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Friday, January 28, 2011

Duct Tape

When I was a kid, I always enjoyed a roll of duct tape, or any type of tape for that matter. And now that duct tape comes in all colors and styles, I'm in heaven! I was constantly getting in trouble as a kid for using up all the tape. I just love it! I was blessed with a daughter who shares my love, and she received her first roll of tape for Christmas this year. I can now sympathize with my mom from years ago, as I go to look for MY ROLL of tape and find it hidden in my daughters room being used for her latest art project.

colors of duct tape
One of my newest hobbies has been making purses out of duct tape. I received my very first duct tape purse from my niece, Mikaela, a few years ago. She actually had made it with Ariel in mind, but my daughter thought it seemed silly to have a purse made out of tape. Little did she know that a couple years later she would be begging me to make one for herself.

I loved my first duct tape purse. As you can see, it's very special and was made with love. I'm certain I will keep it for always.

I've made a few purses since receiving that first one, and I thought I would share a short tutorial on how I did it. You can look on YouTube and find tons of videos to explain the process step by step.

First you have to determine how large you want your purse. I make mine about 8 inches tall. I start by cutting several 8 or 9 inch strips in 1 color, and then fold each of them in half lengthwise.

I choose an alternating color and cut the same amount of strips in the same length. This will end up making a square purse, but you can choose different lengths for different shapes.

After my strips are all folded in half, I lay down all of one color, and then start weaving the opposite color through them. It helps to tape one side down to the table to hold it in place, or go ahead and seal the side.

how to make duct tape woven purseFinish weaving all of your strips until you end up with the dimensions of purse you want.

how to make duct tape woven purse
I trim all my edges, and seal them. You don't have to actually seal them yet, but I find it makes them much easier to work with later.

how to make duct tape woven purse

You have now finished the front piece of fabric for your purse. Go ahead and make an exact duplicate for the back of your purse.

Next you are going to work on the sides and bottom. Depending on how large you want it, will determine how many strips you need. I make my purses rather skinny, and only use 2 strips wide.

Seal all the edges. Make sure when you're making them you match the same dimensions as the front and back of your purse. If you don't make it tall enough, it will end up looking bad. You make three of these, one for each side, and then one for the bottom of the purse.

I lay all my pieces out on the table, and duct tape them all to the bottom of the purse.

how to make duct tape woven purse
After you've attached all the sides to the bottom, you can continue taping all the sides together to form your purse. When I've gotten all the insides of my purse taped, I go ahead and tape the outside edges too. I think it gives it a stronger hold, and it looks better.

how to make duct tape woven purse
Once all my sides have been taped, I work on the top lip of the purse. If my sides are not all even, I cut them down to the right size, then I finish it off by adding a long strip of duct tape all the way around. I normally tear the piece in half lengthwise before I attach it to the purse. Otherwise it covers too much of the checkered pattern.

The next step is working on the strap of your purse. I've done a couple different types. My daughter's favorite is a braided handle. On this purse, I made it simple and just cut two different color long strips of duct tape to make the handle. You want to make sure to secure your handle very tightly so it doesn't come lose.

With the larger checkered purse, I use a long piece of tape and attach it completely down the side of the purse. I've also seen it recommended, as you attach your handle, to use a long enough piece of tape that will stick all the way down the side and onto the bottom of the purse. I have used grommets on my purse handles too. They make a more professional look. However, it can be a little difficult to cut the hole when you're going through several layers of duct tape. Most of the purses I make are small enough that duct tape will hold the handle on. And I've often made the joke to the friends I've given these to, "If it breaks, just duct tape it back together. Duct tape fixes everything!"
The last step is adding your embellishments. My personal favorite is a small bow, placed off center on the top edge. Ariel really likes to add a duct tape rose to her purse. If you have an X-Acto knife you can cut different pictures out to add. I haven't quite mastered using my knife yet. Duct tape is so sticky, it's really tricky!

In order to make my simple bow, you cut two of the same size pieces of duct tape, and stick them back to back. If you want your bow to stand out, use two different colors!

You just gather it in the center, and tie it off with a small piece of duct tape. Then simply duct tape it where you want it to go.

Here is our completed purse!

how to make duct tape woven purse
I've made a couple of these purses to be used as gifts for Ariel's friends. I always like to add some more duct tape things for inside. For this purse, I made a matching pink and purple wallet and a pretty duct tape rose that we sprayed with perfume to make it appear even more real. Be creative!

I found tutorial videos for making wallets and roses out of duct tape on YouTube.

how to make duct tape woven purse

This was my very first duct tape purse I made myself. I put several hours into it, and a couple rolls of duct tape. I started making my purses smaller now.
This one I put pleats in to make it a little fancier, and I added a pocket.

