Married to the Empire

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Crafts That Save the Planet?

Call me a cynic, but that seems like a rather dubious claim.

Admittedly, I'm going to be picking on the latest issue of Paper Crafts magazine, but it's really a general observation. Let's face it: It's trendy to claim that little things are saving the planet. But are they really?

I'm all for reusing things or saving stuff from landfills, but I've never really understood the logic of people who write to Heloise with their tips for using plastic grocery sacks as garbage-can liners or pooper-scooper bags, then claim that they are recycling the bags. They're being tossed in the landfill whether they're being filled up with something or not, so I can't buy the argument that it's a glorious deed. Granted, it is helpful if it means not using some other bag in its stead, but it's hardly recycling if the ultimate end is the garbage can.

That leads me to this magazine. Please understand that I very much like this magazine; I bought it, after all. I'm just shaking my head a bit at the front-cover claim of projects that "save the planet."

Okay, so using the packaging of a craft item is better than just tossing it in the garbage. But are you actually saving the planet by doing so? Not really, especially as purchasing the item in the first place is encouraging the manufacture and shipment of the product, which are a billion times worse for the earth than just tossing the packaging away.

Making a campfire kit is hardly eco friendly. Yes, it may be taken camping in the great outdoors, but it's actually creating more garbage because cute labels are being made to go around the already-existent wrappings of the chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshmallows for s'mores.

Please don't call a project eco-friendly when it involves printing things out on cardstock. Doing so uses electricity. How is that helping the planet?

Now, I'm certainly not saying that we shouldn't do any of those things. Goodness knows I have such an issue with buying new craft supplies that I had to challenge myself not to do so for a while. My point is merely that I'm tired of all the trendy claims of things saving the planet when they really aren't. Keeping things out of the garbage can? Maybe, in some cases. But truly eco-friendly? I don't think so.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Weekend Thrifting

Typically when I go to thrift stores, it's for amusement purposes. I just like to see what they have, and if I happen to find something useful or interesting, all the better!

I didn't expect to find things we need.

I found a brand-new Filtrete allergen-reducing air filter at Goodwill for only $4! I typically pay at least $10 for those! My theory is that someone bought it, opened it, then realized it was the wrong size for their air conditioner. But it's the right size for mine!

The light bulbs are for our bathroom fixtures. We have those out-of-style (but I actually like ours) Hollywood-strip light fixtures, and they take a lot of those round bulbs. Not only are these brand-new, but they're compact fluorescents. Only $2.19 for each box of 4 bulbs.

I love finding life's necessities inexpensively. Such an unexpected blessing.

And then there was the $2 cookbook that I simply wanted. Calvin decided to show it off for you:

My husband groaned in mock horror when he learned I'd bought a vegetarian cookbook, but he'll get over it. It's good for his kidneys.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Occasionally I forget that I don't always have to spend a lot of time and bother when making things. Sometimes the beauty is found in the simplicity. It had been a while since I'd used nothing more than stamps, ink, and embossing powder. I like how it turned out.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Temporary Houseguests

Our pastor is doing a sermon series on heroes, and my husband suggested that he have cardboard standups of various movie heroes up on the stage. The pastor liked that idea, and it became Steven's job to find them.

Apparently, it became my job to tolerate their residing in my living room until they make their way to church.

We're still arguing over whether or not Darth Vader can be considered a hero. I say no, but my Empire-loving, stormtrooper husband says yes.

This is life at my house.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Bedding

I'd been wanting new bedding for a while, but Calvin's bladder infection and subsequent peeing on our bed sped things up. Specifically, I wanted something that could be washed at home in my top-loading washing machine. Our previous comforter was too big and had to go to the laundromat, which was just a pain.

I've been looking for over a year and honestly still haven't really found what I wanted. However, I happened to find this blanket at Target that was the right shade of blue, and it was on clearance. Score! The package says it's a blanket, but it looks like a comforter, so I'm happy enough with it.

