Saturday, December 31, 2011

Insanely Delicious Layered Salsa Dip

I've probably posted this recipe at some point over the years but a.) I'm too lazy to look for it and b.) I don't really use a recipe anymore I just wing it, so this is the new and improved wing-it version:

2 bricks of cream cheese softened to room temp
1 tub of sour cream
1 cup of salsa (mild, med. or hot, depending on your preference)
1 envelope taco seasoning mix
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
*sliced black olives
*guacamole or avacado chunks
*sliced jalapenos
*salsa

In a large bowl whisk together the softened cream cheese and salsa.  Spread into a pan and cover the bottom completely with this first layer.  Use the same bowl (saves on clean up, girls!) and whisk together the sour cream and taco seasoning, then spread that over the cream cheese layer.  Grate roughly 2 cups of cheese and layer that on top of the sour cream mixture.  *Dot the top with black olives, guacamole, sliced jalapenos or more salsa - these are all optional.

Serve with tortilla chips and be VERY careful, it's been descibed as stupidly-insane yummy. I can vouch for that too since I'm the one who described it that way!

Enjoy!

Farewell 2011

Today on this New Year's Eve day as the family watches our annual New Year's Eve Lord of the Rings marathon (blu-ray extended versions - it wont be over until around 9pm) and the chili simmers in one crockpot and the wassail simmers in another, I thought it would be a really good time to shake the cobwebs off this old blog and take a look back at 2011.

In some ways, 2011 was a really fantastic year.  In other ways, ways that are entirely too personal and that cannot be shared here, it was one of the worst years I've experience in my adult life. However, as my Christian friends are always faithful to remind me, trials bring about growth and sanctification and great and painful trials bring about these things in a deeper way than you ever thought possible.  So as much as I hate great and painful trials, just like we all do, I thank God for the sanctification that comes as a result of them.  Putting the negative stuff aside I'd like to dwell on those things that made 2011 a fantastic year.

So many great things happened and just a few of those were

• our 14 year old's grade 8 graduation (they make a big deal out of that here in Ontario) and then entering high school
• the super fun Canada Day fireworks/bbq party we held and all the people who came (oh yes, Lord willing we're doing that again next year, it was so much fun)
• our 4 week road trip out to Washington (and the side trips we took to Devil's Tower in Wyoming and Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota) to see family (and meeting this Squirrel and Mrs. Squirrel in Montana on the way back home)
• mine and my husband's rededicating ourselves to a healthy, solid marriage (which has resulted in a better relationship for us than we've ever had, I highly recommend it to all married couples!)
• the ongoing success of my graphic design business primarily at my zazzle shops
• the ongoing, tireless, faithfulness of my friend Kim to put up with my bazillions of faults and warts and forgetfullness and remain my friend despite it all (and always being an encouragement towards bettering myself, and making me laugh too)
• the blessing of being able to see almost all of my extended family after 10 years of being away from home
• the news of yet another grandbaby coming in the spring of 2012 (it's a boy!)
• the successful knee surgery and quick recovery for our oldest daughter

The more I think about it the more I could add to this list and make it really really really long, but I won't do that.  Suffice it to say, I am continually and incredibly blessed by so many things that it almost seems sometimes like it's too much. I know I certainly haven't done anything to deserve it.  However, God knows what He's doing and I won't question that.

With tomorrow being the New Year, I think I'm going to make a couple/few resolutions.  Now, it's been forever since I've done this so I don't know how well I'll stick with them but I'm putting it in writing this time so maybe someone reading can help keep me accountable once in a while and ask how things are going with these resolutions.

1. Lose another 20 pounds.  I've lost roughly 30 pounds this year (it fluctuates, sometimes it's 30, sometimes it's 35, my scales are picky) but it's that last 20 that really needs to go so that my clothes fit the way they should. The plan to do this is to continue working out (cardio and toning), continue to avoid junky snacks (I've done pretty good there) and continue to eat healthier foods overall.  I've leveled out over the last month so I need to step up the cardio and toning and that should make a difference.

2. Stop drinking coffee at night.  Horrible habit and I really want to wean myself off the caffeine after dinner.  This one should be fairly easy and I plan to begin this tomorrow.

3. Improve my church attendance record!  Between hubby's work schedule, not being able to sleep when he's on the midnight shift, going weeks or months at a time with only 1 vehicle, illnesses (mine or the kids), snow and whatever else, it makes it pretty rough to make that drive into town and get to church.  We all miss our church and the fellowship and that's yet another reason that we're looking forward to moving into town and out of the country by the summer of 2013, Lord willing.  I'm not sure if we'll be able to be at church more in 2012 than we were in 2011 but I'm sure going to try.

Well, that's about all I have to share today.  The funny thing is, one of the most trivial things I'm looking forward to in 2012 is being able to say it's my birthday on 12-12-12.  I know it sounds silly, but it's kind of cool at the same time. 

Happy New Year everyone, may you be richly and wonderfully blessed and may it be your best year ever!

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I've Been Featured


I woke up this morning to a pretty humbling email.  It started out like this:

"Hi there, Carla! We wanted to take a moment to recognize our Sellers whose products have been hand-selected from the billions on Zazzle to be featured in our first ever, full-color, 8-page catalog! Guess what? You are one of the Sellers who had a product we just couldn’t resist using!"


