Thursday, February 28, 2013

Blessing #188 - A Resolution Kept

In January, I made one New Year's Resolution to go 100% dairy free.  Most years, my resolution is broken by January 4th, but this year I rocked it.  Except for the occasional slip up on a baked good made with milk, I've gotten rid of all dairy, no milk, no butter, and no cheese!

Thanks to Trader Joes, I found some good dairy substitutes.  My favorite has to be my non-dairy butter.  I thought I would miss cheese the most, but I did not realize how important butter is.  My non-dairy butter really tastes good, and I use it every day cooking for my family.

During January, we ate out.....a lot.  I just felt so overwhelmed.  Dairy is in almost every casserole, Crock Pot meal, and Italian.  If you take all those meals away, I had just a few meals left.  Learning how to cook with dairy substitutes just overwhelmed me, and I was afraid if I cooked with regular dairy I would end up with my face buried in a cup of cheese unable to resist it's cheesy goodness.

When I shared my problem with Shad, he told me not to even try to make all the casseroles, crock pot meals, and Italian.  He said they weren't his favorites so why bother.

Our plan was to start all over and to make our meals more simple with a meat, vegetable, and a grain.  During February, I've been trying some simpler recipes, and I don't feel as overwhelmed anymore.

Yes, I have missed dairy, and yes, it's been difficult to redo how I cook, but the payoff has been big.  Since going 100% dairy free, I have not had an asthma attack.  I haven't even had a wheezy day! A wheezy day is not where I watch an all day Jefferson's marathon.  No, a wheezy day was usually a cold and dreary day where I could not breathe very well.  The temperature has gone all the way down into the teens, and I did not have any breathing troubles.

Brandon has been my dairy police.  If I get close to any dairy at all, he reminds me, "Mommy you can't have dairy."  Last year, he saw me very sick, and my breathing machine creeps him out.  He gets nervous if I eat dairy because he knows I will get sick.  I don't want to scare him so I stay far away.

Not having asthma attacks in the middle of winter has been absolutely amazing for me.  A year ago, I sat in the pulmonary doctor's office, and asked him, "Who gets asthma at 30!?!" After a brief exam, he said it could happen and handed me three medicines to take every day for the rest of my life.

I'm still amazed that my problem could be fixed not by taking all those medicines, but by controlling my diet.  I had just accepted the fact that I would struggle with breathing for the rest of my life, but for the first time in over a year, I have hope.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Blessing #187 - Foam Core Chalkboard

Today's project is just a simple tip.  A few weeks ago, my friend asked me to make some chalkboard art for the church Valentine's Banquet.  Thanks to Less Than Perfect Life of Bliss, I knew that black poster board worked for a quick chalkboard.

One Saturday morning, I set out to get two black poster boards, but there must have been some kind of big project due at a local school because there was no poster board...NONE! I had to settle for Plan B which was black foam core board, and in the end I fell in love with Plan B!

All you need for this quick chalkboard is black foam core board, chalk, and some dry paper towels.

When I first tried to write on the board, it wouldn't all.

I almost just threw the board away, but I decided to try one last thing.  Any time I have used chalk board paint, I always have to prime the chalkboard by rubbing it all over with chalk.  I decided to try to prime the foam core board and see what would happen.

I completely rubbed down the board with chalk.

Don't be stingy with the chalk, and make sure every inch in covered.  Once the whole board is covered, blend it all in with a dry paper towel.

After I primed the board, I tried chalk again, and it erased perfectly with a dry paper towel! (Yes, I did my happy dance.)

Once I got to work on the project, I realized one major benefit of using foam core board, and I loved it even more.

After working very hard on the menu board, I realized it was off center. Normally, I'm not a huge perfectionist, but this drove me nuts!

I wasn't about to redo all my work, but I found an easier solution.

Instead of erasing all the work, I just cut an inch off one of the sides and adjusted just a few things.

Originally, these boards were the same size.  The love is sweet board had a lot of dead space at the bottom so I just cut it off.

At the banquet, my friend used an easel to display the board.