Shams were a different story. I haven't found exactly what I want, and I didn't want to spend money on something I didn't necessarily intend to keep. So, we're using pillowcases for now. Not the neatest look, but good enough. It's a little bland at the moment, but I'll dress it up more in time.

The new bedding came at a good time. Calvin was given the all-clear on his infection last week, so we let him sleep with us again. He rewarded us last Friday by peeing on Steven's side of the bed. (The cat no longer has the "I'm sick" excuse; now it's just bad behavior!)

The good thing: I could throw it all into the washer at home. If I have to clean up cat messes, at least I can do it more easily.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Used Books

I'm a big fan of used-book stores. I think it's the combination of cheaper books, the thrill of the hunt (because the stock depends on what people get rid of), and the idea of saving a book from oblivion. My main haunts around here are various Half-Price Books stores and the local paperback trader. (My online stores are Amazon's used-book sellers and Better World Books.)

I saw an add for Recycled Books in Denton a few weeks ago in The Dallas Morning News. I put it into my Mapquest app on my iPod, then didn't get to go there for several weeks. Until yesterday.

It's in a big building that says Opera House in the town square of Downtown Denton. I would have liked to explore the area a bit more, as there were a lot of interesting-looking shops there, but I didn't have time for that and the bookstore.

The place is huge. Much better selection than most Half-Price Books, although the one on Northwest Highway in Dallas is comparable. I was impressed by the size of the Christian section of the store. The art section was massive. I guess being very close to 2 college campuses (Texas Women's University and the University of North Texas) helps with more scholarly sections. The children's section was fantastic. I had to laugh when I saw several shelves devoted just to horse stories. I spent a happy hour-and-a-half browsing the shelves.

The downsides to this store? Well, it smelled moldy, and it had orange shag carpeting that kind of freaked me out. Carpet that old can't be harboring anything healthy! My eyes were streaming in there, and I was sneezing a lot, which tells me it was more than just a moldy smell in there. The other not-so-great thing is that all the books are half price. Doesn't matter if a book is old, outdated, and not in demand; it's still half of its original cover price, which made some of the books way more expensive than they should have been.

Regardless, I had a great time there and spent some money. Definitely a nice way to spend a hot summer afternoon!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Busy Weekend with the Youth

We are now officially without a youth minister, so the youth team has taken over. We planned a night of Whirlyball, lock-ins, followed by a carwash fundraiser in the morning. Exhausting, but fun!

For the uninitiated, Whirlyball is a sort of a cross between basketball and lacrosse, but played in bumper cars. Being good or bad at sports doesn't seem to matter because once you add in the element of bumper cars, things get crazy. I hate games where I have to throw, catch, or hit balls, but I actually find this pretty fun.

Receiving playing instructions from Chris the Whirlyball Guy:

My hubby:

I'm in the purple plaid:

More random pics of the game:

After Whirlyball, the boys went to the church to spend the night, and the girls went to a couple of homes for their own sleepovers. Steven stayed with the boys, but I went home for the night. I had the important job of delivering breakfast in the morning!

After breakfast we had a carwash to help raise money for youth camp, which is in only 2 weeks! It's expensive to rent 15-passenger vans and buy gas for them to drive to New Mexico and back. Our kids worked very hard, and we made almost $500, which is really good considering we probably only washed about 20 cars in our 4 hours out there!

We came home sunburned and exhausted, but it was a really good weekend with our students!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Creating Your Own Scents

I decided to try something I found in this book:

It has all sorts of recipes for various natural remedies and concoctions, including eau de cologne and toilet water. The basic ingredients are essential oils, vodka, and distilled water.

As a life-long Baptist who doesn't drink, I felt extremely out-of-place going into a liquor store to buy the vodka! But I felt proud of myself that I didn't confess to everyone there that I was buying the vodka for a project and not for drinking.

