Married to the Empire

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tough Love

Calvin went to the vet's office for a weigh-in on Monday. He's still dropping weight, even though I do know he's eating. (I just don't know how much he's eating.) To make matters worse, Doogie is packing on the pounds. He seems to like the new renal food a little too much!

I was desperate enough to buy a Feline Wellness magazine for $6 at Sprouts. I totally felt like a crazy cat lady handing that to the cashier, but it happened to say on the cover, "24/7 Feeding--Is it good or bad?" Since the vet tech mentioned on Monday that we probably need to start a feeding schedule with them, rather than letting them graze, I thought this article might be helpful.

Well, it was. It mentioned that cats in the wild eat on a 28-hour schedule. Domestic cats aren't terribly different, and their digestive systems aren't really intended for constant grazing. It made the timed feeding thing sound easy, especially as it said it can be flexible (I guess unlike dogs who want to be fed always).

So, we started it Wednesday night. I dumped their bowls and washed them. Both cats were on high alert at this and waited anxiously, because whenever I wash their bowls like that, they get all fresh food, and it makes them happy. But I set down empty bowls and walked away. I came back a few moments later and took pictures, as they were still standing there looking confused. Lots of meowing at me.

Doogie later took to standing in the foyer. He knew he'd catch us if he was there, as we couldn't go from one side of the house to the other without passing through. Any time we walked by, he'd look at us, then run to his food bowl. Our poor baby was so confused.

He got destructive during the night in his frustration. At around 2:30am, I heard falling glass. I went to investigate, and he'd knocked over a glass of water I'd foolishly left out. When I got up in the morning, I found all this:

To give perspective on that last photo, that mat sitting by the piano bench in the living room is supposed to be by the front door. He was busy during the night, as I guess he had to do something to compensate for not being able to eat.

They were quite excited to get to eat in the morning. Then I took it away again. More confusion, kitties seeking me out throughout the day to complain about the poor service, lots of meowing at Steven when he returned home from work. They were definitely telling him how horrible I'd been to them all day. They got to eat again in the evening, but then it was put away. I think it's going to take some time before they adjust.

This tough love stuff really stinks.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Latest Card Creation

I needed a card for a friend who is expecting a baby. I decided to make use of the wonderful paper punches my friend Michelle gave me in the creation of this card. I used a couple of the square punches for the letters and backgrounds. Some green distress ink was added to the white cardstock. A ribbon in coordinating colors was the finishing touch. Unfortunately, I should have stopped there, but no; I decided to add distress ink to the edges of the card itself. The distressed edges don't look so great, but that was it for my cards in that blue color, so it'll have to do. Live and learn.

For more paper-crafting ideas, be sure to visit Kelli's blog!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jedi Workout?

I may be married to a stormtrooper, but I'd be remiss if I didn't post about the Jedi Workout, which you can read about here. Be sure to watch the video! Pretty geeky, but admittedly, it looks kind of fun.

Lightsaber battles as workouts--who knew?


I guess this is becoming cooking-from-my-childhood week. First it was King Cake, from my time in New Orleans. Last night it was monkfish, which I was introduced to when I lived in Norway. Monkfish quickly became my favorite fish due to its firm texture and delectable flavor. It's nickname is Poor Man's Lobster. It doesn't taste like lobster, but it certainly has the texture of it. I love monkfish, but it is very hard to find in Texas. And when I can find it? It costs a small fortune.

When driving home from my meeting last week with Meredith, I took a wrong turn due to road construction that confused me. I wound up by a new grocery store called Market Street, so I decided to go in. (Just so you know, it's dangerous to the budget to go in to browse through a new grocery store. I was throwing things in my basket willy-nilly.)

I was drawn to the fish counter at the back of the store. There, prominently displayed at the front, was monkfish. Not only that, but it was on sale. I debated whether or not to buy it. While it was a bargain (for monkfish) at $13.99 a pound, it was still way more than I typically spend on any one food item for a meal. But after getting into a discussion about it with the fish guy and the woman handing out salmon samples, I threw budgetary caution (further) to the wind and bought some.

Oh, it was so worth it! I used this recipe, which was good, but in the future, I think I'll add some white wine to it for better flavor. My husband who isn't particularly fond of fish even declared monkfish very good! I served cumin rice alongside it.

Sometimes, it's nice to spend more for something special.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mardi Gras

Having spent a good part of my youth in a suburb of New Orleans, I can't let Mardi Gras pass without King Cake! Unfortunately, Texans can't get it right. The horrors they attempt to pass off as King Cake at the grocery stores are like eating paper. I have to make my own. Oh, sweet decadence!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Blessing of Friendship

I had such a wonderful weekend! It started with the incredible opportunity to meet Meredith of Like Merchant Ships in person! She was here for her brother's wedding, and she was gracious enough to take time out of her very busy weekend to meet with me. I'm always a little nervous about meeting people in person, as I fear we'll just stare at each other with nothing to say. That was definitely not the case! It was like getting together with an old friend. I had a wonderful time with her, and naturally, I forgot to take pictures. Figures!

