Married to the Empire

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It's Here!

I've been waiting months for this. I preordered back in November, if that tells you anything about how badly I've wanted it. And it finally arrived today, on its release date, no less! (Kudos to Amazon for that.) What is it?

It's Martha's new craft book! And it's fabulous.

Around the House

Spring flowers:

Curious cat:

Thank-you note:

New dress:

Awakened cat:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Youth Leadership

I really do count it as such privilege to work with the youth at my church. They're such a fun bunch, and they constantly surprise and impress me.

One of our 9th graders asked Steven last week if he could teach our Sunday morning small group yesterday. Of course, Steven said yes. We've always encouraged letting the kids teach whenever they've asked. It hasn't happened often, but when it has, it's always been a blessing to us and to their fellow students. This young man taught our middle schoolers yesterday about being Christian leaders in their schools. He asked them to say whom they considered leaders within our youth group, then asked why. Each kid named someone different, which I found interesting. He had them discuss ways they could profess their Christianity and encourage others. Our kids were totally engaged in this discussion. I think it always helps to have a different perspective than just that of the adults all the time.

This group of kiddos blessed me this weekend, too:

Okay, the one on the far right isn't a kid; he's our youth/worship pastor. But the other three are youth. All have expressed interest in music and are taking instrumental lessons. I love that they're now helping to lead the music in youth on Sunday nights. I'm all about kids using their talents, especially if it's in service to the Lord. They all sounded quite good, so I'm that much more impressed.

I really enjoy seeing our kids grow and mature in their faith. Even better is when I get to see them actually using their gifts to reach out to others!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Night at the Improv

The Dorkside Comedy was back in town last night, and the stormtroopers were invited to attend again. I tagged along. After we ate dinner, the guys suited up and worked the crowd:

Steve Awesome was the emcee this time. He's always funny:

My stormtrooper forgot his contacts and couldn't see. He needed his glasses, but they can't be worn inside the helmet. Here's a rare glimpse of a suited up trooper without his helmet:

I took a new picture with my stormtrooper:

Imperial Guards are not just for the Emperor's protection; they're also great for holding pink purses:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Transforming Goodwill Finds

I mentioned last week that I got bored at All-Con and headed out to a Goodwill that wasn't far from the hotel. I found an old, wooden cassette-tape holder for $1.99. A few days later I decided I wanted some baskets for my craft room for my paper punches. I went to the Goodwill near my home, and I found 5 baskets for $1.99 each. All of my finds were a tad bland, so I decided to give them some color. I started with primer:

Yes, I'm a very messy spray painter. Steven cringes when I decide to do it because I make a mess. When I painted my filing cabinet a fabulous shade of hot pink, I'd left our CRV in the garage, and it wound up with a light coating of pink paint. Thankfully, a run through the carwash took it all off! (Mama, you might not want to share that part with Daddy. I can already see him making pained faces.) I parked the car in the driveway this time.

After priming I painted everything a lovely turquoise blue (my craft room is white with accents of turquoise, hot pink, and lime green), then sprayed them with a glossy protective coating. I filled the tape holder with my inks. Unfortunately, most of my inks were too fat for the slots, so Steven had to yank out some of the slats for me. That's okay, though, because they seem to fit nicely with 2 stacked together. It works:

My craft punches are now more visible for me in their new baskets:

I can stack them, too, for more condensed storage:

I'm pleased with how it all turned out. However, I have to admit that the cost of it all isn't quite as low as you'd think for stuff found at Goodwill. Five baskets (1 is still empty) and a tape holder came to $12. Another $16 or so in painting supplies (1 can of primer, 2 cans of spray paint, 1 can of protective coating, and a super-cool trigger thing that makes spraying the paint easier and more comfortable), and I spent nearly $30 on all this storage stuff. Not super thrifty, but there is a cost to customization!

Now I just need to do some cleaning and organization in the craft room to figure out exactly where I want everything to go.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Weekly Linking

I think throughout the duration of my tutoring time, I'll do a weekly post with some links that I found to be of interest. It takes a little bloggy pressure off of me. Self-imposed pressure, mind you, but pressure just the same.

I have Frugal Homemaker Plus to thank for leading me to Big Mama's blog and her post on contentment. I know that learning to be content is an ongoing issue for me. I found this to be a timely reminder.

Prodigal Jon gets serious and questions why we deem things merely good enough for the church. God speaks to artists and wants their best. This one really hit home with me I recently received an opportunity to write for a ministry, and I've done nothing so far. I consider this a much-needed kick in the pants!

J.D. asks his readers if pets are worth the money. I think my regular readers know what my response is to that question!

