2009 goal review.

This is my list of 29 goals for 2009, including an evaluation of how I did on each one.
  1. Lose 30 pounds. (Nope.)
  2. Read 10 non-fiction books. (Nope - I just really don't enjoy reading when its not fiction or the Bible. I did finish one book for a summer ladies book study, and there are four more books that I'm about halfway through.)
  3. Get a stamp in my passport. (Done 02/07 - see posts on Russia.)
  4. Read through the New Testament. (Nope.)
  5. Run for 2 miles. (No - and I'm kind of frustrated about this one. I kept starting well, then something else (often me) would get in my way. I started training for a 5K in May and kept at it, until I hurt my ankle. I started again later than summer, then got out of the workout routine when I started a new job in September after being laid off. Once I got used to my new schedule, I started again, only to have trouble with shin splints. So running was temporarily tabled in favor of other things, like using an elliptical machine and doing TaeBo. I'm getting ready to start back up again in January.)
  6. Save $3000 in a savings account. (In progress.)
  7. Cut out all sweets for a month. (Done 04/11 - I gave up chocolate (and all other sweets) for Lent.)
  8. Teach Harvey and Dakota to walk well together on a leash. (Nope - sometimes this is more important to me than at other times.)
  9. Take Harvey and Dakota to the beach. (Halfway done - Harvey went with me to see the sun rise over the ocean.)
  10. Walk the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. (Nope.)
  11. See a Grand Illumination (Williamsburg or Norfolk). (No - this year both events fell when I had other plans.)
  12. Grow out my fingernails. (Nope.)
  13. Try 50 new recipes. (Done 12/24 - see the full list here.)
  14. Take an aerobics class. (Done 04/23 - I took a spinning class (though I never went back as I thought I would). I also took Zumba classes, and will definitely not be going back there - I'm not coordinated enough for Zumba.)
  15. Refinish dressers (2). (Done - I only blogged about the transformation of the first one, but you can see the before of the second here.)
  16. Clean out the garage. (No - I definitely organized the garage more from the mess seen here, but its not completely done.)
  17. Start recycling. (Nope.)
  18. Entertain once a month. (Done.)
  19. Watch the sun rise over the ocean. (Done 08/22 - photos here.)
  20. Get a hammock. (No - because this would be completely useless until I deal with the mosquitos in the yard. Also, I'm not home nearly as much during the day now since I started working at CBN.)
  21. Lead worship at church. (Done for the Peru worship/prayer service.)
  22. Try 3 new fruits or vegetables. (Done 02/12 - thanks in large part to my visit to Russia, I've tried pomegranate, Chinese cabbage, persimmon, beets, eggplant, and sweet potatoes. There's more, too, since Teresa and I signed up with a CSA this summer.)
  23. Post jewelry to Etsy. (No - and I'm okay with that. I haven't made anything new in quite a while, and I don't think I really want to pressure of selling it. I'd rather just keep making things for friends and family (and me!) as I want.)
  24. Take a training class for work. (Done - Petra (CRM) training classes as a part of my new job at CBN. Next year I'm hoping to take an advanced SQL Server management class.)
  25. Watch Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3. (Done)
  26. Volunteer at Oasis (food kitchen) 5 times. (No - I remember making this goal and intending it as a way to get more in touch with actually serving the poor and homeless. Thanks to a few other opportunities at church, I've still been able to do that, even though I haven't volunteered at Oasis. And there are a few things coming up in 2010 that I think will provide even more of these opportunities.)
  27. Enroll in 401(k). (Done - when I started at CBN.)
  28. See 3 live concerts. (Done - Triomorrow (now Ghost Theory) (twice), Sanctus Real and Mercy Me, Hillsong United, Casting Crowns/Matt Redman, and Chris Tomlin.)
  29. Have Jake visit for a weekend. (I'm marking this as done, because Jake did come down to visit with Katie a few times. Though what I really wanted was to get him to myself for a weekend, its really hard to work that out, especially now that he's in kindergarten.)
So, to sum up - I finished 14 out of 29 goals, and made progress on lots of others. Overall, I'm happy with that.

2009 recipe review.

This is a comprehensive list of all the recipes I've tried this year, as part of goal #13. Some were good, some were amazing, and some were utter failures.

When possible, I've linked to both the recipe and my review.
  1. Soft vegetable tacos (recipe) (review)
  2. Mexican chicken tortilla soup (recipe & review)
  3. Chicken pot pie (recipe) (review)
  4. Creamy chicken rice soup (recipe)
  5. Feta and spinach dip (recipe) (review)
  6. White chicken chili (recipe) (review)
  7. Crockpot pot roast (recipe) (review)
  8. Creamy broccoli casserole (recipe) (review)
  9. Macaroni and cheese (recipe) (review)
  10. Ham and potato chowder (recipe) (review)
  11. Mexican chicken casserole (recipe) (review)
  12. Curried couscous w/ broccoli and feta (recipe)
  13. Hummus (recipe)
  14. Blueberry yogurt muffins
  15. Parmesan roasted cauliflower
  16. Paradise dessert pizza (recipe)
  17. Crockpot corn chowder (recipe)
  18. Shredded beef tostadas (recipe)
  19. Chicken and orzo supper (review)
  20. Strawberry sauce (recipe) (review)
  21. Chicken & noodles paprika (review)
  22. Baked creamy chicken taquitos (recipe) (review)
  23. Golden baked pork cutlets (recipe) (review)
  24. Florentine lasagna roll-ups (recipe) (review)
  25. Cheesy zucchini bake (recipe) (review)
  26. Mini cherry cheesecake tarts (recipe) (review)
  27. Grandma's vegetable soup (recipe & review)
  28. Caramel toffee fruit dip (recipe)
  29. Farfalle with zucchini (recipe)
  30. Pumpkin bread (recipe)
  31. Grill-roasted corn salsa (recipe)
  32. Potato-cheese chowder
  33. Crockpot chicken fajitas (recipe)
  34. Tropical coconut cheeseball (recipe)
  35. Apple cake (recipe)
  36. Pumpkin bread (#2)
  37. Taco seasoning
  38. Southwestern pizza con queso (review)
  39. Apple burritos (review)
  40. Slow cooker provencal chicken and beans (recipe)
  41. Southwestern beef wraps (recipe)
  42. Crockpot broccoli casserole (recipe)
  43. Herbed potatoes (recipe)
  44. Chicken cordon bleu (recipe)
  45. Blueberry tart (recipe) (review)
  46. Chicken alouette (recipe) (review)
  47. Slow cooker enchilada casserole (recipe) (review)
  48. Sugared cranberries (recipe) (review)
  49. Hot Caramel Apple Cider (recipe) (review)
  50. Stuffed pizza rolls (recipe)
Bonus: Homemade cinnamon rolls (recipe)

