Married to the Empire

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Organized Pantry

I'm a fan of the bulk bins at Sprouts. The prices are good, and I can buy whatever amounts of foods that I want. However, my method of storing stuff in Ziploc bags was bothering me. Finding things in my pantry was becoming difficult. It's an oddly-shaped closet with little space, and I've had stackable bins turned sideways at the bottom for extra storage. Finding rice, beans, or pasta was a pain, as it was hard to see in the bins, and everything was piled on top of each other in floppy bags.

I decided it was worth the money to buy containers and other implements for pantry storage. IKEA to the rescue for doing it affordably. I bought several of their plastic containers in 3 different sizes and filled them with my bulk-purchased foods. I also bought a wooden shelf thing to replace the sideways bins I'd been using.

The wooden shelf was about 1/8 inch too tall. My sweet husband was kind enough to take it out to the garage to shave a bit off the height. Now everything is neatly organized and so easy to grab when needed. It all looks a lot better, as well.

I love being more organized!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spring Fever

The weather is warm, the flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping, and the cats are wailing. They want OUT. Spring calls to all creatures.

We were outside in the yard on Saturday, listening to Calvin's pathetic whines from the living-room window. Steven decided to let the boys out. They raced into the yard, sniffing the air as they went. Then they both fell onto the grass and rolled around like little maniacs.

As usual, Doogie insisted on making his pretty white fur filthy.

The boys were so happy about being outside that they both tolerated my putting an orange scarf on them to shoot pictures for the ASPCA's Pets Go Orange photo contest.

There's a certain joy that comes from watching God's creatures enjoying Creation.

Revelation 5:13
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:
"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!"

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

High Tea at Whole Foods Market

The blurb in last week's food section of The Dallas Morning News caught my eye: Free High Tea demonstration at Whole Foods Market in Dallas on Monday morning. I called my friend Karen and asked her to go with me.

Due to nasty weather and heavy traffic, we were about 30 minutes late, so we missed the presentation on the history of tea, but we were in plenty of time to taste the different teas and eat the delicious foods being prepared in front of us.

We were served a variety of tea sandwiches, scones, mini crumb cakes. Along with the morning's list of activites, the store gave us most of the recipes.

Did I mention that this was all free? We didn't even go out to lunch afterwards, as we'd originally planned. We were too full.

It turns out that this Whole Foods store has free food demonstrations every Monday morning. Coming up: Tastes of Italy, Greece, Cuba. Karen and I were both saying that we'll have to go back. We couldn't believe that all of these demos (and samplings) are free! What a fun way to spend a morning!

What's not free? Going downstairs and browsing the market, which beckoned with its siren call of exotic foods. Browsing led to buying. But how could I turn down that jar of wasabi mayonnaise, especially after tasting smoked salmon-wasabi tea sandwiches?

What I did manage to resist:

The bakery and candy counters were just amazing! So much delicious variety, all made in store. We were given free samples of the orange-creamsicle fudge, which really did taste like a creamsicle. Yummy! But its appearance like dried-out cheese was a little disconcerting.

Now that I've experienced Whole Foods, I think I can get out in the future without spending money, so those free demonstrations truly will be free. But what an experience! As an added bonus, it was a great way to spend time with a friend.

Monday, April 27, 2009


If you've been around here a while, you may remember that my husband and several other members of the 501st Legion did a photo shoot for Wired magazine last year in conjunction with what should have been the opening of the movie Fanboys. But it was delayed. Then delayed some more...

Fanboys finally opened this weekend. Steven and I went to see it, but we had low expectations going in, as The Dallas Morning News gave it a D. However, we loved the film! It was really good. Very funny, touching in parts, and filled with geek references. Steven understood it all; I got most of it.

If you're a big Star Wars fan, I highly recommend this film. (It's definitely not for kids, though.) If you're not familiar with this movie, you can watch the trailers here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Martha! Martha! Martha!

Last Friday I went into Walmart for some boring things like cat litter and Swiffer dusters. I headed back to the craft section for a look-see. Walmart sells Martha Stewart craft products and I like to just look at them. I'm devoted like that. Just not necessarily devoted enough to buy because, well, they're a little pricey, and Walmart doesn't have coupons like Michaels for getting Martha's stuff 40% off.

