Married to the Empire

Monday, August 31, 2009

How Loving Animals Led to a New Dining Room

Everyone who knows me is aware that I'm an animal freak. I just love them! While at the home of friends a couple of months ago, their teenage daughter invited me out to the garage to see their new kittens since she knew I'd been anxious to meet the little guys. While I was petting the kittens, her mom came and joined us out there a few minutes later and apologized for the mess in the garage. They had a bunch of furniture and stuff stacked in there, waiting for a garage sale.

I'd noticed that their dining room chairs were in there. I mentioned to my friend a few days later that I was interested. I've been wanting a new dining room set, as what I have is small, and it's what I bought straight out of college. I'm ready for something bigger and nicer. When I was at their house again a couple of weeks ago for a youth swim party, she invited me to go out to the garage to look at the chairs if I was still interested. I was. I asked her how much they wanted for them because I would like to buy them. She said she needed to talk to her husband, and she'd get back to me.

When she called about them later, she said that they wanted to just give them to us! I offered to pay, but they wouldn't take any money. What a kind and generous blessing! After we brought them home, I put them in the living room so I could clean them. Doogie took to the chairs immediately, and gave me a rare pose for the camera, then promptly fell asleep.

I still needed a table, though. I headed to a consignment shop in town where I'd seen a table I really liked back in May. I didn't figure it would still be there, and I was right. However, at the very back of the store was a large table with dropped leaves on both sides. It looked perfect for our needs, so I asked how much it cost. I was told it was $200. As Steven and were looking it over again and taking some measurements, the shop lady came back and said, "I can actually do you better. I can take $149!" Wow! And we didn't even ask for a lower price!

We decided to take it. As I was paying, she told me that I was really getting a good deal as the table had started out in the store at $600. Nice!

After the table was delivered, I cleaned it with Murphy's Oil Soap. While crawling underneath it to clean under there, I found the maker's mark: Heritage Henredon. This table is good stuff! I think it's circa 1950s, but I'm not really sure. After a good cleaning, I went over it with Howard's Restore-a-Finish. The table looks fabulous now!

Everything is a bit large for the space, as our dining room is quite small. We spent a good amount of time over the weekend trying to find the best configuration for the table, but we finally settled on the perfect set-up.

We had to move the couch a bit forward in the living room to accomodate the table and chairs, which means we lost a tiny bit of space in the living room. The rocking chair that sat by the back door was suddenly too large to fit. That worked out, however, because we still had a 6th dining chair that needed a place. We put it where the rocking chair used to be, and moved the rocker to our bedroom.

The kitty condo caused a new problem. It used to sit right by the back door, and Doogie loved it there. There was no longer any space for it, and he was wandering around by the door looking for it. I opted to put it under the dining chair. He was miffed about that at first, but after two days of glaring at it, he decided it was okay, after all.

Steven and I are both thrilled with our new dining room. It's all beautiful, high-quality furniture, and it cost me less than $200! And to think it all came about simply because I adore animals and wanted to pet some kittens.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Proof That I CAN Take a Decent Picture

We had this photo taken back in December. I just learned how to scan pictures last week. I'm all about being up-to-date on technology, apparently. Welcome to 1999, right?

This isn't an ad (I don't have enough readers for anyone to ask me to advertise for them!), but I do have to tell you how inexpensively we had these done. I'd read a year or two ago on someone else's blog about a place called Portrait Innovations that does professional photos cheap. Like $10 cheap. We had 30 different pictures taken, then we got to choose the one we liked best. Then they gave us a 10x13, two 8x10s (which we framed and gave to our mothers for Christmas--moms like that kind of stuff), four 3x5s, and something like 32 wallets, which we included in our Christmas cards. (Everyone else sends us pictures of their kids. I'm sparing them from pictures of our kids cats. They got us instead!)

I told Steven we need to have a portrait done of us with him in stormtrooper armor. Anything for the blog! He loved the idea, until he realized I wanted to be in the picture, too. Humph! He wants professional stormtrooper pictures done. Forget the wife!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Last Blast, Way Too Busy, and Media Overload

I'm having trouble getting up the motivation to post lately. Last week we had Last Blast Before Class with our youth group, which meant activities every single day. We played volleyball and disc golf, went to Bahama Bucks and bowling, swam and played silly games, and rented out the ice rink at the Galleria in Dallas. Busy is an understatement.

We've also been busy vacuum and table shopping, doing a stormtrooper thing, and just Life. Blogging is taking a bit of a backseat.

Part of the problem, though is that I think I'm experiencing media overload. Newspaper, television, books, internet, music... all competing for my attention these days, and I'm starting to feel almost ADD. Something has to give. So, I'm pulling back a little on the online stuff. I've found myself recently reading fewer blogs and just quickly checking in on people through Facebook. It's just faster.

