Married to the Empire

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Work Interrupted

Sometimes, the furry household residents make it very difficult to get any work done. (Nevermind that the "work" visible on my computer monitor is Facebook.)

My new desk has all sorts of hidey-hole aspects to it, so the cats are attracted to it like catnip. And while one is in the desk, the other has to be on my lap. Then they do the Kitty Switch, which is what we call it when the cats respond suddenly to some invisible and/or silent cue that only they can see/hear. They just both stand up and switch places, whether it's a lap, a bed, the desk...

Have I ever mentioned that cats are weird?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

When It's Too Cold for the Dough to Rise...

... stick it on top of the running dryer.

Ordinarily, I'd turn on the oven at a very low temp, then turn it off and stick the dough in there, but seeing as the dryer was already going, it seemed a more energy-efficient option. Two birds, one stone.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Lucky Week

I'm starting to think I may need to change the name of this blog. Star Wars? Stormtroopers? What's that? Life is so busy with my husband having a full-time job, acting as youth minister, and being a church elder, that he just doesn't have time for trooping lately. My blog name is starting to feel like a lie... Although there was New Year's Day when a future stormtrooper came over with his costume kit to get some help from my hubby. Too bad it didn't occur to me to take a picture. I could have titled it "Stormtrooper Envy," as my husband was drooling over this guy's new-and-improved stormtrooper parts.

But that has nothing to do with my post's title or subject matter.

Let me just say that it pays to be a fan on Facebook. I went to a rubber stamp convention 2 weeks ago and fell in love with the stamps from Denami Design. Unfortunately, I discovered their booth after I'd spent most of my money. Figures. Still, I bought a couple of stamps, then checked out their website when I got home. Found out they have a Facebook page, so I became a fan. Lo and behold, they were having a FB contest. Just list the 3 stamps you'd most like to have, and you just might win them!

Guess who won?

Over the weekend we went to a couple of thrift stores, as I was looking for some clear, glass plates for a decoupage project I'd like to try. I wasn't lucky in my search for plates; however, I did find these things:

Yeah, I know; it doesn't look terribly exciting. But the glass globe is a perfect match for the ones in the light fixture over our dining table. I broke one a few months ago when washing it. There were replacements in one of the kitchen cabinets that the previous owners had left for us, but it turns out they're bigger than the originals. And I couldn't find a replacement in the correct size at the store. So when I stumbled across one at the thrift store, I snatched it right up!

The bag is full of zippers. I've actually been looking for something like that for a few months. I want to learn how to sew with zippers, but I'm too cheap to buy any at retail prices when I'm just wanting to play around for learning purposes. For $3 I got a bag filled with zippers, so I can make as many sewing attempts as I need to.

Last week just felt lucky.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Using One's Gifts

Y'all know I like crafty stuff, and I often give gifts of things I've made. But I'm realistic, and I know that there's always the possibility that people are just being polite and don't really care for the stuff I make. Just because I like something doesn't mean everyone else will.

So, when we were trying to come up with an inexpensive gift to put in our bags to be delivered to our church's visitors, I was hesitant to suggest this. But they really were well received at Christmas. In fact, my friend who is way into decorating and has a gorgeous home liked her gift so much that she asked me to make her some more.

I'm talking about these:

They're coasters. I got the idea here. (I won't be posting a tutorial because I think that blog explains it well.) They're so easy to make, yet they look very impressive. I made coasters according to what I thought various people would like. I did cats for one couple (my husband liked those best), birds for 2 couples, crowns for the couple with the last name of King, a decorative design with the word Cheers for another couple...

I finally got brave and mentioned it to the other woman who is helping me with bags. I gave her a set and really didn't know if she really liked them or was just being polite. She enthusiastically told me that was a great idea, and she loves her coasters; she even took one to work for her desk. Whew!

So, I'm making several sets for our visitor bags. All wrapped up for giving, they look like this:

I put cork on the backs of mine, and I found this to be a very simple solution. I found it with the shelf liners in Lowe's, and as it has adhesive on the back, I don't have to use any additional glue. Just cut and stick on the backs of the tiles. Easy peasy!

I never really thought I'd be using my crafting skills for the Lord, but I'm glad that I'm able to, especially as this is saving our church some money. Because I already own all the supplies other than the tiles, the cost comes to approximately $2.50 for a set of 4 coasters. I hope our visitors will like them. Even more, I hope they feel welcomed and at home at our church.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Overwhelming Joy

I found myself in tears last week--sobbing, overwhelming tears that left my husband so utterly perplexed that he looked at me as if I'd sprouted another head. Just one of the mysteries of women that men will never truly understand.

I was sobbing out of sheer happiness.