Imagine my surprise.  Imagine for a minute how you might feel to learn that something you've worked SO hard on for the last 10 years, had suddenly been recognized and was selected to be featured in a print catalog that would be seen by countless number of people?  If you can imagine that feeling, then that's how I felt this morning when I read that.

The product zazzle selected was one of my favorites and one of my best selling ornaments.  To date, this ornament has been purchased over 140 times and has literally gone round the world.  It's just amazing to me that this single, little Christmas keepsake is being displayed on that many trees at Christmastime.  I design for a lot of products, but knowing that something I put hard work into is being displayed in so many homes just brings a smile to my heart whenever I think about it.

If you'd like to see the online version of this 8 page catalog, you can go here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Who Wants to Save Money?!

Fabulous Friday Four Hour Sale, anyone?? Here it is, and you will not want to miss it because it's the last Friday Four Hour sale of 2011!! Be sure to use the coupon code FFHSHUGEDEAL at checkout and - for 4 hours only on Friday November 18th from 12 to 4pm PT you save a HUGE 50% on: t-shirts, mugs, cards, photo cards, invitations, wrapped canvas, calendars, mobile phone cases, iPad cases, ornaments, necklaces and keychains!!

 

Can't shop right now? Worry not! After four hours have passed, you can still receive 20% off all these great products for the rest of the weekend. But be sure to act soon!

* 50% of the t-shirt, mug, card, photo card, invitation, wrapped canvas, calendar, case, ornament, necklace and keychain net sale price will be deducted when one or more qualifying items are purchased and the coupon code FFHSHUGEDEAL is applied at checkout on or before November 18, 2011 4:01pm PT. 

*20% of the t-shirt, mug, card, photo card, invitation, wrapped canvas, calendar, case, ornament, necklace and keychain net sale price will be deducted when one or more qualifying items are purchased and the coupon code FFHSHUGEDEAL is applied at checkout on or before November 20, 2011 11:59pm PT. No discount will be applied after November 20, 2011. The net sale price is the price of the product (excluding shipping and taxes). This offer does not apply to screen printed apparel. This offer does not apply to past purchases and may not be combined with any other Zazzle promotional or volume discount offers. If a volume discount applies to your order, you will receive either the discount set forth in this offer or the standard volume discount, whichever is greater. Offer valid on Zazzle.com only.
  
Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Christmas Moose

I mentioned yesterday that I was painting a moose and... here he is: 
He's available on lots of fun products, just click here to see the assortment.
 
Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Bed That Ate Ontario

Well, I guess I blew the Twenty-one days of something streak. I made to to 10 days with only missing a couple of days but then... I just got real busy and kept meaning to post, and never made it. It's funny how it used to be unthinkable that a day would go by without posting (often times, more than one post a day) but over the last little while I've found so many other things to keep me busy that blogging really did take a back seat. I still love blogging (and probably always will) but I just stay so busy with other things.

So, what have I been up to this week that's kept me away from writing? Let's see, earlier this week there was my oldest daughter having knee surgery and me spending time with her. Then, our new bed was delivered and we had to make room for that & rearrange things. Now, allow me to vent just a little bit here about being careful what you wish for because you just might get it.

Several years ago Kev's dad had a cottage with a king sized bed.  I'd never seen one in real life before, and I remember the first time getting on it I felt like a little kid.  It was HUGE!  You could have picnics on that bed, maybe even a volley ball game.  Kev and I both wished back then (and since) that we could have a bed that size.  Well, after saving up for a while we finally got our wish and purchased a king sized bed.  It's wonderful, it's huge, it's the perfect blend of soft and firm and all that good stuff.  However, the one thing neither Kev or I realized would happen is, it's like moving to a foreign country with a foreign culture.  It's in a new location in the bedroom, it has brand new sheets, brand new comforter, brand new pillows and brand new pillow cases.  And, it's HUGE.  Volley ball court, huge.  Both of us are so accustomed to our little bed with our aging, familiar bedding that after three nights in this volley ball court we've realized why we're not sleeping as well as we thought we would.  First of all, it's in a different location in the room so that's new and something to get used to.  Secondly, all the bedding is brand new and we're not used to that either, even though it's great bedding. 

Third, and maybe most sappy and whatnot, is that we're 20 miles apart on the bed when we're sleeping and it almost feels like we're not even in the same bed.  As much as we didn't like it, we had been forced to get used to being sort of cramped in our old bed.  No matter how far apart we'd scoot, we could still touch each other with very little effort.  Now? If we both scoot to the edge of the bed we can't touch each other at all.  Not to mention, the mattress is one of those state of the art deals where if he moves I'll never even feel it on my side of the bed.  I think he could stand on the bed and do jumping jacks (with a few friends) and I'd never know it.  All that is supposed to give the other person a more restful sleep but what it really does is make you feel like you're all alone in the bed.  Some folks might prefer that, but for us it feels really weird.

So, we've decided the solution to getting used to this new bed is intentionally falling asleep closer to the middle of the bed where we can still touch each other.  Then, if during the night we both wander to opposite sides of the volley ball court then so be it.  We tried that last night and we both slept a bit better than the first two nights, so I think we're on to something here.

