Married to the Empire

Friday, July 31, 2009

Creating Your Own Scents--The Update

I posted about 6 weeks ago about experimenting with making my own scents. I was loosely following recipes/directions in this book. Each concoction had to sit for a few weeks, so I wasn't able to update you until now.

It all smells nice! However, the toilet water doesn't have any lasting power. I have no interest whatsoever in wearing peppermint or lavender scents (I made them specifically as room sprays--the peppermint helps me with migraine, interestingly), but I did try them on my skin for experiment's sake. The scent fades from skin very quickly. However, it's all quite nice sprayed into a room or onto linens. Again, it doesn't really last, but it creates a pleasant aroma for a while.

(As an aside, the name toilet water completely offends my husband who asked why it has that name. I tried to explain about the French term toilette, but it was somewhat fruitless. I'm just calling it what the book calls it.)

As for the eau de cologne, this is more perfume-like. The scent is strong and stays on the skin. I'm extremely pleased with how this turned out! Now I just need to find some pretty bottles for this stuff.

Someone had asked in the comments on my previous post if I can smell the alcohol. I couldn't answer at that time due to the waiting process, but I can now assuredly say that there is no smell of alcohol whatsoever.

Overall, I'd call this little experiment a success. The cost was not great, as I already owned the essential oils and distilled water used in the process. I paid $18 for a bottle of vodka. Given the amount of scented products I made with it, I'd say it was a very good value. Oh, I also spent 99 cents on each of the little plastic spray bottles pictured above. I'll probably purchase something a little nicer for the eau de cologne, but nothing very expensive. It's a cost effective way of customizing your own scents.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

THIS Is Love

Back in April, I'd posted about my dad giving us his treadmill. Steven gave up space in his beloved Star Wars room for the gigantic thing. Problem is, I didn't like working out on it in there. The room is dark, and all I had to look at was a wall of action figures. Blah. Listening to music was of some help, but I needed visual stimulation.

Steven came up with a great solution, and I'm so grateful to him for it! He bought cheap metal shelves at IKEA and used them to set up our old desktop computer so that I can watch DVDs or online shows while I work out. He turned the taller shelf upside-down and bolted it to the wall. He also cut the legs down so that it wasn't too tall. It's nice having such a handy husband!

The mouse rests easily by the treadmill controls for easy computer usage.

Not only did my husband give up space in his room, but he customized things to make them more pleasant for me. The new setup works beautifully, and I'm now enjoying replaying my collection of Star Trek: Voyager DVDs as I work out!

The universe won't implode or anything, will it, if I watch Star Trek in a room devoted to Star Wars?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Life for Old Clothes

I hate shopping for jeans more than just about anything. Hate it. Hours of frustration in an attempt to find just one pair that fits properly. So when I find jeans that fit well, I tend to hang onto them forever. But they get faded and old-looking.

Last week I decided to dye some of my jeans. I figured they could use some new oomph to keep them looking nice. I also threw in a couple of pairs that were just too light to be very stylish these days. I should have taken a before picture of all my denim, but I forgot.

First step: Wet the objects to be dyed. (Don't know why; it's just what the dye bottle says to do.) If you're me, you then pile the wet clothing on top of the dryer, then realize you have a lot of water to mop up before it all seeps into the lint trap. And keep in mind that everything looks darker than it really is when it's wet.

Next fill the washer and add the dye. Agitate. Then add clothes.

Rinse a bazillion times until the water runs clear. I believe the following picture was the 6th rinse. I think I rinsed 10 times before finally giving up. It was 2am by then, I was tired, and I'm not sure the water was ever going to run clear! (For reference, I believe I started the dyeing process around 7pm.)

Finish the process with a final wash with detergent. Dry clothes (I air dry mine.) Marvel at their new color, but then feel frustrated for buying "denim" instead of "indigo."