I'm finding it hard to finish books these days, and I realized recently that I've started about 7 books and have finished none. That's a problem.

Don't get me started on music. I love my iPod Touch. Love it. It's made things easier for me, such as being able to check my email quickly without having to get on my laptop. But having my entire music collection of over 2000 songs available at a touch... overwhelming. I've lost all patience with radio, and I flit from song to song, rather than savoring albums as I used to. And then there are the game apps...

All that to say that I'm not going to stop blogging. I am, however, going to scale it back a bit. I think I felt a real obligation to post Monday-Friday, and there's no real reason for that. I find myself occasionally thinking through my day to glean something worth writing about. I'd rather just post when I truly have something to say. Some weeks that may be every day. Other times, it might only be once a week. We'll just have to see. I just need to focus better on the things that are most important to me in Real Life.

I'll see you when I see you, and hopefully, I'll have finished a book!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Secret Stormtrooper Project

I told you a few weeks ago about LucasFilm calling our local 501st Legion members to request their help with something. I gave you a few teaser photos. I can now officially tell you what that was about.

Dan Schlund, aka Rocketman, lives here in the Dallas area. LucasFilm wanted him to wear a specific clone trooper costume at GamesCom in Cologne, Germany--while flying in wearing a jet pack! Our local stormtroopers were asked to help him put it together.

This is an action figure of the clone character the guys were putting together for Dan:

Dan wanted to see how things were going to look and work, so he asked my husband to put on the jet pack, as he had the right build to fit in it. Steven was more than happy to oblige! How many men can say they've worn an actual jet pack?

Fitting things with Dan in the armor and jet pack:

A photo with Kevin, the maker of the armor, who flew in from California to help with this project:

And finally, Dan's flight in for the opening ceremonies at GamesCom:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Smart Purchase

If I were to rank my best household purchases ever, this would make the top 10:

I bought my steam vac several months ago when Kohl's was having a massive sale. I don't regret it one bit.

Last night I worked on the stain in the living room carpet caused by someone (not me) leaving his glass of iced tea on a table for a certain cat (not Calvin) to knock over. I also went over the mat by the back door and a filthy rug from our youth room. There's not a lot of hope for that rug (although there was some improvement), but the tea stain in the living room lightened considerably. This is what came up:

Gross, huh? I blame the tea and teenager filth.

Monday, August 17, 2009

This Won't Be Difficult, Will It?

This little guy saw the vet on Friday for his annual checkup:

I've been saying for a while now that he's chunked up on the renal diet food, which he really likes. But it turns out, that he's lost nearly 2 pounds since last year's vet visit. I guess he just feels like a chunk because Calvin is skin-and-bones these days.

My heart sank when I learned how much weight Doogie has lost. For a cat, 2 pounds is a lot. And weight loss like that typically signals disease. I started praying as they took him off to another room to take a blood sample. We've already got one sick kitty; I'm not ready to deal with another. I'm just not.

Remarkably, his test results were in by that same afternoon. Doogie is totally healthy! Woo-hoo!

But here's the hard part: We're supposed to give him snacks now. The vet recommended a high-calorie cat food to help him regain some weight. We know he likes and can keep down (he has puking and food issues) Eukanuba, so that's what we bought for him. But we haven't had a chance to give him any yet because Calvin is always hanging around.

What's worse is that Calvin discovered the new bag of regular cat food. He circled it, sniffed it, stared pointedly at me, sniffed it some more, stared again... You see, Calvin cares about food. He likes it. A lot. He just isn't crazy about this renal diet he's on. Doogie, on the other hand, couldn't care less about food. He eats when he gets hungry, and he's pretty content with whatever happens to be in his bowl. Getting snacks really won't matter much to him.

So, it won't be so hard to feed high-calorie snacks to a cat who doesn't care a whit about eating whilst keeping away the cat who loves to eat but can't have it. Right? Right?

Life can never be simple, I'm learning.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thrifted Books

I had to drop off stuff for the local food pantry the other day, so I decided to stop in at the adjoining thrift store. I'd never been in this one because it doesn't look good, to be honest. It's dark and grimy and not very promising.

However, at the very back of the store was a tiny book section that was very well lighted. Interestingly, the books were half the price of books at the sister store. I guess it's a matter of location, as this particular store is in the older, poorer part of town. These books were only 49 cents for paperbacks and 97 cents for hardbacks. Nice!

Here's what I bought:

The paperbacks are for my oldest niece, who loves to read and swears that the libraries in London are awful. My parents are going for a visit next week, so I'll send those books along with them.

The Martha Stewart book is my very favorite of her books. I already own it, but I figured I can bless someone else with a great book. The price was certainly right, and it's in fabulous condition. Martha lovers naturally take care of their things. Then again, whoever owned it must not love Martha all that much if she gave the book away...

