Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A conversation with Mia

I love talking with my five-year-old niece, Mia.  She is one bright and inquisitive girl. I had a fun talk with her yesterday on the phone, and I thought you all would enjoy a bit of our conversation.

Hi Mia.  How was school today?


Hey, did Mommy show you the pictures of the snow that I sent her in that e-mail?

Yes, but you know what?  It didn't look real to me.  It looked like pretend snow.

Well, it wasn't pretend, Mia.  It was the real thing.

But it's not winter anymore.  It's spring.  It can't snow in the spring!

Yes it can.

But how did it do it?

Well...it just happened.  God made it snow.

Oh.... Guess where I'm at.

Okay.  Are you in your bedroom?


Are you in the play room?

How did you know?

Um...you told me to guess, so that's what I guessed.

Well, I've got to go. I love you. Bye!

I laughed after having that little talk with her.  She's so funny!  She wants to see snow so badly, so I've invited her to come to Colorado any time she wants.  Someday she'll see that the snow here is real and not pretend.

The picture below of her and Uncle Q is priceless.  I don't remember what they were talking about, but they were sure having a good time.

Sweet, isn't it?

For baby Eli

Mom just finished another sewing project while she's been here visiting. While I'm resting or reading, she just stitches away on my machine. It's motivating me to start up again, especially since I'm healing well and getting my energy back after surgery.

She made this outfit for baby Eli, my youngest sister's baby who is due to be born in about a month.  She used Simplicity pattern #4711 and bought all the material for it at Joann's.  She made the six-month-old size, so that way he'd be able to wear it a few times.  Babies grow so fast!

Isn't it just adorable?

I love the doggy buttons she used.  It goes so perfectly with the colors of the outfit. She is currently working on something else and hopes to get it done before she leaves on Thursday.  I hope she does, so that I can show it to you.

Monday, March 30, 2009

How to make fried plantain chips (amarillos)

For part of our dinner today, Mom made an easy appetizer called amarillos (meaning "yellows"). They are basically fried plantain chips that are a treat in Puerto Rico.  My dad is a native Puerto Rican. My mother was born in the states, but when she was a young teen, moved to the island with her mom and siblings.  She met my dad and began dating him during high school. They moved to California where they came to know the Lord. They were married soon after being saved and have lived there ever since.

So many people think my mom is Puerto Rican and I can see why.  She speaks Spanish fluently, knows the culture and can cook the food without a recipe!  She thought it was a neat idea for me to post this tutorial on how to make plantain chips.  They are very good--sweet and salty at the same time.  Wouldn't this be a fun thing to make when you have friends over?  I think my teen gals would love learning how to make some thing like this.

Okay, so here goes...enjoy!

Fried Plantain Chips

2 plantains
canola or vegetable oil

Step 1:  Peel the plantains and slice them diagonally about a 1/2 inch thick.

Step 2:  Pour oil into a frying pan until it's about an inch deep.  Get it nice and hot for a few minutes on medium heat.  You may even want to start this while you finish up your slicing.

Step 3:  Place each slice one at a time into the pan to avoid splashing the hot oil.  Cook the plantain until it turns golden brown.  Turn over the slices to cook the other side. Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to cook it in a couple batches.

Step 4:  Place golden brown plantain chips on a plate covered with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt.  You'll want to let it cool just a bit because they taste awesome warm!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Treasures at the fabric store!

This afternoon, Mom and I went on a little trip to Joann's to pick up some materials for some projects.  The pink polka-dot and brown fabrics are going to be used to make a baby dress. The other patterned fabrics with the light blue lining is going to be used to make nursing covers for both my sisters who are soon to have their babies.  I had just found out about a great tutorial on one of my favorite blogs, "Happy to be called Mommy" when my mom said that one of my sisters really wanted one.  The blog led me to another site and you can look here if you're interested in making one or two yourself.  These would make great gifts at the next baby shower--and they are easy and affordable to make!