A couple more samples of my purses!

how to make duct tape woven purse
This was my first "man-bag". Gabriel loves it and carries it to school every day. He's even offered my services to all the little girls in his class!

how to make duct tape woven spider-man bag
Be careful when you make your first purse. They can be very addicting!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Second Chance

It is with great humility that I continue my post from yesterday. I was feeling so good as I left my house to pick up my children from school. I had just posted what I felt like was a message from God, and I had it figured out.

James 4:10 humble yourselves before the Lord

I was going to be so thankful for what I have, and not even focus at all on what I don't have.

I got a couple blocks from my house, and my car started to act funny. It was like it just wouldn't go. I tried to step on the gas harder, as I was gripping the steering wheel very tightly trying to keep it going in the direction I wanted to go. I only had a few feet and I needed to get over in the left lane, so I could make a left turn onto the street leading to the school. I had no idea what was happening to my car, but I suspected that I was running out of gas. I planned on getting the kids first and then heading straight to the gas station, but I figured plans had changed. I needed gas now. I was coming up on a busy intersection and knew my car wasn't going to make it much further. There was NO WAY I was going to let the car die on the busy street. I wasn't thinking about the danger, I was just thinking, HOW HUMILIATING!

I was able to step on the gas a little and my car crawled forward, allowing me to turn off onto a side street, the opposite way that I wanted to be. I just didn't want to take any chances that the car would die while making a left turn, therefore blocking all the oncoming traffic. I was going up a hill, and couldn't decide what to do. The car hadn't completely died yet, but I knew any second it was going to, so I kept plugging away up the hill. It quit on me right as I was in front of someone's driveway. There was no pulling over, it just died! I prayed some very desperate prayers, hoping no one was going to come out and yell at me that I was blocking their driveway. I tried turning the car on again, and I was able to slowly eek my way forward a few more feet, and then it was all over. The car was dead, and there was nothing I could do about it.

My stress level was rising a little, but I remembered to think positively. Thank you, God, the car didn't die in the middle of the intersection. I was on a side street, with not very much traffic. I had about 15 minutes before the kids would be walking out of their school building, and I was clueless at what to do, or who to call. We're a one car family, remember. There was nothing my husband could do to save me. He was stuck at work until his ride was ready to go home. But sometimes you just need to whine to someone, and see what they think you should do.

I called my husband. He was very sympathetic and told me he would come help as soon as he got home from work. At this point, I got out of my car, and immediately a man pulled over and asked if I needed help. I'm a little leery of strange men, but my husband was on the phone, so I figured what harm could come to me. I explained I was pretty certain I just ran out of gas, and I should be able to take care of it. (Right?)

He said he had to go somewhere, but he would be right back to help me. At this point, my time was about up, and the kids were going to be worrying if I didn't get over to the school. So I told the man, "I've got my husband on the phone here, and I think I'll be fine. But thank you very much."

About 30 seconds after that, another man stopped, and asked if he could help me. I politely refused again, and said I must go get my children from school right now. My stress level was continuing to rise, but I think I kept myself in control pretty well.

I told Titus I would just walk and get the kids from school and then we would walk home. I mean, what else am I going to do?

Just as I was getting off the phone, the first guy is back, wanting to help me. I was so overwhelmed by how nice people were being. I felt like such a ditz running out of gas, and nobody seemed concerned at all about that. They just wanted to do anything they could to help me. The time was now 3:30pm and I told the guy my kids are out of school, so I really can't do anything about it right now, but thank you so much for the offer. (again!) And a few seconds after that, the second guy is back. He said he had to drop his children off somewhere, but if I was still there when he got back, he WAS helping me.

I was feeling very blessed at this point. I mean I had two strangers that just couldn't seem to let me be. They were just determined to help out. I grabbed my stroller out of the trunk, knowing that time was up and I needed to move it quickly.

Before I started to walk away, I had the owner of the house my car died in front of, come walking down the driveway towards me. She was a very sweet old lady, and asked if I wanted to come inside to get warm for a little bit. I explained my predicament, and said, I really must get my kids from school. She wanted to drive me. I politely declined, and said I would be fine, but thank you for the offer.

Finally I made it to the kid's school. I was about 15 minutes late, and Gabriel's first words to me were, "Mom. I thought it was like the future and you had left me and died or something." He is a little bit overdramatic sometimes.

I was still feeling very positive and thankful that everything was going to be okay. We were just going to walk home, and Titus would get the car. In fact, I was actually really proud of myself. I felt like I had faced a stressful situation, and I was doing well. It might just turn into an adventure with the kids too. They were excited about walking home!

We made it about half a block away, and my perspective was starting to slip. The kids were enjoying their walk, trudging through the SNOW. I was really thankful that the temperature was pretty pleasant outside, but the snow was starting to get to me.