Y'all know I love crafty things. I own a ton of craft books, including one on making soap, not that I've done a thing with it. Amy W. on the other hand has done plenty with soapmaking! Her blog is a neat place to check out the beautiful soaps she creates.

Since I'm married to a stormtrooper and live in a house filled with Star Wars stuff, I always get a kick out of the Star Wars Crafts site. It's a fun place to spend a little time looking at the creativity spawned by the the Star Wars movies and books.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Friendship on a Budget?

This is really on my mind lately because 1) we just spent $30 on lunch out with friends on Sunday, and 2) Steven's company had surprise layoffs on Monday (Steven's job is still safe, thankfully). I feel as if we should be a lot more careful with our money. We have an entertainment budget. Every pay period, I pull out a certain amount of cash and divvy it up into various categories. We have a fairly generous entertainment budget, which covers things like eating out, seeing movies, renting video games, etc. The $30 we spent on lunch was within our budget, but to be perfectly honest, I didn't want to spend it. We spent a ton last weekend at All-Con, and we still have another weekend to get through before Steven is paid again. This lunch pretty much left us with almost nothing for next weekend. However, I did want to spend time with our friends, whom we haven't seen a lot of lately, other than in passing at church.

Our church is big on eating out after the service on Sundays. The youth always go out together somewhere, and we feel bad when we have to tell them no, but we choose not to afford to do this every week so that we can do other things with our budgeted money. Same with friends, but sometimes, it seems like the only opportunity to be with them is at those Sunday afternoon lunches.

What to do?

The seemingly-easy solution would be to invite friends over for lunch at our house. However, I don't cook on Sundays. It's my Sabbath, and it's the day that I take a nap, lazily read the newspaper, and don't cook. I've been thinking this over for a while now.

I can remember when I was really young and my mom would prep food before church, then put it in the timed oven. I'm not a morning person, and I know that one wouldn't happen. We could do sandwiches, but rolls and cold cuts for so many people could get pricey.

Of course, there's the crockpot. I think this may be my best solution. I could prep the pot the night before, stick it in the fridge overnight, then take it out and plug it in before leaving for church. I have a few easy, inexpensive recipes, but I think I'll need to search for a few more. Honestly, I don't want to do this every week or anything, but once a month sounds doable.

Does anyone else feel as if sometimes friendships break the budget? What do you do when it seems the only time to be with friends involves going out to eat?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Vanity Versus Misery

Allergy-wise, this is the worst spring I can remember. When I saw the doctor a couple of weeks ago, she thought I had strep. I finished my antibiotic, but then the symptoms came back. I saw her again on Friday, and she determined that this is an allergy thing.

Allergies aren't new to me. I spent the entire time I lived in Norway sick. Did allergy testing and allergy shots in college. I've had a CT scan of my sinuses, as well as numerous x-rays.

But I've been okay for the past few years, and I attribute that to benadryl. I had chronic hives about 7 years ago. They lasted for months, and benadryl was the only thing that gave me any relief. (Well, that and oatmeal baths. And steroids, but those were reserved for desperate times, like when my whole face blew up to circus-freak proportions.) I took benadryl for so long that I built up a resistance to the sedative effect. I can take benadryl and function wide awake. It's good stuff.

I read a few weeks ago in The People's Pharmacy that the main ingredient in benadryl can cause blurred vision. Blurred vision is the reason I stopped being able to wear contact lenses. I put things together and realized that I became unable to wear contacts at the same time I started taking benadryl.


As an experiment, I stopped my benadryl and started taking Zyrtec, which was good in the past for my nasal allergies. My allergies suddenly got a lot worse. Then I got sick. Then I got sick again. But I'm finding that I can actually wear my contacts again.

Per my latest visit to the doctor, this is my new allergy reality:

Two allergy meds and a nasal-irrigation system, which feels like drowning. It is helping already, but it's a lot harder than just popping a benadryl.

So far, the vanity of not wearing glasses is winning, but we'll see how far my resolve can go. Too much of this allergy mess, and I may be back to full-time glasses and benadryl. I'm hoping that once all this springtime pollen clear out, things will improve. In the meantime, I'll be drowning and drugging myself daily for relief.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Letting Go

I have a bit of a thing for books on personal finance, frugality, and simple living. Part of it is that reading these things gives me some degree of motivation, but part of it is probably that it's easier to read about something than to actually do something. There, I've admitted it.

Larry Burkett is one of my favorite personal finance writers. I realize his stuff is old, but his advice is still good. Add to it that he writes from a wholly Christian perspective, and his advice is just that much better. I recently read through his book Using Your Money Wisely, and this statement from his chapter "Being Content" has stayed with me:

In America I believe nearly everyone would be graded as wealthy by any biblical standard. Our anxieties and worries are not related to the lack of things but rather to the loss of things. Many, if not most, Christians inwardly fear they might lose the material goods they have acquired. Therefore, they compromise God's best for their lives to hang on to the very way of life that brought so much worry and turmoil before they met the Lord.

