Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Visiting London, part two

*If you're in college in the States, don't say so. The term college has a different connotation in the UK. It basically means a school for people who failed the test to get into university. Even if your school has college in the name, say you go to University.

*Pay attention to the news. It's easy to get ahold of free newspapers. People push them at you on the street. While there's a lot of trash in them, the actual reporting is surprisingly good. There's also, for a little more legitimate source, as well as A lot of British news is basically the same as ours, but some of it isn't. TIP: Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales. The United Kingdom is England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. England is simply England.

*On the elevators in the Tube, stand on the right and walk on the left. You'll hear that announcement repeated, but quite a few people still stand on the left and walk on the right. In general, you want to walk on the left throughout London. Green Park station is one of the few exceptions to that rule.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I Will Listen

Every once in a while I happen upon something someone has written and the words play so close to my heart that I claim them as my own. This song has been echoing the cries of my own heart beat for beat for a lot years now. (The italicized parts are mine)
Hard as it seems
Standing on dreams
Where is the dreamer now
Is there anyone out there whose life went according to plan? Mine certainly didn't. Who would've thought at age 27 I'd still be single? Who would've thought I'd be walking a road with no bend in sight and still carrying the same burdens I've had for so long? Where is the dreamer? Right where she was when she was dreaming. Just... not so many dreams now.

Wonder if I
Wanted to try
Would I remember how
There are definitely days when I wonder why I ever had the nerve to suppose that my dreams would come true. There's not much dreaming of happily ever after for me. I'm busy trying to support myself. Trying to plan for a future alone.

I don't know the way to go from here
College? Try to find a better job? Move? I don't want to do any of these things. Keep on right where I'm at? Is there a future here?

But I know that I have made my choice
And this is where I stand
Until He moves me on
And I will listen to His voice
I keep coming back to the same place. He put me here. He'll move me when the time is right. His plans are better than mine.

This is the faith
Patience to wait
When there is nothing clear
My fears of the future collide with each other in their fury. I can't breathe sometimes. Sometimes faith has to get way down into the roots of my fear. Having the faith to have the patience.

Nothing to see
Still we believe
Jesus is very near
He said He wouldn't leave me. I can't always see Him moving. Sometimes I wonder if He really IS there... but, that's the faith. Having the faith to believe in what we can't see.

I can not imagine what will come
But I've already made my choice
Not a choice to take a turn in my road. Not a choice to pursue a path or abandon a dream or strike out on my own or give up entirely.

And this is where I stand
Until He moves me on
And I will listen to His voice
My choice is to wait. To stay. To listen.

Could it be that He is only
waiting there to see
If I will learn to love
the dreams that He has
dreamed for me
He promised His plans would be better than mine.

Can't imagine what the future holds
But I've already made my choice
And this is where I stand
Until He moves me on
And I will listen to His voice
-From "I Will Listen" by Twila Paris


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Frugal Hard-Scaping

"Hardscape: any garden feature that is not a plant; ie: fences, trellaces, benches, sidewalks, patios, birdbaths, etc."

A lot of hardscaping is very formal, very beautiful, and VERY expensive, out of reach for most of us. A recent visit to Lowes had me staring, with hands clasped, at a display of beautiful trellises that would look prefect with one of my clematis vines clambering over it. I bought a clematis last year, on sale for $5, and here I was considering a $40 trellis for it. Um... this defeats the purpose finding plant bargains!  But hardscaping adds so much to the general look and atmosphere of a garden that most of us would do what it takes to get a trellis or fence or patio. Here are some things you can do - if you are willing to take extra steps - that are very easy on the wallet.

Use What You Have

Instead of purchasing blocks, bricks or short sectioned fences for garden borders and raised beds, I have used what I already have; rocks picked from our fields over the years and slate from old barn roofs. Bricks begged off workers at a demolition sight create framework for my raised herb beds.

I've also seen gardeners use logs or split timber for the same purpose. Most of these methods look a bit informal, even 'rustic', but I keep in mind that they are not the focal point. They enhance the flowers instead of distracing attention from them.