Saturday was busy as my husband and I ran errands together, some of it Very Important Stormtrooper Business. Okay, so it was really just picking up supplies for upcoming events at All-Con next month, but doesn't it seem so much more interesting when it's a capitalized event?

Saturday evening we had dinner with friends, then the guys went out to a movie, and we ladies watched one of my favorite movies: Garden State. Zach Braff and Natalie Portman--good stuff!

Sunday was church and youth and all the usual Christian activities. But I was also blessed with all this:

My friend Michelle is a Creative Memories consultant. She loves scrapbooking, but she no longer does all the fancy page decorating. (She now just puts her photos in scrapbooks and journals, which is something I really should do. My albums are about 10.5 years behind.) She said she hasn't used all those fancy punches and stuff in about 3 years, so she gave them to me! It was like Christmas all over again for me! All she asked in return? Just make her a pendant. It's a deal!

I lead a rich life with so many wonderful friends!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Star Wars Crafting

If you're getting bored of the craft stuff, I apologize. I've been pretty focused in this area this week. I should have some stuff to actually write about next week, but I have a few reasons for waiting for those topics. So, you get to see the Star Wars things I've made instead.

I totally enjoyed making the tag. Those are fun little things to work with. Of course, I had to pull out the glitter for the stormtrooper. My husband just rolled his eyes when I pointed out the sparkles.

I'm not ordinarily into Star Wars jewelry, but this looked like it could be cute to wear when I accompany my husband to All-Con next month. Gotta support my stormtrooper! However, he did point out to me that what I made is actually a Clone Trooper. I told him it's close enough. Besides, it will go nicely with my black 501st Legion t-shirt with the red-and-white accents. Boys just don't properly understand accessorization.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Attempting Distressing Technique

Now that I have a table in my craft room just for crafts, it's so easy to whip up cards or whatever without having to clear away my laptop and paperwork. I made this card Sunday night for one of the kids in our youth group:

The young lady I sent it to had sung a solo in church, and it was the best I'd ever heard her sing. I hadn't had a chance to tell her after church, so I thought I'd send her a note. Obviously, I chose to use paper with music on it.

I have a Creative Memories tag maker that a friend gave me, and I used white cardstock for the tag. I then pulled out a few of the distressing inks I recently bought to play around with. I managed to make that white tag look antiqued and more in line with the music paper. Final touch was to stamp, "You Are Extraordinary," in brick red ink and add a matching ribbon. Easy peasy!

There are more paper-crafting ideas over at Kelli's blog!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Craft (for me): Pendants

Again, I'll be showing off a new thing I learned at the Rubber Stamp Festival I attended last month. This time it's jewelry, which is totally different for me. I've never messed with jewelry before because 1) I have 2 friends who already make beautiful jewelry that I sometimes benefit from, and 2) I'm a bit of a jewelry snob. There, I admit it.

But this just looked so fun.

I bought a stack of 20 glass blocks for making pendants. I'll just apologize now for not discovering the macro button on my camera until the end of this process, so you'll just have to endure blurry photos for the first steps.

First, find pretty paper to glue to the back of the glass block. I used an Amy Butler print that I'd added some glitter to quite a while back:

Either cut it first to fit the block, or just glue it where you want it, then cut it down to size with an exacto knife. I used the latter method:

I simply used a gel glue to adhere it to the glass:

The glitter I'd added to the paper made it a bit bumpy, which meant the paper didn't stick flat to the glass. I placed the glass block under a heavy book. I'd have done this regardless of the unevenness of the paper; it just ensures good bonding:

The next day, when I could be sure the glue was good and dry, I moved on to sealing the paper with Modge Podge. It's just a basic decoupage technique. I wound up doing 2 coats:

Once that was dry, I used a jewelry glue to adhere the bail to the back of the pendant:

I let that dry overnight. All done!

These are really inexpensive to make, and I think they could make fun little gifts. But this one is for me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Creative Youth

A few of the kids in our youth group amused themselves last weekend by making a video that spoofs those stupid Snuggie and Sham-Wow commercials. One of the kids has a production company, so this is really pretty good. And truly hilarious. Use #16 is my favorite.

See why I love working with the youth? They're just so much fun!

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Star Wars Thank You

I sent an Imperial activity book to a friend's son. My husband, aka TK-590, autographed it. As a thank you, we received this in the mail this weekend:

In case you're not a Star Wars fan, it's a picture of General Grievous, a bad-guy character in Episode III. It's even inscribed, "To Stormtrooper 590, From Aidan."


