Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Quentin's awesome grilled chicken salad

In May, we invited a missionary couple to join us for a Saturday lunch. They were going to be our guest speakers in church the next day. As Q was talking on the phone with them, he learned that they couldn't eat any refined sugar. So, we began thinking on what we could serve them. 

Q came up with a delicious grilled chicken salad that makes an incredible summer meal! We've already had it a few times.

When Q went to the store to prepare this meal for the first time, he had a hard time finding salad dressings without any form of sugar. The Newman's Own brand seemed to be the best one, so he picked up some Italian dressing. Thankfully, the missionaries happened to have a new bottle of dressing in their car which they brought in to use. Choosing vegetables was easy and so were the croutons. Since I make my own using homemade bread made with honey, it worked out well. The last part was figuring out how to season the chicken. He found this amazing seasoning blend...

This roasted garlic and herb seasoning blend is full of flavor! A couple hours before he grills, Q coats the chicken pieces with olive oil and sprinkles a ton of this stuff on. Yum-O! (as Rachael Ray would say...:)

We like to add cucumbers, carrots, red peppers, sunflower seeds, croutons and our favorite dressing to this salad. While Q prefers his blue cheese dressing, I pour on my honey mustard almost all the time. Yesterday we enjoyed this meal together with something new. We had some lettuce growing in our garden, so we were able to add that to some store-bought lettuce.

For guests or for your family, this meal is perfect on a summer day! Feel free to add in your favorite vegetables and salad dressings. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Organization tips for children's ministry

I've been enjoying teaching Sunday School this year. I teach the primary class, and Zann teaches the junior class. We are currently using the Joyful Life curriculum put out by A Beka Book. The program is well-organized; the songs are wonderful; and the stories chosen for each age group are great!  

Just as in any ministry, we should strive to be excellent in all we do. Being organized in our preparation helps so much. When we begin our class time, we're not focused on the materials, but rather on teaching these precious children the truths in God's Word. 

Here are some tips that have been a huge help to me each week:

1. Pray. Pray consistently for your students by name. Pray that God would help you teach the lesson well and to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading.

2. Prepare ahead of time. Don't wait until the night before to prepare yourself for Sunday's lesson. Work ahead a few days so that you know the story well enough to not be glued to the page. Looking ahead also allows you to see if you need to gather any other materials needed to supplement your lesson.

3. Practice, practice, practice. Work on any songs you don't know and practice telling the Bible story aloud a few times.

4. Pull out the worksheets early. I use a file folder to hold the worksheets and attendance stickers. They are ready to go before the children arrive. You don't want to waste any time trying to find the right page. 

5. Post-it notes work wonders! I mark the songs we're going to sing with these notes marked with #1, #2, #3, etc., in the song book. When I'm leading songs in the opening time, I can easily flip to the next one without any trouble. 

I hope these tips were a help and encouragement to you in whatever area of ministry you do in your local church. By the way, if you happen to get sick or have to leave town, these tips will help someone fill in for you easily. 

Have a great week ministering to others in your corner of the world.:)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rubber bands to the rescue!

We all know that rubber bands are handy-dandy little things that can make life easier in lots of ways...but did you know that they can help you with mopping your floors?

I've held onto my Swiffer Wet Jet for a long time, hoping to find a way to use it more economically. The refill bottles and cleaning pads were costing me too much. I went back to using my sponge mop...and we all know how those work, right? There seemed to be more dirt left on the floor after I mopped with it!

Because the Swiffer mop has velcro strips on the bottom, I thought that perhaps a microfiber cloth would easily attach to it. I tried this way a few times and it was frustrating because the cloth kept moving around and I couldn't mop very efficiently. Then, the idea to wrap rubber bands on both ends popped into my head and it worked wonderfully! I just spray the cleaner onto the floor and mop away.

When you're done, you'll have a dirty cloth and clean floors! Just throw the rag into the wash and it will be good to use again the next time. 