coaster christmas ornaments.

I wanted to do something as a thank-you for the all of the volunteers who have made the Bridge Kids ministry possible this year, but I needed it to be inexpensive (especially when mass-produced).

I am so happy with how these came out! Here's the end result:

I printed large letters spelling THANK YOU, and mounted each letter on colored cardstock. Since my friend Melissa was helping us out by taking pictures of the kids packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, I asked her to take pictures of the kids holding up the letter signs.

I knew I wanted to make ornaments of some kind, but wasn't sure exactly how to incorporate them, until one of my coworkers suggested unprinted bar coasters. In fact, she had a ton of extras from another project, and gave me all the ones I needed!

Several years ago I bought a pack of 6x6 Christmas-themed srapbook paper, intending to make some kind of ornament book, I think. That never happened, but I'm enjoying using the paper in other ways - two years ago I used it to spell out "Happy Christmas" in different frames.

For this project, I selected two coordinating pieces for each ornament, then cut them down to 4-inches square. Then I use my round-corner paper punch to more closely fit the shape of the coasters (it's not a perfect fit, but I'm probably the only person who actually knows it).

I used Modge Podge to attach each piece of paper, then used the back size of a dinner knife to smooth everything out. Once it was dry I rubbed the edges of the coaster on a black ink pad.

Initially I wasn't sure how well this would work, but it kind of defines the edges and hides any imperfects in lining up the paper.

Next I punched holes in the papered coasters. I found that a regular three-hole punch would punch through the coaster, but it was so difficult to wedge the coaster into the hole punch that it marred the paper. So I bought a screw punch at Michaels. It was more than I was hoping to spend, but I used a coupon and a gift card and rationalized that it was almost the only money I was spending. Its still not that easy to use - a cropadile would probably work better, but there was no way I was shelling out $35 for something I wasn't sure I would use again.

The rest was simple - just add the photo using photo corners, make a small thank you tag, and add a ribbon. I added names on the back of tags to make sure that I got them to everyone.

I'm linking this up (late) to DIY Day at A Soft Place to Land.

recent recipes.

I'm almost finished with my 50 new recipes for the year - just one more to do. This is my review of some of the recent ones.

Blueberry tart
(from Real Simple)

I love recipes that use frozen puff pastry - sometimes they are easy and straightforward, and they are almost always impressive. This recipe takes a bit of time, but looks and tastes amazing. I made it last month, and can only imagine how good it would be if I could have used blueberries in season. I also think you could use any kind of fruit or combination of fruit you want.

Chicken alouette
(from The Stories of A to Z)

This recipe also uses puff pastry and is really, really good (like, really, really good) - and even easier than the first recipe. I'll definitely be making this again.

Slow cooker enchilada casserole
(from A Year of Slow Cooking)

I've tried a lot of recipes this year from A Year of Slow Cooking, and I'm even more interested in them now that I'm working outside my home again. Many crockpot recipes are very versatile - they can cook on high for a few hours, or on low all day. Unfortunately, I don't think this is one of them. I let this cook while I was at work, which means over 9 hours, instead of the 4-6 stated in the recipe, and the corn tortillas almost totally broke down, except at the edges of the stoneware. The end result was a bit odd.

Sugared cranberries
(from Bon Appegeek)

Oh, wow. I mean, these were amazing. They're easy, and look really festive - the only downside is that while they don't require a lot of hands on time, they do need to sit overnight halfway through the process, so you need to plan ahead to make them.

Hot Caramel Apple Cider
(from Our Best Bites)

Another easy recipe with big impact - can you tell I've been into those lately? I made this for a Christmas party, and set it up with caramel sauce and whipped cream, just like my own mini Starbucks.

christmas tour.

Welcome to my Christmas-decorated house! I like crafting and decorating my house, anyway, but I really love to do it for Christmas. And since I promised my dad photos of this year's decorations, I figured I would go ahead and join The Nester's Christmas Tour of Homes, too. If you love Christmas decorating, you should definitely check it out (but read about my house first)!

Front Door

I don't really do much to decorate the outside of my house (which is surprising when you figure how much I do inside). This year it's just a wreath on the door, and candles in the windows (which are usually knocked down by Harvey as soon as I get them up).

This is the front door wreath - it's simple, but I like it. I wanted to include the bright blue ribbon after I saw Edie's wreath at Life in Grace (I even looked for a large K to paint, with no luck). I created the bows using this bow tutorial from Living with Lindsay - they're not perfect, but I'm pretty happy with them!

Living Room

My living room is definitely the room where I go all out, and this year I actually cleared out the bookcase completely so I could display even more. These are most (not all) of my Christmas dishes, with a few frames that I love, that still need pictures (and did last year, too). When I finish wrapping gifts, I'll add those to the top.

Rather than lay the garland on top the mantel, I decided to hang it below this year, so I'd have more room across the top of the mantel. I got the window from my friend Victor, who was replacing all of the windows in a house, and brought me ALL of the old ones. (Seriously, there are 30 different windows in all different sizes in my garage right now, including a HUGE picture window that I can't wait to fix up). I made the wreath myself, using wool yarn, a foam wreath form, and a glue gun (and I actually have a glue gun burn to prove it!).