If you remember earlier, I mentioned that I pulled the stroller out of the trunk. It sounded like a really good idea when you have a three year old who doesn't like to walk very much, and always requests to be carried. I knew my arms would get tired, so I was just grateful I had the stroller along.

If you are a person who shovels your sidewalk, I think there are not enough thankful words in our language to show my immense gratitude toward you. Unfortunately, more than half of the city doesn't seem to believe in shoveling the sidewalk.

I did not push my stroller on our walk home.

I dragged it through the snow backwards.

The majority of our walk home takes place on a very busy main street. During the school rush, the traffic is just as busy as it is at 5 o'clock. There was no option of walking down the street with the stroller.

We were forced to trudge through a foot of snow. Nobody seems to claim responsibility for the sidewalks there.

I'm certain it was at least 50 pounds I was DRAGGING through the snow. My back started to hurt, my hands were getting blisters, and I was MISERABLE. I just couldn't take it anymore. It was like the pot didn't crack, it shattered. The pieces were falling all over the place, and I couldn't stay in control anymore. I was done thinking positively. I just wanted to quit.

Both my son and daughter were so sweet, and they tried to help drag the stroller. Gabe couldn't get it to budge, but Ariel was able to bounce Zech along for a couple bumps.

This is normally a 20 minute walk for us, but we were starting to go on 30, 40, then 50 minutes, and the end didn't seem to be near.

I was so mad at myself for thinking that a stroller would be helpful. It's NOT! It's probably about the most torturesome thing I could have chosen to do at that moment.

The corner is made for high traffic. Instead of just one stoplight for the block, there are now two. On two separate occasions, we had to try to beat the light at getting across. It's a simple feat if you're just walking on foot. But I'm dragging a stroller, bumping it along the way, trying not to dump my child out of it. I actually had a car with a couple young teenage girls in it that got a real kick out of me dragging my stroller, walking backwards. They had the nerve to point and laugh at me, when I was already feeling utterly humiliated. How could they be so mean when I'm crying, trying to pull my way through the cold wet snow.

We finally made it just a block or two from our house, when I hit the total bottom of my misery. They recently redid the road, and completely tore up the ground. No grass grows there; it's just mud and straw thrown over the top. The snow is still completely covering the ground, so it's very difficult to know where the sidewalk is. ESPECIALLY when you're walking BACKWARDS.

The sun was out and had melted a lot of snow. The mud was wet, and very deep. My shoes that I wear in the snow have a 2 inch heel on it. I like it because it elevates me enough that I just walk on top of the snow, instead of sinking into it. Well, we all sunk into the mud past the heel of my shoe.

So now I'm wet, my back is aching, I have blisters on my hands, my pride is gone, and I'm covered with mud. I was done. If I didn't have children with me. I think I would have just stopped and cried for awhile before moving on. I wasn't just focusing on the bad, I was wallowing in it.

And I was MAD, and I was crying and yelling, "GODDDD! What happened??? Why did you let me go through this? Why couldn't you have done something?"

It was then that God very quietly whispered in my ear, "I sent you two men to help fix your car, and you sent them away. Then I tried to send you a sweet old lady and you turned her down for a ride."

If I was God, and I had just listened to the walk home from school that took place, I wouldn't have been gently whispering. I would have been screaming. "What do you mean, I didn't help you?? I sent people back over and over again, and you were too proud. Then if that wasn't bad enough, I sent a woman to help, and you turned her down 4 TIMES for a ride!! I tried to help you! So don't get mad at me because you were too stubborn!"

I am so thankful that God is not like me. He is always so patient and understanding. He gives us second chances, and third chances, and 20 chances...

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10) I just saw that this happens to be the verse of the day on my blog. I couldn't help but thank God for His mercy when I saw this.

  Every day God lifts me back up when I have fallen.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Where's Your Focus?

"Stop focusing on what you don't have. Start looking at what you do have."

Get your focus on God, and His blessings.

It's been awhile since I wrote my post about personal declarations. At that point in my life, I was declaring that I would take things "one step at a time, and one day at a time." We had just had our second car break down, and I was spending all my time driving around. I'm still declaring that, and God is coming through for me like He always does.

Lately, I've been feeling kind of down. I think that it's really common for me this time of year. I spend so much time getting ready for things to come, that I often forget to live right in the moment. Gabriel has a birthday that's coming up in a couple of weeks, and a lot of my free time has been spent getting ready for it. But I love to do the work because I know it will be spectacular in the end!

I took my son shopping this past weekend, and we made a whole afternoon of it. We had lunch together at Subway, shopped at Good Will and the mall, and several other specialty shops. We looked all over the city for "Super Mario" things. The trip started out to be a huge success, and then quickly went downhill. 