I also found a few things at the store today that will be used for three projects.  The felt will be used for a little something for the jr. church kids; the tiny wooden spools will be used to make a fun toy to give away (and keep a few on hand in our toy box for young visitors); and the tags will be used for a home project.  I will be posting on those as soon as I get them done...in the meantime, can you guess what I will be making?

Mom's blue gingham basket liners

Mom has been stitching away at the machine while I do my best to rest as I heal from surgery. She brought some blue gingham fabric and measurements to make six basket liners. My sister asked Mom if she'd make these to fit inside brown wicker baskets that she'll use to store things for her new baby boy who is arriving soon.

To give you an idea on what these look like, she placed one inside one of my plastic crates.  The baskets measure 9" by 9" and are 6 inches deep.  She cut out pieces for the sides and bottom, and stitched those together. She then sewed on a separate strip for the casing on top.  She got a great deal on ribbon while we were at Joann's today and used that to put through the casing. The bow in the front was the final touch.

Doesn't it look great?  I decided to place this picture with the title of my blog because it is an awesome-looking box!  It will be neat to find out how my sister uses these to store things for baby Eli.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Time with Miss Potter

As my recovery continues, Mom and I have been trying to fill our time with things that I can do.  One of the first things we did was watch the movie, Miss Potter. She had never seen it and I knew she would love it!  While it's not a focus of mine to recommend entertainment on my blog, I must say that this movie is one that is well-worth your time and attention.  Mom is a former kindergarten teacher like me, and so we just love reading children's books.  We are both into art, so Beatrix Potter is up there on our list of top-classic literature.

I own a few of her books, so I thought that after the movie, I'd read them, even though I've read some of them before.  Potter is a delightful story teller, adding her sense of whit and humor throughout the books. Mom even started looking and reading through the books when I was done.  I think it's true to say, "Once a teacher, always a teacher." If you haven't seen the movie or read a lot of the books yet, do so right away. You and your family will learn a lot about history, art, nature, and be exposed to a series of classic literature.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blessings and thoughts during recovery

It's been almost two full days since my surgery, so I wanted to share with you the good things God has been teaching me and doing in my life.

I've known about this surgery for a few months now, but it wasn't until the last few days leading up to it that I really started feeling nervous about it.  I know that God works all things for good, but I also know, too, that Satan likes to get a hold of our minds and discourage us from time to time.  The condition I had is called, hydrosalpinx, which is when one or both fallopian tubes are filled with liquid, due to blockage caused by scar tissue.  My emergency appendectomy a year and a half ago caused me to head back to the hospital a few days later because of an infection. Over time, scar tissue built up in that little area of my body and has caused me pain, discomfort and infertility over the past several months.

With the desire to be pain-free, healthy and have children some day, the only option was to have surgery.  The severity of the scar tissue was unknown until surgery, but the good news is that it was only on that one tube and no where else.  Lord-willing, we'll be able to have our own biological children some time in the future.

During this trial, the Lord has given me some different verses to meditate on.  I love what it says in I Peter 1:7--"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."  Although it's been a difficult time for me, this verse has shown me that this trial must praise and give glory to God.  I want my life and testimony to show that I am depending and trusting in God no matter what the outcome.

Right before surgery, my pastor came and talked to me to give me some encouragement.  He read Psalm 91 and Romans 8:28 which is all about God always having good in store for our lives.  I love Psalm 91:11 and 14. They say, "For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways....Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name."  Isn't it awesome to know that God is always watching over us and has a perfect plan for our lives? 

Quentin surprised me with this bouquet of flowers that I love looking at when I'm sitting down and resting.  Aren't they beautiful?  Gerbera daisies are my favorite flower.  They are so bright and cheery.:) Q also got me this Sew Beautiful magazine to enjoy. I thought it was another encouragement from the Lord when I read the editor's letter, who shared verses from I Peter 5.  Verse 10 says, "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." Thoughts of being able to encourage other women going through the same thing have crossed my mind, but I also know that God is working through this in my life to refine areas in me that need refining and strengthening.