Still, they look better than they did, which means I'll wear them longer and put off evil jean shopping for another while. As Martha would say, "It's a good thing!"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Organizing the Food

I mentioned last week that I found some wooden flowers tucked away in the back of a closet when I was reorganizing it. It was a nice frugal find, which is a good thing because nothing else I'm about to show you is frugal in any way!

My pantry is minuscule, so all overflow goes out to a shelf in the garage. Problem is, that shelf is very deep and a bit high for me. My food was stacked and stored precariously. I had a hard time seeing what I had, and reaching for stuff in the back often caused an avalanche of canned goods in the front.

This wasn't working for me, so I went to The Container Store for some solutions. I'm pretty pleased with what I came up with, as I can now see and reach everything I have. (Everything is from The Container Store, except the stacked wire bins. Those were purchased at Walmart.)

Steven pointed out that I was losing some space, as I didn't have everything pushed up against the back of the wall. But I do like things within my reach, since I'm the cook around here. I did make use of the space at the back that can be reached from the side. It's a great place for Kleenex.

Yes, I am fully aware of the irony of spending a ton of money at The Container Store in order to efficiently store food bought on sale.

I opted to add tiered shelves in the kitchen cabinet that holds my spices. They're easier to reach now, as you can see from the before and after shots.

Oh, and that closet that once held the flowers? It's more spacious now with a few small tweaks.

I love having things more accessible, visible, and spacious!

Monday, July 27, 2009


Saturday while at Steven's parents' house to celebrate his birthday (he turned 36 on Sunday!), his mom mentioned to Steven's niece and me that she has a bunch of ribbon that we were more than welcome to go through and help ourselves to. As our niece and I are both crafters, we both jumped on that offer!

I like ribbon for some of my cards, but I also love to use real ribbon on presents. So much prettier. I like fatter ribbons, which is good, because our niece was eyeing the thinner ones. (She sews some really cute soft toys and doll clothes.) It worked out nicely that we weren't competing for the same stuff.

I came home with all this:


Some of it appears to be vintage, although I have no idea just how old (or not) it actually is:

My MIL was thrilled to clean out some of her stuff and give it to people who will use it. We were more than happy to help! Of course, Steven pretty much just rolled his eyes, as I already have an obscene amount of ribbon, but there's always some use for it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hidden Treasures

While reorganizing the linen closet the other day, I found this tucked away at the back:

These wooden tulips used to be in my parents' house, but my mom got tired of them several years ago and gave them to me. I'd taken them with the intention of using them, but instead, they were shoved in a closet and forgotten about.

When I found them the other day, I realized I had the perfect spot for them. I have a beautiful crystal vase that sits out on our sideboard. Ironically, the pattern on it is tulips. I can't have real flowers in there because Doogie knocks them over every time. Wooden flowers don't require water, which is what attracts the cat.

I put the flowers in the vase and realized they're too short. Dang.

I was feeling frustrated until I remembered these:

I'd bought these flat marbles for a craft project that I never got around to doing. (Surprise, surprise!) I figured they'd work in the bottom of the vase to elevate the wood flowers. I was right:

I love being able to use what I already have to brighten my home. These flowers were truly hidden treasures.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cat Card

This is one of the quick cards I made for our catsitters who watched our furbabies while we were away at youth camp. Having friends who love our cats and are willing to drug Calvin while we're away is truly priceless.

I'm pleased to report that Calvin was a very good boy while were away. He didn't pee on anything, and I was told that he was very patient with his aunties while they attempted to drug him. (One of his pills is a full-sized capsule. You have to aim just right to get it down his throat; it's an acquired skill.)

Doogie was his usual sweet self, and he played with his sitters and gave them lots of purrs and nudges. Seriously, we never worry about him while we're away. He's our easy boy.

Both cats were very glad when we returned, though. Calvin didn't leave my side for a couple of days, and Doogie, who isn't much of a talker, yelled at me quite a bit to remind me that he missed Mail Time while we were away, and he wanted it back! (He's goes outside with me for the mail almost every day.)

