Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Goals for 2012

Finally on the last day of January I can post a list of goals for the year.  It seems to have taken me this long to find a few quiet moments to reflect on 2011 and to think through my goals for 2012.  I used the goal-setting questions from SimpleMom.net to get my thinking going.  They suggest five categories and so I have chosen to use those as well.

The first is PERSONAL GROWTH.  I want to work (again) on the character qualities of perseverance, unselfishness, and self-control.  There's been progress in each of these, but I have a long way to go.  I want to grow (even more) in the area of trusting God in every circumstance.  Again, there's been good progress but I can learn to make trust my first response rather than my second one.  I'd also like to begin a Scripture memory program, read more books, and continue working on Bible studies.  It seems to me that nurturing creativity is part of personal growth -- at least for me -- and to that end, I want to spend time crafting, both for gifts and for my home.  And I want to persevere in finishing what I start!

The second category is PHYSICAL HEALTH.  For this category, I would like to exercise between 3 and 5 times per week, get enough sleep, drink more water, and cook and eat with health in mind.

The third category is MARRIAGE & FAMILY LIFE, which includes homemaking.  I would love to declutter the entire house this year.  (That had been a goal last year that didn't get met.)  I also want to take advantage of time with my husband, planning regular date nights and periodic getaways.  We are anticipating a visit from faraway family this year, so I also want to plan carefully for their visit.

Fourth category: MONEY MATTERS.  I would like to spend less on groceries this year.  To bring in a bit of extra income, I am considering selling some items at craft shows and fairs this fall.  For that to happen, I must craft extra items each month, so I am thinking I will make a dozen or so items monthly.  Another eventual goal is an Etsy shop.  I also could put much more time and effort into my A-Store.  Decluttering may also reveal some items we could sell.

Lastly, RELATIONSHIPS OUTSIDE THE HOME.  I would like to be more of an encouragement and help to my aging mother-in-law and my dad.  I would also like to be more of an encourager to my friends and to the ladies in my Sunday School class.

Several of my friends are setting weekly goals in order to help them reach their yearly goals.  This sounds like a good idea to me and makes those big goals much more doable by breaking them down into smaller parts.  So here are a few goals for my week:
1.  Memorize Psalm 119:1-5.
2.  Read 1 chapter in Essential Virtues.
3.  Exercise at least 3 times this week.
4.  Plan healthy menus.
5.  Spend 1 hour decluttering in computer room.
6.  Craft items for possible sale/gifts.
7.  Write a note to faraway children/grandchildren.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Reflections on 2011

How did January move so quickly?  Here we are at the next-to-last day of the month, and I haven't yet posted about any goals for the new year.  Dare I say I haven't even written any down?

Before I posted about goals, I wanted to post about reflections on 2011.  I saw some reflection questions for 2011 from Simple Mom and thought they would help me get thinking.  Furthermore, I felt that reflecting on 2011 might help me in my goal-setting for 2012.  I'm still not sure about that, but thought I would post the reflection questions and my answers anyway.  So here they are. I will put my answers in italics for easier reading.

Reflection Questions for 2011
1.  What was the single best thing that happened this past year?  I was going to say the birth of a new grandchild in August.  But for the single best thing with eternal consequences, I would have to say the new birth -- a decision for Christ -- of two grandchildren, a 5-year-old in July and an 8-year-old in August.

2.  What was the single most challenging thing that happened?  Having my husband spend days and weeks away from home for work.

3.  What was an unexpected joy this past year?  Having my two oldest granddaughters here for much of the summer.

4.  What was an unexpected obstacle this past year?  My biggest obstacle is clearly myself -- I tend to get in my own way.

5.  Pick three words to describe 2011.  Challenging.  Exhausting.  Rewarding.

6.  Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2011 (don't ask them; guess based upon how you think your spouse sees you).  Challenging.  Tiring.  Stressful.

7.  Pick three words your spouse would pick to describe their 2011 (again, don't ask them).  Challenging.  Exhausting.  Worthwhile.

8.  What were the best books you read this year?  I didn't read a lot of books, but the best was easily What Do I Know About my God?  by Mardi Collier.

9.  With whom were your most valuable relationships?  My husband, my daughters, my granddaughters, and two good friends.

10.  What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?  I realized that I could get through anything in God's strength and with His help.  I have been through extremely hard things in previous years and thought I already knew this, but I learned it in a new way while my husband was working away from home.

11.  In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?  In general, I was able to trust God, not my wildly wavering emotions, and was able to keep my emotions under better control.  This was an answer to my ongoing prayer to grow in emotional stability.