Next time you have a party and need a chalkboard a foam core board is an awesome, cheap alternative. Foam core board is definitely one of my new favorites!


Friday, February 15, 2013

Blessing #186 - The Best Gift He's Ever Given

Over our years together, Shad has given me some good gifts.  My primary love language is gifts so he always does a great job.  He's given me a flowers, a Lisa Leonard necklace, pyrex, and a banjo.  He has great taste and always manages to find just the right gift for me. (What other husband would work extra to get his wife a banjo?)

I love all the gifts he has given me, but yesterday he gave me the best gift he has ever given me, hands down, no contest.

Yesterday, Shad got up around 4:30 am. I thought he just had to go in to work early because of some snow. I think I may have even huffed loudly as I rolled over in bed because he woke me up, but little did I know he woke up that early just so he could go get the boys and I some Valentines.

When I came downstairs to start my day, Shad had left me some candy, flowers, and a card. Here is what the card said....

Hey Baby, 

I love you more now than the day we met (obviously)

I love you more now than the time you sung "Go Home Weekend" (I never told you, but that song changed my life)

I love you more now than the moments we shared on our first date (Chillis)

I love you more now than all of the nights we walked all the way down the hill and said our goodbye's beside your dorm (so glad those days are over)

I love you more now than our first kiss

I could keep on going, but the point I want you to always remember is that I love you more now than I ever have!

Why? Because I would take this Stephanie and the incredible woman you have become over the girl that stole my heart 11 years ago. 

You are so much stronger, braver, prettier, passionate, determined, talented, confident, creative, funnier and I admire so much more about you than you could ever know!

I love you more, 

Proverbs 25:11 says, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver," and that is exactly how I feel about this card. His words were just the right words at just the right time. I carried the card around all day and reread it at least ten times. Those words are the best gift Shad has ever given me, better than a necklace, better than some roses, and even better than a banjo. In a week, the flowers he got me will die, but his words will stay with me.  They will be the confidence in my step, the brightness in my smile, and the warmth in my heart.

Eleven Valentines ago, to know that he loved me was pretty amazing, but to know that he loves me after eleven years, after two moves, and after two kids.  To know that he loves me when he knows my major flaws, and he's seen me at my worst.  To know he loves the woman I have become today...what a gift!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Blessing #185 - Brandon's K5 Valentine

Sometimes, when I work on a project, it's an automatic home run.  Everything works out, and things fall into place and it turns out just like I pictured it in my head.  Yes, that happens sometimes, but most of the time projects are not automatic home runs.  Sometimes a project is a swing and a miss, then swing again and miss again, then swing again, miss again, throw the bat down, and start yelling second cousin profanities, and then a swing again to finally have a solid base hit.

Brandon's kindergarten valentine was just that project.

It all started last week as we rode in the car. I asked Shad and B for ideas for B's valentines.  My idea was to take three pictures of B holding a chalkboard (yes, I do find a way to work a chalkboard into every project) and in each picture he's holding a different word. "Happy.Valentines.Day"

Then B asked for Duck Dynasty Valentine's.  Just in case you don't know what Duck Dynasty is, you can watch this. Shad, being the smart man he is, suggested "Happy, happy, happy Valentine's Day!" It was genius, and I consented that it was a better idea than my chalkboards (barely).

After the initial idea, here is how B's Valentine's progressed.

Swing #1: Paint Brandon's face with the black camouflage paint like they use on Duck Dynasty, and take pictures of him in camouflage.

Miss #1: There are still many people that have no idea what Duck Dynasty is.  I only had thick paint and not the real camouflage, and I'm pretty sure that the sight of a six year old with his face painted black is going to be very offensive to most people.

Swing #2: I thought it was an easy fix.  I would just paint his face with green and brown camouflage, and take cute pictures of him outside.

Miss #2: I should have painted his face green with brown spots instead of brown with green spots.  He looked like he had some kind of plague.....a terribly cute plague, but still a plague.

Swing #3: Make a fake beard out of felt, put a bandanna on him, and *wahlah* Willie Robertson!