I didn't follow the book's directions exactly, as I used the scents I wanted in the proportions I wanted. (As a migraine sufferer whose headaches are often triggered by scents, I had to go with what I like and can tolerate.) Now it's a waiting game. The instructions for the toilet water say for it to sit for 2 weeks, being shaken daily. The eau de cologne sits for 4-6 weeks with daily shaking. The toilet water is colored with food coloring, per the book's instructions. I made lavender, which is in the book, but also peppermint, as that's a pick-me-up scent that actually helps me when I get migraines. I'm thinking of using it more as a room spray, though, than on my skin. I used lily-of-the-valley and French lavender for the eau de cologne.

It's not the cheapest of experiments, but I already had the essential oils, so I just had to purchase the vodka. If this works out, I think it'll be well worth the cost of materials. If not, well, it was worth a try.

Guess I'll let you know in a few weeks how it turns out!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

But please don't mind if I sit and read a magazine.

Steven's company sponsored an evening at the Ballpark in Arlington. Free game tickets and $15 in vouchers for food or merchandise. Very nice!

Except, I hate baseball. One of the most boring sports ever invented, in my opinion, although I do prefer it to football. (As a 5th-generation Texan, I think I just committed heresy with that statement!) So, I brought a magazine. The fiancee of one of Steven's coworkers said that was a great idea, and she was doing that next time she had to attend one of her fiance's flag football games. Always glad to help!

The Rangers beat the Astros. Amazingly, I even know the score. It was 5-4. But admittedly, I wasn't watching to see the winning run. That's okay, though. It's really more about the atmosphere than the game itself. At least, that's my excuse.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Drama at the Vet's

The above picture is a happy shot that proves I am forgiven by Calvin for what transpired on Tuesday. Because you can't see it, you'll just have to trust me that he was purring loudly during the photo shoot as he sat on my lap.

I dropped Calvin at the vet's yesterday morning because he was due for another urinalysis. He's had a stubborn bladder infection that required 3 rounds of heavy-duty antibiotics. After dropping him off, I headed to church for bible study, then out to a sand volleyball court to hang with the youth.

While I was at the volleyball court, I called the vet's office to check on Calvin. I was told that his bladder still wasn't full enough, so he hadn't been tested yet. As I was driving home, I thought that I should let them know that he'll drink water if they put ice in his bowl. Because I pass the vet's office on the way home, I decided to just stop in.

It was 12:20pm, which is lunchtime. The door was open, but the doorbell had been disabled, the lights were off, and no one was at the front desk. I called out a hello, but no one heard me. As I was standing there, I heard a dog in the back make a whiny yapping noise, and a woman said, "Shut up you stupid piece of $#!^! Ugh! I hate you!"

At that point I was freaking out. I left because frankly, I was afraid that if I called out again and the speaker came out, I'd go ballistic on her. My baby was back there! My boy has a history of being difficult, and I feared that he was being mistreated. I was shaking as I drove home.

When the vet called to tell me his test results, I let her know what happened. Thankfully, a headache had caused me to nap for about an hour, and I think that downtime was necessary for me to be able to speak calmly to her. I told her that I think she's a fabulous vet, but I'm hesitant to leave my boys in the care of her office staff in the future because I fear mistreatment. Animals are frightened enough when they go to the vet's office. The last thing they should have to endure there is people speaking hatefully to them (and who knows what else!).

The vet was appalled. She told me that there were several things wrong with the scenario: The lights shouldn't have been off, someone should have been at the desk, the doorbell should have been working (which interestingly, I could hear it ding in the background while we were on the phone), and of course, the animals should never have been spoken to so hatefully. She apologized and assured me that she'd be talking to her staff about this.

Now, the good news is that all our recent prayers over this cat have been answered. His bladder infection is finally gone, which means I'm going to youth camp! But he still has blood in his urine, so they did x-rays to check for kidney and/or bladder stones. He has neither, but they found that he has a BB lodged in his rear end! My baby has been shot!

Calvin was approximately 1.5 years old when we got him, and we're pretty sure he was an outdoor cat in his former life. But I used to let him outside years ago, too. I made him an indoor cat after he kept getting into fights with other neighborhood cats. So, in addition to leaving him with someone who may have been treating him badly, I also found out he may have been shot years ago while under my care. Cue the intense Mommy Guilt. I felt like dirt.

