Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Happiest Place on Earth

There are some places that you know immediately by sound and smell even if you can't see them.  They instantaneously create feelings and memories that rush in like you just felt or experienced them.  For me, one of those places is Disneyland.

We made our first trip to Disneyland when our kids were 9 months and nearly 3.  They don't remember anything about that trip, but they do remember the subsequent trips we took nearly every year.  Now when we go back it feels like a comfortable sweater - someplace familiar.  Every ride, every store, every part of the park has a memory for me of my kids at various ages.

A couple of weeks ago we went there again.  The St. Bernard Choristers had the privilege of singing at Disneyland.  (This was the big trip we were fundraising for.)  It was a new experience and very special because it was a place we knew so well.  We did get to see a new part of Disneyland because we were able to go "backstage".   It seemed so . . . ordinary.  What was extraordinary was seeing my husband direct his children's choir and watch my daughter sing a solo.  Funny thing about that song - after the beginning of the song (which is my daughter's first solo) the music track suddenly stopped.  My clever and talented husband didn't miss a beat - he jumped over to the piano and finished the song!  Here's both parts of the song:

Life is not always perfect, but Disneyland is still the Happiest Place on Earth!


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is There Anything Left To Do?

I'm worried.  Our very existence as bloggers might be at risk.  There is nothing new to do.  I'm having a great time learning all kinds of new things.  It's so easy to find instructions on how to do about anything I can imagine.  Scary, huh?

About two weeks ago I was trying to think of something different with spring colors to celebrate spring.  I imagined a cool wreath, with pastel or white yarn wrapped around it with some kind of little flowers on the bottom right.  I was so surprised when I looked at some other blogs and Pinterest, because the wreath I imagined was popping up.  Subliminal?  Maybe.  Freaky?  You bet.

In fact, there were some gorgeous examples with twists I could never imagine:

Now I'm not going to suggest that I created or thought up the idea of a yarn wrapped wreath with felt flowers.  But it's funny that when you think of "what to make this season" you happen to think of the same thing everyone else thinks.  It's like when you rack your brain to give your baby an interesting (but not too weird or original) name.  You think you have picked the name that isn't on everyone's top ten lists or is trendy.  You're pretty sure you've done a great job too, until your child gets to preschool or kindergarten and there are three other kids sitting there with your child's interesting name.

I love the fact there is so much information and rampant creativity on the web.  We can do things, make things, improve on things so much faster and better than women did years ago with a couple of magazines and craft patterns.  Sometimes though, I just wish I could make it first :)


Monday, February 27, 2012

Pinkie Rag Quilt

It's been a while since I've been able to post about a project.  I have been working on several things, and may even have an exciting announcement coming - sometime.  In the meantime, I finished this hot little number for my daughter:

I love these rag quilts.  I used snuggle flannel and for the first time I worked with minky.  How luxurious!  I also tried using a decorative stitch to make the X over each block.  I laid out the blocks to get the pattern correct.

This time I tried sewing the blocks in groups of four and then putting the 4-blocks together.  I think overall it's a good method with one big exception:

I should probably do vertical couples instead of horizontal.  Also, you can tell when it's time to change your needle when your blocks starting looking "off" like this:

This actually isn't as bad as it can get.  Last night I was sewing two blocks that were exactly the same size, but because the needle was blunt, it sewed the blocks with one side an inch longer than the other.  A sharp, thick (heavy weight) needle is a must when you are sewing the multiple layers.

The best part is the ragging - cutting the little strips in the exposed seam allowances.  If you want to keep your hands from cramping, you need the sharp snippers

I've been asked how to handle the center point where the four blocks come together.  Just snip the seam allowances in a way so none of the seam allowances is sewn down.

I love child labor :)  I'm partying in the linky party with Everyday Beautiful


Saturday, February 25, 2012


I love flowers.  I love taking pictures of flowers, even if I'm just using my cellphone.  When I lived in the Midwest, I remember being tricked into thinking spring was around the corner by the end of February, only to have winter roar back in March.  These pictures are for you who are still subject to the cruel spring trick:

This is a calla lily from San Juan Capistrano.

Mexican poppies from my backyard (a sure sign of spring in Arizona)

Peace rose from the backyard

Hydrangeas from Mississippi.

Lilies from Louisville

As you can see, flowers give me great joy.  I love to take pictures wherever we go.  I hope today with spring coming, these give you joy too.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Fit Friday - Why Am I Doing This Anyway?

Yesterday, I wore a suit I haven't worn in 9 years.  That's exciting and I'm pretty happy about it.  Thing is, no one else noticed.  I remember thinking someone would say something, but no one did.  Did that make it less than exciting for me?  Maybe.