12.  In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?  I definitely deepened my knowledge of God as revealed in His Word, and was reminded again that the better we know God, the better able we are to trust Him.  I also learned, more than ever before, the truth of 1 Corinthians 10:13, that God will not allow us to be tested above what we are able, but will, with the temptation, provide a way to escape so we will be able to bear it.

13.  In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?  I grew closer to my granddaughters as they spent so much time here during the summer.  And I grew much closer to my husband; we were especially encouraged by a couples' retreat we attended in October.

14.  What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?  Being able to exercise creativity and also making things orderly.

15.  What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?  Using my time wisely.

16.  What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?  Procrastination.

17.  What was the best way you used your time this past year?  Writing, studying, encouraging, and teaching (both ladies and granddaughters); also, visiting faraway family.
18.  What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?  Not anything new, but again that God is trustworthy for every situation we face in life.

19.  Create a phrase or statement that describes 2011 for you.  "Another opportunity to trust the Lord."  This is not an original phrase with me; I borrowed it from Elizabeth George's fantastic book, Loving God with All Your Mind.  But it fit my year so perfectly, I decided to use it.

Now to think these things through in relationship to my goals.  Hope I can share something concerning my goals tomorrow, while it's still January!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Winter decorating

"January" garland made by my friend J.
It's a wintry weather day up here in northern New England today!  Snow, sleet and freezing rain have been ongoing since last evening.  Now it's mostly rain, but is still not much above freezing.  There are a multitude of icicles on every little twig.  Wish I dared go out and take some pictures, but I don't -- our driveway is a sheet of ice.  So I'll show some pictures of indoor winter decorating instead!
This is the centerpiece I had on the dining room table until I finished the frosty pillar candles.  The basket looks like it is carved from ice.  The snowflakes have a vintage look and are made from stiff glittery cream-colored felt with red or silver tinsel centers.

Part of one hutch shelf.  Just a plastic  house I painted and put it under my  little cake dome.  Plastic reindeer from my childhood.

Cabin was a school project one of my girls did.  The wooden tree and the cute mice just seemed to go with it.

A card I found years ago (and bought for myself) and little papier-mache snowman baskets.  They are a bit glittery and have orange felt noses.

I painted this little set of papier-mache boxes to resemble a full size set of boxes I had seen painted to resemble a snowman.  I had forgotten all about this until I found it this year.

Adorable dollar store snowmen from years gone by.

Glittery blue church ($10 deal at Marshalls last year!), the glass basket filled with snowflakes, and family heirloom ironstone soup tureen

Frosty pillar candles again ~ love these!

Winter ribbon board in the front hallway

Some of my lighted houses -- love that woodchopper wiping his brow and the other one eating lunch, with a squirrel for company.  The sawmill was a gift from my daughter and  her hubby years ago.

Love the needlework and quilt shop!  The lady just leaving the shop is an after-Christmas find this year for 78¢ or so.  She could be me, leaving the needlework shop with a happy spring in her step.

The lady and little boy just leaving the crockery shop are new this year too, for the same clearance price.  Looks like the little boy wants to go by and see the sawmill in action.

On my winter garland, snowflake mitten made by the amazing Linda Stubbs from Prairie Flower Farm.

One of the sparkly snowflakes on my garland

The pinecones and berries are part of this garland.  I've had it for years and add trims for every season.

This ornament, a gift from my mother-in-law, is on a corner of my ribbon board for winter.

Snowflakes and a vintage card

Tin ice skates and cards with skating scenes

And back to the village to see the public library.  One of my favorites.  It's so much fun to watch my grandchildren (even the older ones) enjoying this little village.  I've found some of my littler ones lying on the floor looking into the lighted windows!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fabric Giveaway at Cotton+Wood!

(The fabrics pictured below are from my stash and are for illustrative purposes only.  They are not the fabrics being given away at Cotton+Wood.)
I made coasters (seen below)  from some of my stash fabrics!
I love fabric; it's an established fact.  Years ago, my family gave me a magnet reading "I'm a Fabric-holic!" and it was quite true.  Even today, my daughters know that a sure-fire gift for me is a selection of fat quarters or half-yard pieces of a variety of fabric.  But I think I can probably now say that I'm a recovering fabric-holic.  I tend not to buy fabric unless I have an idea of what I will use it for.  And I've done a fairly decent job of using up fabric from my stash.

Still, I must admit that my heart beats a little bit faster when I see some wonderful fabric online or when I read about a fabric giveaway like this one:  Fabric Giveaway at Cotton+Wood!.  Maybe you too would like the opportunity to win some new fabric.  If so, head on over to Cotton+Wood and get in on the fun!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tomato Chicken Rice Soup

(Photo by Taste of Home)
I tried a new soup recipe last night and we really enjoyed it, so I thought I would share the link.  You can find it here:  Tomato Chicken Rice Soup.