If you've been reading here for any length of time, you know that our cat Calvin is very sick and nearing the end of his life. In addition to dropping weight like crazy, he just hasn't had the energy to do much. When Doogie tries to engage him in a good fight, Calvin generally hasn't been able to do much but half-heartedly slap at him.

But last week I caught him beating up Doogie over a chair that Calvin didn't even want; he was just in the mood for a fight, just like old times. Throughout the day Calvin showed signs that he felt perkier. I mentioned it to Steven when he arrived home from work.

But the thing the left me sobbing with joy occurred later that night. After I give Calvin his nightly round of pills, he generally heads back to his heated pillow or to the bedroom to snuggle with Steven until getting kicked out for the night. Instead of doing either of those things, Calvin headed to the living room, found his favorite toy, sat on it, and stared meaningfully at me. This was always his signal that he wants to play.

He hadn't asked to play with his fishing pole in months.

It was late, and I didn't really want to play, but if he was asking? Of course I was going to play with him! His favorite thing is for me to run through the house with it, dragging it behind me, eventually running into the bedroom and slapping it on the bed. He jumps up on the bed and attacks the fishing-pole tassels. It's our thing, which we hadn't done in months.

Steven was already in bed when I ran into the bedroom and slapped that toy onto the mattress. As soon as I saw him, the happy tears that had been welling up suddenly gushed out, and I sobbed, "Look who wants to play!"

I don't know if it's his newest med making him feel better or what, but whatever it is, we'll take it. Seeing a little of his former playful self is beautiful.

And he's kept it up. I had a huge piece of paper spread out on the floor recently to fold up for recycling (it was the packaging in something we received recently), and Calvin immediately climbed onto it. Both boys were actually intrigued by the huge piece of crinkly paper. I let them enjoy it for a while.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mindful Housekeeping

I decided to take a different approach while cleaning house yesterday. Usually I listen to music with a driving beat on my iPod while I clean, but this time I decided to take a break from my little addictive device and spend the time with God. It's part of trying to be more joyful in housekeeping. I wanted to be more mindful of what I was doing instead of just getting through it.

It didn't start off easily, as my head was full of songs from the Fame soundtrack, which I've been devouring lately. But after a few minutes, it became pretty easy. While cleaning the kitchen, I wound up thanking God for my home, which then led into a prayer for those in Haiti who have lost their homes. I prayed for a lot of things, really. Did a little singing, as music is just too much a part of cleaning for me to completely be removed from it, but it was only Christian praise-type stuff.

It's funny how it works, but I was so busy talking to God and being grateful for the blessings I have that cleaning didn't even take as long as it usually does. I greatly dislike sweeping and mopping, but this time I didn't mind. Being focused on Christ really does change the perspective.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Ideally, I like to have my meals for the week planned out on Monday. The weeks that I actually do that run so smoothly.

And then there's the scrambling on the weeks I don't. What makes that even worse is if I have a music rehearsal at church on Wednesday night. Rehearsals occur right during the dinner-prep hour(s), so my crockpot is my best friend on those nights. But it's problematic if I've forgotten to make a dinner plan.

Late yesterday afternoon I pulled some Little Smokies and some other sausage out of the freezer because I knew I could pop those in the crockpot with some grape jelly and chili sauce for a quick and easy dinner. (Doesn't that combo of jelly and chili sauce sound disgusting? And yet, it makes a pretty good BBQ-ish sauce.)

This was going to be No Problem because I had all the ingredients. Or so I thought. *sigh* I just knew I had chili sauce, but it was nowhere to be found. Not even an opened bottle in the fridge. By the time I figured out I was missing a key ingredient, it was too late to run to the store, as rehearsal time was approaching.

I googled "chili sauce substitute" and found this recipe. Suddenly I remembered that I had a lot of tomato paste in the fridge leftover from a recent meal. I always struggle to find uses for leftover tomato paste once a can has been opened. (I really should buy a tube of the stuff instead of cans.) This seemed perfect. I just added water to the tomato paste to make a sauce of sorts, then added the other ingredients.

That recipe really does make a good chili sauce substitute! The sausages turned out wonderfully with my improvised sauce concoction. The only change I'd make in the future? Don't use turkey Little Smokies. Yuck. The texture is a little off, and the taste just isn't good. I don't care if they are healthier; it's not worth it if it's not enjoyable.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Happy Hubby

My parents came over last night with an awesome gift: a new TV, stand, and one of my dad's surround sound systems that he wasn't using. The TV is nice. Our other TV is HD, but the picture wasn't anything like what we get on this new one! And with surround sound, we can hear all the guns and splats from Steven's video games EVEN LOUDER. Steven is loving this. Personally, I could do without violent, bloody deaths in high definition and surround sound, but I'm sure it'll all be great for watching movies.