I read somewhere that you can attach velcro strips to the bottom of rags to attach to a Swiffer mop. Has anyone tried this way, and if so, how well did it do? I may give this idea a try some time. Happy cleaning!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Marvelous Macarons

I was able to go with a friend to another free class at the library. This time it was to learn how to make macarons. Have you heard of them? They are so yummy and almost too pretty to eat!

These can be made into so many flavor combinations. We got to try some and were also able to take a few home. Peppermint, blueberry, green tea, chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and lemon were most of the flavors we got to taste. Of course, lemon was my favorite!;)

If you know how to make meringues, then making these small French delicacies shouldn't be a problem for you. After you make a basic meringue batter, you mix in a combination of almond flour and powdered sugar to make the cookies. Then after they have been cooled you put in some filling between two of them and eat it (in approximately two bites!).

There is a great blog called Tartelette that has some fabulous recipes for macarons. You'll have to go check it out!

Besides just tasting these yummy treats, we got to try making some ourselves. Our group of four ladies made these coffee-flavored ones. Take a look--we thought they came out pretty good for our first try...

I filled some up with ganache (it's a chocolate filling). I made sure I took one for Q to try. He really liked it a lot. I think we both agreed that the chocolate with chocolate filling was awesome, too!

So...I wonder when I should try my hand at these at home. Can you imagine some red, white and blue ones for the fourth of July? Hmmm....we'll see what I can do!:)

Have any of you tried making these before? If you've made them or even tried them, what is your favorite flavor? I think these would be awesome for any get-together or special occasion. Go ahead--give it a try and let me know how they turn out.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My first real knitting project

After getting involved with the kids' knitting class at the library, I was hooked with this new craft. I found the needles and yarn from the beginners knitting kit I had tried before and started over. The kit and instructions to make a scarf originally came from Harrisville Design Company, but I found it at the local thrift store for just a quarter. 

The wool yarn is actually two thin pieces twisted together to make it a chunky ball of yarn. The colors are so pretty. 

I used size 13 needles and cast on ten stitches instead of nine like the instructions said. The entire scarf was made with the garter stitch (knit stitch). With the four-inch fringe on both ends the scarf measures approximately sixty inches long.

This skinny scarf is only four inches in width, but I think it would be fine for any lady or young girl. I'll be giving mine away to a special little person in my life, and I know she will love it! I can't wait to learn the purl stitch so I can have more options for future projects. 

What new craft have you been enjoying lately? I thought I would never learn to knit and enjoy it...but I really do! It has been a great way for me to relax in the evenings. Happy knitting!:)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lovin' those lemons: delicious lemon smoothie

Summer has just begun, but I've already have had lots of these...

My blender is getting a workout this year! I've had a few orange smoothies and have added in some fruit to it, but today was the first time I tried making a lemon smoothie. It was sooo good! Since I like Sonic's lemon cream slush, I thought I'd try using the same base recipe as I've done with the other smoothies to see if I could make it myself. It ended up tasting pretty close to the original. The only thing I noticed that was different was that mine didn't have any crushed ice in it, although I put some ice cubes in at the beginning. I probably crushed the ice too long...oh well! I can try it again soon.:)

The recipe I've been using is called "No Egg" Orange Julius and it comes from Camp Ironwood's cookbook called, Come and Dine. You can use any flavored juice concentrate that you like. With the lemon one, I just used Minute Maid lemonade concentrate. You can also feel free to add berries, bananas or any other fruit to the mix. Enjoy!

No Egg Orange Julius

6 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate
1 cup milk
1 cup water (if you want your smoothie thicker, you can replace the water and use all milk)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
10-12 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a quart capacity blender or food processor with chopping blade. Process until slushy consistency is achieved an serve immediately. Makes about 5 cups.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Welcome Home

A couple in our church moved into a new home after months of praying and searching. We rejoiced with them as God answered their prayers.

I thought it would be a neat idea to give them a housewarming gift. Yesterday afternoon, Q and I went to their place to give them this cookie-scented candle.

