Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chalkboard Fascination

I am going through a phase of being fascinated with home chalkboards. I see the handwriting on the wall: fun and self-expression. Joy in the doodle. I have been in a home where one wall was painted with regular flat paint and used as a chalkboard -- the whole wall. It was wiped with a dry towel. The kids practiced school lessons on the wall, too. Anyway, I do not have my own, but I'm checking out ideas.

Here is a dining room chalkboard in a handsome, classy frame from my friend's home. I envy. It is true. Or is that coveting? Anyway, I enjoy it when I visit. This was the latest art:

My friend, Kat, recently blogged about an inspiring chalkboard artist, Dana Tanamachi. She is amazing! What great creations! Check out the photos:

Dana Tanamachi's website:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cloudy with a Chance of Creativity

Today was a cloudy, cozy afternoon. We stayed inside and I made stuff. I had fun and found it rewarding. I know some of you make stuff all the time. I see it in your blogs, on Facebook, and on Pinterest. That is not me. But today I made stuff.

Setting aside the demands of the day, I decided to sit still long enough to finish a few projects in the creative realm. I went down the short flight of stairs to the basement. Yes, some of us living in Southern California have basements, as it were. Not a basement like out East and in the Midwest, but a bit of a cool storage space around our furnace. Some of my stuff for making things lives there undisturbed. But that all changed this afternoon.

I'd gotten a blank calendar from Paper Source, a favorite store of mine.

For the calendar, go to:

By the way, Paper Source has a creed that does keep my heart beating for making something just for fun now and then. With their motto, "Do something creative everyday," I am reminded that joy is found the creating. At least for many of us, including me. Even if we are flattering someone more genius than we are by copying their idea, and of course giving them credit, creating something gives a feeling of contribution.
I set aside perfection, got my little desk calendar desperate for design, spread out some materials for cards I'd recently been given, and gathered some tools and additional stamps from my basement goodies. And I dove in, throwing caution, expectations, and a sense of time to the wind. I needed to do January's design for my little DIY desk calendar. And what's the rush? Ha, ha. It is nearly mid-January, after all. Time to commit and just do it. Will I ever pick the perfect design? No. That is the pressure and the beauty of home made, and good enough is just that. Good enough.

January...hmmmm. What images came to mind? Of course. Snow. Especially since I don't encounter snow any more in my day-to-day. So why not honor it in a paper design? So I stamped some snow, a snowman, some mittens, and added some glitter. I do love me some glitter, friends! You are never too old for glitter in your day. Next I got out my color pencils and got in touch with my inner child by coloring the design. I circled the holiday, my January day off. And...done. January was done. So, with a little courage and more stamps, I went on to make my February calendar.

If you ask me, this one is a bit cluttered. Less is more, and I clearly ignored that. Anyway, I only have to use it and look at it for a month. There are some pretty elements and the little groundhog will make me smile all month, even though he only claims the one day for festivity. So, February is done and March is far away. I'll work on that one mid-February.

Next, I made some cards. I am not an avid card maker. I am an avid digital photo album maker. Not cards so much. But I do use cards and enjoy writing notes on pretty papers, so I have been known to make cards with others, copying designs and borrowing tools. Today, however, I was on my own. No designs to copy, and only what I had on the dining table to combine to create a card. So, adjusting my expectations accordingly, I went at it. I'm satisfied with my end results for two reasons: they are done and they are usable. And they are good enough. I've seem many beautiful hand made cards. These are not those. But they'll do, and I'll enjoy using them sending them. Good enough.

Friday, January 13, 2012

20 & 10 Tips for Living with Job Loss

I recently received an e-mail from a friend in new tight times with her family budget. Tis' the season. Still. "They" say the recession is ending or over. Where would that be the case?

I sent her my first thoughts on how my husband and I changed in an effort to survive when we had been living within our means, and our means got cut in half. I thought I'd share those thoughts here, too, in case some readers find themselves in desperate times. There may be some small idea that provides encouragement. Most of these things are really helpful, healthy, and bring freedom. However, we live in a culture of wealth, with its pressures and expectations. It is hard to shift, to live simple and lean. At least, at the beginning of the journey. I like the changes we've made, but it was not easy for us, and it is still not easy. But it is rewarding.