Now you're probably wondering why I shared all that here with you.  It's simple really, it's because I have never ever heard of anyone getting a new, bigger bed and having this problem.  I find it a little hard to believe we're the only ones who've ever had this problem so it's just a warning of sorts for those considering a larger bed.  I would also suggest if possible keeping your familiar pillows or at the very least pillow cases.  I've put our old pillows back on the bed today and plan to use mine tonight, even though we have brand new fantastic pillows.  For me personally I think it was all just too much "new-ness" all at once.

Other than that, it really is a great bed.  When I sit on the edge of it my feet dangle about 6 inches above the floor, just like a little kid.  When you sit on it, you can feel the magic foam stuff forming around you.  It's crazy, but it's super comfortable.  I suspect sooner or later we'll get used to it, but it's kind of ironic how you can hate something so much (our old bed, which we called the Torture Chamber) but be so used to it, having something better feels all wrong.

I think there might even be a lesson in there somewhere.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Monday, October 24, 2011

TDS Day 10: Holiday Card Sale

So, I missed a post yesterday (and the day before, too) so here's what's new:


Until Thursday 10/26 at 11:59pm PT, save a huge 50% off custom Christmas cards or photocards, and get a bonus 10% off custom Christmas postage too!  Use the coupon code FALLMAILINGS when you checkout to get the savings.

*50% of the greeting card, invitation, photo card and postcard product net sale price and 10% of the Zazzle Custom Stamp product net sale price will be deducted when one or more qualifying products are purchased and the coupon code FALLMAILINGS is applied at checkout. For Zazzle Custom Stamps, the net sale price is the difference between the price of the Zazzle Custom Stamps (excluding shipping and taxes) and the face value of the postage. Offer is valid until October 26, 2011 at 11:59pm PT. This offer does not apply to past purchases and may not be combined with any other Zazzle promotional or volume discount offers. If a volume discount applies to your order, you will receive either the discount set forth in this offer or the standard volume discount, whichever is greater. Offer valid on Zazzle.com only.
Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, October 21, 2011

TDS Day 9: Several Somethings

I almost let the day get away from me without blogging again but decided to put the world on pause and go ahead and blog. I promise I'll unpause when this post is written and published.

Today was a fun and productive day.  I like to have days like this, and I'd like to order more of them for the future.

First, I had a very productive morning at home and running errands (one of which was to purchase this lovely wig for my husband because he secretly desires to be Napoleon Dynomite), and then went to lunch with my friend Kim and had the most fantastic pulled pork sandwich I've ever tasted. I confess, I will steal the idea of how to prepare these sandwiches the next time I make them because they were much yummier than my own.

I also started a festive new line of jingle bell Christmas party invitations (shown here in the blue/gold color theme) and will be expanding this theme to include custom postage, photo cards and more over the next few days.  I sat here for a couple of hours creating those jingle bells and finally got them to look exactly the way I wanted them. I love it when design elements all come together like that.  They'll be coming in both gold and silver and on several color themed cards, etc.

I also wanted to say a big thank you to zazzle for selecting me to interview and be featured on the zazzle blog They posted this last night and it was a real honor to be selected, for sure.

I know today was supposed to be the end of the world and everything, but it was pizza/movie night, plus I had a lunch date with Kim and I haven't finished this fun new line of jingle bell themed paper goods so I am really glad the world didn't actually end.  Besides, Kev needed his blonde afro first. So I guess it's time to unpause the world and let everyone get back to their business.  Besides, I have a movie to watch as I snuggle up with Kev Dynomite on the couch.  Try not to be too jealous.



Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Thursday, October 20, 2011

TDS Day 8: Busy Busy Busy

Even though I missed posting yesterday, I didn't actually forget to post and mess up my Twenty-one Days of Something, I just got real busy.   See, I have a routine during the week and it goes something like this at the start of every weekday:

• Up between 5-6am
• Consume obscene amount of coffee between 5 and 7:30am
• Make sure the kids are fed, clothed, combed, brushed, lunched and out the door between 7:25 and 8pm
• Wash the dishes and clean up the kitchen
• Fold a load of laundry and get more going (it never ends)
• Decide what's for dinner & get it started
• Straighten up the game room & vacuum
• Eat a granola bar or banana with one hand while doing a variety of the above with the other hand

By the time this is all done it's usally around 9am.  Then I sit down with more coffee (what, you thought I was done with coffee?) and get to work (assuming I don't have errands to run) and that's how my days begin.  Somewhere in there I'll check email, respond to comments, read the news & check my tweetstream. If I don't have errands to run, once I start working I tend to lose track of time until around 2-ish when I lay down on the couch for a neck-rest for about 30-45 minutes.  After that, it's more coffee (yep, more coffee), more work, get dinner ready, wash more dishes, fold more laundry, get more laundry going, get kids bathed/showered, prayer time then off to bed for them and more work for me until around 10-11ish.  I can usually shove a few more things in there too, depending on the day and if hubby is off that day or not.

Lately my creative brain has shifted into Christmas mode and here's a few things I finished yesterday:


I also did a quickie fun shirt because... well because it was funny and I love funny stuff:


So that's what I was busy with yesterday that prevented me from blogging. Today I'm working on some pretty, premium photocards. You can see the whole collection here, but here's the last one I finished:

So now, it's back to work for me! :o) Have a super fabulous Thursday!



Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

TDS Day 7: A Great Sale You Really Won't Want to Miss!

It's going to be a busy day here in Rolfeworld, so I'm just going to go ahead and cross-post something fabulous I posted at the store blog this morning. Because, CHRISTMAS is coming and I have a fantastic sale to tell you about! I love saving money and this sale is super wonderful:


Right now until Thursday, October 20th at 11:59pm PT, order your Christmas cards, Christmas Photo Cards or Christmas party invitations and save a HUGE *50% off the total! Everyone loves to save money at Christmas and zazzle makes it even easier to get a beautiful custom product and save money doing it.  Be sure to use the coupon code CARD4HOLIDAY at checkout.


*50% of the greeting card, invitation, photo card, or postcard net sale price will be deducted when one or more qualifying products are purchased and the coupon code CARD4HOLIDAY is applied at checkout. The net sale price is the price of the product (excluding shipping and taxes). Offer is valid through October 20, 2011 at 11:59pm PT. This promotional offer does not apply to past purchases and may not be combined with any other Zazzle promotional or volume discount offers. If a volume discount applies to your order, you will receive either the discount set forth in this offer or the standard volume discount, whichever is greater. Offer valid on Zazzle.com only.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Monday, October 17, 2011

TDS Day 6: More Crock Pottery Goodness: Chili!

I tweeted earlier today that if the recipe I have for chili works in the crockpot that I'd blog it. Well, let me just say... not only does it work in the crockpot, it's quite possibly the best chili I've ever made and ever had. So, here it is:

INGREDIENTS

1 large onion chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 green peppers, chopped
3 lbs. ground beef, browned & drained
2 14 oz cans kidney beans (I use one white and one red), rinsed & drained
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 c. beef broth

Place everything in the crockpot, cover and cook for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.  Serve with warm cornbread with butter.
Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Sunday, October 16, 2011

TDS Day 5: October Status Report

Sitting... in the comfort of a hand built muskoka chair in my living room, on my laptop. I realize most people put their lawn furniture in a shed or the garage for the winter but I am not most people.  I decided over the summer that instead of putting these great chairs (that my son-in-law to be built for me) in the garage for the winter, I was going to get nice cushions for them and put them in the living room instead.  So, minus the cushions I haven't bought yet, that's what I did.

Pondering... what kind of winter we're going to have this year.  Hoping like crazy that it's not one of "those" winters that people are still talking about years from now.  We haven't had one of those in a while and some folks say we're due.  I would very much like for those folks to be wrong.

Drinking... coffee with French Vanilla cream from my thermal mug.  I'm still bummed they discontinued my favorite flavor Cafe Mocha, but while in the states last weekend I discovered about 87 trillion coffee cream flavors I'd never seen before. Oh the things you can get in the grocery stores in the states that you can't get here!!  Headed back down there in about 3 weeks and oh yes, the cooler is coming with us for some fine American food grocery shopping.  I'm so glad the border is only 90 minutes away :o)

Missing... summer.  Lord willing, if I ever get to the place where hubby and I can live south of the border from October through June, I'd do it in a heartbeat.  I absolutely love the summers in southern Ontario and the beginning of fall but the rest is for the birds.

Thinking... about setting up my miniature Christmas village again. I had to borrow one of the tables for it when we had our big Canada Day party back in July so it's sort of a mess right now.  I normally set it up sometime in October so it'll be happening very soon.

Wondering... why it took Kev and I so long to drop the legalistic opinions we had about Halloween. I guess for me it had a lot to do with negative personal experience and for him it was just a matter of respecting my wishes and banning all things jack-o-lanternish from our home.  We had a long talk about it a few weeks ago and have decided to allow the kids to participate in some of the fun traditions this year with some cute costumes. We still wont take it as far as it used to be taken when we were both raging heathens but we have decided letting the kids enjoy the kid-friendly parts of it is okay. I suppose if you did a blog search you could find lots of interesting opinions I've had about Halloween over the years, but I'm in a different place now and Kev and I are both okay with being here.

Enjoying... I should preface that with Immensely since what I'm enjoying is the rejuvination of my marriage relationship.  Kev and I had a great relationship before in most aspects but we'd fallen into a pretty boring rut like most couples tend to do after a while.  When it was brought to our attention we both decided we didn't like it, and took steps to add a little zip and a little zing back into our relationship. I know it might sound sappy but I assure you it's been a wonderful thing for us both to have date night again, send love notes (okay fine they're text messages, we're totally on board with technology, lol), and even get away together, just the two of us.  As much as we are dedicated to our kids, grandkids, home and work, we've given our marriage relationship high priority and it's turned out that everything else is better as a result. It's one of the smartest things we've ever done, and an amazing answer to prayer.

Excited... about the first snow, Christmas lights, cooking an obscene amount of fudge, and all that comes with Christmas.  Yes, I do hate winter but snow is part of Christmas so I only like it for that, then it should all melt and be 86 degrees again.

Listening... to the sound of the furnace fan in the basement below me.  Soon I will need to go down there (we've named it The Scary Place for all the spiders) and clean up summer webs and clean out the wood furnace and start building daily fires.  Not just yet though, thankfully.  It was either last fall or the one before when I opened the furnace to begin cleaning it and a bird flew out at me.  I yelped and fell back right on my butt.  Then I sat there and lol'd at myself, for real.  Silly birds, chimneys are for wood smoke!