I bought another tree this year (using Christmas gift money from my grandma). It's pre-lit and comes in three sections, rather than having individual branches that need to be sorted and attached to the "trunk" one by one - so much easier! My main living room tree is always a collection of souvenir ornaments, and it's full!

Every year, I buy ornaments to symbolize EVERYTHING I want to remember, so I'm always adding several to my collection. This is one of my favorites this year - I bought it in Russia in February.

I decorate these shelves a bit differently every year.

Normally, it houses my Precious Moments nativity, but I've never really liked it there as it's mostly white and gets lost on the shelf. This year, I moved it to the dining room, and instead am displaying the nativity blocks I cut (with Victor's help), painted, and embellished with vinyl silhouettes from SayItOnTheWall.com. (I also bought the silhouettes for this nativity story cube - its currently sitting on one of the cake stands in the bookcase).

The art was made by entering a bunch of Christmas words into Wordle. I played with the settings and colors until I had a design I liked it, then took a screenshot of it to save it on my computer as an image. Then, I just printed it out, attached it to extra scrapbook paper I already had, and placed it in one of the frames I usually use on this shelf.

Dining Room

Most years, I just add Christmas decor in and around my existing decor in my dining room, but this year I removed nearly everything that I normally display. The only thing I kept was the print I bought in Moscow. I added a new one I just bought at a Christmas craft fair in Frederick over Thanksgiving weekend - a print of Frederick's Baker Park and the Bell Tower in winter, by artist Harry Richardson.

The "Jesus knows me this I love" sign is a birthday gift from my friend Heather. I love it, but have had a hard time knowing where I wanted to display it - now I think this is where it will stay for a while.

My Precious Moments nativity works much better in here - the shelf is a better size, and with the wall behind it, the figures don't get quite so lost.

I made the table runner (I'm sure you can tell) using display curtain panels, hem tape, and hot glue. Someday I might dress it up a bit by adding trim to the spaces between each panel, but for now, I like it! The trees are sitting in a centerpiece box I made earlier this year. I also hung glittery ornaments from the chandelier.

Everywhere else

I kept things pretty simple throughout the rest of the house.

I have a small tree in the kitchen, tucked (almost) out of the way since the kitchen is so small, with small glittered cookie cutters as ornaments (I was inspired by the glitter ornaments at Centsational Girl). I also hung up a Christmas dish towel and pot holder.

I added a couple little things to the bathroom - a snowflake hand towel, Christmas books in the magazine basket, and a little snowman figurine on the shelf I made above the sink. Plus, I got out the holiday soaps from Bath and Body Works.

For my bedroom, I braided three strands of jute twine together to form a rope, attached it to the top corners of one the display windows, and hung the sand-and-shell ornaments I made two years ago.

And that's it! My house, all decked out for the holidays - and ready, except for last-minute cleaning, for the girls-only Christmas party I'm having on Friday. Now I just need to keep it clean until then!

tlc on cbn.

Here is the Lettered Cottage segment on the 700 Club:

Or, you can watch it on the CBN website here.

more bits of randomness.

Every now and then, rather than having one single topic to share, I feel like I need to write a catch-up post with lots of little things. This is one of those posts.


I'm in the throes of Christmas decorating. Isn't it odd that with things like this, it always get worse before its gets better? I've been utterly overwhelmed the last couple days, but today, when I realized that I have something going on every night this week, I spent some time at lunch just making lists (making lists relaxes me). My tree is up, I finally found the star for the top, and now I have a plan on what is left to do, so I'm a lot less stressed.


Our church is throwing a birthday party for Jesus on Saturday as an outreach, so I'm busy with last-minute plans for that. Sunday we passed out 500 flyers in local neighborhoods - I'm excited and hoping for a big turnout!


Layla and Kevin from The Lettered Cottage are here for their 700 Club segment, and they're just as fun in real life as they seem to be on their blog. I hung out with them and Heather Sunday night, shopping for the room they're redoing, then going to dinner and to see the lights on the boardwalk. Tonight I dropped by after work for a little while to see the progress so far, and help out with the room a bit, before I headed back home to work on my own house.


My sister Kelli and I are in the middle of a challenge - we both threw in $50, and have agreed to do 30 minutes of cardio, three times a week through the end of the year. If we don't keep up our end, we forfeit our $50, and let me just say - that money is a pretty strong motivation.

We started at the beginning on November, so we're in the middle of week 5 right now. In some ways, its been really good - there are many times over the last few weeks that the only thing that got me to the gym was our challenge, and it definitely helped while we were both home for Thanksgiving, because we planned exercise into our schedule together. On the other hand, isn't this the craziest time of the year to start something like this?


Lastly - I'm going to see Chris Tomlin on Friday night with Heather, Heather, Kelly, and Mary, and can't wait! Its going to be a great show.

holding me back.

I've been mulling this over since my sister Kelli and I first talked about it over last weekend.

The thing about spending most of your life overweight is, you get used to your weight holding you back and getting in the way of living life. You avoid physical activity (the fun stuff) because you either assume you can't do it, or don't want the embarassment of NOT being able to do it.

Kelli, Vince, and I took the dogs hiking over Thanksgiving (Kelli and I are in the middle of a workout challenge). Had she suggested this two years ago, I would have rejected it outright, primarily because I would have been worried that I wouldn't have been able to keep up.

Today my perspective has changed dramatically. Now I'm training to run a 5K not because I enjoy running (still waiting for that to kick in), but because I've always said I never would. Sometimes my gut reaction is still to say no, but I'm learning to actually enjoy pushing myself.

Thinking about this has made me wonder just what other experiences in my life I've missed out on because I was too afraid of whether or not I could actually do it.

my favorite (christmas) things.

I set out to make a list of some of my favorite things, to participate in the blog party at 320 * Sycamore, then realized that a large number of these things are Christmas-related.