We went to store after store, and found nothing. There was either nothing there, or it was WAYYY too expensive. I tried to talk Gabe into maybe getting something besides Mario, but he wouldn't listen. He started to get more and more sullen, and developed a very bad attitude. I had to take him aside and tell him these words, "Stop focusing on what you're not getting, and try to remember what you've already gotten!"

I have uttered these words so many times to each of my children, getting frustrated at them for being so ungrateful. A couple weeks ago my daughter and I took a Saturday afternoon and spent it shopping. She wanted to make a duct tape purse for a friend of hers, so we went to the store together to pick out a few colors of duct tape. We also picked up a couple new things for her bedroom that we recently had redone. 

As our time was drawing to a close, she asked me again if we could go out for a special treat together. That means a pretzel from Target, or a coffee from Classic Bean. I tried to explain that we had already spent all the money we were going to on the things we just bought.

I hate to tell my children that we have no money for something. That's never the case. God has blessed us greatly! I try to help my children learn that there are just some things that we haven't made a priority to spend our money on. It's not that we don't have money to eat out today; we just chose to buy "material items" to take home with us. So as I told her again that we already spent all the money we were going to that day, she started to get upset and cry because she wanted to have that treat with me. I used my favorite phrase on her, "Stop thinking about what you're not getting, and remember what we just got and the time we just spent together!"

So as I was getting ready for church this Sunday morning I found myself getting more and more frustrated and losing my patience. All these things kept running through my mind.

I'm tired of going to church early; I wish we had another car!

I'm tired of wearing my glasses, and I wish I had contacts again!

I'm tired of doing the dishes, and cleaning the house when it just gets messy again!

I'm tired of pursing friendship with people who don't really even care about me!

and Blah, Blah, Blah .. the list goes on. I was spending the morning having a big pity party. It was rather pathetic.

This week our Pastor Gordon had a different kind of message. He spent the service interviewing a friend of mine. It was totally unexpected and exactly what I needed to hear. Sometimes it just helps knowing that you are not the only one who feels down, or who struggles in life. There were a couple of times that I felt so convicted and then comforted just to hear what was being said. It was a phenomenal service.

As it drew to a close, and the altar time started, I began to pray while standing at my seat. I don't even know what words I prayed; I was just talking to God. I saw my sister go forward for prayer with my mother, and it just hit me like a ton of bricks falling. I am that selfish little kid whining and crying about what I don't have when my life is overflowing with awesome miracles that God has provided for me.

As I stood there and cried, thinking about how selfish I had become, God sent me a friend. She didn't say much, but she put her arm around me, and I felt the arm of God saying, "It's okay. I know." It was such a powerful moment; I don't really have any words to even describe it. God is always bigger than any obstacle or feeling that you have. He will whisper the truth in a loving way, with His arm wrapped around your shoulder- just coming to stand by you for comfort.

I was upset about something that happened with one friend, feeling unwanted, when I am surrounded by women who love me and are there for me. I have an awesome group of friends that I can get together with and be myself. I can laugh with them, and even cry with them. We can watch silly movies, and we can watch serious ones. We can study books, make crafts, or just have our children play together. God has blessed me so much in the area of friendship.

I was inconvenienced a little on a Sunday morning by having to leave an hour early for church, when everyday of the week my husband gets a ride from a friend in to work. We've never been without a car, and I don't have to even drive my husband anymore, yet I was throwing a fit about one day of the week. God has provided in ways that He didn't even need to, but He wanted to. In less than a month, we should have enough money to buy a new car. God is AWESOME!

I whine and cry about having to wear my glasses every day, but the truth is, we have the money to get me some contacts. I've just been too lazy to schedule the appointment to get it done. God has blessed our family financially above what is necessary. We've never been without the desires of our hearts. He always provides; not just our needs, but our wants.

I am so blessed by God. I wish that I would never forget that, but it happens. And then He always gently but persistently reminds me. God is WOW, and I love Him with all my heart.

"I will stop focusing on what I don't have, and I WILL focus on what I do have!"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Death Will Die

It's been awhile since I shared what my pastor, Gordon, has been speaking about. This past Sunday it was on the topic of Death. I found it to be very thought provoking, and wanted to post my notes here. It's also a good segue into a book series I've been wanting to recommend for a long time now.

"Life is a hundred yard dash with a brick wall at the finish line." Rocky Aoki

What is wrong with this quote? Doesn't it just not sit right with you? For me I pictured the crash dummy just riding along at a quick pace and then as he hits the brick wall parts of his fake body just go flying everywhere. It doesn't leave you with a very pleasant feeling. That's not how I want my life to end, or how I believe my life will end.

Everyone lives life, and life will always end with death.

What is death?

• It is not a "brick wall"
An interesting fact: At the age of 18 you have hit your peak physiologically and then it's downhill from there.

