadryl with 50mg of the stuff. I figured that was 1/4 of an adult pill, like we give him. Oh, no! I checked my bottle. My little 10 lb. cat received the equivalent of 2 adult pills! No wonder he's Mr. Can't-Get-Out-of-the-Box-or-Even-Purr!

It's 1pm the next day, and my boy has at least moved to a different cat bed. So, he is alive. Just very, very sleepy still.

Crazy Crafting

Does anyone else ever wonder, "What was I thinking?!" when it comes time to actually start working on a planned craft project? That was racing through my brain as I tried to sort out 8 yards of heavy fabric. (That picture shows it folded in half, so that's only 4 yards you're seeing.) It didn't help that the cats thought billows of fabric were some fabulous new plaything for them. The difficulty of wrestling 8 yards of fabric is magnified intensely when felines are burying themselves in it every time you try to spread it out.

Hopefully this will end up better than it started!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Small Blessings in the Midst of Trial

With Calvin's frequent vet visits (including one today), these cats are costing us a lot of money lately. A lot. To the point that I finally understand the point of pet insurance. Don't get me wrong; we made a commitment to take care of them when we adopted them, so we'll pay what we need to. But like sick humans, sick pets can break the budget.

That's why I was so excited to find Feline Pine at Albertson's the other day for only $2.75/bag. Y'all, I ordinarily pay $10.99/bag for this stuff at Petsmart. Albertson's had a clearance table full of products that I guess they're not going to carry anymore in their stores, and our brand of cat litter was among the stuff. I bought them out. It was only 4 bags, but that was a savings of $30 or so.

I found myself sitting in my car in the parking lot of the grocery store saying a prayer of thanks to God for the small blessings, even if those blessings come in the form of the litter for my cats' potty. Sometimes it's the tiniest things that can be the biggest encouragement and reminder that the Lord cares, even about the day-to-day stuff.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Preparing for the Parade

The stormtroopers are gearing up to be in the Neiman-Marcus Adolphus Children's Parade again this year. The participant permission forms are steadily making their way to Steven via mail. I love it when the guys add little touches to their envelopes such as this:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Harvest Swap

I participated in the harvest-themed Sisters' Shoebox Swap hosted by Carrie and Monica. I was paired up with Amy of Pretty Shiny (isn't that a great blog name?!).

We wound up sending and receiving our boxes on the same day. That struck me as kind of funny. Amy sent me some truly fabulous things:

That last photo doesn't even begin to do justice to the pretty apron she sent and the amazingly cute hat she knitted for me! She knitted it. (Obviously, I'm impressed by this.) The same day I received this hat, a cold front blew through, so I actually got to wear it right away. We had a youth event this past weekend that was partially outdoors, so I wore my new hat and received tons of compliments from the girls. You know it's good work when picky teenagers think it's cute! Oh, and the best part: pink flowers! I'm all about pink.

Ironically, I'd been thinking that I really need some Thanksgiving-ish placemats, and my box shows up with the perfect fabric! Oh, and the pumpkin seeds? Delish! The Proverbs book is on my nightstand, and I'll definitely enjoy the candles. Really, all of it is just great.

The best part of all this is that I got to know someone new. Someone I really like. Thanks to Carrie and Monica for setting this up!

For those who have asked, I'm adding a picture. I was avoiding this because I can't seem to take decent pictures of myself, but I guess it's the hat that matters here:

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Crafty Weekend

I had several craft projects on my agenda for Saturday. I didn't get to them all because I got sidetracked by something that wound up taking longer than I expected. But I did accomplish a couple of things.

First, I made lip balm. I saw the recipe for it in this book, and as I had the ingredients, I thought I'd give it a try. It was surprisingly simple. I made one tube without any color for Steven, then I added some lipstick to the melted concoction to give it some color. (It was an unused Clinique freebie I had on hand.)

I failed to account for the shrinkage that occurs when the stuff cools. The colorless tube of lip balm is all sunken in, as a result. I'd already added color to the rest of the batch, so I couldn't go and fill in the well that was made, like I did with the others.