Do It Yourself!
Hiring someone to install something is pretty foreign to me, but I hear that some people do.  ;) Putting in a patio, building stone walls with flights of stairs, making paths through the garden, these things can all be done by YOU. Below you can see my current work in progress, terracing the hillside behind our house. Last year's completed section didn't fall over during the winter, which is encouraging considering it's dry-wall! The cost of a 2-3' high, 50' long retainer wall was $0.00. And it got me a lot of really good exercise. :)

Ask a Friend

There are some things we simply can not do ourselves. Remember those trellises that I wanted? My dad or brother could easily make something for me, but getting them to make something for me is like pulling teeth. Sometimes you'd rather not bother trying. I have a retired friend who loves puttering in his work shop. In fact, that's what he does all day, nearly every day. I've seen some support trellises that he made for his wife's roses, and asked him if he would make some for me. He did, to my specifications, and didn't charge me a cent. (I would have paid him! But he is just too nice! He's guaranteed a home made pizza with everything on it for that.) I paid for some primer and a couple of cans of spray-paint to finish the trellises. I figure that if I'd bought the number of trellises I have, it would have been well over $100. I paid less than $10. I can't wait to see how they'll look when the roses are in bloom!

This isn't an article about what great deals I've gotten, it's my effort to show you what can be done, if only you try. Try using what you have. Try doing it yourself. Or try asking a friend. Don't worry about bugging your friends, they will probably be flattered that you are calling on their skills!


Friday, April 24, 2009

Computer Tips #1

Just in case you didn't already know, we at IDD talk about a huge variety of topics!  You should see our random thread on the IDD forum :-) So to keep with the spirit of IDD I am going talk about something totally off topic.  Computers!!! I'm the tech support section of the IDD blog team.  I feel much more comfortable fixing a computer or reworking a template than writing an article.  We recently had a topic brain storming session and Maureen suggested I write some computer articles. So here goes the first in a series of computer articles!!!

5 Tips to help keep your computer running smooth and fast

1. Use an anti-virus program and set it to automatically update.
 - A lot of people use Norton Anti-Virus (NAV) and it works really well. The only problem is it tends to slow your computer down by approximately 20%.  I've found that AVG works really well.  The free version is fine just make sure that you keep it updated and run a malware/spyware program (see #5) at least once a month.

2. Use "Msconfig" to remove unneeded programs that load at system startup.
 - Start menu/run/type in Msconfig and click ok.  A window will open. Click on start up tab.  (Be careful with this.  Programs that you don't recognize aren't necessarily unneeded.  It might be an important windows program that you or I have never heard of.)

3. Run Windows "Scan Disk" monthly and "Defrag" monthly or quarterly.
 - Scan disk can be found by going to My Computer, right click on C:/ and select properties, click on disk check.  Follow on screen instructions)

 - Your computer comes with a Disk Defragment program otherwise JKDefrag works well. You can find a  download for it here.

4. Download critical software updates automatically with the Microsoft Update Service.  You can run this by going to your start menu/all programs/ up at the top before the list of programs it should say Windows Update.  It will run automatically. Then ask you which updates you want installed.

5. If you are getting a lot of pop ups your computer might be infected with spyware or malware.  Run your spyware program.  If you don't have one download and run the trial version of Malware Bytes.  It works really well!

- So... I tried to not talk computer language, but... I will admit tech people don't always realize just because it makes sense to you don't mean it makes sense to them.   So if you have any questions, please ask away!


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Visiting London, part one

I've spent the last three months studying in London as part of a program through my university. It's been an amazing experience and I'm so grateful for it. As a sort of natural result I've picked up a few tips for visiting London.

*Use Pret a Manger and E.A.T. These are both chains all around London which sell fresh, pre-made sandwiches. I'm not sure of exact prices at E.A.T., but at Pret you can easily get a fairly filling sandwich for under three pounds. The cheapest is the egg mayo sandwich at a pound fifty. They also have coffee, soup, and a few pastries. TIP: Try to ask for take-away. Restaurants are legally required to charge a special tax if you eat in.

*Go to the museums. London has some fabulous museums, especially the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, and Tate Britian. On the history side, there's the V&A (Victoria and Albert) and the British Museum. There are smaller museums and galleries that you can look up if you're interested. TIP: Go early. British school children are required to visit the major museums so with them and tourists, it can get quite noisy later on. Most galleries open at ten so you won't have to get up at the crack of dawn.