One of the biggest problems of losing weight is the idea that it will make you a different person.  If I get to a certain size or wear different clothes, will people think more of me?  Will it change my personality?  Will my problems go away?  Will I stop battling with my weight?  Nope.

I'm at a place now where I have to keep my focus on why I'm doing this.  It's easy to say the only reason I'm doing this is for my health, but that wouldn't be true.  I'm doing it because I want to wear "normal" sizes and shop in any store for clothes.  I want people to see the real me without my weight getting in the way.

Right there - that's it.  I want people to see me differently because I don't like what they see now.

That thought process is a VERY dangerous path.  There's a great article from Sparkpeople about this issue, "The Secret to Loving Your Body Isn't Losing Weight"  In the article the author says the only way she became happy was by accepting herself, fat or thin.  Instead of weight loss being the point of pride, she takes more satisfaction in exercise.  Hmmm.  Maybe I should give that a try.

I hope you're exercising and I hope you're loving yourself wherever you are.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

The End of the Great Hamster Experiment

It's finally over.  The Great Hamster Experiment is over.  About six months ago I wrote about our adventures with hamsters.  I ended that post saying that Mischka (Furry II) was the last man standing.  I also mentioned that it was my responsibility to clean the cage and I wasn't always so good at it.  My daughter, who begged for the hamsters in the first place, never cleaned a cage, fed a hamster or showed much interest.

On Tuesday, Mischka died.  Alas, like Teddy, another previous hamster, Mischka likely died from a cage that was too dirty.  I feel very guilty, but honestly, I think we were all over the Hamster Experiment.  (Too bad I just bought a 20 pound bag of hamster bedding over the weekend.)  When I told Mackenzie onWednesday morning, she said "O.K., I'm done.  We don't need to get another hamster."  That works for me too.

I did have some fun with the four hamsters we had.  I was proud that I overcame my fear of small rodents (at least domesticated ones).  Heck, I could even pick him up and get my fingers out of the way when he wanted to chew on them.  Now we just need to find someone to take the cages, food and bedding.  Hamsters are cheap but their equipment is not.

I do feel a little nostalgic, but when I think of the noisy nights where he took his hard food with him into the wheel or cleaning the cages, not so much.

Goodbye Mischka, Teddy, Furry and Cutie Patootie.  RIP


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Beauty for Ashes

Today begins Lent, the season that prepares Christians for the commemoration of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We start this season with ashes to remind us that we come from dust and to dust we shall return.  Many see it as a time of sadness and mourning.  But Lent is really a time of transition, where we can renew our commitment, come home and change our lives.

The Year of the LORD’s Favor - Isaiah 61
 1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, 
   because the LORD has anointed me 
   to proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 
   to proclaim freedom for the captives 
   and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a] 

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor 
   and the day of vengeance of our God, 
to comfort all who mourn, 
 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— 
to bestow on them a crown of beauty 
   instead of ashes, 
the oil of joy 
   instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise 
   instead of a spirit of despair. 
They will be called oaks of righteousness, 
   a planting of the LORD 
   for the display of his splendor.

Today I received ashes, but in 40 days I hope to celebrate in the beauty of the Lord's resurrection on Easter.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Another Day in History

The Battle of Cowpens - I know more than I ever wanted to know.  Yes, it's another one of Christian's school projects.  We have done some book reports and a salt dough version of the State of Arizona (another project I will look forward to next year when Mackenzie is in 4th grade).  This time we did a model of a Revolutionary War battle.  We chose the Battle of Cowpens because it was the battle we could find on the internet with a schematic.  I have to admit it was interesting, but that's because I like history.  I'm also proud of this model.

It's not easy to see, but the red and blue sticks represent British and Colonial armies.  The trees are made of cotton balls dyed green on brown sticks and the movements of the armies are shown in arrows.  Yeah, I did  some a lot most of the work.  Christian helped paint the sticks, made the cotton ball trees and mixed a bit of salt dough.  I don't remember having to do so many of these projects when I was in elementary school.  Maybe I do them because I love crafty things and I'm challenged.  Now that it's done, I wish I could have spent the weekend doing something else.  Actually, I'm just happy it's done.

Bring on Arizona in salt dough!


Monday, February 20, 2012

A Visit Back in Time

Some of you may have read that we traveled to California last week for a choral festival in San Juan Capistrano.  While the kids were in rehearsal, Christian and I toured the historic Mission of San Juan Capistrano.

Founded in 1776 by the Franciscan friars, it includes the oldest standing building in California, Father Serra's chapel.

This is the place the swallows fly to every March on St. Joseph's day (March 19).  I have seldom visited places so beautiful.

This is the original mission church, which collapsed in the 1800s.

Christian was not really interested in going in for the tour (he wanted to sit in the car with his iPod Touch), but once he was inside, he loved it!