Which actually shouldn't surprise me at all.

Here's the list, in no particular order:

  1. Andrew Peterson's Behold The Lamb of God

  2. Hands down, my favorite Christmas CD (and I like a lot of Christmas CDs). Last year, I saw the show live in Richmond - amazing.

  3. The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado

  4. This is a beautiful story for kids, and a great lesson for the rest of us.

  5. Peppermint White Mochas at Starbucks

  6. The guy at my local Starbucks just told me that they can actually make this all year round, but I think I'll be saving it for November & December as a holiday treat.

  7. Fruit Chocolates from Harry & David

  8. I blame Heather for getting me hooked on this stuff. It's fruit, right, so it's still healthy?

  9. The Jesus Storybook Bible

  10. Besides being beautifully written and illustrated, this does a better job than anything I've ever seen at teaching kids that every story in the Bible really just points to one great Hero.

veterans day.

To all of our troops,

to those who have served and to those who are serving,

and to their families here at home...

Thank you.

you alone can rescue.

One of my favorite songs from last night's Casting Crowns/Matt Redman concert:

the lettered cottage.

I've mentioned before that I read a lot of blogs. One of my favorites is The Lettered Cottage.

Layla and Kevin are totally redoing their cottage, top to bottom, and I love so many of the things they've done. Their kitchen is gorgeous, and their reading room makes me actually wish for a small room so I can do the same thing. And when I read about her idea for a transom window, I quite literally got up and walked into my hallway (i.e. the hallway of many doors) to see it would make sense in my house (I don't think it will).

But my absolute favorite thing about them is that they hadn't even used power tools until a couple of years ago. I love stories like that, because it gives me courage to try bold things with my house. (And not just mine - wait until you see how Heather and I are busting out the girl power in her dining room next weekend).

Anyway, so here's what I'm really excited about...

A few weeks ago, Heather (a producer for the 700 Club) and I were talking about a segment she wanted to do. She wanted to have a home renovation bloggers come in and completely redo a room, on a budget. I suggested the Lettered Cottage. She checked them out and was hooked (just like me). So she booked them, and they're coming in December!

I'm so excited - I can't wait!

buying gifts.

Today one of my friend's Facebook status read, "Is it time to start Christmas shopping?" Which made me smile because I'm about 25% done with Christmas gifts already.

I love buying gifts, and thinking about gifts, and making gifts, and taking time to find the perfect gift. I know that for some people it can be stressful, but I enjoy the whole process (most of the time, anyway - everyone has someone on their list that's difficult!).

So, here are the things I do to keep it fun:

  1. Pay attention.

  2. Most people drop hints all the time about great gift ideas, without even realizing they're doing it. Listen to what people like to do, and pay attention to what they need.

    One day, while walking in a store with my sister, she pointed out a sign with a quote that she loved, but she didn't like the style of the sign. That year for her birthday, I ordered a custom art piece from Sara's Art - now she has the quote she wanted, but in a style that she likes.

  3. Write it down.

  4. The problem is with #1 is, you've got to capture inspiration when you get it. I have a note in my Blackberry for each person in my family, and when I get an idea for them, I add it to the list. When their birthday or Christmas rolls around, that's the first place I go when I need to buy a gift.

    If you buy gifts ahead of time, you'll also need to make a note when you purchase something, so you don't buy a second gift later.

  5. Talk about it.

  6. I'm lucky in that my sister Katie also likes to buy gifts early, especially for Christmas, and our mom and other sister Kelli have learned to tolerate it. Katie and I talk all the time about gift ideas. Sometimes I'll have more ideas for a person than I need, so I'll share them with her, or vice versa. Just talking about ideas can spark new ones. And sometimes you discover great ideas that are out of your budget, but make great team gifts.

  7. Relax.

  8. Gift-giving, and the occasions surrounding them, should be fun and not stressful. Pick something you think the recipient will like, then let it go.

    For example, I decided a long time ago that if I needed to find the one perfect gift for my nephew, the one that would be his favorite gift on Christmas morning from among all the others, I was just setting myself up for disappointment. Instead, I pick something that may not be the most flashy gift, but I know its one he'll enjoy later.

operation christmas child.

I've blogged about Operation Christmas Child before. I'm a huge fan.

And here's why - because packing a shoebox is easy AND fun. Its tangible, its not expensive, and its something that even kids can understand. And when they can help pick out gifts to fill a shoebox for a child their age, especially when those gifts include such basic things like soap and pencils, the giving to the poor becomes something direct and concrete.

Many years ago, I used to take my kid brother (he's 20 now) to the store and let him pick out gifts to fill a box for a child his age. If I lived closer to Jake, Ally, and Cameron, I'd do the same thing.

But my favorite OCC experiences are always with the Bridge Kids. Last year, they had so much fun filling shoeboxes:

We've been talking about them this year for several weeks now, and the kids have raising money to help with the cost of shipping boxes. One child donated his entire savings, and another little girl is always on the lookout for "money for the kids who don't get Christmas presents," (even going through her mom's purse!). They're stepping up, and I'm thinking of challenging the adults to try to out-give them!

Check out more stories about Operation Christmas Child here:

Bloggers Care Button

christmas is coming.

I got so excited when I saw these knee socks in Target today - bring on the holidays!

Can you tell they have fur on the top?

(And please ignore my big fat calfs.)

quote canvas.

I love quotes, and lately have been trying to figure out ways to incorporate more words around my house. So when I saw the tutorial for this quote canvas, I knew I was going to have to steal the idea.

I chose a line from Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

And here's the end result:

The concept behind making this is pretty straightforward, but be forewarned - its a long, somewhat tedious process.

I started by laying out the quote, in the font I wanted, in Microsoft Publisher (which I use for layout stuff all the time). The tutorial above mentioned having your final image printed on a large paper at a copy shop, which I seriously considered doing, then decided I was too cheap and printed it out on four separate pieces of paper instead. This meant I had to cut and fold and tape them all together, which was a pain. But it was also free.