*If there is a musical performance you want to attend and you don't have tickets, go to the box office about 9:00 the day of the performance. Most of the major companies have tickets that are only available on the day. I'm not sure if this is true for plays or not, but the TKTS booths operate under a similar idea. TIP: Wear comfortable shoes.

*If you're in London for any amount of time, you'll probably hit rush hour on the Tube. Be prepared to be squashed up against the person next to you. There's really nothing any of you can do about it. TIP: If there are no handholds available, lean against the wall of the car and plant your feet.

*People in London walk fast. Now, so do I. If you walk more slowly or if you stop in their path, they will just push past you. TIP: If you feel like you simply have to have a photo of X or if you're lost, try to stop at the edge of the sidewalk or Tube platform. Walking fast is an added bonus.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dr Jak's Skin Care Tips

Clean, healthy skin is the ultimate way to have that feminine "glow" :)  Here's some tips for you all based on my own experiences in skin care.  Feel free to ask questions (I'll do my best to answer) or share your own tips!

  • CLEAN- Do it twice daily.  You can use a gentle soap or a facial cleanser.  You might need to try a few different products before you find the one that's right for you.  Most products will have helpful hints on the labels, so be sure and read them thoroughly.  I'm currently using the Neutrogena Skin Care products, but I've also used the Biore skin care line and I've heard good things about Aveeno too.  So, there's some suggestions for you. :) 
        No matter what you use there's a few rules of thumb that will help you.
                Tie or clip your HAIR back or wrap it up in a towel.
                  You don't want dried soap residue around your hair line. :)
                Use WARM WATER.  Warm water will open your pores
                   and assist the cleanser in cleaning out any impurities. 
                Work the soap up into a good LATHER, using your hands. 
                SCRUB! :)  Concentrate especially on problem areas.
                    For me this is around my nose and my eyebrows.  I
                      seem  to have the most breakout in these areas. 
                RINSE thoroughly.  Again using WARM WATER.
                PAT dry with a clean towel.

  • Use an ASTRINGENT.  I only do this every couple of days or so unless I have a breakout or zit that I want to get rid of quickly.  :)  If you have acne problems you might want to do it more often until the acne clears up.  Again brands like Neutrogena and Biore make astringents that are designed to clean out your pores and prevent breakouts before they start.  I prefer to use Witch Hazel or LEMON JUICE.  I pour a little on a cotton ball and scrub my face with it.  Lemon juice also helps to fade skin blemishes and tighten your pores.  It's also very effective for acne.  I can't recommend lemon juice facials enough.  Rinse with cool water.

  • MOISTURIZE.  This is a very important step.  No matter what kind of skin you have you NEED to moisturize.  Make sure you use a moisturizer specifically designed for facial use.  Never use a hand lotion for your face.  Your facial skin is completely different and much more sensitive than the rest of your body, so it needs special care and pampering. :)  I like to use Pond's Moisturizing Cream because I have dry skin.  But, if your skin type is different, if you have oily skin for example, you may want to experiment with something else.   
        Here's how to apply it. 
                WASH your hands. 
                Depending on what moisturizer your using, you should use approximately a NICKEL to a QUARTER SIZE amount of moisturizer.
                DOT it onto your face and neck
                AVOID your eye area.  (You need to use a specific EYE CREAM for your eyes.  This step is optional. My eyes droop when I'm tired, which seems to be often :) so I do use an eye cream by Neutrogena.)
                MASSAGE the moisturizer into your skin well, using circular motions.
                If you're going to apply a foundation over top you need to let your moisturizer SOAK into your skin for about 3 minutes first.

There are lots of other special treatments you can do for your skin if you desire,
or if you feel you need an extra-deep cleaning. I recommend applying a
  • FACIAL MASK because it's a great way to perk your skin up.  
It takes some time, so make sure you have 30 minutes or so to do it.
There are lots of different facial masks and I have certainly not tried all of them, but most of them work on the same principle. You RUB it on, let it DRY and PEEL it off.  Look for a mask that has natural ingredients like AVOCADO, CUCUMBER and HONEY.  Any of the ingredients I just mentioned can also be applied on their own and left for 30 minutes or so and then RINSED off with WARM WATER followed by COLD WATER to close the pores. 

Hopefully these are some helpful tips for you.  I'd be happy to try to answer any questions so please ask!