Thankful, humbled, and amazed... at God's blessings, provision, grace and peace.  I am blessed beyond anything I have ever deserved with my family, my work, and all the conveniences I so enjoy.  I've lived long enough and been through enough painfully difficult trials to know it could all be gone tomorrow, so I am incredibly thankful for it all today.  Even if it were all gone tomorrow, I would still be thankful that God has been so good to me and blessed me with so much all these 46 years.

And now... the smell of the ham cooking in the oven has reminded me it's time for some yummy scalloped taters to join it. 

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Saturday, October 15, 2011

TDS Day 4: A Little Bit of Stuff About Stuff

Truth be told, I have no idea who's even reading this old blog to see if I'm keeping up with my Twenty-one Days of Something (besides my mom and my friend Kim, I know they're both reading!) but I'm determined to blog the entire 21 days regardless. I was going to do an October Status report today but time got away from me and I decided to put that off another day. It was a really busy and hectic day today, so here's a mini-status report:

Eating... a raspberry poptart. I know they're no good for me, but it's been ages since I had one so I'm having one.

Listening to... the wind and rain. Boo, fall is here and it's cold today. I think the high was 45, and I thinks it's now around 20 below, or something.

Planning... lunch with Kim, and we're going to eat terrible things that are both yummy and no good for us. Okay I am, she might not.

Hoping... to not wake up with a splitting headache again tomorrow so I can go to church. We ordered our new bed just in time, before the old one kills us both. Between my neck pain and Kev's back pain, our bed is like sleeping on a torture rack. We even had a sleep diagnostic thingy done before we selected our new bed. That was pretty cool. It essentially said "your current bed is killing you, get a new one, and sleep normal for a change" after measuring over 200 pressure points in our bodies.

Working on... a fun new line of funny bumperstickers. I know, you're thinking "bumper stickers? those are so tacky!" Or, maybe you're not thinking that, I dunno. If there is one thing that will break up the frustration of being stuck in traffic is seeing a funny bumpersticker on the car ahead of you, or in the next lane. We're all too grumpy and grouchy all the time, we need to smile more and have some fun. This one made the kids laugh... but they all confessed they really couldn't see it. You can't either, can you?

Well, that's about all I've got for now. ;-)

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, October 14, 2011

TDS Day 3: Go Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

I actually did blog already today. Twice, in fact but I didn't do it here, so I'm going to cross-post one of them just for today! From the store blog

October is breast cancer awareness month and at Reflections zazzle there are some great t-shirts and gifts for those giving hope and support, those currently fighting, and those who have survived and won the battle.


Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Thursday, October 13, 2011

TDS Day 2: Crockpottery Goodness

Is crockpottery even a word? Well, it is now. In day 2 of Twenty-one days of something, I would like to share another fabulous crock pot recipe. This one is perfect for those cool, windy, rainy Autumn days. Or, just about any day really, and it's really easy. Here we go:

Slow Cooker Veggie Beef Soup

INGREDIENTS:
2 lbs. ground beef
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 29oz. can Italian style stewed tomatoes, drained
2 15oz. cans mixed veggies, drained
1 quart beef broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce*
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce*
1 teaspoon paprika
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup dry fusili pasta

Brown the ground beef in a skillet and add garlic, onion and bell pepper. Cook until the meat is done and the veggies are tender. Drain and put it all in the crockpot, along with all the other ingredients. (I put everything else in while the meat was cooking). Cover and cook for 7 hours on high. During the last 20 minutes of cooking time, pour in the dry pasta and mix to cover it, then put the lid back on. *These are optional - I was out of both so I didn't use them.

We had this last night and it was a huge, huge hit. I served it with yummy whole wheat dinner rolls. I plan to make it again real soon and this time add the soy and Worcestershire sauce.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TDS Day1: Multitasking

Just in case you're wondering what the TDS stands for, that's twenty-one days of something. If I can meet the challenge there'll be 20 more of these posts titled the same way. There is no guarantee I will not post on a subject I've posted on before, or even repeat myself word for word on something I've written before.  The older I get the more I realize I'm a repeater, and tend to put out the same information more than once :o) In any event today is day 1 of the 21 days of something and I'd like to talk (write/blog) to you a little bit about multitasking.

Back in the old days before we were all very clever and had a sorts of electronic devices, we all called it something else. Doing 20 things at once, too many irons in the fire, having a full plate, etc. Way back then, before we were all very smart we had much more flowery and descriptive ways of saying we had WAY too many things going on at the same time. Now we all just settle on that one word and most of us pretend we're really good at multitasking.

Truth be told, I think we're all full of baloney. Oh sure, I have no doubt there are a handful of personality types out there who actually do quite well juggling numerous tasks at once, but overall I think we just take on more than we can handle and do the best we can to get it all done. Some years ago I read an article by some very clever person who did a social experiment on the actual effectiveness of multitasking and his results were dismal. In his conclusion he found that the vast majority of people (the percentage was very high, something like 92%) cannot multitask at all but instead what they do is make an effort at it, and instead of doing a 100% job at one thing they do a 75% job at several things and find that this is good enough. In other words, as a society we've more or less compromised in a huge way because we don't want to admit that we're not really doing well at this multitasking business. (I wish I could source quote my material on this but it's been so many years now I don't know if I could find that same article even if I multitasked till my fingers fell off). But is it really good enough?