But, oh my! Her stuff was on clearance! The glitter set that was normally $22.97 was on sale for only $12! I was finding it hard to believe it was so cheap, so I took it to the little self scanner they have available for price checking, and it rang up as being only $5! I snatched it up as a gift for a certain special sparkle-loving girl in my life.

Then I saw the craft punches. They were marked as being on clearance for $4, but the scanner said they were $2! The lettered stamps were only $6.

I couldn't believe it! Only $15 spent on all that Martha stuff!

I decided to check out other area Walmarts. I was thinking that the glitter would make for an awesome giveaway here since y'all know I love me some glitter, and quality counts! What I'd bought was the only one left. But, alas. All other Walmarts were selling Martha Stewart products for full-price.

Monday I had to go back to Walmart to make a return, so I decided to see if anything was left in the Martha section. Most of the other punches were gone, but I did find some. (I cleaned them out. Yeah, I'm that woman you want to hate for taking the last one on the shelf. Again.) Edge punches were $7. Pigment inks $2. Craft kits $3 and $5. I still can't believe it!

I'm such a Martha glutton.

Out of curiosity, I added everything up--both original price and sale price. If I'd paid the original full price for everything, my total would have been a whopping $107.63 before tax. Instead, I paid only $40 total (minus tax).

I think I have a lot of crafting to do.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Great Gifts

I've been so blessed lately. Family and friends have been very generous. It started with the giveaway I won on Danita's blog. She was giving away her gorgeous crocheted dishcloths:

I've been a fan of crocheted dishcloths ever since I received some as a bridal gift nearly 11 years ago. Danita's are lovely and very well-made. She's now selling them in her Etsy shop, and I highly recommend them!

Next, my friend Karen brought some pretty pink pearls back from Hawaii for me. I love pink, and I love pearls!

I'd asked my sister to bring me some British craft magazines when she visited. Let me just say, I've been having a great time looking through these and getting some new ideas. Both magazines came with freebies. One had a book of interesting papers (that's behind the magazines), and the other had some journaling die cuts. American craft mags don't give away freebies like that!

Last, my parents gave me a HUGE gift. Literally. My dad prefers to work out at the gym, so he offered me their treadmill!

As an act of ultimate love and sacrifice, my husband has given up space in his Star Wars room for the treadmill. His hand-painted, Imperial-themed desk has given way to my workout space. That's love.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Final Day Together

My nieces left town last Wednesday to fly back to England. Lucky for me, they had an evening flight, so I still got to spend the day with them. When my parents asked the girls where they'd like to have lunch, Leah said, "Sonic!" Smart girl. It's not like they can get watermelon slushes, tater tots, and cherry-vanilla Dr. Peppers in jolly old England!

We opted to eat out on their patio area. I think if we'd eaten in the car, my dad would have had a heart attack over the potential for dropped French fries, spilled drinks, and smeared ketchup. No sense in killing Grandpa.

After we ate, we went back to my parents house and watched Bolt together, which is a really funny movie! Then, it was time to say good-bye. I hugged everyone, told them I loved them, watched them pile into the car to go to the airport, then cried once I got into my own car.

I miss them already.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring Cleaning

Maybe the phrase, in my case, should be spring decluttering. Wow. We had a real mess on our hands. Our guest bedroom had become the catch-all room, which is a very nice way of saying junk room. We have a bad habit of tossing anything that needs to be given away or otherwise gotten rid of into that room.

The closet wasn't any better. Old uniforms, letter jackets, costumes that are never worn, boxes, bags, and just a whole lot of junk.

Steven set to work cleaning out his Star Wars room, and I tackled the spare bedroom. This is how much junk we cleared out (the cat is not junk; he just walked into the shot):

Ironically, all those bags are back in the guest room, but that's because they're awaiting pickup by the Leukemia Society.