Once it was ready, I laid the combined papers on top of my canvas, and taped the top it securely, and the bottom a bit more loosely. Then, I moved a piece of transfer paper around underneath the difference sections and just traced the outline of the letters with a pencil. This part takes a little while.

When I was done, I lifted the paper, only to discover that I had missed a couple words and letter details (like the circle inside an "o"). This is why I would recommend only detaching the bottom of the paper, and keeping the top securely attached, because I can only imagine how impossible it would have been to line everything up twice.

Then came the really tedious part. I started by tracing the letter using a black sharpie (because I don't trust that I have a steady hand with a paintbrush). Once that was done, I painted around the letters with a really small brush. Then I did it again, because the whole thing really needed two coats. It took several hours to do both coats, though that might be because I went really slowly to avoid mistakes.

I made a few mistakes anyway, but I just went back with some white paint to touch them up. This also helped me get rid of any accidentally pencil transfer marks in the whites of the letters.

I really love the end result, so I think I'd be willing to do this again, though I'm not going to walk around and offer to do it for just anybody. For a Christmas or birthday gift, maybe. Hmm....

For more DIY inspiration, visit A Soft Place To Land.


I added a couple new sections to the sidebar there at the right - a couple of projects I'm either working on currently, or want to be doing soon, and a few recipes that are next up on my list of things to try.

using what i have.

In the two and half weeks in between finding out I would be getting laid off, and accepting a job offer with CBN, I went on a complete spending freeze - not spending any money I didn't have to. I still wanted to make stuff and be creative, so I finally (after three years) started exploring all of the wood scraps in the loft above my garage.

Here's one of the first projects:

Can you tell what it is? Its kind of a long box (you can see it filled in the photo below). I saw something like this once before (I have no idea where) and have wanted one for the long time, but I never saw it for a price I was willing to pay. So I made one myself.

I cut down pieces of wood that I could using my miter saw and a borrowed jig saw, then worked with Victor in his workshop to cut everything else and assemble it together (much easier with a nail gun). The only money I spent was for the thin wood pieces on the bottom - we added them to keep the sides from bowing in, and provide more support for the bottom. All four sides and the main bottom piece were from my loft.

I love how versatile this is, and I have lots of plans for fun things to add. Soon, I'll exchange the summery candles for silver painted pumpkins.

Check out more great DIY projects at A Soft Place To Land and Reinvented!


Edit: This is the video from the service at my brother's church (Northland in Orlando, FL) where I first heard this song. The video behind the singer is absolutely amazing.

office art.

As much as I love my new job, my office is pretty blah. I've been working (slowly) on ways to dress it up a bit.

Here's the first project:

I used the same idea as when I made these.

updated photo box.

When I first saw this photo box at a thrift store, I knew I could re-make it into a perfect Christmas gift for my almost-niece Ally.

I took it all apart. The silver frame got a coat of black spray paint, the top and sides got several coats of pink craft paint that I had on hand, and I topped the ugly felt interior with scrapbook paper.

My favorite part, though, is Ally's name on the bottom. I used the method described here to transfer it, then colored it in with a black permanent marker.

I'm linking up to DIY Day at A Soft Place to Land!

homemade good-enough frame.

There are really only three things I like to buy as souvenirs when I'm on a trip - jewelry, Christmas ornaments, and stuff to decorate my house. When I went to Russia, I brought home all three - kopeks (Russian coins) that I will someday drill a hole through and make into a charm bracelet, a Father Christmas ornament, and a beautiful watercolor that I bought on Arbat in Moscow.

The watercolor has sat wrapped up in my back storage room since I got home in February, because (1) frames are expensive, and (2) its an odd size, and custom frames are REALLY expensive.

It came with a mat, though, so I decided to make my own frame. Nothing fancy, or the least bit professional - just molding cut with a miter saw to the correct size, painted, and attached together. No glass, no backing, no inset for the frame. I figured that simple molding is inexpensive enough that I wouldn't be heartbroken to replace it later, if I so chose.

I cut the pieces to the correct size and angles using my miter box and saw, then spray painted (because I'm lazy) the pieces in a metallic chrome (which basically looks like a shiny silver). I should have primed them first, because the paint started to rub off on my fingers a bit, even after it was dry. But I figured that I would be covering it with a spray polyurethane, so it didn't matter too much.

After the pieces were painted, I laid them out on my table, just to make sure that everything matched up correctly. And I realized I had cut one of the angles wrong - my miter box must not have been set 45 degrees. Luckily, it was an easy fix - just re-cut that side and re-paint that piece.

I used L-shaped brackets to attach the pieces together. I just laid everything out and drilled a super small pilot hole (using the smallest bit I had). I was worried at first that I would drill straight through, until I realized I could just use wood filler and repaint it if I needed to. Then I used an old trick of my grandfather's, passed down from my father - if you add soap to the screws, they grip the wood much easier and are far less likely to split it.

After I got the whole thing together, I sprayed the front and back with polyurethane, and once dry, used scotch tape to attach the watercolor mat to the frame.

Simple, inexpensive, and homemade. And I love finally having this out where I can look at it every day.

neat ideas.

I read a lot of blogs on a regular basis. I use Google Reader so that I can easily see what's updated, and I skim through a lot of them, so it doesn't really take that much time.

These are just a few of the ideas I've bookmarked that I love, and want to steal:

Passport Art (from Adventures in Renovating a Brooklyn Limestone)
A great, inexpensive way to create art using stamps in your passport.

Dresser Redo (from The Old Painted Cottage)
(scroll down to the 5th picture to see what I'm talking about)
There's no before picture of this dresser, but I love the fact that she used a missing drawer to create open storage on the bottom. When I finally get around to redoing my master bathroom/walk-in closet, I would love to use an old dresser as a sink vanity - except that I want open storage on the bottom. I'm going to keep this mind as I look around for the right piece of furniture.