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

In case you can't read that, it says, "Valentine," under the big glittery part. We don't typically do much for Valentine's Day, but I do like to make a card for Steven each year.

In case you're wondering how I stamped a glittery word, I used this stuff:

It's a glue stamp pad. I'd never used it before, so my first attempt here was a bit undefined. It's not too good for lettering, I learned. It's a little messy to use, but with a more clearly-defined stamp than my Valentine one, I think it could create a lovely, glittery effect.

I hope everyone has a happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Glitter Galore

I realize y'all are probably sick of the subject, but what can I say? I like sparkly stuff. Apparently, the propensity for sparkles is genetic because I have a niece who would wear sequins every day if my sister and her school's dress code would just let her.

In cleaning up my disaster of a craft room (another subject visited far too often here), I had to find a place for all my glitter. Thankfully, the new table my husband gave me for my birthday has drawers.

Y'all, I now have a glitter drawer. A whole drawer devoted to glitter! I'm a lucky girl who will never be short on sparkles.

See that brush lying on top of all that glitter? That thing is amazing. It was peddled as being a brush that glitter doesn't stick to. For the most part, that's true. In fact, because I couldn't get it to brush away the cheap glitter the other day, that's how I knew the Martha Stewart glitter was the better product. (Hence a drawer with 33 jars of Martha Stewart glitter.) Anyway, if you're going to work with glitter, you must have a glitter brush. It removes all that excess from your work surface with ease, and good glitter doesn't stick to it! I bought mine at that rubber-stamp convention I went to. The vendor was Polly's Pals.

For more glittery fun, I found this on clearance at Michael's:

I'm generally not big on craft kits, but these so looked like the cinnamon-applesauce bird ornaments from a past December issue of Martha Stewart Living, that I couldn't resist. I made those bird ornaments from the magazine, and they were difficult to create. But these look super-easy. It's pretty much just peeling the backing off sticky stuff that's already on the birds, then sprinkling on glitter. I haven't decided yet if I'm keeping this for myself or giving it to someone, but I suspect I'm keeping it. It is Martha, after all. (Are you noticing my Martha love yet?)

I'm now contemplating making tags with the super-cool tag maker my friend Michelle gave me for my birthday. I'm thinking maybe some glittery Star Wars-stamped tags...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Steven and I support The Voice of the Martyrs ministry each month. It's not a large amount that we send, as we believe in giving our tithe to our church, but we're passionate about doing what we can above that to help those who are persecuted because of their faith in Christ.

A few days ago I received an email from VOM with an opportunity to support a worker in the Underground Church. The program is a bit like sponsoring a Compassion child, except that this gives assistance to an adult who is trying to spread the gospel within a country where Christians are persecuted just for being Christians. I very much wanted to do this, but with the economy being so bad, I was afraid. It's a year-long commitment, and what if Steven loses his job? I prayed over it.

Tuesday, Steven received a raise at work. In spite of this lousy economy, it was a generous one.

Coincidence? I think not. We're now signed up to support a female in China. I don't know who she is yet, but I'm praying for her already.

Isn't God's timing amazing?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I was encouraged by the ease of working with glitter and sticky paper, but I needed to perfect it. I wasn't happy with the glitter colors I used last week, so I bought more glitter. Even with a 40%-off coupon, I still spent a whopping $23 on glitter. The Martha Stewart collection of glitter was costly, but I also bought a small glitter sampler for a mere $3.99 at full price.

All glitter is not created equal, just so you know.

While all the glitter I purchased is of the super-fine variety, the quality just isn't the same. The Martha Stewart version is the easier of the two. It sticks evenly, and it cleans up easily. The cheap glitter was messy and stuck to everything but the sticky paper. Well, it stuck to the sticky paper, just not evenly, and it was difficult to brush off of other surfaces it got onto. If you're going to work with glitter a lot, it's definitely worth it to go with the expensive stuff.

However, the cheap set had more vibrant colors, so I used them for my next card. Bad glitter aside, I think it turned out much better than my first attempt.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Silly Stormtroopers

The stormtroopers were back at our house this weekend to work on stuff for the Imperial Gladiators event at All-Con next month. Remember those foam-and-dowel-rod lighsabers? They were put to use as one of the games was being tested out.

Then, of course, there was the requisite posed shot. No true Star Wars fan can resist the temptation, I've learned.