God placed this magazine editor's words in my path, just like he did with a couple Christian nurses at the hospital and my pastor.  The Lord even allowed me to share God's goodness through this with several of the nursing staff and doctors that I believe are not saved.  

As I've flipped through the magazine a couple more times, I've enjoyed each page inside of it. The focus on this edition is on the technique of smocking on children's clothing.  As smocking is something I want to learn how to do, it was primarily the pictures of the children that made me smile.  Perhaps some day I'll be able to make a dress for my own little girl some day.  I will look back at this hard time of waiting and going through the pain and remember how God was working it all for good in my life.  I even know that if He decides to not give us children biologically, that God is good all the time and I must remain content in Him through all of my days. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm home from my surgery:)

Hi everyone!  I tried posting a quick note on Monday to let you all know that I was heading to the hospital on Tuesday for my long-awaited surgery. (something was just not working on our computer, so I'm writing now the after surgery post.) We found out that there was a possibility that I would be going home the same day if everything went well. We were shocked to hear that. And--praise the Lord--the surgery was laproscopic and I came home last night.  I've given some detail under my health posts if you want to a little more detail now.  I'll probably share more in my next post and let you know how I'm recovering and what God's been teaching me.  I just wanted to let you know the good news of having a great outcome to the surgery and that I'm healing well.  I'm in some pain, but I am walking around to help the healing. I'm resting, sleeping and reading a lot.  My husband and mom are making sure that I'm eating what I can and that I'm taking my meds.  The Lord has been so good to me throughout this entire time.  Thanks for all your prayers--I appreciate it.:)

By the way, I just had to show you my puppy dog that I received during my last surgery and hospital stay.  He reminds me that God is constantly taking care of me during hard, physical times. And as we say that a dog is man's best friend, we can remember that God is our best friend, but He's the best one to have because He loves us perfectly and watches over us. 

I'll keep you updated on everything.  In the meantime, I've got some ideas for my next posts that I hope to be helpful.  I'll share those things until I can stay awake and move around more to continue helping in ministry, crafting and taking care of my home.  Now, is the time to rest.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Family photo holder

When I found out that Mom was going to come out for my surgery, I thought I'd make something to give her as a thank you gift.  (She is getting ready to leave CA as I write this.)  I bought this wooden family sign at the dollar store and came up with the idea to make it into a photo holder.

Decorating this was really easy to do.  I just used craft paint to paint a few coats on before painting green vines all over the letters.  I  sand papered the letters to make it look like it was weathered a bit.  I think it worked out pretty well.

To give you an idea on what it's going to look like after Mom puts her own photos in, I took a few of mine and clipped them on the paper clips.

I used large paper clips that I already had on hand to glue on the back of three of the letters. Hot glue was used to secure the clips on. 

I can't wait to see Mom's face when she opens up this gift.  By the way, the jewelry I made at the jewelry-making party last week with the teen girls is for her, too. I will have to show a picture of her wearing the necklace some time while she's here.

Thanks Mom for all the prayers you've given on my behalf and for the help that you're going to be to us as I recover from surgery this week.  We love you!

Spring cleaning: The bathroom

Yeah--the bathroom is done!  Now, I can relax...all the rooms in the condo are done except for our bedroom.  That will have to wait for a while because of my upcoming surgery (more on that later today).  The bathroom is sparkling clean and organized. Below is the after picture.

Here's what was accomplished in the cleaning and organization of the bathroom:

1.  Wipe down all walls, shelves and cabinet doors.
I used a bowl of soapy water to do this.

2.  Scrub part of the ceiling that has some mold on it.
This mold comes back a lot, so we're thinking perhaps it may be time soon to get rid of it by painting over it with Kilz paint.