I needed to organize the closet. I'd cleared out a ton of space in there (any future guests can now hang their own clothes in there!), but I needed to organize the things kept in there. I buy gifts throughout the year and stash them in this closet until it's time to give them. I cleared out some drawers in the guest-room dresser, and the Christmas cards that used to be in them are now in the closet. I didn't want to spend money on organizational stuff for this closet, so I went with what we had. I found some empty crates in the garage and master closet, so I stacked them and tied them together with zip ties for stability. They make decent enough impromptu shelves:

The laundry basket that used to hold stuffed animals now has boxes, bags, and bubble wrap. Not pretty, but functional. It's a vast improvement, as boxes used to be shoved in the corner and were nearly impossible to get out. Now everything is clearly visible and accessible.

We still have some more cleaning out to do around the house, but it felt great to get this particular room done!

Monday, April 20, 2009

American Girls

Last Monday I joined my nieces, sister, and mother at the American Girl Store in Dallas. I'd never been before, as I'd never actually had a reason to go. The place is certainly fascinating. I find the concept of the dolls great. Little girls can read books about a character in a different time period and actually learn something. The dolls and accessories only enhance the experience. My one complaint, though, is how outrageously expensive this stuff is. Wow. I had no idea!

This store really encourages girls to bring their dolls with them. In fact, I was so impressed by all the little amenities that make carrying a doll around easier, that I took a picture in a public restroom for the first time:

That star above the toilet-seat-cover dispenser is a doll holder. Uh huh. So a girl can have her hands free to take care of more pressing business and no dolls are dropped in unsanitary places. It totally made me laugh.

We ate lunch at the bistro upstairs. The food was quite good, and I adored the pink tables. The tabletops were very slick, and any time one of the girls barely bumped her silverware, it went flying. I suspect this restaurant has to supply fresh forks to patrons frequently. I commented that I would love to have those pink tables in my home, but what a shock they would be to the cats. Whenever a cat decided to take a flying leap onto one of those tables, he'd wind up skidding right off. Might not be a bad way to train my bad boys to stay off of the table! But I digress...

The bistro encourages dining with dolls, and it supplies doll seats that attach to the table. Leah was the only one who'd brought her doll to the store with her:

But never fear! The restaurant provided loaner dolls for the other girls. Again, it highly amused me.

I really did enjoy browsing through the store and seeing all the neat (but overpriced) accessories:

And of course, there was the joy in having my nieces excitedly show me the things they were buying for their dolls. It was definitely time well spent.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Apparently, We're Rich

When my nieces were at my house last week, Ashley was amazed by Uncle Steven's Star Wars room. She's not familiar with Star Wars (gasp!), but she understands toys. She took one look at the Star Wars room and figured out that Uncle Steven is rich.

I can honestly say that we're rich in love, but that's about it.

Nieces at My House

My sister, mom, and nieces came over to my house last Friday. The girls wanted to see the cats, who didn't reciprocate, and Caroline wanted to try out her new Wii game.

In the process of cleaning out my house, I decided it was time for my old cheerleading uniform to go. Emily wanted it, so she put it on. I had to roll up the waist on the skirt quite a bit, but how cute does she look in it?

A couple of the girls became hungry and wanted a snack. Turns out that Leah is a mango fiend. I had 3 mangoes, and this tiny girl ate them all!

Ashley sadly told me that she wanted to play with something. I asked what she wanted, and she said, "The dollhouse!" *sigh* It now lives temporarily with my parents, but apparently, Grandpa thought it wasn't in good enough shape for Ashley to play with until he'd done some repairs. He was still working on it, and she hadn't gotten to play with it yet. Poor kid. I gave her my Ewok Village to play with as consolation.

I thought it was great to see 3 of the 4 girls gathered around playing with Star Wars stuff. I thought Uncle Steven would be thrilled by it. He was... until he discovered that I'd given them an expensive vintage Han Solo to play with. Oops. No harm done, other than the mild feeling of panic Steven felt when he found out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stormtroopers at the Symphony

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra performed The Music of John Williams over the weekend. The stormtroopers were invited to attend in costume to take pictures with people. This is the sort of event that is truly fun for me because it meant that I got to attend and enjoy the concert for free.