It's good to be home.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Taking Advantage of Food Sales

I've been a little insane at the grocery store lately due to the fabulous stock-up sales that have been going on. (Kitties will be very happy, as I bought something like 20 cans of tuna at only 50 cents a can!)

I've become addicted to smoothies lately, and I love them with frozen fruit. But a small bag of frozen cherries at Sprouts is $5/bag! Ouch! Seeing as so much fruit is in season right now and being sold at very low prices, I've been stocking up on fruit and freezing it myself.

I pitted cherries, which is a very messy process! But at 99 cents/pound, I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

I spread prepared fruit out on waxed paper on a jelly-roll pan, then froze it.

Once the fruit was frozen, I moved it to a ziploc bag in the freezer. (Yes, I'm aware that I switched fruit on you. The strawberries were frozen already; the cherries were not.)

From there I can take out as much as I need at any given time for smoothies or other kitchen endeavors. Yes, it's a bit time-consuming, but it really does save a lot of money when I can buy fresh fruit at rock-bottom prices versus more-expensive frozen fruit.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Youth Sunday

Our students led the worship service on Sunday morning. One of our girls led the singing, 3 other girls sang, 2 played acoustic guitars, 1 boy played electric guitar, and another played the congos. I sang with them, as I'm on the praise team anyway and work with the youth. Our regular adult band was also up there. It was a very crowded stage, but so wonderful to have so many people participating!

We opened with all the youth up on stage to lead a song we learned at camp called "Happy Day." It has hand motions, which are cheesy, but kind of fun.

(In case you're wondering, I'm on the left in the brown skirt, looking down. The matching shirts are our camp shirts. Click on the photo if you'd like to see it bigger.)

After everyone sang, one student stayed up there to speak a little about his camp experience, then give the welcome. Next was the camp video. One of our students owns his own production company (he's only 15!), and he put the video together for us. He did a fabulous job, too.

The rest of the service was a few more testimonies about camp experiences, a short drama bit, more singing, and then:

My husband preached! This actually wasn't his first time, but it was my first time to hear him. (He says he preached a lot when he was in a college-sponsored band/singing group that traveled each weekend to different churches. That was before I knew him.) He preached from Micah 6, which was one of the passages we studied at camp. He did such a great job, and I'm so proud of him!

The best part of the service was that we baptized a kiddo who became a Christian at camp. Talk about a great Sunday! We're so very proud of all our students.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What We Learned at Camp

I felt as if God orchestrated my being able to go to camp this year. The cat was so sick, and I was so worried. Then suddenly, he was reasonably well again, and my fears about leaving him evaporated. I found myself excited about going to camp (I'm a homebody who tends to dread leaving) and completely looking forward to it.

As an adult leader, I assumed God wanted me there for the students. Little did I realize that He really seemed to want me there to wake me up.

The week's theme was Move: The Faith Journey. The morning bible studies revolved around Moses and his call to lead the Israelites out of captivity and back to their promised land. His was certainly a faith journey of epic proportions, but it wasn't his story that spoke so firmly to me. It was Gideon's.

The camp speaker used different biblical passages each evening, including Micah 6, 1 Kings 18, and Matthew 17. But it was Gideon's story in Judges 6 that really slapped me awake.

The Midianites were holding the Israelites captive by destroying their crops and livestock. Gideon was secretly threshing wheat in a winepress when the angel of the Lord came to him and told him that he would save the Israelites. This didn't seem possible, as Gideon was the youngest in his family, and his family was from the smallest tribe. Gideon told the Lord that, but it didn't matter. The Lord let him know that as long as He was on Gideon's side, things would work out. The Lord even made a point of that by using a mere 300 men armed only with torches and trumpets to defeat the Midianites.

The message in a nutshell: If God is calling you to do something, he will equip you to be able to do it. When you're following God's calling, he will make you successful.