Friday, February 6, 2009

New Cardmaking Technique (for me)

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I went to a rubber-stamp festival and learned (and bought) a lot. One of the things I learned was a very cool technique for using glitter. It starts with super-sticky, double-sided adhesive. Cut it to the size you want and stick it on the paper. In my case, I was making a birthday card for my mother:

Next, remove the backing from the top side of the sticky paper. Soap the back of the stencil (this allows for easy removal from the sticky paper) and place it on the sticky paper:

(You can see my pretty pink camera reflected in the stencil. Good thing you can't see my hair. I hadn't fixed it yet, or even brushed it, for that matter!)

If you're using more than one color, place tape over the parts of the stencil that you don't want colored just yet:

Sprinkle glitter on. I found that I needed to press it on a bit, as some of it shook off when I initially removed the excess glitter. Pressing it solved that problem:

Remove tape as needed to glitter the rest of the stencil:

Remove the stencil:

Fill in the rest of the sticky paper with whatever color you choose. In my case, I used white. (The colors showed up a bit better off camera):

I inked the edges of the card and stamped a "Happy Birthday" sentiment inside. The card turned out nicely, and my parents seemed impressed by it. However, I would change a few things next time:

1. Darker glitter. The pastel stuff, which is all I have right now, just didn't make the color impact I was hoping for.

2. White paper, rather than pastel yellow. Actually, I think the yellow would have been fine if I'd just had darker-hued glitter.

3. I don't think I'd mix fine glitter (colors) with a chunkier glitter (white) again. I have a couple of bottles of finer white glitter and didn't use them. I should have.

4. I think it needs a border. More impact.

And now when my mom reads my blog, she can read all the ways I could have done this better! That's the danger in giving away a first attempt. Good thing moms are forgiving!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Brotherly Peace

A few years ago, I made 2 little fleece pillows that coordinate with our living room decor. The intent was that each cat would have his own pillow. Instead, they want to sleep smack in the middle of the 2, and then they fight over them. Doogie hates to snuggle, and Calvin loves to crowd his brother out of a good sleeping spot.

While shopping for gifts in Tuesday Morning the other day, I found a giant woolly pillow that coordinates well with the living room. I thought $20 was a tad high for a pillow intended for cats, but for a little peace in the home, it's worth it.


They're even managing to share it nicely. Not a single cat fight occurred. Money well spent.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

WFMW: Unmounted Rubber Stamp Storage

I enjoy using rubber stamps for some of my crafting, but buying mounted stamps can be expensive. I save money by buying unmounted stamps when I can. To keep them neatly put away, yet easy to find when I need them, I keep them mounted on plastic page protectors. I stamp the image on cardstock that is slipped into the protector, then I place the stamp on top of the plastic next to its image:

If I had oodles of stamps, I'd probably put them in a 3-ring binder, but since I only have a few pages' worth, I just keep them in a file folder. It's kept at the back of this basket filled with other unmounted stamps and some stamp sets:

In case anyone is wondering how I make the stamps stick to the plastic, I use Aleene's Tack-It Over & Over. It's a glue that creates a temporary bond, which means you can stick and unstick stuff all you want. Makes it easy to attach unmounted stamps to acrylic stamp blocks for use, then peel them off when finished.

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

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Messy Maintenance

The dryer hasn't been working very efficiently, but we don't have a typical dryer vent that is easily cleaned out. The washer and dryer are in a closet in the middle of the house. The vent runs up the wall and out the roof.

A snaking tool did the trick, but what a mess! We've lived here almost 10 years, and this is the first time we've gone up the wall vent. At the end of the snaking, we had a huge pile of dusty lint. Ick. That stuff flew everywhere. Oh, the perpetual joys of homeownership.

Hopefully, though, my dryer will actually dry things in a timely manner now!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Star Wars???

For those who enjoy coming here for the Star Wars stuff, you've obviously noticed that there hasn't been any lately. Blame the stormtroopers. I just report what they do, which lately, hasn't been much. However, a few of them came over this weekend to start planning events for All-Con in March. Steven is one of the ones in charge of Stormtrooper Olympics Imperial Gladiators this year. The challenges are being prepared, and here's a sneak peek at one of the events:

Those are "lightsabers" made of the very high-tech materials of pool noodles and dowel rods. Impressive, don't you think? Ha! Without giving away too much, stormtroopers who compete as Gladiators will have to avoid being hit with these.

Steven said I should tell you all that you can easily make your own set for under $5. I'm sure you all desperately wanted your own foam pool-noodle lightsabers. But, you know, if you want to let your kids beat the snot out of each other with something safer than plastic or their fists, here you go!

Just be careful that the collecting of materials doesn't kill you first. After I came out of the chemically-laden pool-supply store sputtering and sneezing my head off, I told Steven that that must be what evil smells like--a heavy mix of chlorine and plastic. I sneezed and gasped for air for the next few minutes, and he told me I'm dramatic. He tells me that a lot, and I just don't get it. I really think that must be the scent of evil!

As I've said before, life around here is never dull.