Board and Batten Treatment (from It's The Little Things That Make A House A Home)
I am totally going to do this in my office/guest room, as soon as I get really motivated and plan ahead enough to borrow the tools from my dad that would make it significantly easier. I could do it, of course, with my trusty miter box and hand saw, but that seems slightly insane. I've been trying to convince my parents to come for a visit, just the two of them - maybe I can convince Dad to spend a few hours with me working on this together. I could paint it after they had left. Am I crazy to think that the wood work part of this could be done in a day?

Rain Gutter Bookshelves (from Raising Olives)
If I had kids, I would definitely do this!

Word Canvas (from Myst33 via The DIY Show Off)
Now I just need to choose the right quote/verse...

answered prayers.

I've been thinking lately about the timing of prayers, or more specifically the timing of answers to prayer.

Back in February, my friend Kelly was laid off. She had an interview scheduled for the very next day (planned before the lay-off), and started at her new place (which she loves) a week and a half later. This is the thought that kept running through my head: God was at work answering a prayer that she hadn't even prayed yet.

When I first heard that my lay-off was coming, I sent an email to several friends asking them to pray, and to let me know of any open opportunities they knew about. My friend Heather (a producer for The 700 Club) immediately emailed me back to let me know that there were several open IT positions at CBN, that she had been asked to publicize on the show the very next day. I applied, and had a phone interview a week later. I interviewed in person the next week, on a Thursday, received and accepted the job offer on Friday (also my last day with LJT), and started work the next Tuesday. God was already at work answering a prayer that I had only barely begun to pray.

Amid the haze of happiness and overwhelming gratitude that I felt that weekend, I realized that its been a desire of mine to work for a non-profit company for seven years. I've pursued different positions during that time, but the timing was never quite right for any of them.

Tonight was the first REFUGE event, the culmination of a vision God gave BJ four years ago. Four years ago, three years ago, two years ago, even one year ago wasn't God's timing. Now is.

I suppose that you could look at these examples, taken together, and believe that God is random, or that he blesses people arbitrarily, or that prayers are not really answered, but circumstances make them appear so.

I don't. I choose to believe that God has both perfect timing and a perfect will. That sometimes he answers our prayers with a yes, sometimes with a no, and sometimes with a not now. I choose to believe that my life in his hands is a far better present and future than it would be if I ran it myself.

For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay.
- Habbakuk 2:3

i forgot about these things.

These are the things that are different in my new working life, that I'm still getting used to:

  • I get up before the sun comes up. The last time I did that, Mary and I were watching the sun rise over the ocean. The time before that...I have no idea. (Go ahead, laugh, even tease me that I used to sleep in later than the rest of the world - you know you're just jealous).
  • I spend a lot more of my day in the car.
  • Showering and getting dressed first thing in the morning is absolutely important.
  • I have to keep my shoes on during the day. Seriously, my feet are far too used to being bare or in flip-flops - they're adjusting.

finishing things.

Do you ever feel a little bit like the hamster in the wheel - lots of frantic activity but nothing ever actually gets finished?

I spent most of Monday trying to get things done before I went back to a normal work schedule on Tuesday (and my amount of time at home radically changed). I made a list (because I always make lists) and called it "The Crazy List" because...well, let's just say I dreamed big about what I would be able to accomplish. I made lots of progress on things, but the only thing that got done was a lot of laundry. (Not that I'm knocking the laundry victory, you understand, because laundry ranks up there as one of my most hated household chores, so any victory there is worth celebrating).

Now that I'm three days into my new job, I'm spending lots of time dreaming of ideas on my commute, and trying to remember I have less time to actually do them.

But I'm committing to not starting anything new, until I can actually finish some of these things. Hopefully by the end of this weekend I'll have a post all ready with a list of things that I've actually finished.

bits of randomness.

Just a few random things to share tonight:

I have a new job!

This afternoon I accepted a positon with the Christian Broadcasting Network, and I couldn't be more excited. There is so much that I would love to share, but I'm still far too excited and overwhelmed to put words to it. For now, I'll just say this:

I serve an AMAZING God.

Also, my celebration dinner with Kelly, Victor, and Jocelyn was really good! And now, I have two new recipes to add both to my goal list for the year and my personal make-this-again file, both from Pampered Chef:

Southwestern Pizza Con Queso - this pizza crust with salsa con queso, then topped with chicken and peppers with taco seasoning and fiesta cheese

Easy Apple Burritos - apples, cinnamon, and sugar rolled in tortillas and topped with caramel and ice cream.

And the best part is, both came together really quickly, so I'll definitely be making both again!

Lastly, I finally started to explore some of the wood in the loft above my garage. Tonight Victor helped me by climbing up to see what else was there, and there was some pretty sweet stuff. I've got lots of projects in mind, and I'm super excited to get them done!

upgrading the bathroom mirror.

I'm linking up to DIY Day at A Soft Place to Land.

When I first replaced this medicine cabinet, I remember standing in Home Depot in shock at just how expensive a replacement could be. I decided that I could surely buy the cheaper version and just slap a frame on it to dress it up.

And, though it took me at least a year, I did. I bought an unfinished frame from Michaels, painted it black, and it fit right on top of the old mirror. There was just one problem - I couldn't open the mirror without the frame running into the wall.

So here's my solution - and the first project I completed using the miter box I bought for my birthday. I bought a piece of moulding, cut it to size, and painted each piece black. Then, I attached the pieces using this power-grip-adhesive-stuff. Once that dried completely, I used wood filler to fill in the holes, then touched up the black paint where I needed to.

(Please ignore the ugly paint job on the door frame)

For the most part, I love it - except for one thing. I didn't paint the back side of the moulding, and you can see it in the mirror's reflection.

So please HELP! The power adhesive is doing its job - those pieces are good and attached to the mirror. So I need to find another way to hide that unfinished wood - any ideas?

watching the sun rise over the ocean.

If you know me at all, you know that I am not a morning person. And though it was really hard to do it, I got up early this past weekend to watch the sun rise over the ocean (and cross goal #19 off my list).