Everyone is freaking out over the current state of the economy. I'd be lying if I said it didn't worry me, too. I don't think, though, that Burkett was referring to potential job losses and the things that can follow; I think he was referring more to attitude.

I live in a very image-obsessed part of Texas. Steven and I have joked before that we're the poor folks at our church because we don't live in the same (much more expensive) neighborhoods as the majority of our church members. We haven't had a new car in nearly 9 years, and what we do have are humble Hondas. And yet, we're anything but poor. Steven makes a very good salary, and I've been a SAHW for nearly 10 years. That's privilege.

But there are certainly times we get sucked into making comparisons or wishing we had more. A plasma TV or newer car or fancy vacation would be nice. On the flip side, we've recently looked around our house and wondered how 2 people could accumulate so much stuff. We're constantly purging. It's a crazy paradox that seems to define the American lifestyle.

How much of what we cling to doesn't even matter? So much of it is nothing more than emotional. A prime example in my own life is my dollhouse. I have a gorgeous, huge dollhouse that my dad built for me when I was 7. I loved it as a child, and it holds such fond memories for me, not to mention the time and care my dad put into making it that it represents. I've clung to it fiercely, regardless of the fact that we have no room for it in our house. I can't seem to bring myself to let go of it, so it sits in our crowded guest room, collecting dust and preventing us from having the space to actually accomodate overnight guests.

This is a small example, but when I look at the world around me, I see big examples just like it. How many people aren't willing to give up the huge houses that cost them more than they can really afford? How many aren't willing to drive a less impressive car because they fear what conclusions others might draw about them?

How ridiculous can we get?

I've been mulling over that quote of Burkett's for a couple of weeks now. Pride is at the core of what he was writing about, which is kind of funny when you think about it. We're so busy being prideful of what we already own (tangible or intangible), that we're often not willing to give things up to experience something even better that God has in store for us. It kind of alludes to that great paradox of Christianity which is losing life in order to gain it. Sometimes we have to be willing to let go of something in our lives to receive something even better.

The fear of the Lord leads to life:
Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
Proverbs 19:23 (emphasis mine)

Thursday, March 19, 2009


My boys are like actual siblings. If one gets something, the other has to have it, too. One cat can show absolutely no interest in something, but once the other one likes it, then the disinterested cat suddenly needs whatever it is. We've actually used this against them at times. For example, when Doogie had his teeth cleaned, along with a couple of extractions, the vet sent home some wet food for him to eat. He wouldn't touch it. However, Calvin was dying to have some. Once we let him eat it, Doogie decided it must be good, so he was suddenly shoving for his turn at the food bowl.

The latest brotherly obsession: The stormtrooper bag. Calvin decided a few days ago that lying on top of the upended bag is awesome. It's like a little kitty hammock or something:

Now Doogie also thinks it's a great place to be:

They've already started fighting over it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

All-Con: Day Three

Sunday was the last day of All-Con. By the time I arrived at the hotel, many people were already gone. There wasn't much for me to do, so I read a book for a couple of hours while Steven was in a robotics forum.

I did manage to get a picture with Scott "Niktom" Horne of Yak's Pub, which is a really funny Star Wars-themed web strip:

Funny story: On Friday as Steven and I were walking down a hotel hallway, this guy stopped to talk to us. He obviously knew Steven, but then he turned to me and thanked me for linking to his website on my blog. He said he gets a lot of hits from my site. (Thank you, readers!) I told him that's great, then asked, "Who are you?" He laughed and introduced himself. It was Scott. I guess he forgot we'd never actually met before.

Because Steven volunteered some of his time to All-Con, he got to attend a volunteer-appreciation thing at the end of the convention. They raffled off a bunch of stuff for the volunteers, and he won an autographed picture of Aaron Douglas.

We had a lot of packing up and loading to do. After everything was cleared out, we went to J. Pepe's in Dallas for dinner with some friends and Aaron Douglas. One of the guys with Aaron knows the owner of the restaurant, and we all ate for free. That was a very nice surprise! My friends Lindy and Kameron were telling Aaron about my blog, and he wanted to know if I was going to blog about our dinner. Consider this paragraph it! (I forgot to take any pictures.)

My first All-Con was certainly an interesting experience. I can't say that I did much other than help my husband with his events and hang out with the stormtroopers. Watching the people there is an event of its own. No offense, but there are some real weirdos out there. The costumes are always fun to see, although some people let us see a little too much of themselves. (If you're quite large, we don't want to see you in something skin tight and tiny! I'm just saying.) To each his own, I guess.