I should note that I changed a couple of things.  First of all, I skipped the step of browning the flour at the beginning -- in fact, I skipped the flour completely.  I achieved the slight thickening of the soup (which may not even be necessary) by way of reserving 1/2 cup of the water until the end of the recipe and mixing 2 Tablespoons cornstarch -- the equivalent of 1/4 cup flour -- into it.  Then I stirred this into the simmering soup at the very end.

The other thing I changed was the herbs.  I was running low on thyme and I don't care for large amounts of that herb anyway.  So I substituted 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (which typically contains both of these herbs in addition to others) for the oregano and thyme.

We thought this soup was absolutely delicious and I will be likely to make it whenever I have some leftover cooked chicken on hand.  Perhaps your family would enjoy this hearty soup as well!

What are some of your favorite soup recipes?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A sparkly winter centerpiece

I came across this beautiful idea on Homespun with Love and immediately knew I had to try it before winter was over.  It's a centerpiece made with these Frosty Pillar Candles

All of the components, other than Mod Podge®, may be found at Dollar Tree.  You may even have things like pillar candles and glass plates already around your house.  I had to buy the candles and plate, but had Epsom salts and Mod Podge already on hand.  The greenery I used is vintage plastic greenery (with a touch of glitter) from the 1950s.  I knew I had been saving that for something!  I gave it the Epsom salts treatment too.  The only word of warning (and this may not bother you, but just in case) is that once you get all three of those candles unwrapped and in close proximity to one another, the aroma is just a bit overwhelming.  It might even be prudent to set the centerpiece outdoors or on a porch for awhile, just to let the scent dissipate for a bit before displaying it. 

Have fun with this idea!  I certainly did, and a friend suggested these would be nice to do in red and pink for Valentine's Day.  I just might have to try that!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cran-apple sauce

(Photo by Taste of Home)
I've been meaning to post this link for some time.  We enjoyed this delicious sauce with our roast pork for Christmas dinner, but it would be nice with turkey or a roasted chicken as well.  Here is the link:  Cran-Apple Sauce.

We loved the flavor of this fruity applesauce.  However, I didn't puree the sauce as the recipe says to do; I just mashed it a bit with a potato masher.  So the batch that I made didn't have the smooth appearance of the one in the picture.  But if you think you would like your cran-apple sauce better if it was silky-smooth, then by all means go right ahead and puree it.  Enjoy this yummy recipe!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A hearty soup for a cold winter day!

(Photo by Taste of Home)

A few weeks ago, I found a small package of cubed ham in the freezer and was trying to decide how to use it.  I remembered this great Cheddar Chowder recipe I used to make years ago.  So I tried it again, making the recipe somewhat lower in fat, and we really liked this soup.  Hearty and comforting on a cold day!  I have changed the recipe so much from how it was written in an old A Taste of the Country cookbook that I will just write it out the way I made it.

 3 cups water
3 cups diced potatoes
2 cups diced carrots
1 to 2 cups diced celery
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 cups milk
6 Tablespoons flour OR 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup (or more) cubed ham

In a large soup kettle combine water, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until carrots are nearly tender.  Do not drain vegetables or turn off stove burner.

Shake together the milk and flour until well combined.  I like to use one of those Tupperware® plastic shaker gadgets.  These only hold 2 cups, so I did 1 1/2 cups and 3 Tblsp. flour to start with and then did the remaining 1 1/2 cups of milk and 3 Tblsp. flour.  (If you prefer to use cornstarch, it will work better to stir the cornstarch into the milk until it is smooth.)  In either case, flour or cornstarch, slowly stir the milk mixture into the simmering vegetables.  Continue stirring and cooking until the soup has thickened.

Stir in the cheddar cheese until melted; add the cubed ham and heat through.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

This is becoming one of our favorite winter soups!  I hope that you and your family enjoy it, too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A small flurry of handmade gifts

I still have one belated Christmas gift which I'm working on.  But I thought I would show pictures of the last few more-or-less handmade items that I gave.  You'll see why I say "more-or-less" in a minute.

Quite a few years back, I came up with a small "puzzle kit" gift for kids which really seems to go over quite well with kids and parents too.  Basically, it's a small-size child's puzzle from the dollar store or Walmart, packaged with a packet of microwave popcorn and one of hot cocoa mix.   (If you know kids who can't eat popcorn, or their family doesn't have a microwave, you can just adapt this by using animal crackers, fruit treats, or something else instead of popcorn.)I designed Christmas packaging for the packets and a little instruction tag for the kit.  Sometimes I will design new packets specifically to go with a a certain puzzle, like Cars, Toy Story or Thomas the Tank Engine.  Here is the blog post where I tell about how to make the kits. Puzzle Kits

And here are some of the kits I gave this year. I tied them all together with some candy-striped yarn I found at a dollar store in Nevada.