It smells just like oatmeal raisin cookies--yum! I wrote welcome home on a tag and punched a hole in it. In my scrap booking supply I found some keys I had saved to use for something, and this was the perfect way to use one of them. I put ribbon through the tag and key and tied a bow in the front.

Here's a list of housewarming gift ideas that you can use with people in your life. They would work for new neighbors, friends, and family. Some can be store-bought and others can be home made. The possibilities are endless. 

1. bouquet of flowers or house plant
2. fresh loaf of bread or other baked goodies (attach the recipe)
3. a mug with hot cocoa mix, coffee mix or candy
4. handmade coasters or pot holders
5. printed Scripture in a frame
6. candy dish (fill it with candy, too:)
7. kitchen towels and wooden spoon tied with a ribbon
8. guest book
9. picture frame or other small decorative item
10. scented candle

Can you add any ideas to this list? I would love to hear your ideas!:) 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Spring cleaning: our bathroom

Hurray! The entire house is now done...right before summer officially begins this coming week. It feels really good to be done. Next year, I will begin earlier, and I won't have as many projects (at least I don't think so!) because some of the work in each room had to do with decorating and getting things organized in our new place.

There are a few things I have added to a project list that should get done this summer. Sometimes lists just get longer, so we'll just see how well we do in the next few months. ;)

Here's what gone done in our bathroom:

1. The fabric shower curtain was washed.
2. The sink, tub, toilet and walls were cleaned thoroughly.
3. Parts of the ceiling were cleaned because I saw some orangy-yellow spots up there. (Does anyone know what causes that? It was easily cleaned off, but I'd hate to keep wiping them off every few months!)
4. The vanity and cupboards were cleaned and organized.
5. The clock and mirror were cleaned.
6. The floor was mopped.

Here's a project for this summer...see the space above the new heater that was installed? It's a terrible eye sore and I don't know what to do with it. I've thought about sticking in some fake flowers in there, but I'm not sure if it would look good. The pictures to the left can be moved (or removed because they're just $1 store finds and I'm okay to part with them) to make the new decoration above the heater work. What do you think? Can you help me out?:)

Let me know if you have any creative ideas for my bathroom problem. I'd love to hear them. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Father's Day cards

Father's Day is almost here, so I wanted to show you a couple of cards I've made in past years and the ones I made this year. There are six men in my family for whom I give cards to each dad, father-in-law, and four brothers-in-law. I hope to add Q to the list some day.:)

This football card was made using mostly stickers and markers. I don't remember for sure, but I think the inside said, "Hurray for Father's Day!" in a bubble next to a jumping cheerleader. 

I was glad to find this "tool" sticker border in my stash of scrap booking supplies. Each word began with a letter sticker, then I wrote in the rest with a black marker.

I bought a scrap booking pack for a few dollars at Big Lots a while ago. Inside were these cute tie stamp stickers. I decided to incorporate a real tie some how and the borders are the best I could come up with. I cut up a couple of ties that I had in my scrap fabric stash and cut out strips using pinking shears. Then I stitched them onto the cards. Inside I wrote, "Happy Father's Day!"

I had two colors of cards, and I like this light blue one the best. The stickers also varied in design and they were all so cute! 

I'm thankful for my Dad whom I call, Pa, (short for the Spanish name for father, Papi). He's always encouraged me to live for God. He's such a hard worker and is a funny guy, too! 

Happy Father's Day!:)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Johnson Garden Journal

While I was making a garden journal for our nephew, Gabriel, Q asked me to make one for us. I changed a few things on the inside and used a regular-sized 3-ring binder to hold everything together.

For the cover, I printed the words on our computer, then hand-painted the pictures. I found a couple clip art pictures on line and used those as a guide to paint the corn stalk and strawberry plant. 

Here are the tabs I used for the journal. I printed off worksheets on the Homestead Garden website.

Garden chore list
Catalog wish list
Layout & Design
Plant information
April-October tabs (included are the "garden journal" sheet which has room to write a "to do" list and write notes on things that are growing; also included is the "seed starting notes" page.)
Future reference
Garden reference/contact information
Extra paper

I also included some sheet protectors and dividers with pockets to store things in. If you didn't get to see the video on how I put Gabriel's journal together, you can go here and watch it. 