• It is not a "revolving door"

• Death is a "dressing room"

To better explain this, Gordon used this verse:
"For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”1 Corinthians 15:53,54 (NIV)

The clothing you wear now is going to be traded in...the mortal with immortality.

I wanted to look up the words mortal and immortality in the dictionary to see what it said. I think sometimes it just helps you understand and interpret things better to see what the literal meaning is.
im·mor·tal·i·ty (môr-tl-t) n.
1. The quality or condition of being immortal.
2. Endless life or existence.
3. Enduring fame.

"Perpetual Life after Death"

What's Beyond Death?

• There is a fork in the road

"So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God." Romans 14:12 (NIV)

When I have my moment of accountability, I want to stand before God and say, "I chose to follow Christ."
This means :
• I received His forgiveness
• I embraced submission
• I experienced freedom

I take comfort in the fact, that one of these days "Death will Die"

I found it to be a very interesting sermon. It's one of those that gets you thinking about life after death. For the longest time I would start to think about heaven and my palms would start to sweat, my breath would get short, and anxiety would overcome me. I know as a Christian we are supposed to look forward to heaven, and be excited to go there. Well, up until recently, if I was completely honest, I dreaded the thought. I love Jesus, but can I really live forever and ever and ever. Maybe when I was a kid I shouldn't have watched the movie "Death Becomes Her". It gave me nightmares, but also a little bit of insight into how life would be lived here on this earth forever. We know heaven won't be like this life so it's just hard to imagine what it will be like.I've heard sermons on heaven and how wonderful it's going to be. The streets are going to be made of gold, and we'll be feasting, and never be sick again. I've been in worship services where the leader will say, "won't this be great? We'll be doing this forever in heaven." That never brought me very much comfort. I mean, really, I can't sing that song forever. I am not a singer.

It wasn't until my birthday this past year that my entire perspective changed. I finally believe I can see a glimpse of what heaven truly could be like, and I'm excited. I'm actually anxious to go there. For my birthday, Titus found a book for me that came highly recommended. He was searching online and happened to see this book on the best seller list. The only thing he didn't realize was that it was the best seller list years ago. It's actually the first book of a three-part series by Randy Alcorn.

deadline by randy alcorn
I have found that I can't even put into words to describe how wonderful these books are. They have lots of details in them and can seem intimidating when you first pick it up. But after just a few chapters you'll be hooked. All three are murder/mystery works of fiction. They are inspiring and leave you feeling full of life. I thoroughly enjoyed each book and can't wait to read the books again so I can get more out of it the second time around.

I found a review by Joshua Harris that I thought said exactly what I felt after reading this book. Here is his last paragraph. "In a letter I wrote to Randy Alcorn thanking him for his novel, I told him I’d never felt more “excited about being alive and more anxious to die.” In a very real sense that should be the wonderful dilemma of the Christian life. Though rich with meaning and purpose, we’re constantly aware that in this life, we’re only passing through. Reading Deadline challenged me to live with, in Randy’s own words, 'an eternal perspective.'"dominion by randy alcorn
The second book of the series, Dominion, was just as good as the first, if not more compelling. It is a murder/mystery also, but it really focuses on racism from the perspective of a black man. I saw it in a whole new light and was changed by it. It was simply amazing! It spoke about things that have never occurred to me or I never would have thought of. It also, like the first book has many parts that take place in heaven, and leave you desiring to go there. This is my favorite excerpt from the author's interpretation of heaven :

“For one thing,” Dani said, “all this study of my life on earth has been a surprise. I thought I would never look back. I find that what I experience in heaven is largely an outgrowth of earth. The two aren’t disconnected. It’s not a new and separate reality as much as an extension of the old reality.”

Torel nodded, as if she had said something self-evident.

“My mind is the same mind, only sharper; my soul the same soul, only completely pure. My skills are the same skills, but less hindered in their expression. I was not a mountain climber on earth and do not have some sudden desire to be one now, though perhaps I will eventually. But I love to paint and swim on earth, and I love to even more now.”

“Of course,” Torel said. “You are the same person. Earth leads directly into heaven, just as it leads directly into hell. Your life on earth was your running start into heaven, just as for those who do not know Elyon, it is their running start into hell. What you learned there you bring with you here. The treasures you laid up when you were there will be yours here. Elyon’s gifts are irrevocable. He made you to be an artist not for time but for eternity. You learned to be an artist there to prepare you to be one here.”

“Then in the coming kingdom will people have the same jobs as they did on earth?”

“Gifting and vocation are not the same. The doctor, undertaker, police officer and paramedic will not have the same job here. But they will have the same gifts and new opportunities to use them.”

“I expected heaven to be entirely different than earth, “Dani said.