Only problem? I now have two big TVs on separate stands in my living room right now. For someone who is trying to regain some of the joy in housekeeping, this isn't helping.

Steven oh-so-helpfully pointed out that we could watch 2 shows at the same time! Um, no. Thankfully, we've already found a taker for the old TV, and it leaves on Saturday. I think I can manage until then.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Furball Report

Calvin is hanging in there. The news was bad towards the end of 2009, as the vet indicated that Calvin's remaining time with us would likely be only a few more weeks or months. He's on 4 different meds now, including the recently-added glucosamine to create a slippery lining in his bladder. Um, yeah. Not sure how that works, but if keeps him from peeing on the bed, I'm happy.

You know you love your cats when you have $50 in Amazon gift cards from credit card reward points, and you spend most of it on stuff for your cats. (I bought one of Calvin's meds and a new king-sized heating pad that doesn't have auto shut-off like their current pad. With unusually cold temps for Texas and our unwillingness to let Calvin snuggle with us in bed due to the aforementioned urinating, I worry every night about him getting too cold after his heating pad shuts itself off.)

And now for a few pics from the holidays around here. First, Doogie did his annual thing of "helping" me as I wrapped holiday gifts:

Calvin opted to hide in the Microsoft bag Steven's X-Box came in:

The boys were going for a Brady Bunch moment here:

Then Doogie ruined it. I'm pretty sure the Bradys didn't go around smacking each other.

Doogie keeps trying to pick fights with Calvin, as he obviously misses his playmate. They used to wrestle a lot, complete with wild bunny kicks to the head and flying bits of fur. (They seemed to relish doing that right after I'd vacuumed.) Now they just do this funny cat-fight thing that looks like girls slapping at each other. Calvin just doesn't have it in him to fight the way they used to.

As Steven and I welcomed in the new year, we each held a cat during the countdown. Sadly, we commented that 2010 probably isn't going to be a very good year for poor Calvin. But we're grateful for every day we have with our furry boys.

Friday, January 8, 2010

IKEA Triumph

I'm redoing my craft room. Lots of new things after a trip to IKEA. Lots of new things that have to be assembled. My sweet husband was willing, but obviously sick of it after putting together 3 of the 4 new furniture pieces. I promised that I would help put drawers together when he got around to doing the desk.

I didn't think he'd actually take me up on that. You see, a few years ago when we were putting together a new youth room at church, the then-youth minister handed me and another woman IKEA chairs and told us to assemble them. Fifteen minutes later, the other woman had her chair put together, and my husband was pulling mine apart to reassemble it correctly.

I'm not mechanically inclined. At all.

And yet last night as he was putting together the body of the final piece, my husband asked me to get started on the drawers. Yikes. Usually when I say I'll help do something that involves tools of any sort, he just laughs and says he'll handle it.

Not this time.

You know what? I figured it out. Those stupid IKEA pictures that substitute for written directions were mildly frustrating, but I figured it out. I put together every single drawer. And screwed in all the drawer pulls. All by myself.

One step closer to having my craft room put together! Of course, first we'll have to get the furniture out of the middle of the living room...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside

It's been an unusually cold winter here in North Texas, and it's only supposed to get worse. Calvin, our sick cat, has withered to a mere 6.8 pounds. (For a point of reference, when he was healthy, he weighed 13 pounds and was very sleek.) He has no body fat left, and he's been cold. When I carry him outside for Mail Time, he now shivers in my arms.

We bought him a heating pad, which we slipped inside the boys' big woolly pillow in the living room. Both cats are loving that, and I typically find them snuggled together on the pillow when it's turned on.

But Calvin is finding other ways to keep warm:

My husband often looks pregnant in the evenings now, as Calvin likes to climb inside his jacket and settle in for a nap.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Finding the Spiritual through Housekeeping

I mentioned yesterday that I've lost a bit of the fire for keeping my home that I had years ago. As I'm one who is inspired by things I read, I think I'll be rereading Margaret Kim Peterson's Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life. I bought this book a couple of years ago after reading a review of it, and it really changed my perspective on housekeeping.

From the preface:
Keeping house can be a very mundane activity. It is certainly repetitive, and the kinds of work that it involves are varied enough that few people enjoy all of them equally. But at the very same time, housekeeping is about practicing sacred disciplines and creating sacred space, for the sake of Christ as we encounter him in our fellow household members and in neighbors, strangers, and guests.