The Generation Next book is a Barna book that I've read about in the Barna updates I receive. I've been interested in reading it since I work with teens, but too cheap to buy it. Then along it comes at only 97 cents. Fantastic!

The neatest thing, though is the black book. It's a first edition of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. After seeing the preview for the movie version when I went to see Julie & Julia last weekend, I decided it's something I'd like to read. And there it was in the thrift store! That's not what's neat, though. Here's the part that I really like:

For some reason I really like the idea of holding onto a book, knowing how the previous owner spent her time with it. I have no idea how this book made it from Ohio and Germany to a suburb of Dallas, Texas, but kind of cool that it did.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Making Biscuits

I'm learning that there are those who can make biscuits, and those who believe they can't. They're really easy and involve no plugged-in gadgets, other than the oven, of course! So, here's my easy primer on making that Southern staple. I'm giving you my Kentucky-raised Grandma's recipe for Angel Biscuits. Good stuff!

Make sure you're using good ingredients. I'm partial to Crisco shortening and Fleischmann's yeast. Using store-brand yeast didn't work out for me in the past. Now I just buy Fleischmann's in bulk at Sam's Club. Shortening is much easier to work with than butter, IMO. I suppose you can substitute butter for shortening, but cutting it won't be as easy. Besides, shortening makes really good biscuits! I'm aware that it's not good for you. Not all things in life have to be healthy. Just don't overindulge.

Angel Biscuits

5 cups self-rising flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup shortening
2 pkgs. dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 cups buttermilk

Combine flour, sugar, and soda. Cut in shortening with pastry blender until mixture is the consistency of coarse cornmeal.

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Stir yeast and buttermilk into flour mixture. Mix well.

Turn dough onto lightly-floured surface and knead a few times. (I have no pics of the kneading process. Can't knead and hold a camera. I'm not that talented.)

Using a rolling pin, roll out to 1/2 to 1-inch thickness.

Cut into biscuits and place on ungreased baking sheet.

Allow to rise about 30 minutes OR bake immediately at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Calvin's Membership

Calvin received some mail this week--and it's not from the vet! (Usually if our boys receive mail, it's in the form of reminder cards from their veterinarian.) This is what the mailman delivered to Calvin:

That would be his membership card into the CVS/pharmacy Health Savings Pass Program! It totally cracked me up. In addition to saving money on his meds, he can now receive 10% off any visits he makes to the Minute Clinic, which is where he can be seen by a nurse practitioner for minor health issues.

Think they'll object to the fact that he's feline?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Small Upgrade

I showed you a couple of weeks ago the super-cool set-up my husband made for me in his Star Wars room for my treadmill. It's wonderful, but one thing was lacking...

It needed a fan. There's a ceiling fan in the room, but I can't even feel it when I'm on the treadmill. It's hot in there.

The fan I bought comes with a wall mount/stand, so that's how it's managing to rest on the treadmill display. It's not mounted there; it's just resting. I've had it on full blast, and it doesn't even shift during a workout. Easy upgrade that makes workouts so much more pleasant!

Monday, August 10, 2009

God's Faithfulness in Our Obedience

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12:
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

After returning from youth camp last month, I shared with you what God laid on my heart regarding writing. In a nutshell, I apologized and asked forgiveness for squandering the talents he's given me and letting opportunities pass me by. I told him that if he gave me new opportunities, I'd actually do something with them.

He totally believed me and wasted no time in seeing if I was really going to do it.

Within days of returning from camp, I received an anthology opportunity. I receive these fairly frequently, as I've been published in one before, but this one was a little different. It had a very short deadline. Usually these opportunities come with submission deadlines that are months away. Those are very easy to file away and forget, but this one had to be dealt with immediately. Additionally, I didn't even have to think about the subject. I had a story in mind right away. That's highly unusual for me.

The day I set aside to work on it was a day in which Calvin (my sick cat) was extraordinarily needy. As I spent time playing around on the computer, he wouldn't leave me alone, moving from my lap to my desk, always blocking my access to my keyboard. Because I needed to actually work after a while, I prayed and asked God to do something about Calvin so that he would let me do so. As soon as I opened a Word document to get started, Calvin left the room. The moment I was finished, he was back on my desk.

Divine intervention with needy cat. Amazing.

(Of course, when I told my practical husband about it that evening, he said, "Why didn't you just kick Calvin out and shut the door?" Humph.)

Last week I started thinking that I needed to contact the girls' ministry that emailed me back in February or March with an invitation to write for them. When they'd contacted me earlier in the spring, they didn't seem terribly organized and didn't have much of the information I would need. Honestly, that's part of why I didn't get around to doing any writing for them. They just didn't seem terribly serious about it because the professionalism wasn't there. (Yeah, yeah. I'm still guilty of doing nothing. I know.)