Miss #3: Tuesday morning, I told B that the camo paint didn't work, but not to worry I was going to make him a beard and we would take pictures when he got home from school.

When I picked him up from school, B yelled, "Did you bring my beard?" Except, he didn't enunciate the "d" on the end of "beard." (Read it again and leave off the "d")

Another mom was standing there as he yelled this, and her eyes got really big.  I answered the best I knew how. "No Brandon! I have not made your beardddddd to wear on your face yet, your beardddd."

Somehow, my explanation only sounded slightly better.

Swing #4: When he came home I quickly made his beard, and he looked awesome! Very Willie Robertsonish!

Miss #4: As I was snapping pictures of B, I told Shad, "This beard does not photograph well." Suddenly, I realized with that skinny beard he looked kind of like this guy.

 I could not catch a break! (and technically if the baseball analogy were true I would have struck out one miss ago.)

Eventually, I went with what I had and made him this Valentine at PicMonkey.

This is not what I had in mind when I started this project, but it is a good solid base hit.  Brandon is going to be really proud to pass out his Duck Dynasty Valentine's, and in the end that is all that matters, but next year I'm going with the chalkboards.

Note: You can check out B's Valentine from two years ago here.

I am sharing this post with the Bower Power Blog Lovely Craft Valentines Party and House of Hepworths.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Blessing #184 - Romance and the Shulamite Woman

Remember in October when I mentioned the (in)couragers from (in)courage community. Well, session two of (in)couragers started up yesterday, and I am so excited to be (in)couraging with my friends at (in) Perfect Balance again.  

At (in) Perfect Balance, this week is romance week, and I thought I would share my post from there over here today. (Yes, I realize that sentence sounded weird.)  

During the first few years of our marriage, I had a problem with my husband.  Most arguments ended with me complaining how he wasn't romantic anymore, and part of that was true.

After our wedding day, Shad didn't write as many love notes, and he didn't stare into my eyes for hours upon end.  However, I failed to see the whole picture.  I blamed our lack of romance completely on my husband and failed to see my part in the problem.   In my misguided thinking, I believed that the man should have to romance the woman, and if I reminded my husband of that fact enough wouldn't he change?

About five years into our marriage (Hey, I'm a slow learner), I realized that romance is a two way street.  Don't believe me? Just read that often overlooked book of the Bible, the Song of Solomon.  The Shulamite woman romances Solomon just as much as he romances her.

If we learn virtue from the Proverbs 31 woman, can't we learn romance from the Shulamite woman.  She doesn't mince words to let her man know that she loves him and wants him.  

Eventually, I stopped trying to change my husband and started to change myself by focusing on romancing him.  A little surprise, a sweet note, or a little spice all let him know that his lips are like lillies.  His arms are like rounded bars of gold, and his body like ivory.....Well, it sounded cool when the Shulamite woman said it!

Dennis Rainey said, "Romance is not the foundation of a marriage.  It is the fire in the fireplace, the warmth and security of a relationship."  This Valentine week, take a note from the Shulamite woman and try to fan the flame of romance in your marriage.

You can find the the (in)courager group I'm in here, but you can also find more groups here.  This session they have new groups for infertility, chronic illness, and many other topics. 

I'm linking this post up to Wifey Wednesday on To Love Honor and Vacuum.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Blessing #184 - Homemade Butterfingers

It's Valentine's Week! Yes, that's right I said week! My love for Shad is way to big to fit into one day and that's why I like to stretch it out into a week.  In October, we celebrate Shad's birthday week, and in February, we celebrate Valentine week.  During Valentine week, I like to have a small surprise for Shad everyday.  Nothing big, just a little way to say, "I love you."

Celebrating these weeks helps me stay intentional in showing Shad love.  He really looks forward to these weeks, and I love planning them.

On Saturday, I surprised him with homemade butterfingers, and I just had to share them on the blog.

Actually.....I must be honest the homemade butterfingers was supposed to be his surprise for Sunday.  Saturday, I was a bit cranky, a regular ol' grumpelstiltskin. Although the butterfingers were for Sunday's surprise, I had to use them as a peace offering on Saturday.  Nothing says I'm sorry better than chocolate!