Thankfully, the BB causes him no harm. It's just a weird little fact about him that leaves us wondering about his past. Frankly, I think he's a little proud of it. He's always liked playing the part of Mr. Tough Cat, and he relished his role as Neighborhood Bully back in the day. I think I caught him bragging to Doogie about it. "Yeah, I was shot. Nothing can take me out!" (Although kidney disease and a monster bladder infection can certainly knock him down for a while.)

All is well with Calvin. But I'm still left with the dilemma of whether or not to stick with our vet, who truly is great, or find a new one where hopefully the staff is nicer to the animals. I've always liked the staff at our vet's office, so it's hard looking at them suspiciously, wondering which one was so awful to the animals.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


You know you don't iron enough when you heft the overflowing ironing basket to the ironing board, work for 3 hours, and find at the bottom of the basket a pair of shorts you don't even recall owning. Oh, and after that 3 hours of hard work, you still have at least another 3 hours worth of work left in the basket.

But on the positive side, there's that "new" pair of shorts!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Reworking the Budget

Sometimes things happen in life, and we have to rework our budget. Like, a cat gets sick and has tons of new costs...

The latest change is that we're without a youth minister at church and will be for the foreseeable future. Steven is the official face of the youth ministry right now, which simply means that he's on the church website as youth minister, but really, it's the youth team that's handling everything.

However, all of this means that we have extra responsibilities and time commitments. The church pays for us to do all church-sponsored activities, like Whirlyball this weekend. But if we want to spend time with the kids at Bahama Buck's or go to Sonic after youth group, that's out of our own pockets. Granted, we were already paying to do a lot of this stuff, but now we have the responsibility of doing it even more often, especially with the kids out of school for the summer. So, the budget has to be reworked to include these little extras.

Budgets are a lot like life. They're constantly shifting and changing to accomodate new situations, yet they still give much-needed structure to keep things running smoothly.

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's the Little Things

I found this when I got up this morning:

Steven brings in my newspaper every morning for me, but usually he just leaves it in the entryway. Today, though, he delivered it to my place at the table, along with a rosebud from the rosebush in the backyard.

It's the little things that say, "I love you."

And speaking of little things, this Little Thing was meowing mightily at me while I was snapping photos of my rose and paper. Doogie rarely will pose for me when I have the camera out, but this morning, he made a point of telling me he wanted his picture taken, so here it is:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Scary Storms Last Night

Shortly after I arrived at church last night for a music rehearsal, the tornado sirens started blaring and the lights went out. We took cover in one of the children's rooms and were fortunate enough to find a flashlight in there.

We all took advantage of a lull in the storm to get out and go home. The drive home was something. The traffic light next to the church was out, and the street sign attached to it was mangled. A few yards up the road, telephone or power poles (not sure which) were completely snapped in half and hanging by their wires. The news later reported that the neighborhood right by the church was hardest hit in the Metroplex. Somehow, we were completely spared at the church. In fact, we couldn't even hear much of anything from inside the church. Praise God for that!

A couple of scenes from our street last night:

I drove around the neighborhood and down Main Street today and snapped a few photos of what the storm did. Please pardon any blurriness, as I was driving while taking pictures. The pole pictured below that is leaning on another pole (click on the picture for a bigger version if you can't see it) was in the road last night:

All is well at our own house. Steven and the cats rode out the storm in the guest bathroom. Steven had to eat his dinner in there, so the cats, who were angry about being locked up, were appeased with a little of his chicken.

Making a Privacy Window

The builders of our house apparently thought it was a great idea to put a big ol' window in our shower/tub. That window has been a problem for me for years. When we first moved in, I didn't know what to do with it. You can't exactly put a regular curtain or blinds in there due to all the water. I wound up hanging a white shower-curtain liner in there that had been cut off to fit. Not exactly high design, but the window faces the side of the house and is only seen by our neighbor.

But I've never liked it.