I also made some more "His Eye is on the Sparrow" embroidered pillowcases.  These are a slightly different design from the ones I did last year.

Here's where to find the bird designs:  Bluebird Embroidery Designs.  And, if you would like to read my post from last year about using the designs in other ways, plus learn exactly how I transferred the designs to the pillowcases, you can find that here:  Bluebird & Sparrow projects.

Lastly, I did several crocheted pot holders.  My daughters use these as hot mats on the table, and they keep them in a drawer, so I eliminated the hanging loop on these.  This is the pattern I use:  Scalloped Potholder.  This easy pattern can look so different depending on your color combinations.  I saw one done in red & white which I really loved.  Future project!
In Christmas colors

The reverse side of the hot mat below

More Christmas colors

The variegated color in the next few is called "Winterberry".  I actually only made 2 mats, but they are double-sided.

Hope  you have enjoyed this look at a few little crafted gifts!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Homemade granola bars

This Christmas I tried a couple of new-to-me recipes from my favorite recipe newsletter, Cook & Tell for some of my kitchen gifts..  I had these in mind particularly for a friend and a grandchild who must avoid gluten and wheat.  The first recipe, which can be found here:Date-Nut Casserole Cookies, contains no wheat and is actually more of a sugar-plum like confection than a cookie. The second recipe, Ashley's Granola Bars, did call for wheat germ but I left it out and added coconut instead.

Both recipes are very delicious and they both freeze well.  They are very handy to keep in the freezer in tins or plastic containers for when a little snack is needed.  Here's the granola bar recipe:


2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup flaked or shredded coconut
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
4 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
8 to 10 ounces dried fruit, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400ยบ for toasting.  In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, sunflower seeds.  (I added the almonds here, also, so they could toast at the same time as the other things.)  Spread mixture on a shallow pan and toast for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Line a glass baking dish (I used either a 9-inch square or an 11x7 oblong, I forget which) with waxed paper.  (Be sure to leave overhanging wax paper on the sides so you can more easily lift out the whole mass for cutting later.)  Spray the waxed paper with cooking spray.

Combine the brown sugar, honey, syrup, butter and salt in a medium heavy saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, till the mixture thickens and will drop off a metal spoon in a single drip.  Remove from heat and add the vanilla.  Stir in the toasted ingredients.  Add the fruit (and almonds, if you toasted them separately).  Press the entire mass evenly into the waxed-paper-lined sprayed dish.   Cool for 2 hours.

Remove from dish to cutting board and peel off the waxed paper.  Cut into small bars and wrap individually in plastic wrap.  The amount of granola bars will depend on how small you cut them, but I got a good number from the recipe.

As mentioned, the recipes came from Cook & Tell.  I did adapt the granola bar one somewhat.  Hope you enjoy these recipes if you try them!

Friday, January 13, 2012

A few more sewing projects

Here are the last few pictures of sewing projects I made for gifts.  Still have one gift to finish so can't show a picture of that yet.  And, I have a few other miscellaneous gifts to show, but these are the sewing ones.

For a little grandson, I decided he needed his own little library tote.  His older siblings have these.  They are made from dish towels and are easy and fun to make. 
I actually bought the dish towel for this while we were visiting their family.  I always give a book when I give a library tote.

If you want to try making some, here's the link:  Little Library Totes .

For my newest little grandson, I had to make a name banner to go along with the Happy Birthday banner I made for his family last year.

Half of the banner

The second half.  I have no idea why these photos are so different in size; maybe because I had to stand far back to get all of "Birthday" in.  This project came from Alicia Paulson's wonderful book Stitched in Time.

I also made a "dogbone" pillow for his mom's birthday which was just after Christmas. 
I was trying to sort of replicate a pillow she already owns which gets a lot of use.  This one turned out to be a bit smaller.

You can see the print sort of coordinates with the pillowcases I made for her and her hubby for Christmas.

Also, I previously showed a couple other sewing projects on my Christmas blog.  One was these little purses.

You can read about them here:  Little Purses.
These are made from the little fabric pouches that some pillowcases come packaged in.  This is the front of the purse.

And this is the back of the purse.  I made these for my two youngest granddaughters.

And then last of all I made some more felt food. 

Orange, cherry and lime felt popsicles
Felt Christmas cookies

You can see more pictures and  read about that here:More Fun with Felt Food.

And there you have (for now) the last of my Christmas sewing projects!