When I saw this recipe, I was very skeptical, but the recipe is super simple.  Sandwich two cheez-its together with a little bit of peanut butter. Dip the whole thing in chocolate (I used almond bark).  Peanut butter and chocolate are soul mates, but throw in a cheez-it and I start gagging.

Much to my surprise, they tasted very similar to butter fingers minus the ability to rip out all the fillings in your teeth.  

Butterfingers are one of Shad's favorite candy bars, and this was a simple little treat that he really enjoyed. It's a simple way to say I love you.....or in my case, I'm sorry.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Curse #51 - Falling Off the Wagon

For four weeks, I repeat four weeks I did not watch the Bachelor.  That may not seem like a big deal to you, but for me four weeks Bachelor free is a big accomplishment.  In the past, I've blogged about my problem. I know it's not high quality television and I still believe it's degrading to women, but so help me I love it.

However, as much as I love the show after the last round of the Bachelorette, I took it a little too far, and decided to quit the Bachelor.  Let me explain....

After the final rose last season, I searched Instagram, and followed Jeff Holmes on Instagram.  Even after the show was over, thanks to Instagram, I could still watch the fairy tale unfold as Jeff posted pictures of trips to the amusement park and Emily's daughter's first day of school.

Then one day, as I was checking out of Rite Aid, I saw a headline on the cover of a magazine sharing rumors of Jeff and Emily's break up.  Immediately, I looked at Shad and said, "Oh! That's not true! Jeff just posted a picture of them this weekend hand in hand." The statement didn't sound crazy in my head, but based on how the cashier stared at me, I'd say I was boarding the train to crazy town.

Weeks before Jeff and Emily's official break up announcement, I told Shad of my concerns. "I really think Jeff and Emily broke up.  He hasn't posted many pictures of them lately." Choo-choo! Last stop Crazy Town.

Obviously, I had taken my love of all things Bachelor too far.  That's why when the new "most dramatic season ever" rolled around, I decided not to watch and I didn't watch for four whole weeks.  Four glorious weeks when I could carry on a normal conversation about mature topics like global warming, the fiscal cliff, and  other high quality shows like Real Housewives of Where ever.  However, all that changed on Monday night.

I really didn't sit down to watch the show, it was just on in the room where I was working.  However, in just ten minutes I was sucked in all thanks to Tiara.  She makes that show worth watching.  There's a Tiara in every season, that girl that just can't get along with all the other girls.  You know the one that all the other girls say is not there "for the right reasons." That statement has always bugged me because what exactly is "the right reason" to be on the Bachelor? Would the other girls honestly say that the only reason they are on the show is love and not the fabulous travel, fame, and potential money.

So here I am again, deciding who is there "for the right reasons," seeing who has chemistry with Sean, and analyzing whether or not Tiara faked hypothermia just to get a rose.  Choo choo! I hear that train to Crazy Town rolling down the tracks.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Blessing #183 - Book Party

In November, I had so much fun at my Favorite Things Party, I decided to have another party.  This time I had a book party.

I love to read, and I've always wanted to go to a book club, but I just never got around to it.  A book party seemed perfect for me.

About a month ago, I invited some friends, and gave them five books to choose from for the book selection.  In the end, we chose Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin.

For my book party, I wanted to let people know that it was okay if you didn't finish or even read the book, slackers were welcome.  Honestly, I finished the book only three hours before the party so I couldn't judge anyone.

For the party decorations, I kept it low key (remember I was still reading the book at the last second.

A tray, books, and some blocks made a great centerpiece for my table.

I used my trusty rusty chalkboards to display some of Gretchen's resolutions from the book.

My biggest time and impact came from my chalkboard dresser where I tried to copy the book cover.

During the party, we ate a meal, and then discussed the book.  Happier At Home is about Gretchen Rubin's year where she worked on being home.  Each month she chose a different area in her life and made resolutions to work on that month (You can read her blog here.)  Discussing Gretchen's project, opened up the discussion to sharing our own lives.