Here are 20 practical things we did:
  1. First, I had to acknowledge it is tough and painful to get by when your obligations are greater than your income. The tendency is to act like things are fine. Not good to hide there. I had to give myself permission to grieve. Life no longer looked like I thought it would or should. A book and DVD called Drops Like Stars by Rob Bell really helped me. The book One Thousand Gifts really gave me strength to thrive, too.
  2. We paid some things a bit late...but not late enough to get in big trouble. We had to do so, as cash flow was not flowing.
  3. As our credit rating took a hit, I had to acknowledge that "man looks on the [credit rating], but God looks on the heart." Humbling. Comforting.
  4. We eat at home much more often, which is so much cheaper, unless you eat junk fast food a lot which has other complications. 
  5. We quit going to movies and rented DVDs instead. 
  6. We cut out any spending on things we could live without. 
  7. We used the library, shared and borrowed books, and stopped subscribing to magazines. I was surprised did not go out of business with losing our business.
  8. We did not buy clothes or shoes until we absolutely had to do so. 
  9. We cut way down on paying for haircuts. 
  10. We avoided social events that involve gift-giving: weddings, showers, birthday parties...or we made gifts like burn a CD with songs specially for someone, etc. 
  11. We stay home more: TV, computer time, games, reading, etc. -- using things we already have at home to enjoy an evening. We save so much when we do not go out.
  12. We dropped the gardener and the housekeeper. Perhaps a luxury, but when you both work fulltime and household help really buys you time together, that is a good thing.
  13. We rented out our upstairs rooms.
  14. We dropped our gym membership. We have a good neighborhood for walking. We have bikes.
  15. I started packing my lunch for days out doing work visits, instead of eating out. 
  16. We started eating a little less, like we've started sharing a chicken breast, since they are often big enough for two healthy servings, instead of one. So chicken goes farther. 
  17. My husband turned in his "smart" phone and got a regular cell phone that does not get e-mail. That saved us money. 
  18. We had a yard sale. We've also donated much of our stuff which means less to store and care for, though it is not an income source.  Less stuff is more freedom, and more energy. Financial challenges drain your energy, so finding more energy is a good thing.
  19. We are happy with our old cars -- paid for and in need of occassional maintenance, but better than a car payment!
  20. We value conversation with friends gathered around a good home-cooked meal. A great source of joy that is simple and central to keeping the joy in our social life.

But what about the stress? That quiet river that runs deep within your soul. That dark cloud that reminds you subtly that you are on the brink of ruin. What are some things I did to stay content, calm, and emotionally steady?

Here are 10 things that helped find contentment in the chaos:
  1. Walking in the outdoors really calms me. 
  2. Reading the Bible gets my mind curious about things beyond my circumstances. 
  3. I figured out cheap activities that are fun to do with Glen to keep our marriage fun in simple ways. 
  4. We talked about not letting this come between us, since statistics say it can blast apart a marriage. So we intentionally work to remember we are not mad at each other, but that we are frustrated and scared with our circumstances. 
  5. I pray more and differently...more conversation with God, less "shopping list" or "Dear Santa"- type prayers. 
  6. We try to be more generous with what we do have -- time, talent, food. It is amazing how ironic that is! Yet there is something so powerful in believing you will have enough, enough to share.
  7. Another big thing for me was to take time to be creative -- to write, or make things, or collect ideas, or view beautiful things. That brings such peace and joy to stressful times for me. To get into a hobby or interest again, especially if it is something I already have the stuff for, but have neglected. I carve out the time to create. It is life giving. 
  8. I also schedule time in my schedule to be quiet. Very helpful for me to stay centered on what really counts. 
  9. It helped me to go to church, too, and sing the songs. The lyrics also pull my mind and heart to higher ground and outside my own stress.
  10. I pause to remember that financial challenges for us, anyway, are awful, but it is not a tragedy, like the loss of health or a loved one. 

Our life looks different than when we both worked full time, but those changes have been good for the most part. We've become more realistic about what we need and have learned a lot about wants and delayed gratification. We enjoy simple things more. We take less for granted. We have better priorities. We have learned to trust God differently. He has provided. We are grateful.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Gratitude & Gifts

I just finished reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I highly recommend it. The author shares honestly, openly, and deeply about some choices that changed her life, and may indeed change my life. For one, she was challenged by a friend to list one thousand gifts by noticing good in each day, writing those things down -- naming them, and looking for good in her day to total one thousand "gifts." She began to see life much differently. For each good she named in her list, she expressed thanks, felt gratitude to God.

There is so much more to this book, that I have not done it justice here at all. See the blog:

I've started my list of one thousand gifts by jotting down a few for the day I actually noticed something. Simple things like a hot shower, a good cup of coffee, my dog -- a cute companion, etc. They must be present day things, not things you remember that brought you some joy in the past. It seems most empowering to use current moments. I enjoy looking for good gifts in my day, and it has begun to change my attitude toward life. And expand my view of God. Thankfulness is powerful.

I took out my label maker and typed out "Thanks," adhering the label to my watch. When I look to see what time it is, I am reminded it is time to look for something for which I am thankful, the gifts in my day along the way.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Party Drinks - Peppermint Shakes

We tend to stay home on New Year's Eve. In years past, venturing out to a restaurant means encountering crowds and escalated prices. Who needs to take a risk with drunk drivers on the road and the odd Los Angeles area tradition of firing guns in the air with bullets dropping to who knows where. Our dog, who is timid when it comes to loud noises outside, appreciates the company. So we stay home, invite family or friends, eat good food that we've cooked, play games, watch movies, watch the Times Square countdown in NYC, and bang pots and pans outside at midnight. Or sometimes we just go to bed before midnight simply because we feel like it.

This year, I made peppermint milkshakes as the frosty sweet treat of the evening. Not only did they look beautiful for a festive holiday drink, they were delicious.

The recipe served four in coffee mugs. You can adjust it accordingly for the quantity you desire.

  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons finely crushed peppermint candies
  1. Break up four candy canes and place in blender to crush them to small chunks and powder. Noisy but simple.
  2. Add the vanilla ice cream.
  3. Add the milk.
  4. Blend until smooth.
  5. Pour into glasses.
  6. Toppings (optional): whip cream, cherry, peppermint candy, candy cane stir stick, red sugar sprinkles, etc.
  7. Serve.