3.  Thoroughly scrub bathtub, toilet and sink.

4.  Wash rug set and shower curtain, then replace the plastic liner.

5.  Dust towel caddy and reorganize items on it.

6.  Clean out cabinet above and below sink.
This includes cleaning out medicines that have expired! Above the sink are every day use items like contact lens solution and deodorant.  I have a few plastic bins under the sink to hold different things.  One holds first aid supplies; one holds toiletries; one holds shoe polishing supplies; one holds extra Mary Kay items; one holds manicure/pedicure supplies; and the last one holds sunblock and odd n' ends items.  The toilet paper and extra towels are also stored under the sink.

7.  Clean mirror.

8.  Reorganize cleaning supplies on shelf.

9.  Clean stackable washer and dryer unit.

10. Clean light fixture and replace any dead bulbs.

11.  Clean trash can, scale and plunger.

12.  Mop floor.

How's your spring cleaning going?  Keep motivated--you can do it!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Coconut granola bars

These granola bars are sooo good!  My friend, Ruth, made these for us when we joined her and her family on a vacation last summer. She made these for all of us to enjoy while we were on our way to Durango, Colorado.

I finally made them yesterday for a special treat for Q. They are healthy and so easy to make.  Enjoy!  I know you'll love them once you try them. :)

Coconut granola bars

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey 
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup sunflower kernels
1/3 cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons sesame seeds

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, peanut butter, honey, butter and vanilla.  Combine the remaining ingredients;  add to the peanut butter mixture, and stir to coat.  Press into a greased 9 x 13" pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.  Cut into bars.  (I cut mine into 16 delicious bars.)

Spring cleaning: The spare bedroom

Our spare bedroom, also nick-named, "the dungeon" was cleaned and organized this past Friday and Saturday.  It's the place where things were just tossed here and there and for the longest time, it was driving me crazy!  There are still a couple little things like finishing up the filing and decorating that I'll do some time soon, but in the mean time, we're going to enjoy having this room spotless. I took a before picture, but it could not be uploaded. I've been having some trouble with that lately, so the picture below is one I just took and it's the after picture.

Here's what Q and I were able to get done in this room:

1.  Wipe down all walls.
I used a bowl of soapy water to do this.

2.  Wipe down the closet doors and main bedroom door.
I used a rag and furniture polish to do this.

3.  Put everything away that was lying around on the beds, dresser and desk.

4.  Clean and organize craft and paper supply cupboard.

5.  Clean window and blinds.

6.  Straighten items under the beds.

7.  Wipe down counters, desk, printer and baseboards.

8.  Clean mirror behind door.

9.  Straighten clothes, shoes, and other items in husband's closet.

10. Vacuum room thoroughly, including heat register and along corners and edges.

Next room--the bathroom!  So glad things are moving along and that I can say that almost everything is finished for my spring cleaning.:)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lunch at Hu Hot Mongolian Grill

We had an activity today with the jr. high kids.  It's the end of spring break, and what better way to enjoy it than to go to Hu Hot and then play a few games of volleyball? Some of the teens had never been to this restaurant before, so for them, it was quite the experience.

The restaurant is located in the old part of town. This building, like many others, is made of brick.

The first thing we had to do was fill our little bowls with raw meat, vegetables, oils and sauces. Chicken, beef and fish are the main meat choices and the veggie section is a well-stocked salad bar!

After you get your bowl filled, you wait in line until one of these cooks takes your bowl and places it on the huge grill.  The aroma is awesome and it's so fun to watch how these guys get several bowls cooked at the same time.

Here are two of our guys, Grant and Jon, enjoying their meal. Forks are given, but several of the teens chose to use chopsticks.

Below is my first bowl (yup, I had seconds!)--doesn't it look scrumptious? I love chicken and noodles. I also added broccoli, peppers, mushrooms and onions. Crunchy noodles and sesame seeds were added to the top! We were so full of our food and wondered how we would play volleyball when we got back to church.  We managed somehow--and had a great time!