Can you imagine going in for surgery and your surgical team doing a 75% job, patting each other on the back and saying "good job, team!" Or how about on your wedding day, would it be okay if the bride only walked down 75% of the aisle and stopped there? Maybe when you're on vacation you go 75% of the way and stop wherever you are and say "okay kids, we're gonna have fun now!" (even if you're in the middle of nowhere). Of course those sound like unrealistic extremes but the reality of it is, a lot of us are doing the very same thing every day with really important matters. Whether it's on the job, or with family or other relationships. We have all these "things" we think we need to be doing (when in reality, most of them don't need to be taking up our time at all, and I think we all know it, whether we want to admit it or not) and to somehow fit it all in, we trim down the standard for doing things 100% and give much less of ourselves to the important things.

Not too long ago I came to the realization that I absolutely stink at multitasking. Oh sure, like everyone else I really thought I was doing a bang up job of it but time after time little things were brough to my attention that were like little red flags with the message "hey lady, you stink at multitasking!" written on them. To be honest, it took several years of these red flags because I'm just about as stubborn as they come, but the message finally hit home and I decided enough was enough. It's different for everyone but I believe electronic communication/entertainment is the biggest culprit. Whether it's the computer, laptop, DS, cell phone, ipod or whatever happens to be in your hand and sucking your brain into a tiny little screen.

For me it was the computer. I no longer keep my eyes on my screen (or my hands on my keyboard) if my husband or one of my kids is talking to me. I stop, turn, look them in the face and genuinely listen to them. This one was the worst for me, and I owe my older daughters a monumental apology for doing it to them for so many years because I did stink at it, I just didn't know it. Of course you can hear someone when they're talking to you but you really don't hear them, and they know you're really not giving them your undivided attention. While the audio of their message goes into your ears you're not actually a part of the conversation they wanted or needed to have with you. I have no doubt that Football Widows know exactly how this feels when football is on and talking to Mr. Husband is like talking to a robot. He might turn and acknowledge you for a second or two but his attention immediately turns back to the tv and his head and his eyes follow it. Sure he hears you, but he's not listening to you and you know it. He knows it too, but the game is on...

I'm sure I could give numerous examples of lousy multitasking but those who are doing it, and stink at it, probably need to be convicted themselves instead of reading what I have to say about it. I do hope if anyone reading sees themselves in what I've said, today will be THEIR day to say enough is enough, and start giving 100% again rather than trimming down the standard to fit more junk in.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

21 Days of Something

So there I was, minding my own bloggy business while thinking about a new blog post and instead of opening blogger I opened tweetdeck and saw it. A tweet from Lisa that said, simply enough "New @ the blog: Something (Anything): A 21 Day Blogging Experiment". It intrigued me so I clicked and that was that. You should click too so you can read the details, the hows, the whens and the huhs of Lisa's post.

It's essentially a challenge for those of us who have fallen into a blog-nap to get back at it and rediscover our love for blogging.  Anyway, that's the way I see it and I'm up for it!  I really do love blogging and I've missed it, but other things tend to get in the way and it just sits here being sad and unread.  Poor blog!

I don't have a list of topics ready to blog about but I can pretty much guarantee it's going to be a wide variety of things.  I'll likely blog about what I do (graphic design), what I am (Christian, wife, mom, daughter, etc.), what I've learned in the last... hmm... 2 years(?) that I've let the blog slide, things that are stupid (no shortage of material there, eh?), things that make me laugh, and maybe even a topic about cats.  I'll be honest and admit that when I'm doing a series on the same subject I have no problem getting up every morning ready to write.  But... when it's just sort of random, I tend to just sit here and stare at my blogger dashboard and think "seriously? no one cares about this" and I click away.

So, we'll see how it goes.  I'll start my 21 day experiment tomorrow and I hope you'll come along and see what I have to say.  I just might be talking about YOU! ;-) Just kidding.  (but I might, one never knows...)

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Yummy BBQ Pulled Pork

Last week when hubby and I were at Costco, he turns to me and asks (being the most fabulous, thoughtful and considerate hubby, ever) "baby, do you need a new crockpot?" Imagine my surprise, since I'd just said to one of our older daughters a few days prior to that, that I needed a new crockpot. Clearly, ESP is one of my hubby's many hidden talents that I never knew he had, until now. Well the price was inbeatable so yes, I came home with a new crockpot.This exact one, to be specific - and I LOVE it.

Crockpots always come with a few basic recipes in the manual so I skimmed through and found one that sounded good: BBQ Pulled Pork.  Not only have I never had it, I've never made it and I was determined to try something new.  Here's the recipe (it's so easy it's almost embarassing):

2.5- 5 pounds of pork loin, trimmed
2-4 cups bbq sauce
2-3 chopped onions
6-8 buns or rolls

Except for the buns, place all the ingredients in the crockpot and cook for 7-9 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high.  When the pork is done, shred with a fork and place back in the slow cooker and blend well with the sauce.  Serve on fresh buns or rolls.