I started doing research a few weeks ago into window films. I know; they sound, well, not exactly nice, but we need to cut down the red-tip photinias on the west side of our house. Their roots are messing with our pipes. My craft room and our bathroom have windows facing west, and those red tips do help cut down on the sun that comes into the house in the afternoons. I need a new solution to help with that, hence the window film research.

After reading and watching online tutorials, I decided to go for it. We did the bathroom window last week with privacy film.

Our supplies:

The finished project:

It's made a huge difference in how the shower looks! So much nicer, and it'll be easier to keep that window-ledge area clean without a curtain there. I'm pleased that it doesn't look cheap or trashy as I'd feared it might, but actually looks great! It was surprisingly easy to put up, but it's definitely a two-person job.

I don't think the privacy film is intended to cut down on utility bills, but it will filter some of the sun coming in, as well as keep eyes out of our shower! Hopefully, we'll tackle the craft room next with some heat-control window film, but we may have missed our window of opportunity (pun not intended). The instructions say to put up film when temps are between 40F and 90F. We're over 90 here now.

I'm all about inexpensive home improvement when possible!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I have a love/hate relationship with Texas. I truly think it's the best place on earth--except in summer. It's just too stinkin' hot here!

But there's one very nice aspect to summer: our youth! I love having them out of school because we have good bonding time. We have Tuesdays set up this summer as a time to hang out together. Yesterday's activity was Ultimate Frisbee.

I'm not a sporty girl, so I just watched while sitting under an umbrella (to protect my fair skin!) with a kiddo who also didn't want to play. It's really just about being there.

However, I really do prefer the days we're doing things indoors. I'm a wimp in the sun.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Glue Incident

I have a new tube of glue that has a little pad at the top that helps spread the glue over larger areas. I'd never used it before, and I couldn't get the glue to come out through the pad. I took the pad off to see if there was something blocking the glue. I was expecting a paper-type cover like you find on a bottle of honey or ketchup, but I didn't see anything. So, I squeezed. Nothing. I squeezed harder...

There was a loud pop, and suddenly there was glue everywhere. It shot straight up to the ceiling, then all over my desk.

A small overview of the workspace (pardon the mess--I create in chaos):

The glue blobbed on the card I was making, across the desk, even onto the mousepad, but I'd cleaned that up before I thought to take any pictures:

It even shot sideways to nail one of my stamps:

I eventually found the culprit on the floor on the opposite side of my worktable:

I wear glasses for a reason. Apparently, though, they're not enough because I didn't even see the little plastic cap recessed in the glue tube.

While sticky and mildly annoying to clean up, it was actually a little comic relief. You see, I was working on another sympathy card, this time for one of our students in our youth group. Her father died unexpectedly over the weekend. I was a little weepy while working on it because it was hurting me to think of how much she was hurting. Then the glue exploded, ruined the cryfest, and actually made me laugh.

I think it's some kind of metaphor for life.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Nine of our students graduated this weekend. It's been a bittersweet time for us as we attended graduation on Saturday and a big reception for them at church on Sunday. We're so proud of them and have considered it such privilege to know them and have them in our youth group. But we'll miss them dearly, as they've been such an important part of our group over the years.

Because we know all of the graduates personally, we had a lot of gifts to buy this year. I handled the girls' gifts, and Steven took charge of the boys'. I like to give jewelry, which can be done affordably through this site. These are the necklaces and pendants we wound up giving the girls:

Steven chose MagLites for the boys:

He was originally going to give them the really big, heavy MagLites, but then decided that the smaller ones are more versatile, as they fit easily in a backpack or pocket.

I happen to believe that presentation is as important as the gift itself, so I was very pleased with how the packaging for the necklaces turned out:

It's nothing more than colorful, mini-takeout boxes and ribbon, but they made for very pretty packaging. I did this simply because I couldn't find jewelry boxes at Hobby Lobby. I settled unhappily on the takeout boxes, but I'm so pleased I did! I think they turned out so much nicer than the regular boxes would have.

And finally, I cranked out 9 congratulatory cards for our graduates:

The stars seemed appropriate, as their reception theme was How Brightly You Will Shine.

Indeed they will.