Spring toes

Happy spring everyone!  Are you enjoying this beautiful day? To celebrate the beginning of spring, I decided to give myself a quick pedicure--nothing fancy, but simply a way to welcome the new season.

I first soaked my feet in warm, soapy water, followed by a treatment of satin hands by Mary Kay.  While I buffed my feet with the buffering cream, I also did my hands. After rinsing the treatment off, I made sure all the old paint was off my toes before painting a coat of clear polish. I used yellow and red craft paint to paint on a flower on each of my toes. After letting that paint dry, I put on another coat of the nail polish.

Wouldn't doing something like this be great for a teen girls activity--or perhaps something fun that you can do with a friend who just had a baby or needs some encouragement? These are the thoughts that I had as I was giving myself this pedicure. Things like this can be turned into a ministry opportunity.

Although my big toe is not the "cutest" one to see, it was the one that turned out the best. So there ya go--a picture of my big toe (it's probably going to be the only time you'll see a picture like this!:)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring cleaning: The kitchen

I started the task of cleaning and organizing the kitchen yesterday.  I finally finished earlier this afternoon.  I'm so glad that this is finally done.  It has probably been the hardest room to do since there's so much stuff to organize.  Well, here's the list of what was done in our kitchen:

1.  Wipe down each shelf inside cupboards.
I used a general purpose cleaner for all the cleaning, except for the oven.

2.  Wipe down all the cupboard doors.

3.  Organize dishes, pots, food and other kitchen items in all of the cupboards and drawers.

4.  Thoroughly clean the refrigerator and freezer.

5.  Thoroughly clean the stove top and oven.  (what a messy task!)
I used a concentrated cleaner called "melamagic" to get all the grime off.

6.  Clean the top of the cupboards and dust the tin cans.

7.  Scrub sink, then polish with mineral oil.

8.  Sweep and mop floor.

9.  Clean and disinfect trash can.

10.  Clean microwave.

11.  Wash kitchen rug and pot holders.

12.  Wipe down walls and canisters on counter.

Here's my beautiful shiny new sink.  After scrubbing it out, I polished it with mineral oil.  It really works wonders!

Here's one of my food cupboards before I cleaned and organized it.

Here it is after I cleaned it out and organized it.  I changed things up a bit, placing those staple items that I don't use very often on the top shelf.  The things on the bottom two shelves are easier for me to get to now. 

Below is my finished kitchen--yeah!  I love how it is organized and spotless.  Notice my collection of tin cans.  Some are new and were made to look old, while others are really old (given to me by family members).  It's a fun collection and such an easy way to decorate the kitchen.  Now, on to the next room--the dreaded spare room which seems to accumulate so much stuff! 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My Garden: The growing begins...

A couple days ago, I noticed that a few of my starter pots had some green inside.  My chamomile plants are beginning to grow.  It's been a little warmer this week, so I've placed all my pots outside to get some sunshine.  Now, I can't wait until the other ones begin to grow.  It could be any day now....

Aren't the little plants so cute?  After planting my herbs and tomatoes, I found an organic seed packet that was given to me as a gift, so I decided to plant those as well.  Most of them have also sprouted and it's been just about a week.  I don't know what kind of flower it is as the packaging did not say.  I guess I'll have to wait to be surprised!

Spring cleaning: The closet and hallway

Today, I tackled the job of cleaning the closet and hallway.  The closet really needed some work, but after organizing it a bit, I think it looks so much better!

I tried uploading a picture of the before look for the closet, but for some reason it would not work.  So enjoy the after look all by itself.:) Here's a list of what was accomplished today:

1.  Clean and organize closet.
After taking everything out, I used a rag and soapy water to clean the walls and shelf.

2.  Wipe down walls and closet door.
I used a rag and soapy water to do the walls.  I used furniture polish for the wooden door.

3.  Wipe picture frames.

4.  Clean baseboards.

5.  Clean light fixture.

6.  Vacuum carpet, including edges and corners.
I used the hose attachment to get all those little crumbs that like to hide in the corners.