A day or two after thinking last week that I needed to contact them, they contacted me. And you know what? Not only did they have themes for the next few months listed, but they had deadlines for submissions. Basically, all the info that was lacking in earlier contact was all there for me. No excuses. That has to be a God thing!

The icing on the cake was receiving a very sweet email that made me cry (in a good way) from a reader who was moved to let the Lord back into her life after reading here. (I don't know what exactly because I mostly write about Star Wars, cats, and crafts!) Now, I truly take no credit for that because when I write here, I really have no agenda. I'm just writing for fun. That was 100% God's doing. But I'm taking this experience as yet another gentle, yet not-so-subtle reminder that he has wants me to write.

I realize that none of these opportunities mean that I'm going to be published again. That may not be the point at all. Right now, it's about obedience and following through when I say I'll do something. It's a lesson in faith.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lessons from the Cat

Calvin is sick. Again. I knew something was wrong on Wednesday because he was acting puny, very quiet, and either wanted to be cuddled or hidden in a dark recess of the closet. When one of his favorite people came for a visit on Thursday, he wouldn't have anything to do with her. And he peed on our bed once more.

This morning started badly. He's locked out of the bedroom at night because of the urinating, so when I emerged from the bedroom, I was already dressed and ready to take him to the vet's. I pulled the carrier out of the closet, and he took off running. It breaks my heart when this happens because he used to love to crawl into his carrier, but now he's learned to fear it.

A chase ensued. He ran; I ran after him. Doogie took off to hide under the bed. Everything about the situation had him terrified. Calvin headed for a closet. I got there first and slammed it shut. He ran for the living room, and I blocked his way. He took off for the kitchen and painfully thwacked his leg on the counter, as he tried to jump up to race into the window box over the sink. He knows I can't reach him when he's up there. But I caught him as he was leaping onto the counter.

I had to forcefully drop him into his carrier. He started wailing the moment his carrier hit the back seat of the car. His cries escalated as we drove to the vet's office. He cried some more as I checked him in.

It was a bad morning. For both of us.

But hours later, after diagnosis of yet another bladder infection, he's home again. And remarkably, he holds no grudge against me for taking him to the bad place. He seeks me out for loving attention. He purrs his heart out while he sits in my lap. He offers forgiveness when he has every reason to be angry with me.

It could be that, as a cat, he has a short memory. But I choose to believe that it's one of the ways God gives us a glimpse of his great love and forgiveness. The Lord has every reason to be upset with me over various sins in my life. He could completely hold a grudge for all the times I've chosen to ignore him. And yet, he offers forgiveness. Not just forgiveness in name, but in action. He chooses to forget my transgressions when I come to him contrite. As a human, I struggle with the forgetting in forgiving. My cat gives me a tangible reminder of what that should look like.

Once again, I'm in awe.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Saving on Cat Costs

Managing Calvin's kidney disease is becoming pretty expensive. Between prescription cat food, two prescription drugs, and plenty of vet visits, something had to give.

Because one of Calvin's medications is for blood pressure, I started looking around online to see if regular pharmacies carry it. They do! In fact, it's on many $4 drug lists. I talked to my own pharmacist about it, and my store does a 90-day supply for $9.99. It involves drug-program enrollment for $10, but that's good for a year. Even with paying the enrollment fee, we're saving money.

One month's prescription of his BP med from the vet: $31.26.
Three month's prescription from my pharmacy + enrollment fee: $19.99

Over a three-month period, we're saving $73.79. The savings will be even greater the next three months when the cost is just $9.99. The pills look different, but that's often the case with generics. The only real difference is that our bottle no longer has a cute picture of a cat and dog on the lid. I can live with that!

It was kind of fun enrolling the cat in the drug program at the people pharmacy. The pharmacy tech stood there laughing as I made up a fake birthday for Calvin. (Rescue kitties don't come with birth certificates!) At least he has a human-sounding name. Asking for pills for Calvin doesn't sound as silly as it will if I ever have to get prescriptions filled for Doogie!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


If you found my blog through the twitter from LucasArts, welcome! I blog about local 501st Legion events as they happen. Our stormtroopers are quite active with various appearances.




Magazine photo shoots:

Television--on camera and behind the scenes:

And most importantly, charity events:

Check out my previous Star Wars posts to see what our local garrison has been up to in the past. Also, take a look at my links list in the sidebar. There are some other Star Wars sites of interest over there.

Please know, though, that this is not strictly a Star Wars blog. I'm at the mercy of the stormtroopers' schedules, so there may be some time between events. I hope you'll enjoy other aspects of my blog, but if you're only interested in the Star Wars stuff, I understand and hope you'll check in regularly to see if there's anything new happening in the garrison.