Hope you're able to use this idea to journal to help you with your garden from year to year. Happy gardening!:)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Annalina's button and felt slippers

I couldn't wait to show this fun craft idea, but it took me a while because I wanted to see if I could do it....and things have been pretty busy around here!

During my trip to California, I got to spend a lot of time with my craftsy niece, Annalina. She showed me her slippers that she had received as a special gift. 

Aren't they just adorable and funky at the same time? I love them!:) The buttons were already on the slippers. She can layer on the felt pieces and change them any time she wants to.

I wanted to try this out on my own pair of slippers to see if I could make something like this for some little people in my life. I sewed on four buttons on mine, although Annalina's slippers have more.

I drew out a few designs on card stock to make patterns for the felt pieces. I cut those out then traced them onto five different colors of felt.

I made two sizes of flowers, snowflakes and hearts and made them in each color.

I cut out a tiny slit that looks like a plus sign in the middle of each one. Then, I started designing my slippers...

Ta-da! There you have it! I can probably make a bigger size in each of the designs to layer on more, but I'm happy with this for now. 

So fun and cute for the little ones in your life....have fun!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Spring Cleaning: the office/craft room

As the official start of summer is around the corner, the spring cleaning is just about done. All we have left to do is the second bathroom, which should be done within the next couple of days.

The office/craft room was worked on here and there over a few days. I'm glad that it's organized better because it was quite a mess!

Here's what got done in this room:

1. Every cupboard and drawer was thoroughly organized.
2. All the furniture was cleaned/dusted.
3. The sewing bookshelf was organized.
4. The windows were cleaned.
5. A huge stack of papers was weeded through and filed.
6. A couple of things were put on the wall, including the clock that you see in the above picture.
7. The floor was vacuumed. 

This counter under the windows was covered with projects, including the greenhouses which have now been moved. The fan sits there as it helps blow cool air into the room for the summer. I'd like to make curtains some day for these windows which overlook our back yard.

I just have a couple decorations on that shelf to keep it simple and neat.

This memo board, which can also act as a calendar is finally on the wall! I have to-do lists, notes, coupons and a couple of pictures that serve as inspiration for future craft projects.

My sewing bookshelf is a lot neater now, but I'd like to do more to it in the future. I'd love to put in some bins to keep things hidden and make it look more appealing.

Just one more area left...can't wait!:)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Our Garden: there's lots of growing going on...

Q and I have been encouraged with how the garden is growing. This morning, we spent some time transplanting the roma tomato plants into bigger cups and pots. My second try with these this season is really going well. Right now we are keeping them indoors for most of the day. We're gradually increasing their time outside so that it's not a big shock to them when we place them in the garden.

I was so excited to see some strawberries growing....

There were a few more strawberries a few days ago, so I think a critter has been getting into them. We'll have to put some kind of covering over them.

Q's experiment with this upside-down pepper is looking good! Even after a couple days of cold and lots of rain recently, the plant is thriving.

The lettuce is so green and I can't wait to eat some of it. The bean plants, corn, potatoes, carrots, and melons are growing more and more each day. The rhubarb plant on the side of the house is huge, so I'll be cutting and freezing a bunch this week.

The roses are absolutely gorgeous! Every time I go outside I notice new buds opening up. Isn't the Lord good to give us such beauty in the things He has created?

How's your garden doing? I can't wait to start harvesting some of the things we're growing, but it still may be a while...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Total Forgiveness

I recently finished reading a very encouraging, but challenging book. In fact, after I got it in the mail, I was a bit nervous to read it. 

Forgiveness is something we all struggle doing from time to time. So, even though I knew I needed to read the book, Total Forgiveness, I was afraid of how my heart would feel...and yes, it convicted me in every way. 