My friend Mary remembered this goal, so when her husband wanted to get up early to go surfing, she called me.

Oh, and it was beautiful. Not as much red as I expected, but still gorgeous.

I took Harvey with me (which brings me half-way to crossing #9 off my list). She wasn't crazy about the water, but she loved the sand, and loved being around other people. She also loved chasing the birds, which meant I got a work out walking her.

laid off.

I debated about sharing this. But since I want this blog to be a real reflection of my life, and since I often use it to process things a bit, or even just to note the things that I want to remember, I'm going to go ahead and say it.

I'm getting laid off. My last day with my company is just under two weeks away.

There are so many emotions that I'm still trying to sort through them. And, of course, the prevalent emotion changes from minute to minute. But at least right now, here's where I am.

The day I first got the heads up that this would likely happen (last week), that night as I was getting ready for bed and feeling about a million different things all at the same time, I heard the voice of God so clearly that it quite literally stopped me in my tracks.

"This is it, Kristy, this is the moment of truth," He said. "Do you really believe that I am who I say I am and that I will do what I say I will do? Because this is where what you really believe shows up in your life."

As I thought more about that, I realized something very clearly. There are only two possibilities here. Ether all of the promises of God are true - that He loves me, that He will take care of my needs, that He has a plan and a purpose for me, that He works all things for my good - either that is all true, or everything I've built my life on since I was five years old is utter crap and I might as well crawl into bed and give up.

I'm choosing the first.



This week Nick, Heather, and I went to http://www.newspring.cc/one/ in Anderson, South Carolina. Now that we're back, I'm fired up! I have so many ideas I want to implement at The Bridge. I'm been praying for fresh vision from God for where He wants this ministry to be, not just right now, but a year and more down the road, and He's showing me some pretty exciting things!

One thing I was thinking about today...our average attendance is probably somewhere around 50 people. Usually about 10 of those are kids, leaving about 40 adults. Currently, there are 22 volunteers in Bridge Kids, which means that more than half of our regular attenders are children's ministry volunteers! That's a huge percentage!

small victories.

I think success in weight loss is really all about celebrating small victories. Especially when you prefer to work like I do - work out, then just eat wisely (without actually counting calories or measuring portions).

I started running in May, using a Couch-to-5K plan, mostly as a means to cross goal number #5 off my list. Pretty quickly, though, it became more about proving to myself that I could do something that I never thought I would be able to do.

Then, in mid-June, I sprained my ankle and got sidelined for a while, and got a little off-track with any regular work-outs at all. But two weeks ago, after an okay from my doctor, I got back on track.

I'm working out 5 days a week (3 is my minimum). Three days a week, I do my current step in the running program, and the other two days I spend 20 minutes on the ellipitical. I follow all of that up with a weight-training program and ab work, using ActivTrax (a service available at my gym). I made a chart for my refrigerator, and I add a big checkmark every time I finish a workout. I'm actually thinking of picking up some gold stars.

And I'm celebrating the small victories - like when I realized that I could run easily without getting pains in my side, or when I push myself to do more reps than I thought I could. And yesterday, for the first time on the 45-degree leg press, I didn't have to remove all of the big, 45-pound weights before I could start loading the correct amount for me. I left two of them on there, because I lifted 90 pounds. That felt really good.

in christ alone.

I read this quote from Charles Carroll, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, on Mark Batterson's blog today:

On the mercy of my Redeemer I rely for my salvation, and on His merits; not on the works I have done in obedience to His precepts.

Thank God our salvation does not rely on ability to follow the rules.

gift card holder.

I'm not a scrapbooker - I've never had the time, patience, or desire to absorb myself in that hobby. I don't make cards, either, for the same reasons.

But sometimes I like to play around a little with making something out of scrapbooking supplies, most often in the form of invitations. This time, though, I decided to do something a little different - a gift card holder.

I made this to go with a graduation gift. Normally, I'm not a big fan of giving gift cards (they often seem unoriginal to me), but sometimes they're just the best option, so I thought this might be a fun way to dress it up a little and put a personal spin on it.

The quote on the inside is one of my favorites:

I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well. - Diane Ackerman

so this is what criminal court really looks like.

Guess what I did today?

I went to criminal court today, as a witness against the guy who drove through my fence and shed last month.

Guess who didn't go to court today?

The defendant. So they issued a warrant for his arrest, and I wasted an hour and a half this morning.

local veggies.

I'm not sure where I first heard of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) (probably Real Simple), but I've wanted to do one for several years now.

Essentially, you buy a share of a local farm's produce for the season. The food that you get, and the quantity of each fruit or vegetable, varies from week to week. I like that I'm buying locally grown food (and, depending on the farm, organic produce). I also love the challenge of using whatever I get, and getting exposed to new fruits and vegetables.

The only thing that's held me back from joining up until now, is that I worried that even the smaller share of produce would be more food than I could use, or even freeze for later. So when my friend Teresa said she was interested in joining a CSA as well, we decided to join up together.

This is our bounty from this week (week 3) - green onions, squash, zucchini, red potatoes, green beans, and peaches.

So far, the biggest challenge has been using the food before it goes bad (at least, for some of it). This is partly because I've been out of town so much, I've had little time to cook in my own kitchen. It also seems like some things turn more quickly than they do when I buy them from the grocery store - I'm theorizing that this might be partly because the farm uses less chemicals to preserve the food, but I don't really know.

recent recipes.

I'm still working through the 50 new recipes I need to try to complete #13 on my list of goals for the year. A couple of weeks ago I realized that I was only at 18 for the year and needed to play catch up a little, so I planned two weeks worth of menus with a ton of new recipes.

Several of these were from cookbooks and not available online (unlike most of the recipes that I try).

Chicken and orzo supper
(from Betty Crocker's Everyday Meals)

This was really good, and pretty simple. And healthy - can't forget that. It's basically chicken and orzo with Italian-style stewed tomatoes and zucchini.