My favorite part was that you could stay there forever, thinking about all the people of faith who lived there.

I could stay there for hours exploring the little corners and places that were so peaceful and serene.

There are so many other pictures I took, but they would fill a book.  In the meantime, if you're in southern California, this is someplace you must see.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Fit Friday - One Day at a Time

I'm in an intentional holding pattern right now, just trying to maintain what I've lost for a while before I continue on down the road.  I should be talking more about exercising, but I'm still stuck on food.  I've had a couple days now where I haven't been eating as I should and I have gained a couple of pounds.  (This is why I weigh myself every day so it doesn't get out of hand.)

A friend of mine who has lost about 100 pounds recently put about 40 back on.  It's hard to watch that, especially when I remember how she worked out like a fiend to get that weight off.  She's getting back on the wagon, though, so I think she's a great example.  I have this success/failure mindset - if I haven't completely succeeded, I've totally failed.  This is a dangerous game in weight loss.  I'm trying to address this head on and stay positive.  As I told my friend, this weight gain is not a failure, just a temporary setback.  That sounds so much better.

With Valentine's Day and my husband's birthday, it's been tough not to eat lots of sugar (my cryptonite).  If it's there, I eat it and I feel compelled to eat it so it won't be there anymore.  Hmmm, two problems with this:  (1) I have an issue with "wasting" food; and (2) I have made myself the human garbage disposal.  So many of us grew up with the "clean your plate" mentality, it's just painful to throw things away until they turn green in the refrigerator (although I've never seen sweets do that at my house).  Those poor children in Bangladesh may be starving, but they definitely won't be eating that leftover cake in my refrigerator!  The first problem leads to the next - eat it so it will go away.  This causes binge eating for me - not good.  I think I need to practice throwing away sweet things and then escort them out of the house into the curbside garbage can.

This is all part of the process for me - understanding why I do what I do and addressing it - one day at a time.  After all, there are no failures, only setbacks.

Have a great week and be healthy!  I'm linked up at Fit Club.  Visit there on Mondays to read all of our stories.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bake Sale Success!

A week ago I posted about the basket raffle fundraiser we did for the church children's choir.  As part of the overall fundraiser, we did a bake sale on Super Bowl Sunday.  I learned a lot and wanted to share my top ten tips for a great bake sale:

1.  Keep it simple - don't spend a lot of time (or money) making complicated specialty items.  Make the specialty items only if they are easy and you can make a lot.
2.  Make it appealing - Spend less time making your brownies super special and more time packaging them in an attractive way - pretty platter, great packaging
3.  Make individual servings or groupings, but don't price your items for less than $1.00.  You'll make more money, get a better return on your investment and won't have to deal with lots of change.
4.  Although the majority of your items should be individual servings, make sure to have some bigger servings or full cakes/breads to purchase.
5.  Plan your bake sale around a holiday or theme.  This works especially well if your "holiday" is an event where people might bring items to someone else's house (this worked well for Super Bowl Sunday with theme cakes).  You can also plan around events (football games, carnivals, craft fairs).

6.  Don't be afraid to ask your local grocery store to donate items.  We received a bunch of great items (mostly cakes and pies) from our Albertsons.
7.  Make your display table attractive and not too cluttered.  A table piled with items is a bit overwhelming to your customers.
8.  Coordinate your volunteer bakers so you don't end up with all brownies or chocolate chip cookies.
9.  Consider including "non-baked" items like fudge, salty-sweet (Chex) mixes, chocolate covered strawberries and ready-made mixes in a jar.  You may also consider serving drinks.
10.  Make sure your customers know why you're fundraising.  Once we let our customers know we were raising money for the children's choir, some people just walked up and donated money.

Have some fun!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Birthday Arizona!

While everyone in the rest of the country has been celebrating Valentine's Day today, here in Arizona we are starting a centennial birthday celebration that will last all year.  Today, February 14, 2012, is the 100th birthday of the State of Arizona.  Arizona was the 48th state to enter the Union and the last in the continental U.S.

It took 56 years for Arizona to gain statehood and couldn't even get the Union to recognize it until the Confederate States of America named it as a territory exactly 50 years before statehood.  Arizona has always been a wild and rugged place.  Here are some fun facts you definitely don't know about Arizona:

  • Arizona is built on the "Five Cs":  copper, cotton, citrus, cattle & climate
  • The saguaro cactus grows exclusively in the Sonoran desert, which is in Arizona and parts of Mexico

  • The hottest day recorded in Arizona was on June 29, 1994 in Lake Havasu City - 128 degrees.  Strangely enough, even though I didn't live in Arizona at that time, I was there.
  • Arizona has more golf courses than Scotland
  • The first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor grew up, practiced law, was a judge and legislator in Arizona before being appointed to the Supreme Court
  • The town of Show Low was named during a card game when two men agreed the one who could draw the lowest card could stay and the other would go.  C.E. Cooley turned up the Deuce of Clubs and said "show low it is".
  • The London Bridge was purchased and moved to Lake Havasu City on the Colorado River