I first heard about the book on the radio from Focus on the Family. Dr. Dobson and the author, R. T. Kendall, were talking about the topic of forgiveness and it caught my attention. At the time, I was dealing with forgiving others in my heart. When things happen that don't seem right or fair, it's hard to get past it. So many times I think of Joseph and how he was mistreated by his own brothers. He didn't hold onto it and God allowed him to be successful and to eventually help his family many years later. 

In his book, the author explains how we should forgive others totally. It's hard to let go, isn't it? It's easy to point a finger and blame someone else for the way your life is going. It's easy to remember the pain day in and day out. But God doesn't want us to stay there! Just as He continually forgives and loves us, so we must forgive and love others. We can't worry about what others are doing (or aren't doing), but should obey God in this area ourselves. We shouldn't dwell on the past, or even continue to talk about it. If we need to forgive daily, then that's what we must do. 

I've learned so much from this book, which gives so much Scripture and Biblical examples throughout its entirety. You see, sometimes those thoughts from the past have continued to cross my mind and stir up anger in my heart. I'm learning that forgiveness starts in the heart and must be acted upon daily. When we sin this way, it affects those around us. Besides wanting to obey God's command to simply forgive, the thought of my unforgiveness affecting my marriage, ministry and other relationships causes me to not want to stay there. It slows me down in what I should be doing as I dwell on the past. It's not a good place to be!

Even though the restoration of a relationship may not always happen, I'm constantly reminded of the verse in the Bible that says..."as much as lieth in you to be at peace with all men" (Romans 12:18b). It's up to me--not them--to be at peace, to forgive, to love. I'm accountable to God for my actions. 

I believe if we took this topic of forgiveness more seriously, families and friendships would be better and the world would see that Christians truly love one another. It's amazing to me how petty and mean we can get because we choose not to forgive. Sickening, huh? But yet we act this way. Some day it will be too late--either you or them will pass into eternity without making things right. Let's choose to forgive totally today and honor God in the process.

I know I got a bit transparent in this post, but that's okay. We all struggle with things, and I wanted to share a great book that's been a huge help in my Christian walk. You can find the book on Amazon or any Christian bookstore. You've just got to read it!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Food and fellowship at the parsonage

Quentin and I invited church members and visitors to join us for some food and fellowship at our place last night. After prayer meeting, everyone walked over and made themselves at home. Q told them that they could have a self-guided tour to see what we've done to the place. Although we've had a few people over, there were quite a few who hadn't seen it since they had helped us with the remodeling.
One of the members brought over some light appetizers. Also on the menu were chips with salsa and guacamole, fresh pineapple chunks, chocolate chip cookies, almond-filled cookie cake (The cookie cake which Q has renamed almond torte, received rave reviews so you've got to try the recipe if you haven't yet), and ham and cheese turnovers. We served cold green tea and water as well.

We had a wonderful time getting to know everybody better. Great conversations and laughter filled the evening. We'd love to do this again every so often. Q and I enjoy showing hospitality to our friends and neighbors.

These ham and cheese turnovers were fast and easy to make. I found the recipe from Real Simple magazine (April 2008). I've made it one other time using homemade pizza dough and leftover ham. This time we bought crescent dough, thinly sliced ham and grated mozzerella cheese (I think it's easier to use sliced cheese rather than grated for this recipe). I also added some garlic salt and italian seasonings--yum! Here's the original recipe, but feel free to change the dough, meat, cheese, and seasonings as you please. It is a scrumptious appetizer and can be part of a lunch or dinner. Enjoy!

Ham and Cheese Turnovers

1  1-pound package refrigerated pizza dough (or make your own)
8 ounces deli ham, thinly sliced
4 ounces Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, cut into thin rings

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll the pizza dough into a 14-inch circle and cut into eight triangles. Stack a piece of the ham, cheese, and onion on the bottom of each triangle and roll the dough up around the filling. (Some of the filling will stick out the ends.) Transfer the rolls to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes. If you use crescent dough, the bake time will be shorter. Follow the package directions. Serves 4.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I had to give it another try...