I thought you'd like to see what my hallway walls look like.  On one side, I have wedding pictures.  The frame on the left is a grouping of pictures that I've labeled, "first look." I used a tiny metal frame and ribbon from our wedding and placed it in the center of this frame and on the other one on the far right.  The one in the center is one of our favorites that was given to us by Q's brother who took most of our wedding pictures.  The frame on the right is a grouping of pictures that I've labeled, "first kiss." And yes, our first kiss was on our wedding day!  I will have to share our love story some time soon with all of you.

On the other side of the hallway, I've placed this eight-opening picture frame to display pictures of our eight nephews and nieces.  With three more on the way, I'm going to have to change the pictures on this soon.  The title, "The Family is one of God's Masterpieces" is a simple rub-on that I bought from a company called Uppercase Living.  It is semi-permanent in the fact that once it goes on, it stays secure--but once you decide to remove it, it will tear in pieces and cannot be used again.  The company offers lots of font designs, quotes and colors to fit any room in your house.

Well, I've already begun deep cleaning and organizing the next room in the house--the kitchen! I will post about that soon.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Jewelry-making party!

The jr. high girls and I had a great time making jewelry last night.  This was our prayer group activity for the year. I like to do different things each year for variety.  My friend, Ruth, has been making jewelry for a few years and had offered to show us how to make a necklace and bracelet set.

Jordan and Helen were two of the five girls that came to make some beautiful jewelry.  Ruth showed us how to place our beads on a paper plate to get them ready to be strung.  The girls chose their favorite color combinations and went to work.  They were able to choose between making a one, two, or three strand necklace.  When they were done, they made a matching bracelet.

Kimia made this set for her mother. I love the different shades of green beads matched up with the ruby red beads. She said that her mom needed some encouragement and thought that this gift would cheer her up.  So sweet...

Three of the gals posed their wrists so that I could get this shot of their cute bracelets.

Helen's double strand necklace turned out really well.  Audrey's necklace (below) matches her sister's wedding colors.  She thought perhaps she could wear this to the wedding this coming June.

I had fun making my own jewelry set for the first time.  I made mine for a special member of my family...but cannot say who it's for because I don't want her to find out yet!  I will show pictures of her wearing it some time in the future.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring cleaning: The Dining Room

I tackled the second room in our condo today.  It was definitely easier than cleaning and organizing the living room, but it still took me between one and two hours to completely finish. Here's a list of what was accomplished:

1.  Wipe down walls.
I used a bowl of soapy water and a rag to do this.

2.  Dust bookshelf.

3.  Organize books and look through to see which ones we don't want anymore.

4.  Clean and organize the two cupboards that are filled with china and serving dishes.  
The picture doesn't show these, but these are located to the left of the table.  There are a few shelves in each, and I had to take things out completely to clean it thoroughly.   Everything inside is even neater than it was before.

5.  Spot clean cloth-covered chairs.
I used a rag with soapy water to do this.

6.  Clean and vacuum heat register.

7.  Wipe down light fixture.

8.  Declutter red basket and other things on top of the china cupboard.
This red basket is where we keep pens, stamps, mints, and mail for my husband to look through.  Every now and then it gets really full and needs to be cleaned out.

9.  Thoroughly vacuum floor, including corners using the hose attachment on vacuum cleaner.

10.  Wipe down picture frames.
My collection of antique food prints are on the wall to the right of the table.

That's it for this room.  Next time...the hallway and closet!  I think it will be another easy one before we hit the rest of our little place.  Believe me, there's a lot more work to be done, especially in our spare bedroom (really not looking forward to that, but it has to be done!)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Parent Appreciation Banquet

Last night's event was probably one of the most special things we do in youth group.  Every year we have a banquet to honor the parents of the teens.  We call it the H.A.P.P.Y. Banquet; it means "honoring, appreciating, and praising the parents of youth."