Arizona has plenty of natural resources (especially copper, silver and gold) and gorgeous places to visit.  Everyone knows about the Grand Canyon, but some other great places include:

Monument Valley



Arizona is a different place and not always in a good way, but different is also unique.  It's not like anyplace you will ever visit, which is why we would love to have you come visit.  Happy birthday Arizona!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fit Friday - Be Prepared

Remember that old scouting motto?  I'm starting to think it might be one of the keys to stabilizing my weight.  I have had a lot of success on any number of diets, and I'm convinced that the reason is that if someone is telling me exactly what to eat, I can do it.  (I'm also convinced that is why Weight Watchers works for so many people - you learn to make your own educated decisions about what to eat.)

I'm a busy person.  My days are not well planned and planning what I eat is very low on the priority list.  Ideally, I would carefully plan each day's meals in advance, carefully counting the calories and the fat content, but that's just not realistic.  The other thing about me is when I get hungry or tired, I will eat anything I can find, especially easy comfort food.

I am trying to work around all that.  I have come up with a short list of "meals" I enjoy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Some of them are fast on-the-go meals (even some "fast food") and others are things that are served in places I frequent (like the work cafeteria or favorite restaurant).  By having that short list, I can go into autopilot when I'm in a hurry, tired or hungry and eat something that's not going to sabotage my day.  The short list can even be tailored to suit any restaurant, with the exception of Mexican food which is very hard to eat reasonably.  

Strangely enough, my most difficult place to eat is not "out" but at home.  When I get home from work, I'm immediately foraging for food, even when I know what I am going to eat for dinner.  That's something I have to work on.  I'm thinking about coming up with a specific "snacks" I can turn to when I get home.

A little planning now might pay off in a big way.

Come see more tips at Fit Club - just click on the link to the right --->


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fundraising Follies

This weekend, we are going on a trip to California for my husband’s business.  He is a church music director and his children’s choir is singing at a festival and Disneyland!  Being the music director’s wife is like being a pastor’s wife – you’re expected to lead in supporting the ministry.  Sooo, I became the unofficial chair of the fundraising committee – a committee of two with my dear Katie to help.  We both work full time outside of the home so we were a bit handicapped out of the gate.  In fact, we didn’t start fundraising until after the first of the year.

Our big fundraiser was a multi-basket raffle.  We assembled baskets with themes and sold raffle tickets that the purchaser used to pick the basket(s) he or she wanted.  I enlisted the choir moms to either create entire baskets or donate items to include in a basket.  Some of the “complete” baskets were 25 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, a tool set, a spa basket, and a cooking basket complete with fancy kitchen supplies.  The other baskets were assembled by Katie and I and included individual items we put together.  We made a “Mom Relief “ basket that included perfume, jewelry, picture frames and thank you notes and a homemade teddy bear.  We also assembled a “Scrapbook” basket where we broke into our stashes and came up with albums, stickers, paper, tools, embellishments and a certificate for a day crop at a local scrapbook cottage. 

I learned several things about basket raffles: 
1.  If you ask people to put together a whole basket, let them choose the theme. 
2.  Ask people to donate items, group them together and create your own theme.  We had a “Religious Items” basket (complete with reserved parking and a front pew for Christmas and Easter). 
3.  Don’t be limited by the obvious themes – restaurant, manicure, movie gift certificates (although those are great), but use your imagination!  Our baskets included, among other things, a Scentsy warmer, homemade booties and a bag of Dove chocolate. 
4.  “Regifting” is encouraged!  It's best use of a gift you don’t want/need. 
5.  Don’t be afraid to ask local businesses!  We had donations from salons, a scrapbook cottage, a well-known Nascar driver, a photographer and a casino. 
6.  Think outside the box – what about a gift certificate for dry cleaning, grocery store, house cleaning services, the local hardware store, even babysitting from some teens at the church? 
7.  You don’t have to have a “big ticket” item in the baskets.  We did have a couple of baskets that included tickets to sporting events and a trip to Cancun, but those weren’t even the most popular baskets.  The most popular was the “Foodie” basket with bottles of wine, wine glasses, snacks and local restaurant gift certificates. 

The best part was that over a three week period of selling tickets after our masses, we raised over $6,000!  That was before the “tried and true” bake sale we had on Super Bowl Sunday.  Tomorrow I will give you some of the best tips I learned for bake sales.


Friday, February 3, 2012

DIY - Easy Colonial Costume

This post can now be found (with the Alexander Hamilton update below) at my new blog, Pretty Home ThreadsCheck it out!