Monday, April 20, 2009

The Art of Keeping a Journal

"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."
- Oscar Wilde, “The Importance of Being Earnest”

As a writer, I find myself loving words, loving nearly anything that has to do with the art of creating words, creating stories, reading...just about anything about stories and words, words, words.

I just don't mean to make people feel guilty or weird or stupid if they aren't as crazy about them as I am. Take journaling, for instance. I absolutely love journaling and have kept up a journal of some sort for most of my life; for me, journaling has come in the form of pen on paper, but also in the form of an online journal for friends to read and comment on. Journaling is just something I have always done because I enjoy it. I love writing. I love journaling for many, many reasons.

But I know that it isn't for everyone. Not everyone likes to write. And not everyone likes to journal.

That caveat aside, this post is about journaling and most definitely is pro-journaling. Why? Because...well, I love journaling and want to offer up a few reasons why you *might* want to keep a journal.


1) for posterity. It’s true. Even if your life feels the most boring on earth, we are living through a time period that future generations will look back on as HISTORY. We are living in historic times, people! For the first time ever in American history, we have a black president – that mere fact alone is history. We are living during one of the worst economic recessions since the Great Depression. It isn’t fun; it can be depressing. But it is history. Tell your journal about it. Tell your journal what you think about it.

Journal about every day life for you and how what is happening affects you. My journal entries lately have told stories about my family and friends, but also about how my job situation has changed because of the economy. I’ve clipped articles out of the paper and tucked them in between pages, too. Someday, it may be interesting to look back on and see how my references to the economy pertain to these news clippings.

2) for yourself. A journal can be a wonderful way to work out things in your life. A journal is a quiet place, where nobody else can comment or criticize. Your journal can be the place to sort out things in your spiritual life with God.

Recently, I went back and read a journal I kept last summer and realized that events that occurred laid a bit of the foundation of things that are occurring in my life right now. Without my journal, I might not have realized quite as fully when and how these things began. A journal gives you an opportunity to keep a record of the intricate threads God sows into your life on a daily basis. Some of them may blossom into glorious things…others into hard times, but it is always amazing to see where God is leading.

3) for writing material. Write about the people you see waiting for the bus every morning as you travel to work. Jot down conversations you hear, amusing and intriguing tidbits. As a writer, these notes could one day prove to be invaluable, a ready source of material for stories and articles.

There are a million reasons to keep a journal. The key isn’t so much to figure out why you keep a journal, but to keep one. Keep one for yourself or for family members or just because. But if you keep a journal, write. Write what you see and hear and think. Just write. That’s all it takes to keep a journal.

To be continued…


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Frugal Flower-Gardening Part 1

Nearly everyone is pinched for funds right now. I hate to see anyone skimping on flower gardens, or deciding not to create one because they can't afford it. Beautiful, glossy magazines would have us think that a small fortune has to go into landscaping and bushes, the newest, most fashionable perennials and expensive annuals. There are many ways that a beautiful garden can be achieved with a small budget.

Buying seeds vs. plants
Think about it. A six-pack of petunias can cost close to $3 is some places. A packet of seeds containing from 100  to 1,000 seeds is about $2. 

It's true, not all of us have the time or desire to grow plants from seed, but it's an option I encourage you to think about! And when you have too many seedlings, your gardening friends will adore you all the more for donating your surplus to them. 

Now, how to obtain seeds -  it's really not complicated, but there are more options than many people realize.

Buying them at the local super-center is an obvious option. I happen to be pregudice against this idea, partly because I love to support small/ family businesses, partly because I have gotten terrible seeds from super-centers; as in, the WRONG seeds were in the packets. Yeah.
Mail order is one of my favorite options. There are a lot of great seed companies out there, ranging from Pinetree Gardens, who give you small amounts of seed (for home gardening) with very low price, to J.L. Hudson whose packages range in size, but the pricing is a no-nonsense $2 a packet, to Select Seeds, who have reasonable prices on their many heirloom and rare seeds, adding a touch of old-fashioned charm to your home.  

Then there is seed swapping...

Online garden clubs provide one way to swap seeds. (Or you can swap with friends, as I have done!) It's simple. You list seeds that you have presumably collected from your garden, and when you find someone who wants to swap with you, you each pay to send seeds to each other. I normally end up with numerous packages for under $3.

