Monday, February 27, 2012

Swap Strikes Again

It sounds like a news headline and well, it is kind of an event. Each year it grows. More ladies. More clothes. More donations. This year, along with donating a dozen or more bags and boxes of gently used pants, shirts, dresses, shoes, you name it, we also donated packages of new underwear- one of the top 10 most needed items for the Cherry Street Mission.

If you're not familiar with how a clothes swap works, the idea is to clean out your closet, bring your items and peruse the items that other ladies bring. If it fits- it's yours. The excess is donated.

One thing I particularly love about this set-up is having other women around to give me their opinions.
"Whatdaya think of these sunglasses?"
"Mmm.. not the greatest."
I appreciate the honesty.

Here are some pictures of the swap in action. We tried to have a bit of organization this year by having separate piles for spring/summer tops, fall/winter tops, spring/summer bottoms, fall/winter bottoms, jeans, skirts and dresses, pjs and sports wear, bags, shoes, jewelry, etc.

Hosting a swap is pretty low maintenance. All you need a little organization and volunteers to haul it all away. And there are endless ideas of things you can swap: toys, books, baby clothes, home decor. The only trick is ending up with less than you brought!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

More projects

It's been creatively freeing to be doing projects on a regular basis now. Somehow, it's uplifting to my soul. Maybe it's bringing beauty into my home, or sending thoughts and love to others, or the feeling of accomplishment. Regardless, I'm digging it. Thanks Pinterest for the inspiration. What an awesome way for people to inspire each other.

This week I gave crocheting a try. A sweet sister and gifted teacher from our Life Group, Joy, showed us the ropes of chaining and single and double crochet stitching. I didn't get very far, but I got a good taste of it and would love to make more time to master the technique. I liked the challenge and can't think of the last time I really learned or was taught how to do something new. It's humbling and tested my patience and perseverance!

2 weekends ago, Ben and I did some house projects while Asher visited Nana. Here are before and after shots of our guest bedroom. From shocking yellow to smokey purple. The purple turned out almost exactly as I had envisioned. I love it when that happens!

Who wants to come stay with us??? :)

I was really excited to unpack my craft and card-making things and organize them into the desk in there. Really? A desk just for paper crafts? I even made use of this awkward little closet just outside the guest room. I'm thinking it used to hold guns, hence the 2 dead blots on it, but now, behold the gift wrap closet. Bags, bows, boxes, tissue paper and more. All easy access. What a blessing! I kept thanking the Lord over and over again for abundant blessings like these. Really, how sweet to have places and spaces to suit my organizational desires.

Brilliant idea for the ribbon holder from Pinterest!

The green box holds little gifts that I pick up now and then
if I see something I know a friend would like, or just gifts
to have on hand for any occasion. Don't peek!

Check out the locks. Never has gift wrap been so safe and secure ;)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Elmo and I Know It

One of the best parody's I've seen in a while. If you're familiar with the original version of LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It", you'll have a better appreciation. Now I can have my hip hop and share it too! ;) Oh, and be sure to watch 'til the end. Mr. Noodle is a ROCKSTAR.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

We got a little carried away with Valentine's day around here. In a good way, I think.

First we started with cards and treats to the grandparents, great-grandparents and Uncle Joe and Aunt Lucy. The cards were inspired by Pinterest. The homemade peanut butter cups were a tried and true recipe I've been making for the past few Vdays.

If you look closely, there is a heart shape where Asher and Millie's thumbs and pointer fingers touch. This was one of the better ones. Millie DID NOT enjoy the finger paint, so it was a bit tricky getting her hand placed just so.

Our next idea stolen from Pinterest were these sweet Valentines for the kids at Asher and Millie's in-home childcare/preschool they attend two mornings a week.

Finally, I just had to bring something special for our Brookside staff meeting. I call them "Heart Healthy treats". I just took my go-to granola recipe and used a cookie cutter to cut into hearts instead of bars. I've seen healthier granola recipes, but these are quick, easy and predictable.

3 cups rolled oats
3 cups desired mix-ins (I used dried cranberries, chopped almonds and chopped peanuts this time)
2 Tbs ground flax seed
1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk

-Preheat oven to 350
-Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. (I usually set the condensed milk in a cup of warm water while I mix the other ingredients, otherwise it is often partly solidified and hard to stir.)
-Press mixed granola into a 9X13 pan lined with parchment paper (or you can grease the baking pan if you don't have parchment)
-Bake for 20-25 minutes. Lightly browned just around the edges will give you moist, chewy bars. I take 'em out after 20.
-I usually let them cool almost completely before attempting to cut, or they fall apart. Although when I did the heart shapes, I "pre-cut" them by pressing the cookie cutters in and pulling them out, without pulling the granola out. This allowed them to maintain their shape while they cooled and hardened, so all I had to do was pull them apart when they were ready :)

I've made these with chocolate and peanut butter chips too. The possibilities with this versatile recipe are endless so get creative with it and let me know what you try!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Prayer: Duty or Delight?