When I heard that there was going to be a knitting class at the library for elementary-age kids, I asked if I could come and help as a volunteer. The class called "Knit Wits" lasted three days, but I could only attend two of them. I told them that I didn't know how to knit, but perhaps I could jump in and learn.

So, I gave it a shot. A few kids taught me the basics and this is what my knitting looked like this morning before I went for the last day... 

Not too shabby, eh? You may remember that I tried teaching myself using a kids knitting book, but I think I gave up too quickly. I also do better with new things if I have someone showing me then repeating it lots of times to get it to sink into my brain!

It really was quite fun being there with the kids and finally learning how to do this. I was amazed at how well they did. Some of the helpers were teenagers who were just amazing at this craft!

I think it will be fun to try some knitting projects. It takes a lot of patience to knit something, but perhaps I could watch a movie while knitting to relax in the evenings.

Have you tried knitting yet? I'm sure there are books and DVDs you can borrow from your local library to give it a shot. Perhaps you're like me and a class would suit you well. Give it a shot...this may be your new hobby!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer Reading at the Library

Have you enrolled yourself or your kids for the summer reading program at your local library? If not, do so right away! While some programs are just for kids and teens, some add one in for the adults. Q and I have both signed up for it...after all, we read anyway and we may be rewarded for doing so. There is a weekly drawing for our program, but the kids can earn lots of neat prizes like books and a ticket to an amusement park in Denver. Keeping them reading through the summer is an awesome way to increase their skills and get them ready for the next school year.

After volunteering this past school year doing story times at a preschool, I decided to be a volunteer for this program, too. I go in every Monday afternoon and sit at the desk ready to sign people up and award prizes. I love interacting with others in my community, especially the kids. 

Volunteering there has one perk that I really look forward to....

I get to choose a drink from the coffee shop each time I go in. Since I don't drink coffee, I get a smoothie. This one is a mango-peach mix and I love it! I want to try different combos during the summer. 

What do you enjoy about the summer reading program at your local library? I'd love to hear your stories! Happy reading...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My New Toy

While Q was at work on Saturday, he gave me a call and said that he had a big surprise for me. I couldn't figure it out after I hung up the phone. Before we went to sleep, he asked me if I was excited about it. I told him I was, then asked him for a hint. He said it had the word white in its name. Then I knew what it was because it's something that has been on my wish list for a while. 

Take a look at my new toy....

He found this White brand serger on Craigslist and called on it immediately. We picked it up this afternoon from a lady in a nearby town. It is a 95' model, but it has never been used. She asked $75 for it and I think we got a GREAT deal!

Now, if only I could learn to use this thing, then we'll be in good shape. I'm so excited! 

So thankful that Q surprised me with this...what a sweet guy.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Spring cleaning: Our bedroom

Another room is done--our bedroom. We're almost done with spring cleaning the entire house and I'm really excited!

Here's what was done in our bedroom:

1. All the furniture was thoroughly dusted.
2. Q and I sorted through all our clothes and got rid of what doesn't fit or what we don't wear anymore. There are two large bags ready to go to the local thrift store.
3. The vanity drawers were cleaned and lined with contact paper.
4. I moved Q's folded clothes from the family room to the built-in vanity drawers in our room.
5. All the drawers and the closet were reorganized.
6. I got caught up with ironing and now all of Q's shirts are looking good!
7. I decorated our walls with pictures.
8. Storage under our bed was organized.
9. The window and mirrors were cleaned.
10. The floor was vacuumed.
The closet looks so much neater than before. Getting rid of clothes we didn't wear anymore has streamlined our wardrobes.

These vinyl letters were found at the dollar store a while back. I'm glad I was able to finally use them on one of our walls.

I found this small plaque at Target on clearance for just a couple dollars. It says, "Love is not about who you live with...It's about who you can't live without." I framed a few pictures of the two of us and placed them around it. I also have pictures of us on our dressers and on the walls next to our bed. Every time I look at the pictures I'm reminded of the wonderful marriage God's given us.

The last part of my spring cleaning will be done soon--hurray! It's time to start enjoying the summer outside.:)