If you prefer plants to seeds, it's very very tempting to blow the budget at the nearest super-garden center. Again, I would encourage looking at mail-ordering plants. (If you can afford it, by all means support a local nursery. If it's a choice between Wal-Mart and mail-order, go for mail-ordering!)  Bluestone Perennials is my absolute favorite company. The fact that they grow their own plants instead of shipping them in from who knows where is a huge bonus.

Beware that there are companies that sell highly discounted "dormant" plants that they claim will grow after a few weeks, snagging your attention with generous coupons that make the deal almost unbelievable. Some of the plants will grow alright, but I have wasted a lot of money buying "cheap" plants that turned out to be dead plants. Paying a little more per plant for healthy, live, growing plants is worth it!
Most perennials divide easily, and shrubby plants like lavender and roses or certain annuals like coleuses  root from cuttings. I could go into greater detail about this, but I'll leave the detail for a future article.

Host a plant-swap!
Have an abundance of one or two flowers? Want more variety? Invite your gardening friends to a perennial-swap! Get an idea of how many are coming and ask each friend to bring a plant or division of what they want to swap for each guest.  I co-hosted one last spring and plan another this year. Combine it with a spring brunch or luncheon to make it an event to remember.

Next week: DIY hardscape.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Dear Lydia #3

This is the last in a three part series.  The first two can be found here and here

Dear Madame,
I am ma’am, your humble servant, and I request any help that you might be able to give me. I am a man of the church, I live quite comfortably in my parish (with the help of my patroness, Lady C.) and I am going to inherit the estate of Cousin Mr. B. Mr. B. and I have never been close, but when I heard that he had five eligible daughters I decided to make amends with him and marry one of his daughters. You see, my patroness, Lady C., has advised me to marry, and I have set out with great hast to do her bidding.

When I first entered the house I noticed the eldest girl Jan, who’s beauty is spoken of widely, and gave her my attentions. Then Mrs. B. informed me that she thought Jan was to soon be engaged, and to look through her other daughters for a more suitable bride. Beth, the second eldest isn’t as handsome as her sister, but she seemed to fit the description Lady C. gave me of useful, active gentlewomen who was not brought up high. I began courting Cousin Beth. She reserved my attentions modestly, as young ladies who secretly welcome the attentions of an admirer are apt to do.

After some time, I solicited a private audience with Cousin Beth. First, so as to not run away with my feelings I told her my reasons for marrying: 1) that a respected clergy man like me should marry. 2) That it would add to my happiness 3) Lady C. had advised it. I told her that Lady C. had promised to visit her, and that I was sure she would appreciate her personality and wit, as long as it was tempered with silence and respect. I told her how it would help her mother when after her father’s death if she could live with her daughter, in her own home. I told her it mattered not that she had hardly any money, and I would never speak of her lack of fortune during our marriage.

After hearing this eloquent speech I am sure you think Cousin Beth accepted me without qualm. I have been told, that I am quite the catch for any young lady, my situation in life, my connections with the family of Lady C., are circumstances highly in my favor. I would not be surprised if you thought this, because they were my thoughts as well. You will be shocked to hear that Cousin Beth declined my hand. She said I had been hasty in my assumption that she would marry me; she said I could never make her happy, and she was sure she could never make me so. She was positive Lady C. would not approve of her. A lesser man than me would have been upset by this rude refusal, but I have always flattered myself on knowing human nature and I know that young ladies often decline men they are secretly hoping to marry, I told her of this and that I was hoping to lead her to the alter ere long.

Would you believe that she refused me again? I have heard of elegant young ladies refusing even the second time or even the third, but I never expected this of sweet Cousin Beth. Perhaps, she is not as sweet tempered as I thought her to be, but that is nothing that can not be fixed by a firm husband after marriage. At this second refusal I was forced to show Cousin Beth that she could probably not find a better match than me, her fortune being so small and her looks nothing remarkable, I was the only man who would ever wish to marry her. I then told her that I would not take her refusal as the finality on he matter (as she wished me to do) and when I had the permission of both her parents I was sure she would accept me.

During this Cousin Beth tried to dissuade me from my suit but I stood firm. I knew she would come along eventually in the end.

Or- I thought I knew, Now Beth has gone to her father and I have retired to my room to think. If Cousin Beth is this stubborn in agreeing to our engagement how will she be after marriage? I’m sure her father will make her come around but I am slightly worried about if I should have asked Cousin Beth at all.