This lip balm is actually pretty good. It feels like Chapstick. In the future if I make it again, I'll add more vitamin E oil than it called for. But the original recipe is pretty good. Steven actually used his, which was a nice compliment.

Since I had a double boiler going already, I decided to try making a candle, just to see how it turned out. I melted the white wax and added a little bit of broken green crayon to color it:

Then I poured it into a juice container with a wick centered in it:

This project didn't turn out as well. I didn't melt enough wax the first time, so after I poured it, I melted more. But it took a while to melt, which meant the first bit of wax started to harden. When I finally poured more on, it wound up creating a definite line. And, the juice container stuck to it a bit, so there's some white paper on it. It just doesn't look very nice (I forgot to take a picture of the finished project). I doubt I'll do this one again, but it was still interesting to try.

We're talking about doing a small gift exchange at our youth group's Christmas party next month. The youth minister's suggestion for this was to have all the gifts be homemade. I think that's a fun idea, and I'll probably use one of my tubes of lip balm for that. (We're talking about small gifts, nothing big.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Homemade Yeast Rolls to Cinnamon Rolls

I baked homemade yeast rolls this week to go with soup. Instead of just baking them all as plain, ordinary rolls, I decided to make a pan of cinnamon rolls with some of the dough. It's really simple. Just roll out the amount of dough you want to use into a rectangle, sprinkle it with brown sugar and cinnamon (however much or little you want), roll it up, then slice it. I placed my rolls into a greased cake pan to rise, then bake. Simply bake as you would your regular rolls.

For a sweet topping, mix together powdered sugar, milk, and a little vanilla. Drizzle this over the tops of the rolls. Yum!

Any yeast roll recipe should work just fine for this.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Doogie's Path of Destruction

We have a nickname for Doogie: Doogie the Destroyer. He earned it through activities such as killing a computer keyboard and breaking a TV. He also derives great delight from ripping apart his ball of yarn. It's his favorite toy. Sometimes he's content with batting it around or carrying it around like a typical cat.

But then there are the mornings I wake up and find that he had a very fun night with his yarn. To give you an idea of what he does with his unraveled yarn, I have visuals. First we start in the middle of the living room:

Turn the corner and head down the hall:

Turn another corner in the hall where you can see that Doogie stopped and played with his yarn a little longer by his tacky cardboard box:

Into the master bedroom:

Where the path of yarn destruction finally ends around the scratching post:

Finally, here's my little destroyer as he's working to rip apart another yarn ball:

I really can't complain. He could be ripping up the furniture or something. A cheap yarn ball is a great place for him to let loose with his destructive desires. Way better than the TV!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Christmas Shopping Frenzy Begins

Steven's company has a holiday party coming up the first weekend of December. This means dressing up. The invitation stipulates cocktail dress, which is exactly the sort of attire I don't own. With the exception of the Star Wars stuff and the fact that we work with teens, our lives are pretty boring. We're not partiers. We don't hang with the fast and fabulous. We don't tend to have reasons to go to things that require me to wear a cocktail dress. We're Baptists, after all.

I had to shop.

I went to the mall on Tuesday. Nothing says, "Let's honor our vets!" like big sales to try to make us spend money. Regardless of the crass nature of consumerism, I bit. If I have to buy a dress I'll likely only wear once, I might as well get it cheap.

I learned something while shopping: My body isn't intended for today's cocktail dresses. I spent 3 hours shopping, and it wasn't fun. I must have tried on 30 or 40 different dresses. It got to where I was just grabbing anything in my size in the hopes that it might be the one thing that looks nice on my short, but curvy figure. I started with the pretty, colorful stuff:

Nothing fit quite right. And some of the dresses were more revealing than my lingerie! I want to look nice, not like a stripper who managed to get a legitimate date. Oh my.

After trying on and rejecting way too many dresses, I finally narrowed things down to these 3:

I wound up buying the 2 solid black ones. I bought both because I couldn't decide, and I figured hose and shoes, plus my husband's opinion would help me decide which to keep. One was seriously discounted (from $160 to the $35 I actually paid after sales and a coupon from the newspaper), and the other was full-price at, um, much more.