“Eylon is the same Creator, you are the same creature. It is the same universe. You have simply relocated to a better part of it. It is you in heaven, not some new creature that did not exist on earth. The same person who steps out of earth is the one who steps into heaven.”

“I used to think heaven was an entirely new book, with a new cast of characters-- a nice setting, but with no drama, no plot.”

“On the contrary,” Torel said. “It is the next chapter of the same book, or perhaps a sequel to it. A continuation. The viewpoint is more comprehensive, the setting more varied, the characters have more depth, the plot is more interesting, the anticipation more heightened.”
I find this so refreshing to read. I believe I've always thought about heaven in the same way as Dani did. I thought heaven would be a whole new story, I would know no one but God, and it would be pretty there with those streets of gold, and I wouldn't be hungry or sick. But it was almost like I thought I was going to walk around lonely wishing I was back on earth with my family. This author's explanation has me excited to see what's in the next chapter of my life. I always felt like death was the end of a great story, not a continuation.

deception by randy alcornThe last book, Deception, is probably the easiest read of all three. It primarily deals with the murder investigation and could be read as a standalone title. It's a lot different than the first two books as there aren't very many references to heaven. It still was a exceptional book that I couldn't put down when I was reading it. This book is a more for fun kind of read rather than a book that you feel changed afterwards.

I enjoyed these three books immensely, and would love to see you reading them too. In fact, if you'd like to borrow them, I own all three and would happily lend them out.

"These books portray the vital connection between how we think and live in the present, and how that will inevitably impact our future, both on earth and in eternity."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vanilla Chai Tea

Without a doubt the greatest "treat" that I can buy myself, would be a cup of hot Chai tea. I love it! I have never had another drink that comes close to comparing to it. I could be having a horrible day, or have had an argument with my husband, or just plain feeling bad, and this tea warms me up. It's magic. Now it can't be just any cup of Chai tea, it has to be made just right. The only place I've found that sells this perfect cup is, Classic Bean, one of our local coffee shops. I enjoy the tea at Starbucks and I like PT's okay, but the one from Classic Bean just sends warm fuzzy feelings all the way down to my toes. And I just can't help myself, after every sip I take, I sigh with pleasure. That might sound a bit weird, or crazy, but I love it. It was God's gift to me.

This Christmas I received one of the greatest gifts ever. A friend of mine gave me a tin of Chai tea, made from a recipe she found online. You know how I love a good cup of it; well I expected this to be good, but not GREAT. I really do like all Chai teas that I taste; I just have preference to this one. And I'm certain the recipe has to be almost identical to the one they are serving at Classic Bean. It's full of the wonderful, good smelling spices that make my tea so great. I think that adds a lot to the taste, the smell. In every sip I take, I can smell the cinnamon, nutmeg and other delicious spices.

When I mixed up my first cup of Chai tea on Christmas evening, I was playing a game with my family over at my parent's house. We were all having a hilariously good time gathering around the table playing, Boxers or Briefs. As soon as I took my first taste, I couldn't help myself, I said, "ohhh ... wow... this is good." I then repeated it without realizing for every sip after. I was just overwhelmed that someone I knew had the recipe for my favorite drink in the world! I was no longer going to have to pay $4 a cup; I might be able to drink it in the privacy of my own home, whenever I wanted!

Needless to say, I got the recipe a few days later from my friend, and I wanted to share it with you here. It makes a TON of Chai tea, so if you're not sure if you'd like it, cut the recipe in half, or do a quarter of it. Or if you're really not sure, I might give you a small bag from mine, if you ask nicely.

vanilla chai tea mix recipe
1 cup dry milk
1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer
1 cup French vanilla powdered non-dairy creamer
2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened instant tea (regular or decaf)
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cardamom (optional - I couldn't find it at the store)
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp all-spice
1/4 tsp white pepper (optional - I also couldn't find this at the store)

vanilla chai tea mix recipe
The kids and I put together our Chai tea mix during one of their snow days. They really enjoyed helping out, measuring ingredients and just holding the lid down on the blender!

1) I used a blender to make my Chai tea. You can only blend about 2-3 cups of ingredients at a time. Start with the dry milk and non-dairy creamer. Blend until it is a powdery consistency.

Zechariah enjoyed pushing the Blend button for us!

2) Pour mixture into the bowl.

3) Blend the white sugar until powdery and add to the large bowl.

4) Blend the unsweetened instant tea along with the spices. Pour this mixture into the bowl. (This one was VERY messy and I had to scrape out my blender with a spatula!)

My kids loved holding the lid down. I think they thought it might explode!

5) Carefully stir the ingredients until they are completely incorporated.

6) Pour vanilla Chai tea mix into an airtight container and store at room temperature.

7) To make the Chai tea, I use 2 heaping spoonfuls with 8-10oz. of water.