I am yours Madame,

A Most Respected Clergy Man

Dear M.R.C.M.

Your letter really doesn’t deserve to be answered, because you’re not in love. But I was “not brought up too high” as to refuse help to the less fortunate. I have some foundational points I’d like to get a crossed.

While proposing, do not

a) Call her “Cousin Beth” In fact; don’t propose to your cousin at all, it’s gross,

b) Assume she will say yes to your proposal.

c) Mention her father’s death

d) Tell her no one else will ever want to marry her.

e) Talk about her flaws and how you will fix them.

f) Talk about inconsistency of “elegant females” in general.

g) Tal about how wonderful you yourself are.

I was not surprised she refused you, for goodness sakes you were after her older sister! She sounds like a independent young women who knows her own mind. I say: Harrah for her for standing up for you when you thick-headedly would not take no for an answer.

If I were you I would leave town at once and distance yourself from Cousin B. and his family for as long as possible. Although I’m sure you won’t take my advice, because, as I could tell from your transcript of the proposal, you sir, are not very good at listening.

Also, I was wondering, did this extraordinary proposal proceed from the impulse of the moment or was it the result of previous study and arrangement?

Please don’t write me again,



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

For from death to life and from earth to heaven

[This weekend Orthodox Christians around the world will celebrate Christ's Resurrection. Because we do not use the same method of calculating the date of Pascha, our observance frequently differs from the Western tradition.]

It's already dark when we gather in the cavernous church. A few candles punctuate the shadows. We are hushed, exhausted after our long vigil. Friday's mourning services and Saturday's long service and preparations have taken their toll. Like the myrrhbearing women we have gathered before the tomb of Christ. Unlike them, we know the story and in our hearts the first thrills of expectant joy begin to stir.

At midnight all the lights in the church are extinguished. We stand together in the darkness, waiting. Time slips away and none of us could say how long until the first glimmer of light appears. Dancing across the ceiling above the altar, it is the first sign that the event we are all waiting for has come to pass. The clergy begin to sing one of the great hymns:

Thy Resurrection, O Christ our Saviour, the angels in heaven sing. Enable us on earth to glorify Thee in purity of heart.

Quietly at first and then with more and more strength until, still singing, they come out with lit candles. We hold our own to out to them and in a few moments the church is a blaze of light and song.

We process around the outside of the church. Our candles usually go out at least once and in the middle of the night the air is sharp. Our singing is a little breathless, but heartfelt nonetheless. As we return to the front door we re-light our candles from our neighbors'. Then the clergy sing for the first time the greatest hymn:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tomb bestowing life.

As we enter the church suddenly everything is bright and full of flowers. The miracle has happened. Christ has triumphed over death and sin. We go through the rest of the service, pausing to cry out, "Christ is risen!" and to hear the answering, "In truth He is risen!"

Then, because we are Orthodox, we have a feast. Our whole being is rejoicing.

In the early hours of the morning we make our way home. We are even more exhausted but there is a smile on our lips and song in our hearts because the Day of Days has once more come and our Lord is Risen.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fabric Wall Art

What you need:

An appropriate size wooden frame. You can make your own or buy a pre-made one. I got these frames with cheap paper stapled on in a clearance aisle for $6/ea. Mine are 16"x20"


Fabric of your choice
Hammer and Nails

Staple Gun
Lay the fabric fashion side down on the ground and position your frame over top of it, making sure everything lines up and the design on your fabric isn't crooked. Trim off excess fabric, leaving enough to pull over side of frame and turn under to leave a finished edge. Staple the fabric onto the frame upholstery style, starting in the center of one side, stapling, and then pulling taut on the other side and stapling directly opposite your first staple. Turn it over to check that there is no puckering and that everything lines up. Keep doing this until all the sides are stapled.

  • Note: Get a friend to help. 4 hands work best, and 6 come in handy sometimes, too!
For the corners, you can really do it any way that you are comfortable with. This is what I did.
I hope the picture makes sense. I folded the triangle part of the fabric in towards the center so that the triangle pointed directly to the center of the frame. I stapled that down, cut off the excess fabric and folded in the sides, nice and tight and stapled them down too.