Turns out, I'm keeping the one on the far right. Steven thought it was cuter and more fun-looking. The best part? It was the cheap one! I was feeling a little guilty at the cost of the other one, but it was just so flattering to my figure. Steven is actually in favor of my keeping both of them, as the other one isn't quite so cocktail-ish and could be worn to a wedding or the theater.

The responsible side of me thinks I should return the more expensive one. But part of me wants to keep it, too. Right now, the responsible side is winning.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Minor Home Improvements

This weekend Steven finally hung some stuff up for me. I bought this cute little coat rack at Country Peddler a few months ago. Our coat closet is too small to fit guests' coats in, so this seemed like a good solution. It's now hanging under a painting done by my great-grandmother:

We received this key holder from friends as a thank you for taking care of their cats when they were out of town:

And finally, I found this cute little sign at Hobby Lobby when it was 50% off. My laundry closet is in the kitchen, and this little puppy now sits above the doors to the laundry:

Saturday, November 8, 2008

This Is Life On the Edge

I found an amazing deal on spice jars at the Crate & Barrel outlet in Dallas, and I bought 2 dozen. (I need to go back for more!)

I went from this:

To this:

I have one daring, exciting life, don't you think, when a Saturday night consists of organizing the spices?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cat Stuff... Again

I think I achieved a whole new record yesterday. I managed to cause great distress to both of my cats, all within about 5 minutes. It started with cutting Doogie's claws. We've had Doogie over 9 years, and for the first time ever, I cut the quick. He screeched, leaped out of my arms, and bled. To say I felt awful is an understatement.

Then I grabbed Calvin to cut his claws. That went fine, but I also decided to attempt (successfully!) to give him the pill I'd found spit out into his food bowl earlier in the day. He's a good sport during claw cutting, but when I pinned him between my knees, used my elbows to help keep his paws away from the hand prying his mouth open, and popped a pill down his throat... well, let's just say that he ran fast and far from me as soon as I opened the bathroom door.

The cats may have been mad, but my husband was impressed. So was I, quite frankly. In case you missed the monumental part of all this, I gave the cat a pill all by myself. Don't they give awards or something for that? It is an amazing feat, after all. (And if you're not impressed by this, you've obviously never owned a cat.)

Thankfully, cats have short memories and all is forgiven. Until it's time for the next pill.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Potential Gift Idea

With Christmas coming up, I thought I'd share something I found this week that could potentially be a great inexpensive gift if you have coffee drinkers in your life. Sam's Club is carrying big bottles of gourmet coffee syrups in several flavors. I happened to buy raspberry and vanilla. (I don't drink coffee, but I do like syrups in my soft drinks ala Sonic.) They also had cinnamon, hazelnut, French vanilla, and some others I can't remember. Some were sugar-free (with Splenda as the sweetener), but most had sugar. All bottles were less than $5 each. Pretty decent deal there!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Few Scenes From Around Our House

The table set for our Halloween dinner with friends (please note the glittered pumpkins):

The newest location of the ironing basket to keep it away from a certain sick kitty who thinks it's his new litterbox:

The fabulous gift of Christmas-themed scrapbooking materials my friend Michelle surprised me with (it's all wonderful, but I'm especially excited over the tag maker that is in the box):

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My First Blogger Meeting

I did something totally new for me today: I met another blogger for lunch. It turns out that Stacy, aka Vader's Mom, works very close to my church. I had bible study this morning, so we met up at a Chili's not far from her office and my church.

I really enjoyed it! It's always a little scary to meet up with a total stranger because you just never know if you're going to hit it off or not. We have tons in common, though, so I wasn't too worried. I really like her, and we had plenty to talk about. It was a great way to spend the lunch hour!

Now we just need to get our Star Wars-loving husbands together...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bloggy Giveaways Winner

I used a random number generator found at to find the winner of the Star Wars 501st Legion action figure, activity book, and tattoo. The number generator came up with this:

The 31st commenter is Lauren! Congratulations! Thanks to all who entered!