See how much it makes!! TONS! I love it, but really with my family we'll go through it really quickly. My kids have been asking for a cup of it each day. We all love hot drinks.

It's recommended if you don't like all the extra spices in your drink you can place your Chai tea mix in a strainer and then hold the strainer over a mug and pour hot water through the strainer into the mug. Or if that sounds like a lot of work, you can just not drink the last few sips where the spices have settled. I personally like that part of the drink.

vanilla chai tea mix recipe It makes a wonderful treat for the end of the day, or just anytime you need to get a moment for yourself. I love to sit down on the couch, do absolutely nothing, and sip my tea curled up under a cozy blanket. Life is all about the little things. This is one of my favorite little blessings from God. Tea is meant to be enjoyed, sipped slowly, and sometimes shared with a few good friends.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Zechariah has turned into quite the actor. This morning he was sitting at the table eating his pop tarts. He decided he needed a drink of milk and yelled at me to get it for him. As I was doing the dishes, I told him it was sitting here on the counter in the kitchen and he could feel free to get down from the table to get it. He said to me, “No, Mommy. It’s too hard.”

I laughed and said, “No, it’s not. And if you want it, you are going to have to get it all by yourself.”

So he says, “Mommy, my legs are broken. They don’t work!”

I really laughed this time, and told him he would still have to get it himself. So he gets down from the table and starts walking like a drunken man falling all over the place. He says, “see, Mommy. My legs are broken.” Then he falls to the ground and says to me, “Mommy, see, I slipped.”

A few weeks ago, Gabriel was sick in bed with strep throat. I didn’t want my other two children to catch it from him, so I kept him pretty well isolated in his room. However, there were a few times Zechariah would sneak in and try to watch the movie with him, or try to watch Gabe playing on the laptop.

One time I caught him and sent him out of the room crying. I tried to explain that Gabriel was really sick and I didn’t want him to get sick too. So Zechariah grabs his stomach, bends over in half, crying and says to me, “No, Mommy, I sick too! I need to watch a movie.”

I was truly blessed with very dramatic children!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day!!!

snow dayIt's not very often that I get excited about the snow falling outside. I love to be warm inside my home safe and secure under a big comfy blanket with a steaming cup of hot tea. I do, however, love to look outside my windows and watch the snow falling down, covering the ground with a beautiful sheet of white. It makes everything look fresh, and clean. There seems to be a unique purity about it. I especially love to see it covering the tree branches, and rooftops. Once the snow has been walked upon, the magic suddenly disappears for me, and the beauty is lost. All we're left with is piles of dirty snow that turns to slush and mixes with leaves and twigs, and other gross things. I'm sure there's a lesson in there somewhere, but that's not what I wanted to talk about.

The most exciting thing about getting LOTS of snow is the two words that follow it, NO SCHOOL! I love to have an extra spontaneous day with my kids, a day where we have no agenda but to play, have fun, and do whatever we want. We don't ever leave the house; we just make do with what we have. This week, we were blessed with not just one snow day, but two! We all had so much fun together, and I was sad to see it end.

As you're scrolling through the photos, you're probably wondering, "doesn't she have 3 kids??" Yes, I do. And my Gabriel takes after me a lot. He's a little more sensitive and finds the winter weather a bit much sometimes. You won't see him running and playing near as much as Ariel and Zech. He gets frustrated if his toes start to get cold, or his gloves won't stay on correctly. And if he happens to get snow down his coat or in his face, WATCH OUT!

He couldn't get the snow to stick together to make a snowball...

He did it!! He spent his entire time outside trying to make this one snowball!

The snow was falling all day long, so I did the logical thing and found an umbrella so I could enjoy it better.

Before I went inside, I handed off my umbrella to Gabe, who I knew would appreciate it.

This is the only way he would allow Ariel to throw snow at him. She had to throw it on TOP of the umbrella.

For our second snow day, it was much colder and only Ariel wanted to go back outside. Gabe and Zech both said they would rather watch a movie, or just play inside. Too cold and windy for them!

We made some of our own snowmen since we couldn't get the snow outside to stick together. They could have been decorated even more, but I made the mistake of saying you could eat them when you finished, so both kids would only use what they were willing to eat.

marshmallow snowmenMarshmallow snowmen taste the best when you have them with a big cup of hot cocoa!

We made lots of treats for our two snow days. I think the kid's favorite was the bowls of snow we ate. The only flavoring I had on hand was some hazelnut. We just used a couple medicine dropper fulls, dripped it over the top, and had ourselves a delicious cold treat. I had really wanted to make some homemade ice cream out of the snow, but the only recipes I found had eggs, and that seemed too gross to me. Maybe homemade ice cream is always made with raw egg, but I couldn't do it. If you have a recipe for some good snow ice cream without eggs, please do share it!

snow ice cream
It seems like it would get old, but my kids never tire of making tents inside the house. They LOVE to pull all the sheets out, the bag of clothes pins, all the kitchen chairs, and put together a tent big enough for us all to lie inside of. We usually will have a snack inside and curl up and watch movies together. It's our own little haven.