My husband and I, along with a few helpers, put everything together for this banquet.  Q does the majority of the cooking and I take care of the set-up.  

For the past week or so, I painted twelve pots like this to use as centerpieces and gifts for the evening.  I painted four pots red, four pots a dark purple and four pots brown.  I found matching ribbon to tie around the pots.  I placed tape on a few spots on the ribbon to secure it onto the pots.  Q found three kinds of perennials to fill the pots with. The one in the center is a strawberry plant.  Two pots were placed on each table, then given as gifts to the parents at the end of the evening.

I've been taking pictures of teens and their parents for the past couple weeks at church.  I used these to put on photo holders that were placed in the center of each table. On one side of the base of the photo holder, I printed the quote, "The family is one of God's greatest masterpieces."  On the other side, I printed the verse, "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord."  The parents were able to take the photos home with them after the banquet.

Our dinner consisted of turkey devan, cheese and garlic potatoes, frog-eye salad, proscuitto pinwheels, pineapple wedges and ice cream sandwiches.  Quentin made three types of ice cream sandwiches for everyone to enjoy:  double chocolate chip cookies with chocolate ice cream and walnuts, macadamia nut cookies with snicker-caramel ice cream, and chocolate chip cookies with reese's peanut butter cup ice cream.  They were so huge and delicious!  Of course, the teen boys went back for seconds.  They seem to be always hungry!

This is one of our families enjoying the evening.  After our meal, we had a program in store for them.  A picture slideshow showing all the teen activities of the year was followed by a story-telling competition, a video in which the teens expressed their thankfulness to their parents, and a quiz entitled, "How well do you know your parents?"  The teens filled out the answers before hand and the parents checked the answers and even shared some of them.  They were quite hilarious!

We also had special music.  The teens all sang in a choir, and then a few of the girls sang in an ensemble.  My husband gave a short challenge to the teens about following their parents in the things that they are teaching them now--those things that the Lord describes in how a young lady and young man ought to be like.

The banquet was a blessing and encouragement to the parents of our teens.  This is a such a great thing for our church to do year after year.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hooray for my awesome choirs!

I returned just a bit ago from our annual state competition.  The academic portion of it was held yesterday, and the music portion was held today.  I am one tired choir director, but tired in a good way.  My choirs and I have worked for months on the two songs that they each had to perform today.  It is always such tough competition with the choirs, but I'm happy to say that my jr. high choir placed 2nd and my jr. high ladies group placed third.  My highschool choir did an awesome job even though they did not place.  Last year (my first year), I had a lot more vocal leaders...but this year I was faced with the challenges of students who felt like they couldn't sing or who had never been in a choir before. So, looking at it from that point of view, I can honestly say we did our best today with all that we did.  That is all God expects from us, too, right? 

One of my biggest desires is that my students would love to serve God with their talents. Singing isn't always the easiest thing to do in front of a crowd, but if they can look beyond that and serve God with all they have, then that would be so awesome!  We prepare well to be excellent and to give glory to God in all that we do.  A verse that I shared recently with the choirs is,

"Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."  I Corinthians 10:31

We've got just a couple months left of school this year, which includes one final concert.  I'm sure the things we learn from reading the judging forms will help us improve for this next performance. I'm excited to continue helping my choirs improve their singing, but most importantly sing to the glory of God. 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring cleaning: The Living Room

I've just started my spring cleaning this year and I'm so glad that I was able to finish one room today--the living room.  This picture only shows a part of the room, but I will describe for you some of the cleaning and organization I did for our largest room in our condo.