I decided to embellish one of my frames with some ribbon

I chose some ribbon and decided how I wanted them to look on the frame


Pinned them down
Stretched tight and folded the ends under and stapled down

Finished Product!!! It's just my kind of project: simple and different, you can pick whatever colors you want, and I did all three in about 2 hours start to finish (including shopping) and for less than $8/ea.Special Thanks to my sister Steph, who was my extra 2 hands, went shopping with me and just generally is really handy to have around since she knows how to use a staple gun, and can hang things on the wall straight the first time.

And Katie, for jumping up in the middle of your important computer work to play with the camera and take pictures!


Monday, April 13, 2009

Music & Praise

We all arrange ourselves into neat rows, the last few stragglers hurrying to put down coats and water bottles, pull out sheet music. It’s one of the last few practices before our concert, our first rehearsal in the church where we will perform. Our sheet music is marked, penciled and yellow highlighted lines to remind us where to come in, where to pianissimo and where to fortissimo. We’re all shivering as the warmth from the heaters goes straight to the high-vaulted ceilings. Shivering, but laughing and talking away, just about every one of us.

The director claps her hands together, trying to quiet the chattering of all four sectionals. Finally, all: altos, tenors, basses and sopranos are hushed and expectant, waiting. The director lifts her hands.

We take a collective breath and begin to sing.

We’re singing Rutter’s Requiem, beautiful lyrics, including scripture, matched with gorgeous music. One of my favorite movements is number four: Sanctus. It is so joyous…I have to smile as I sing and praise God.

It’s beautiful. We’re still making mistakes and it still isn’t perfect, but…oh, it sounds gorgeous. We’re blending our voices to make amazing music to glorify God. I get chills as I hear our voices echoing off the high vaulted ceilings and wonder if God’s pleasure listening to us is anywhere near the thrill I get just singing and hearing others around me.

I think He must.

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua, Hosanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini, Hosanna in excelsis.

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna to God in the highest,
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna to God in the highest.

Holy is He, indeed! And so we sing. We sing and we praise and we give glory to God.


Friday, April 10, 2009

If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain but what He pours through us that really counts.  God's purpose is not simply to make us beautiful plump grapes, but to make us grapes so that He may squeeze the sweetness out of us.
~Oswald Chambers


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fought For

I don't know when it was I first discovered my love of adventurous period dramas.

But there it was, looking me in the face.

I'm a sucker for the old knight-rescues-the-lady line. I love the old-fashioned values of chivalry and femininity, as presented in so many stories set during a quieter time.

Especially when the gentleman pursued the lady at great risk to himself.

As I've thought about why these story lines fascinate me, why I'm so transfixed on these ideals and morals, the answer suddenly hit me.

I want to know I'm worth it.

Worth fighting for.

In nearly every girl, there is that same desire--to love and be loved.

To know we're worth fighting for.

Now, please don't misunderstand--I'm not talking about some sort of prideful attitude where we rejoice in just how amazing we are.

Rather it is the idea that we long to have someone show us their love for us will pay any price.

The truth is--

I've been fought for.

My Savior loved me so much, He paid the ultimate price--His death on a cross.

I didn't deserve it. Not at all. But He loved me enough to prove it. While I'm not suggesting that God is my "knight in shining armor" I am suggesting He is the Lover of My Soul, who bought me at a very dear price, and fought a heavy battle to buy me.

I still enjoy these period dramas.

I'm still a sucker for the old knight-rescues-the-lady line.

But I no longer must wait for a gentleman to show me I'm worth fighting for.

Someone Else already has.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I find God very restful. You see, I spend a good part of my life wrestling with words, beating them into shape, trying to be sure I find the perfect way to convey my precise meaning. Sometimes it's a joy and sometimes it's, well, not a joy.

But with God I don't need to anguish over words. I don't need to explain exactly what I mean by "happy" in this context because He knows. Before I even began to speak, He knew.

The Holy Fathers tell us that the highest form of prayer is wordless standing before God in your heart. Now, I am incredibly far from this kind of prayer. But I do know the joy of being able to simply say, "Lord, here is my heart. You know it. It has stains and rough spots. Clean it and perfect it" and to be sure that He does know, He does understand.

I dream of someday finding a man who will be, as Martine Leavitt puts it, a soul love. But in the end there's already One who knows me.