I shared with my youth that several years ago, I felt the need to write a youth-based bible study on a specific biblical passage. My own fear of failure and general laziness about it caused me to do nothing. I even had a story published in that time, which should have given me the clue that I am a good enough writer to do this. Yet, I still did nothing. That urge was there for a few years and then suddenly... it was gone. All I can figure is that God decided that if I wouldn't do it, then he'd pass the job on to someone who would.


In recent months I've been encouraged again in various ways to start writing devotional materials. In fact, I had a Christian writing opportunity drop right into my lap out of nowhere. And you know what? I did nothing about it. So when I say that this Gideon lesson spoke to me, I mean that it actually smacked me in the face and knocked me off kilter.

I have some work to do.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Centrifuge 2009

We returned from Centrifuge (youth camp) late Saturday night. I've been catching up on sleep, loving my cats, and trying to get mountains of laundry done since then. But I thought I'd share a few highlights from youth camp.

The camp we go to is in Glorieta, NM. The mountains were a glorious change from our 105-degree temps here in Texas.

The sunsets were beautiful:

So were the storm clouds:

Worship was amazing. The Daniel Doss Band led the music, and they were good:

A few of our kiddos during worship:

The whole reason we were there:

A scene from lunch. Disappointingly, the food wasn't good this year. Ordinarily, the food at Glorieta is the best camp food you'll ever get, but this year, it was as bad as any other camp. But you know what? I didn't have to cook for a whole week:

Mega Relay is on the last day of camp. All the bible study groups compete against each other for the Fuge Cup. In the past the kids wore war paint and looked pretty crazy and a little fierce. It made things more fun. However, the war paint was apparently staining the camp's showers, so it's now forbidden. They still had fun, though:

The adult sponsors:

What it looks like to share a room with middle school girls:

Steven and me wearing opposing Star Wars shirts:

And finally, the sanctuary lit up at night:

I'll post some about what we learned in a later post. If you're on Facebook with me, I'll have more detailed photos up there before long. (You know, where you can actually see faces and action.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Because Leaving Can't Be Easy

We leave for youth camp tomorrow. Because our bathroom faucet has been dripping, Steven decided to replace it before we left. He started on it Friday night, then discovered he didn't have a part he needed. Saturday he got back to work on it, then discovered the old original plumbing was problematic. (Don't ask me how because I don't know, nor do I really care, as long as it's fixed.)

This turned into a call to our friend Dan, who is very knowledgeable about plumbing. Poor Dan spent part of his 4th of July under our bathroom sink. But we're so grateful!

This just reminded me of last year and having to repair the couch the day before leaving for camp. Leaving just can't be easy, it seems.

If you think about it during the week, pray for us. We're taking 35 students to camp with us this year, including a few whom we believe are not saved. I'll be taking a blogging break for the next 1-2 weeks, which frankly, I need because I think I've become dull and uninspired. A time of spiritual retreat is something I definitely need right now.

Also, say a prayer for Calvin that he stays well while we're away and doesn't give his "aunties" taking care of him any trouble.

Friday, July 3, 2009

I'm Spoiled

Our church has everyone going to youth camp fill out an "adoption" form, answering questions such as, "What's your favorite snack?" "What are your hobbies?" "What is your favorite color?" People can pick up a form to adopt a student or sponsor, give them a few goodies to take to camp, and pray for them all week while they're away.

My friend Michelle "adopted" me, and boy, did she spoil me! She had all of this waiting for me at small group last night:

Not only did I get bags overflowing with goodies, but they're PINK! I collect turtles from around the world, so she got me that super-cute water bottle with turtles on it. There are a couple of books in there for my reading pleasure. A sweet note for both Steven and me with a couple of generous additional gifts.

And the best part? A letter for me to read each day I'm gone. How great will that be to wake up each day and know that I have a new note to read? Can't wait!

Yesterday was Michelle's birthday (Happy Birthday, Mi!), but she totally made it feel like mine. She's sweet like that. I feel positively spoiled.