1.  Wipe down door and walls. 
I used a bowl full of soapy water and rag to do this.

2.  Dust furniture.

3.  Clean and vacuum heat registers and air conditioner.
It's easy using a hose attachment on the vacuum cleaner!

4.  Clean windows and blinds.

5.  Mop entry way.

6.  Sort through magazines in basket and get rid of what we don't want anymore.

7.  Wipe down picture frames.

8.  Organize little dresser that has tools, lightbulbs, candles and other small household items.

9.  Straighten movies and cds and get rid of what we don't want anymore.

10.  Sort through games and organize the inside of the boxes.

11.  Vacuum and disinfect sofa and chairs.

12.  Clean out fireplace and fireplace nook.
I've actually started this, but my husband said he'll clean out all the ashes soon.

13.  Vacuum entire floor, even using the hose attachment to get the edges and corners.

This cleaning took me a few hours, but it is so well worth it!  Next time on this spring cleaning edition, I'll post about the next room--the dining room.

Happy Spring cleaning!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Grocery bag dispenser

I don't remember for sure where I got this idea from (perhaps in a magazine), but it's a great one.  We reuse our plastic grocery bags for the bathroom trash can and for other odds and ends around the house. But for the longest time, they were such a disorganized mess in one of our kitchen drawers that it was driving me crazy!

Then, this idea to use an empty tissue box came my way and I thought it was a neat way to store the bags in.  Before filling it with bags, I reinforced the sides with packaging tape.  Then, I stuffed as many as I could in the box and placed it in one of my kitchen drawers.  That's all there is to it.  When I need to pull one out, I get what I need without the others flying all over the place!

Do any of you have ideas for storing bags and other kitchen necessities that you just can't live without?  Please, do share...:)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bacon-wrapped apple BBQ chicken

I love this recipe and I agree that you will, too.  This fabulous crock-pot chicken recipe was found on 5dollardinners.com.  Besides its wonderful sweet and tangy taste, a great feature of this recipe is that it is so economical.  Enjoy the following recipe and check out that site for some more scrumptious five dollar dinners.  You can also find the picture to this recipe there as well--we ate ours so fast that I didn't have time to take a picture!

Bacon-wrapped apple BBQ chicken  (serves 4)

3-4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1-2 apples, peeled and grated
1 lemon, juiced
6-8 slices bacon

2-3 sweet potatoes and 1 cup chopped frozen broccoli (for side dishes)

1.  In small bowl, combine BBQ sauce with grated apple and lemon juice.
2.  Place chicken breasts in base of crock pot, pour BBQ/apple mixture over the chicken.  Wrap two pieces of bacon around each chicken breast.  Set to low and cook for 8 hours.
3.  Slit sweet potatoes with knife or vent with fork.  Bake sweet potatoes at 350 degrees for 1 hour in baking dish with 1/3 inch water.  Cover with foil.  Remove and let cool about 10 minutes.  Peel skins off of the potato and mash.  Serve with cinnamon and butter if you like.
4.  Cook frozen broccoli as directed on package.
5.  Serve yummy chicken breast with side of broccoli and sweet potatoes.

Monday, March 9, 2009

My Garden: planting seeds indoors

For a few weeks now, Q and I have been talking about having a garden this year.  We wondered what we would do, especially since we don't have a lot of space in our patio.  Trying some things in pots seems to be the answer.  We'll also just scatter some mixed flower seeds on the dirt bed on the patio when the weather gets warmer and there seems to be no snow in the forecast.

We picked up a couple herb packets at Wal-mart--oregano and basil.  I also found a couple seed packets in my gardening box that I had forgotten about.  The peppermint and chamomile seeds were freebies last year from Celestial Seasonings.  We also thought we'd try growing cherry tomatoes in a pot this year.

To start my garden indoors, I used about 2 dozen styrofoam cups.  I poked four holes on the bottom of each one, then filled them with potting soil.  Before adding seeds, I labeled each cup. I did about three cups per herb and about a dozen tomato cups.  I placed 2-3 tomato seeds in each one. I placed the cups on three trays lined with foil then watered them.  They are sitting on my dining room table, but I hope to give them a little sunshine when the weather warms up a bit.  I am really excited to see these seeds grow--I'll keep you posted on how they do.