Will I go back next year? Yes, but only because I enjoyed the time with my husband and our friends in the 501st Legion. All-Con itself still holds little interest for me. I'm just not geeky enough.

Now, if there was a Martha Stewart convention, that would be a whole different story...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

All-Con: Day Two

I intended to go to All-Con for Day 2 with my husband. He had the second part of his diorama-building forum at 10am, but I just couldn't get up for it, so he went by himself. I wound up missing the 501st Legion's photo shoot, but I got a picture from Jason Melton. My husband is in the Imperial Officer uniform on the far right (click on the picture for a larger photo):

After sleeping very late, I spent some quiet time at home, ran a couple of errands, then arrived at the convention around 4pm, just in time to help set up for the Imperial Gladiators event.

Steven was pretty frazzled with trying to get everyone and everything organized for the set-up, but everyone was great about helping out:

Steven wanted people to get colored stickers when they came in. They'd root for the stormtrooper representing that color. Each trooper participating had his own Sith Cheerleader to get the crowd cheering for him:

The competition began with each trooper having to put on his armor as quickly as possible. If you've ever watched a trooper get suited up, you'll understand why doing so quickly can be a competitive event. Let's just say that putting on armor isn't easy:

Actor Aaron Douglas from Battlestar Galactica was kind enough to play the role of Princess Leia for the Capture the Princess part of the game. Someone even knitted buns for him to wear and keep:

The rest of the photos are of the various games in the competition. If you want an explanation of them, go here:

I didn't finish getting pictures of the games because my camera battery died. Oops. I did manage to squeeze enough power from it for one last shot, though--Steven with Aaron Douglas:

Steven was exhausted and hungry after this. It was a lot of work for him! I bought some treats from the Sith Cheerleaders' bake sale, benefitting the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. We ate them and hung out in the 501st suite with some other troopers for a while, then we went to the costume contest. This was one of the most interesting parts of the convention. It's always fun to see what costumes people come up with, and a few of our friends entered. There are a lot of talented people out there, as most people make their own costumes.

We were starving by the time the costume contest ended, so we went out for Chinese food with our friend Fred. After dinner we went back to the convention and hung out some more in the 501st Legion suite. (Everyone else was at the burlesque show, but that's so not our thing for various reasons!)

There was a big 501st party later that night. I didn't stick around for long. We're not drinkers, and the hotel suite was packed. Like, seriously breaking fire code packed. That sort of atmosphere puts me on edge, so after hanging out and chatting for a little while, I called it a night and headed home.

Monday, March 16, 2009

All-Con: Day One

I attended All-Con for the first time this year. I've avoided it in the past because it looked boring. I don't want to learn about Asian ball-jointed dolls, how to vacu-form things, or anything about robotics. What I wanted was to help my husband with his various duties at All-Con, as well as spend time with some friends.

We started out by setting up the 501st Legion booth:

Soon after, Steven led a forum on building dioramas:

Steven had stuff to do after this, and I was officially bored, so I nipped out for a little shopping. I'd passed a Goodwill on the way to the hotel where the con was held, so I headed there. I'd been looking for a wooden cassette-tape holder in thrift stores and hadn't found one yet; a lot of crafters have repurposed them as ink-pad holders, which is why I wanted one. Score! Not only did I find what I was looking for, but it was only $1.99:

After my little shopping excursion, I went back to the hotel and found my husband. We wandered around a bit and chatted with people. The people-watching at these cons is fascinating. I saw a grown man walking around cradling one of those Asian dolls like a baby and talking to it. Crazy.

The 501st Legion took Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars films, to dinner. Getting everyone there was like herding cats. It was a big group:

I sat across the table from Peter's wife, Angie. She's a native Texan, which automatically earns her cool points. Plus, she's really nice:

Steven took my picture with Peter:

We headed back to the convention after dinner for a 501st Legion meeting. All-Con is a good time for a meeting because so many members drive in for it from other parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. I felt like such a poser sitting in on an official meeting of a group I'm not in, but I guess no one really minded, seeing as I let the stormtroopers hang out at my house a lot. Part of being married to the Empire:

They presented Scott "Niktom" Horne of Yak's Pub with...something. I think it was an honorary membership into the 501st. (I'd ask my husband, but as I'm typing, he's already sacked out in bed from an exhausting weekend. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.) In my defense, we walked in on this part of the meeting, so I didn't quite catch what was happening:

The 501st discussed business, remembered a member who'd recently passed away, showed off a super-cool hockey shirt being given to actor Aaron Douglas, then broke up for the evening. We chatted with people for a while, then I headed home to get some sleep.