I thought I would share a couple family favorites that we watched on our snow days. These are both probably not really well known, but movies that the kids love just the same.

"Fantastic Mr. Fox" is a favorite of Gabriel's. If you aren't familiar with it, it's a movie based on a children's book by Roald Dahl. This is the author who also wrote "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory." Gabe's teacher read "Fantastic Mr. Fox" to his 1st grade class. He came home very excited about the book. When I was out Christmas shopping one day, I happened to run across the movie and just had to buy it for him. Gabriel loves it! If it's his turn to choose a movie, he will always choose this one.

fantastic Mr. fox
The film is animated and is done with stop motion. That means they move the objects in small increments between photographing creating the illusion that it's moving. A few other popular movies done this way with clay animation are Chicken Run, and Wallace and Gromit. When I watched it at first I had a hard time getting past the stop motion. It sometimes feels like the picture is not moving smoothly enough. But I don't think my boys were bothered at all by it.

The main character, whose voice is George Clooney, is a newspaper man who returns to his old habits of stealing from three farmers, Boggis, Bunce & Bean. The story is full of quirky characters, adult humor, and slapstick fun for the little kids. My sons loved it, my daughter was bored. I was pleasantly surprised by the movie. It started out hard to get into but turned into an eccentric story that had both Titus and I laughing.

The only part of the movie I was bothered by was the "cussing". It's a PG film and they say the word "cuss" repeatedly as a joke. It starts out being used in a conversation, then is only used in place of swear words later. This is the introduction to the "cussing":

Badger: In summation, I think you just got to not do it, man. That's all.
Mr. Fox: I understand what you're saying, and your comments are valuable, but I'm gonna ignore your advice.
Badger: The cuss you are.
Mr. Fox: The cuss am I? Are you cussing with me?
Badger: No, you cussing with me?
Mr. Fox: Don't cussing point at me!
Badger: If you're gonna cuss with somebody, you're not gonna cuss with me, you little cuss!
Mr. Fox: You're not gonna cuss with me!
[Both start snarling at each other, and then settle down]
Mr. Fox: Just buy the tree.
Badger: Okay.
"Cuss" is just used randomly after this, but I still thought it was a bit over the top. Other than that, if you like different kinds of films, you'll love this!

Now the next movie, "Flipped" is my personal new favorite. Ariel really enjoyed it also. I happened to be checking Redbox for a movie one day and came across this. It was rated in 2010 as one of their family favorites. I was very surprised with it, and had to purchase my own copy.

This movie is also based on a children's book, by Wendelin Van Draanen. It's a teen romance that will have you laughing one moment and sobbing the next. The story is told from both main characters' points of view. The movie starts with a scene of the two kids at age 7, then fast forwards until they're around 13 years old. You'll hear Bryce narrate the film from his point of view and then it "flips" and you'll get to hear the point of view of Juli from the exact same scenes. It's hilarious!

You'll get to see just how different men and women are and think. God made us each uniquely different, and it's fascinating to me to see in this movie. To give you an example from the movie, Bryce is commenting on how his plan to get rid of Juli didn't work. "Word had gotten back to her and she started making goo-goo eyes again. Only this time it was worse. She started sniffing me. That's right. Sniffing me. What was that all about?"

Then it flips and you hear Juli's explanation. "He was so shy and so cute. And his hair smelled like watermelon. I couldn't get enough of it. I spent the whole year secretly sniffing watermelon.... and wondering if I was ever going to get my kiss."

It's a wonderful family movie. I would highly recommend it to you! The only downside, it has a little bit of swearing, I believe 5 swear words to be exact. It's not just a fun silly movie; it has a great message to it too. There were several things I got out of it. One of the things the father says to his daughter is that you have to look at people and see if they are more than the sum of their parts. Are they just a pretty face or is there more to them? It also makes you think about what you say to people. We sometimes have no idea how much our words affect others. Sometimes we might say something as a joke, or something said flippantly could really be taken to heart. Our words can really hurt people.

I don't want to tell you any more, or I might just ruin the story for you. I would check it out and see for yourself what you think. To me, it was a beautiful movie. I love when I go away from something and still think about it. I love when I turn a movie off and can't wait for the next time I watch it again.

I'll leave you with my favorite quote from the movie. It's words the grandfather says to his grandson about the girl next door who reminds him so much of his late wife.

"Some of us get dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss; but every once in a while, you find someone who's iridescent, and once you do, nothing will ever compare. "


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