Now, here's how I made it: 12 pieces of boneless pork loin chops, 1 regular sized bottle of bbq sauce and 1 large onion.  I cooked it on high for 5 hours and it turned out simply incredible.  I served it on fresh sausage rolls with a side of fresh chunked pineapple.  The reviews?

Jordan - "yummy!" (she ate 2 sandwiches)
Samuel - (with a full mouth, nodding happily) flashed me the thumb's up sign
Rachel - "mine!!"
Ruth - (the child who hates pretty much everything) "wow, I actually like this"

Unfortunately hubby is working late and hasn't been able to try it yet but he's going to love it too.  I'm so glad he has ESP.  Oh, and here's a great place for more crockpot recipes as well. I know there are a bazillion of them out there, so one more can only make dinner even more fabulous!

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, September 23, 2011

How To Have The Most Fabulous, Fantastic, Fiery, Fun Marriage, Ever: Part 4

If you're just reading for the first time, the introduction to this series is here and part 1 on spiritual intimacy is here, and part 2 on emotional and physical intimacy is here and part 3 on dos and don'ts for spouses is here

While pithy and poignent quotes about love and marriage are certainly not in short supply, there are two that I've read recently that really stand out to me. Sadly, I don't even know who originally said them but they are both true all the same:

"If you're too busy with other things to make sure your spouse knows and feels just how much you love them, you're too busy with petty things that don't matter." 

"The best gift a man can give to his children is to love his wife" 

That first one is cuts right to the point and may even put someone on the defensive right away but the truth of it is, there is almost nothing in the world more important than a healthy, happy marriage relationship. If sports, hobbies, work, or anything else is taking your time away from your husband or wife to the point they feel neglected and unimportant, your priorities are simply in the wrong place. Sadly, one of the common complaints from women who are struggling through a difficult marriage relationship is that her husband leaves her feeling invisible. That feeling leads to many others if not remedied, such as despair, insecurity, resentment, bitterness and anger.  Likewise for husbands, a common complaint is that she makes him feel inadequate which leads to a big change in his attitude toward her that may include feelings of spite, indifference, and even insults leveled at her.  In many cases the spouse causing the hurt feelings of the other isn't doing it on purpose, they've just adapted to a busy life and this is the result. This is something that should never, ever happen. Allow me to say that again, this is something that should never, ever happen.

If you're in a marriage where your spouse has ever voiced this concern to you and you've not done anything about it, make today the day you DO do something about it. After all, you love each other very much, and no matter how mundane or routine or stressed your relationship has become, each of you genuinely does have the power to turn things around.  As my own husband would say when it comes to this, "just do it". He's not one to mince his words.

The second quote up above is timeless and will come back to bless your entire family over and over again. Little girls grow up with their loving daddy expressing his affections to her mommy and it becomes the pattern they come to expect in an honorable, wonderful man when they're of an age to begin thinking about it. Likewise for little boys, when they have this kind of a dad as their example it becomes the pattern they want to emulate when they get older and begin thinking about how to treat a lady, and eventually a wife. Husbands, if you want your children to have high standards for their future spouses, do all you can to show them what a good and loving man looks like. Wives, this same principle applies to you as well, make no mistake. In your words and deeds model as best as you are able, the kind of wife you want your daughters to be and the kind of wife you want for your son.

Now, at the beginning of this series I said that I was not basing any of it on personal, subjective experience and that is true. None of what I have shared with you has been advice from me, personally, but advice I've read from professionals. Now you may be wondering just how valid any of this advice is, so this is the part where I will share a bit of personal, subjective experience. Keeping in mind every marriage relationship is as different as there are pesonalities. In other words, the advice DOES work wonders, but your results will vary.

Mine and my husband's relationship is one that most people would call very, very good. Before we ever had romantic thoughts about the other we were friends for nearly a year. Good friends, and fast friends, we quickly discovered we were very much alike and could quite literally talk about almost anything and we did. We both agree that this was a fantastic foundation to begin with and it's kept us close all these years. However, like just about every other married couple we began to get so busy with kids, family, work, etc., that our marriage began to suffer in certain areas that we never thought it would. The tricky part of this is that it's so subtle, so gradual that by the time it occurs to you that you've arrived "there" you're both already quite set in your own routines and it's very hard to stop and change things up.

It wasn't that long ago that we both had to admit we were in fact there, that our marriage was in a place we didn't want it, and we were both determind to get away from that and work hard at a better marriage. I began to read just about anything I could get my hands on and discuss what I'd found with him and see how it fit (or didn't - and not all advice applies in all cases, to be sure) our own personal circumstances. I found a lot of advice and a lot of checklists and a lot of "quizes" for husbands and wives to take in an effort to break the ice, break the patterns that got you "there" in the first place, and we began to incorporate much of the advice I've written about in this series. In short, the result was absolutely incredible.

So much so, that now we look forward to our time together more than we have in years. We weren't really able to change our routines that much but we did make some changes and now things have changed so much between us, it's almost like a brand new relationship built over a pretty wonderful one to begin with. Not long ago I tweeted that I wasn't sure it was possible to fall in love with your spouse again after so many years of marriage, but if it was possible, that it happened to me. I was assured by the comments I received that yes, it is certainly possible. Now, Kevin and I have that kind of marriage that you hear about, but privately wonder if it's real or exagerrated. I can assure you, those marriages do exist and they're very real.