(Image from Stock Exchange)


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

On Aging

I think I'm having belated reactions to my birthday a couple months ago.

Have you ever had that birthday?  You know... the depressing one?

Well, I thought 25 was bad.  Then I turned 26.  I had JUST gotten accustomed to being 25; and then I realized.  26 is older than 25.  I tried to keep my depression on the down-low.  Whenever I mentioned the shock at the passing of time and my own aging, I usually got about the same kind of response.  Some variation of: "You're not OLD!"

So, I'm not really.  But, still, I took 26 hard and I spent a lot of time wondering where my early 20s went to.  And trying to remember what I did with them.  Were there any accomplishments to speak of?  Did I make any significant advancements in life?  None were apparent.  I felt like the same person I was at 18, when I graduated from high school, put my life in God's hands, and settled in to wait on direction.
That was a tough birthday.  And for about 6 months afterward.

Then I turned 27.

I sort of dreaded this birthday, especially after my experience with the last one.  (Which, by the way, does not seem that it possibly could have been a year ago?)  But, it seemed to go pretty well.  The day was uneventful for the most part.  I still don't FEEL 27, and I certainly don't LOOK it... (some people still guess my age at 18 :) but, it went well.

Or so I thought.

Then it happened.

I found a gray hair.

By now you are probably thinking that I am a horribly dramatic person who is very easily thrown off her rocker.

Nothing brings the passage of time closer to home for me than repetition.  There are certain events that are regular as clockwork in my life.  Yearly events.  For instance the homeschool play that my brother and sister were in last weekend.  I remember sitting in that same auditorium 12 months ago thinking: "The next play is a YEAR away.  That's such a long time.  A lot can happen in a year.  Maybe next year, I won't be sitting here alone."  And, 24 months ago?  Same thing.  36 months ago?  Yep.  This is hard to admit, so bear with me?

I'm content being single.  I really am.  I'm enjoying it.  But, I'm one of those people that is always alone in a crowd.  Nothing makes me feel more desolate than a full house.  Have you ever been in a theater and noticed how many people are paired up?  Very few people go to these things alone.  Of course, I don't go strictly alone; I go with my (huge) family.  So, maybe I have no right to let the loneliness creep up on me and sit on my shoulders.

But, (even though it's hard) I'm being honest here.  Loneliness hurts.  It hurts to go to the same events year after year and watch the couples.  It's hard to watch everyone younger than you married and toting babies.  It's hard to know that people that know me wonder if I'll EVER find a guy.

Mostly, it's hard to realize that another year has gone by (and they keep coming faster and faster) and I'm still single.  And I'm sitting in the same auditorium again, with a couple in front of me.  And one behind me; and one on the left, and one on the right, and know that (based on previous experience) next year it will probably be the same.

And that's why I struggle with birthdays.  Not because I feel old.  Not really because I found a gray hair.  (Because, seriously, it's ONE gray hair) It's because it's another reminder that time marches on.  And that I'm not where I thought I'd be. 

I'm not sharing this with you all because I'm trying to get you depressed.  I'm saying it because it's true in my life.  And I have a feeling there are other young women out there feeling the same way.  I know that I'm exactly where I should be.  I know my future is in God's hands.  I know He loves me.
But, that doesn't mean that sometimes I don't hurt.  It just means that when I DO hurt He comforts me. 
And, maybe if we're honest with each other, and share our hurts, we can comfort each other?


Friday, April 3, 2009

Puffy Pancakes You Bake

3 c. whole-wheat pastry or unbleached flour
3 T. sugar
3/4 tsp. saly
8 eggs
3 c. soy or regular milk
4 to 6 T. butter, cut in little bits.

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put two 9-inch cake pans in oven to heat them up. 
  • Mix flour, sugar and salt.  Add milk and eggs, blending just until combined.  Take the pans from the oven.  Put 2 tablespoons butter in each.  Swirl to coat.  Divide the batter equally in half, pouring it in quickly.  Return pans to oven immediately.  Bake for approx 15 minutes.  They will get really puffy and that's supposed to happen.  Then they will fall as soon as you take them out of the oven. 
  • Sprinkle with powdered sugar, syrup, lemons, butter whatever you like on your pancakes. (I know lemon sounds odd.  But it's YUMMY!


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