It was a very fun discussion, and I really enjoyed seeing the parts of the book that stuck out to my friends.  If you've ever wanted to be in a book club, don't wait or make excuses! Have a book party of your own!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Blessing #182 - Medicine Cabinet

In January, I got hit with the shelf paper bug, and I shelf papered all of my kitchen cabinets (and maybe the walls).  As I shelf papered my cabinets, I worked on the organization of the cabinets too.

One cabinet I focused on was our medicine cabinet.  I don't have a picture of the cabinet before, but I had the medicine stored in open containers.

Collin is getting bigger and smarter and he already pulls the stool over to get him a snack from another cabinet.  I was afraid he would get into the medicine.

After a trip to the Dollar Store, here is my medicine cabinet.

It doesn't look too bad, but you know me, I have a problem labeling things.  Here is the cabinet after I labeled everything.

When Shad saw the cabinet all labeled, he said, "That's a little over the top. I'm surprised you didn't peel off the label to the peroxide and make your own label."


But not only did I label the peroxide, I used the chemical formula to label the hydrogen peroxide! My inner nerd is so happy right now!

Because Shad very rarely gets sick, he really has no idea what medicine is what.  The has an immune system made of steel! Many times when the boys are sick, I am also sick and very much out of it (I am a terrible sick person).  I wanted to make the medicine cabinet very easy and user friendly for Shad for those times when I am sick and out of it.

First, to protect my curious two year old, the medicines are on the top shelf in boxes with lids. The bins are color coated green for the boys, pink for me, and blue for Shad.

Now when the boys are sick, Shad knows to go right to the green bin.  I used some left over labels from my spice rack, and labeled all the medicine.  I wrote what the medicine was for, and the dosage for each boy.

On the second shelf, we have our boo boo station.  I bought the little black drawers for $3 to use for Kcups in the coffee station....but it didn't work.  The drawers are perfect for holding first aid items.

In the past, when one of the boys got hurt, I would have to hunt down the band aids and peroxide.  Now, it will be calmer knowing where all the first aid items are.

In the cream drawer, I wrote a quick note on each cream letting Shad know what they are for.

Also on the second shelf, I store my nebulizer in the thirty-one little carry all, and extra medicine for it in the tub below it.

On the bottom shelf, I keep daily vitamins in a basket.  I also used another Dollar Tree container as our sick caddy. I saw this idea at A Bowl Full of Lemons, and I thought it was great.  When I get sick, I always need these items, tissues, hand sanitizer, cough drops, and chap stick.  Next time I get sick, I won't have to run to the drug store and get anything, and I'll be able to carry it from room to room.

I love the look of our new cabinet, and I really love how easy it is for Shad to use now.  He hates asking me where stuff is, and this is going to make things a little easier on him and me.

I'm sharing this post with A Bowl Full of Lemons and The House of Hepworths.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Blessing 181 - Family Love Wall

It's February 1st! The month of love! Today I'd like to share a little project that been lots of fun for my family.

Ever since Christmas, I have really enjoyed drawing typography on my chalkboard wall.  For Valentine's Day, I wanted to do something special.

Using this pin as inspiration (you can find the original source here), I drew it up on the walls.

Once I had the chalk art up, I bought some post it notes from the Dollar Tree.  The note pad had four colors, blue, pink, green, and yellow.

Family members would write something that they love about another family member and put it on the wall.  To easily see which notes are yours, each family member was assigned a color, Shad - blue, me-pink, green-Brandon, and yellow-Collin.

Originally, I wanted to store the notes in those little silver buckets, but Collin had a little too much fun with them.

That's a lot of love right there!

For Brandon, we write down what he wants to say and he signs his name.  This is one of my favorite that he has given me.

At first, I didn't know if Shad would get into this project, and I didn't want to put pressure on him.  However, he has left me a note right in the middle of the board most mornings, and I really look forward to seeing it. A few nights ago, he said, "I haven't gotten my note yet!"

This project has been so nice, and it warms my heart every time I look in my pantry and see all that love.