Chicken and Noodles Paprika
(from Betty Crocker's Meals for 2)

Don't bother with this one.

Baked Creamy Chicken Tacquitos
(from Our Best Bites)

So good, and much easier than I thought it would be! The ingredients list is a bit long, but its mostly spices and easy stuff, so don't let that intimidate you. There's a lot of cheese in these, but I'm thinking if you tried a lower-fat cheese, they wouldn't be too bad for you, especially if you were careful about portion control.

Golden Baked Pork Cutlets
(from The Food Network)

Eh. I'm just not a big fan of pork.

Florentine Lasagna Roll-Ups
(from Real Age)

This is actually the second time that I've made lasagna rolls (you can find my first recipe here). These weren't bad, but the others were much better (and more fattening). These also seemed to take longer, but I think I could probably find a way to combine them to find the best of both. I think these could have been improved a lot with some marinara sauce, either baked with them or heated to eat on the side.

Cheesy Zucchini Bake
(from AllRecipes.com)

My friend Teresa and I joined a CSA together (more on that later), so I've found myself with all kinds of produce that I'm trying to figure out how to use. I'm in Frederick right now, helping take care of my mom following her recent surgery, and she suggested finding a side dish recipe that used both yellow squash and some fresh tomatoes she had on hand. This was okay - it made a lot, and the parts near the top were good, though the rest was a little bland. We didn't save the leftovers, which isn't a great recommendation.

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes
(from Bakerella)

I made these for our family Father's Day celebration, because my sister's boyfriend loves them. I'd never made them before, though my mom often does, and though they did turn out okay, I think I discovered that its never a good idea to try a new recipe after midnight. First, I forgot to put the vanilla wafers in the bottom of the first batch. Then, I remembered this for the second batch, but they kept floating up to the top (maybe because I used 1/3-fat cream cheese (neufatchel cheese). Still, Vince ate then, and didn't whine, so they couldn't have been too bad (I didn't try one, because I'm not a huge fan of cheesecake).

Grandma's Vegetable Soup

My grandmother's vegetable soup recipe, which was a great way to use up a bunch of leftover vegetables.

Grandma's Vegetable Soup

1 pkg short ribs
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped (approximate)
1 cup celery, chopped
5 or 6 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 can cut green beans, drained
1 can corn, drained (or fresh)
1 can peas, drained (or fresh)

Boil short ribs in large stock pot, with just enough water to cover them. Once boiling, reduce heat and continue to cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add cabbage, tomatoes, celery, carrots, and potatoes. Cook for 1 hour. Add remaining ingredients (green beans, corn, and peas), and cook for 1 hour.

Remove bones from soup and chop up meat.

(I'm now at 27 new recipes for the year.)

travel. that's what i do.

Its been a really busy few weeks - filled with lots of traveling and visitors. I was in California toward the end of last week on business (though I did take some time to just chill at the edge of the Pacific Ocean), then my sister and nephew and six of their friends came to stay at my house on their vacation (they arrived about six hours after I got home, which gave me enough time for a nap and a tiny bit of last-minute cleaning).

Katie et al left Tuesday night for Frederick, and I traveled with them to stay with my mom over the rest of this week, to help her out as she recovers from surgery.

So, if I've been a bit absent...that's why.

i am small.

After a busy few weeks, I'm finally home and getting back to my regular schedule (if there is such a thing). I wrote the following while traveling for work, and have only recently had the chance to take the photo to go with the post:

I'm in Ventura, CA on business, and for the first time on a trip out here, I actually have down time. I so wish I had brought my camera with me.

I love the ocean. I love looking out at it and seeing nothing beyond it, just the sky meeting the water, and knowing that there is still miles and miles of it that I can't see.

It makes me feel small, which is a good thing, because I really spend so much of my life acting like I'm big.

I saw this rock on the beach, and thought it was beautiful. When I got home, I wrote myself a little reminder on the back.

I am small.
The ocean is big.
God is bigger.

master bedroom update (in progress).

Welcome to my new master bedroom! Its not done, yet, but that will have to wait for now, because I'm busy trying to get things ready for a work trip next week. (See the before pictures here.)

And besides, when it comes to decorating, I don't think I'm ever really done.

Even so, let me take you on a tour of what I have finished.

I love the new paint color. I picked it up for $5 at Home Depot (it was oops paint) probably a year ago, and it goes so well with so many of the things I've been buying for this room over the years.

Yes, I said years.

Above you can see the dresser that I painted, several weeks ago. I used to store my jewelry in this organizer hanging above the dresser, but I think I want to change that up a bit (I was inspired by this version of the same thing at Centsational Girl).

The new "headboard" is one of my two favorite things in here. These are old wooden shutters I picked up at a yard sale a year ago, and I've been storing them trying to figure out what to do with them ever since. I thought about jewelry storage, displaying photos...but in a sudden inspiration last week, decided to paint them black and attach them directly to the wall (my friend Victor did the actual attaching-to-the-wall part).

I'd still like to replace that nightstand with something more substantial.

This is my other favorite thing - these old windows. I picked these up from a neighbor probably two years ago now, and they've been sitting in my garage ever since. So, this weekend, I took them out, cleaned them off, and gave them a fresh coat of white spray paint.

This corner still needs some work. I have window treatments for the windows that I bought from Ikea - just need to get the panels out and hemmed, so I can hang them. I started the process of painting the dresser on the right (that's why the drawers are missing, because I got those painted, just not the dresser itself).

There are a couple things sitting on the dresser and little side table that still need to be hung on the wall (and in the case of the surfboard print, framed).

Another shot of the windows, because did I mention that they're one of my favorite things in here? I have a bunch of ideas on how to decorate them - I've got a great Beach House sign that I want to hang on the top one, and some smaller postcards and other things to add.

All that's coming later.

In the meantime, since this includes several trash-to-treasure projects, I'm linking up to Trash To Treasure Tuesday at Reinvented.