Peterson presents the idea that much of the bible refers to the idea of home, whether it's God creating the world, making a home for the Jews in Isreal, setting up a home for Himself in the temple, or developing a longing within us for our spiritual homes. She points out that the priests had housekeeping duties within the temple (so the idea and act of keeping house is not exclusively a woman's task, as many of today's Christian housekeeping books try to make it). There is no agenda of trying to make women who work outside the home feel guilty for it or as if they are failing their families, as Peterson herself is a theologian, teacher, and academic. There is no idolization of the homekeeper. The purpose is to find Christ in everyday tasks and develop our spiritual gifts through the repetitive and seemingly ordinary.

Finding the spiritual in the everyday and growing closer to Christ in the process? That's a worthy goal.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Finding Joy in Housekeeping

I received some money for both my birthday and Christmas, so I took it and went nuts at IKEA. My craft room is getting an overhaul, and it should be more roomy and functional when I'm all done. After Steven put together my new shelves, I set about moving books and magazines from my old shelves to the new. In doing so, I ran across these:

When I first quit teaching (10.5 years ago--how time flies!), I was so excited about keeping house, decorating, cooking, and just really all things domestic. I subscribed to and bought off the newsstand all sorts of homey magazines, and I would pull out articles and photos of things that inspired me. Those notebooks pictured above house all those articles.

I hadn't looked through those notebooks in years, so I spent some time flipping through them. I was struck by the realization that I seem to have lost some of that fire I had back then. Maybe it was just that things were so new back then, and after more than 10 years of being a SAHW, it's just not that exciting anymore. It's not like housekeeping really changes: the laundry needs to be done every week, the floors get dirty again soon after being mopped or vacuumed, meals are cooked and eaten and food needs to be made again... The constant and neverending nature of it all can make it monotonous and tiresome. I go through periods in which I love to cook, then it's followed by times of wanting to just eat out because I feel uninspired and sick of cooking.

I'm sure all of that is perfectly normal, but that doesn't mean that I have to like it. I want to reignite that fire and joy in keeping house. I want to feel excited again about my home. I'm praying about this, as I do believe I'm blessed and privileged to be able to be at home. Tomorrow I'll share something that I find inspiring and encouraging in this endeavor.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Belated December Wrap-up

I have a hard time getting on the computer when my husband is home on vacation. That's a good thing, of course, but it means I get behind on various computer projects.

We experienced what was my second ever white Christmas. The first was in Norway, which makes sense, but the second being in Texas? That's unheard of! Wouldn't you know, I failed to take a single picture of it. When I take a blogging break, apparently I take a break from the camera, too.

I had multiple birthday celebrations, although this year's weren't as good as they should have been. The first was with friends, and that one was great. My friend Sandy made this gorgeous cake that had white chocolate ganache, raspberries, butter cream icing... Divinity on a plate!

Birthday celebrations with my family were part of the not-so-great. We were supposed to go out to dinner with my parents on the 18th, but I got sick. Really just wanted to lie on the couch all night, so I wasn't too disappointed when my mom said I sounded awful and we'd postpone dinner. My sweet husband picked up a quart of crawfish bisque from Pappadeaux, so all was not lost.

On the 19th Steven and I had tickets to see 101 Dalmations Musical at Fair Park in Dallas. We'd had the tickets for weeks, and it was my main birthday present from him. I was so excited about seeing this. But I wound up being so sick. We still went because those tickets were expensive, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I would have if I'd been well. I plied myself with lots of Tylenol and various sinus drugs, and packed my purse with Kleenex and cough drops. I did my best not to seem sick to those around me. But then, they were eating cookies, drinking water, and wearing jeans throughout the performance, so I wasn't too worried about my lack of decorum in occasionally blowing my nose.

Christmas Day, which is my actual birthday, started off well. We met our friends Stan and Michelle for our annual Christmas Day Brunch at IHOP. I received some sweet Happy Birthday phone calls from people after we were back home. Then I napped for a bit and woke up with a sick stomach and a fever. *sigh* We wound up missing Christmas dinner with the family. We went over there later because my dad phoned and woke me up to ask if we were coming, or should they just go ahead and cut into my birthday cake? Oops. Again, I plied myself with Tylenol, and we went to my parents house.

While there, my husband was suddenly hit hard with cold symptoms... Yeah, this was one fun Christmas.

The Monday after Christmas, we headed to Wichita Falls to visit Steven's grandmother in her nursing home. We hadn't been in a while, so it was time. His grandma was thrilled to see us, which was nice. It was a good little visit, although a tad disappointing for her, as she'd hoped we'd take her out somewhere. That had been the original plan, but when we got up there, there was so much snow and ice on the ground from the week before that it just wasn't safe to try taking her out.

While we were there, a minister named Reverend Carr was there for his weekly service for the old folks. My MIL, who was with us, proudly told him that Steven is a youth minister, so at the end of his service, he asked Steven to come up and say something. I'd have been at a loss for words with such an impromptu invitation, but Steven had no problem with it. I'm pretty proud of him, too.