From January 8th-February 5th, our church went on a prayer journey. By journey, I mean that our Life Groups met for those 4 consecutive weeks and focused on the sermons and a book, both on the topic of prayer. I really appreciate how Kevin described prayer for us:
"Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God. Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on prayer, not on God. Making prayer the center is like making conversation the center of any relationship. In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to be driving while looking at the windshield instead of through it. It freezes us, makes us unsure of where we are going. Conversation is merely the vehicle through which we experience others. Consequently, prayer is not the center of this journey. Getting to know the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the center of this journey in prayer." -Pastor Kevin Crawford
The book we read through was Praying the Lord's Prayer by J.I. Packer. It did a wonderful job of expounding on each verse of the Lord's Payer into individual chapters. I've been amazed at what a beautiful prayer it is. I mean, come on. I've said it countless times, know it by heart and am now just realizing the depth of it? I guess I shouldn't really be surprised by this because after all, Jesus himself did say, "Pray like this". He tends to know what he's talking about.
I long to walk you through each power-packed part of the prayer, but alas, I simply don't have the time to get it all out. It's probably more of a conversation anyway, depending on where you are coming from. We discussed the book in Life Group and I am beyond thankful for this group of people who are willing to sit down and ask hard questions about God or flat out say "I don't get it". Here are some parts of the book that seemed to jump off the pages at me:
-"The vitality of prayer lies largely in the vision of God that prompts it. Drab thoughts of God make prayer dull. (Could this be your problem?)." Back to the idea of what Kevin said, it's about knowingGod. If I really knew him I would come to prayer in awe and amazement of what he has done, can do, and will do!
-"So God's kingdom is not a place, but rather a relationship. It exists wherever people enthrone Jesus as Lord of their lives." Our LG talked a lot about what "the kingdom of God" means. It's one of those not-so-friendly-to-the-modern-day-church (or language) terms. Especially for those of us who decided to take chance on Jesus within the past decade, which would describe most of our group of 15 or so people. But I think we agreed with the previous quote as a good place for our understanding to begin.
-Two great quotes about "Thy Will Be Done":
"Here more clearly than anywhere the purpose of prayer becomes plain: not to make God do my will, but to bring my will in line with his."
"Thy will be done expresses meekness, which accepts, without complaining whatever God sends, or fails to send. We are asking God to teach us all that we should do and make us both willing and able for the task. Can you pray this from the heart? It is not so easy as it looks."
-In regards to our debts, or sins, there's the obvious: shortcomings, rebellion, etc. But the author then touched on sins of omission. If you haven't been convicted yet- get ready.
"Sins of omission are what we have left undone which we ought to have done."
Summed up: Good left undone. Immediately I think of people I see or things I hear that make my heart ache, but then try to forget about it because I just want to "stay positive". But positivity doesn't change reality. Then there are little things, like saying hi to someone or giving a compliment. Just open your mouth Sara, and let others be blessed.
-"Those who hope for God's forgiveness, said Jesus, must be able to tell him that they too have forgiven their debtors."
Forgiveness, I believe, is the hardest, most unnatural act of man.
- In regards to temptation:
"As Luther said, you can't keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair. Find out what for you is fire, and don't play with it!"
I could go on and on, I really could. But the sleeping beauties upstairs are stirring from their afternoon naps and I want to leave you with something. Kevin designed this as a tangible tool on a not-so-tangible topic. Focusing on ACTS while I pray has been revolutionary. At least for me. A page from the inside of this small booklet is below, but if you would like the the cover and all to print out for yourself, I can email the PDF to you. Just lemme know. Here's to finding delight in prayer!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Recipe Binder-Finally!

After much, much, much too long, I finally started a recipe binder. This was my goal for Project of the Week this week. I needed to at least build the back bones of this puppy. So here's what I've done so far.
Cover- cute little (free) printable from
Dividers- just had some of those lame yellow dividers with colored tabs laying around, so that's what I used!
Page protectors- also had those on hand. They're perfect because you can slide anything in there! Esp. all those annoying scraps I've torn out of magazines and shoved into a folder over the years. Yikes!

This project was pretty straight forward. I took some pics of what I've done so far, which was organize any printed recipes or magazine pages. It will take a while to print the recipes from various online sources. But this was a GOOD start. Oh, and I'll tell ya, once I got the page protectors in, they stuck out longer than the dividers with the tabs. So my tabs are basically obsolete right now. I'll probably try using a page protector as a divider and stick a tab on there.

Also, here's how I categorized the dividers:
Appetizers/Party Food
Soups and Stews
Main Dishes (within this I'm trying to keep meats first, then pastas, then veg, etc...)
Salads and Sides
Breakfast Food (totally deserves a category of its own in my opinion!)

Anyone have any handy tips they've heard or used for recipe binders? I'd love to know!