I cannot stress to you enough, if you and your spouse have found your marriage in the ruts, in a routine, and lacking or suffering in some way as a result, applying some of the advice you've read in this series (whatever might apply, or whatever might apply but you can change up a little bit to fit your circumstances) will make an incredible difference and you'll both be the happier for it.

I'd love to hear from you if you have any thoughts on this so please feel welcome to leave a comment.  I hope in some way this has blessed someone, or more than just one someone.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How To Have The Most Fabulous, Fantastic, Fiery, Fun Marriage, Ever: Part 3

If you're just joining this series, If you're just reading for the first time, the introduction to this series is here and part 1 on spiritual intimacy is here, and part 2 on emotional and physical intimacy is here.

Honey-Dos and Honey-Don'ts

We'd all like to believe that a fabulous marriage relationship just happens, and we don't even have to think about it. Well, we'd like that but it's not even close to reality. The truth is, marriage relationships can be quite complicated sometimes and if both parties are not willing to do what it takes to work through the rough spots they'll only get worse. You and your spouse might find yourself aptly described struggling with one of the categories of intimacy I've mentioned in the earlier posts in this series, or you might be facing quite different trials. Either way, life brings hard times and as a couple, as a team, you and your spouse need to band together and determine to work through those times if you want that awesomely wonderful relationship.

Toward that end, here is a list of things that will help. While this isn't an exhuastive list of suggestions, and while I will focus more on the DO list than the don't list, it's the most commonly forgotten list based on all I've read from professionals that counsel couples who's marriage has fallen onto hard times. Due to the fact that men and women think differently and respond differently, I'm going to point out what may seem obvious to some, but in reality isn't always that obvious. Sometimes it's not even obvious to the husband or the wife. For both men and women, learning and understanding that your spouse does think differently than you do and learning how to go that little extra step to make sure they know how loved and appreciated they are goes a very long way toward intimacy in all three areas, spiritual, emotional and physical.

I know someone who often says "don't tell me, show me".  While words carry a lot of weight, actions often speak volumes themselves.  Just by incorporating a few little things and by making simple gestures you're expressing your love and appreciation for your spouse in more than just words and it makes a world of difference.

FOR BOTH SPOUSES

Do pay compliments often - Don't use insulting or demeaning titles even in jest ("ball and chain", etc.). Both husbands and wives like to hear nice things from the other so when he's done a great job mowing the lawn and your yard looks quite lovely, make sure you tell him you think so. If she comes in the room in a pretty new dress, tell her how beautiful she is in the dress. On the flip side, don't ever call your husband or wife by a demeaning name even if it's in jest. Doing that actually brings an air of negativity (and insult, and disrespect) into your relationship even if it's not intended. Instead, use fun little pet names that makes the other one smile.

Do tuck love notes in his/her purse or wallet - don't let a day go by without an "I love you". This is one of those things that might seem like a given, but it's a little habit that often gets forgotten. Instead of physical notes, you could send him a text or send her an email with a short note telling the other how much you love them, thanking them for the good time you had on your date night, or telling them how much you love the new book, flowers, or that favorite meal last night.

FOR THE HUSBAND

Do bring her (from time to time) little tokens that say "I know you'll like this". It could be flowers, it could be some kind of collectable she loves, or chocolates, or it could be a new book from her favorite author. Whatever it is, doing this shows her that you're thinking of her and it means a lot to her.

Do tell her she's pretty, and often. Women especially in our modern culture feel the pressure to be fabulous and beautiful all the time and quite often don't feel like they measure up. The media projects an impossible image of the standard of beauty for women and even though it's an unrealistic image the message is still coming across for women. Make sure she knows you think she's beautiful just the way she is.

Do reach for her hand to hold it while you're walking together. A simple gesture of physical touch like this simply says "I love you".  It's a small thing that yields a pretty powerful result.  Likewise, if you're sitting on the couch together watching tv, put your arm around her.  Or surprise her with a big hug when she's walking through the room. She needs to know you enjoy that physical closeness and showing her this way is an effective way for that message to be sent.

FOR THE WIFE

Do tell him how much you appreciate him, and often. Men have an inner drive to provide and care for their wives and families and it reassures them when they hear from you that they're doing a good job of it. While men are more analytical thinkers and women are generally more emotional thinkers, men still do need to hear from their wives that they're doing a good job of being a provider and this support he gets from you goes a long way towards his peace of mind.

Do wear his favorite perfume. This seems like another simple thing but it's a very powerful one that sends a message to him that says "I know you love the way this smells, and I'm wearing it just for you".  He will notice you're wearing it and it will being him pleasure even if he doesn't say anything. Husband, make sure you tell her she smells wonderful, you know you notice it, and she can't read your mind. As much as it pleases you that she's wearing it, it pleases her to hear you say you notice it. (And ladies, "wear his favorite" can be applied in other areas as well, such as during your private spouse time together. Remembering that men are very visual creatures allows you to be a little more mindful of how to bring a smile to his face). 

Do surprise him with his favorite thing from time to time. Does he love barbequed ribs? A sports magazine? Whatever it is, just as he brings you little tokens that say "I know you'll like this" do the same for him. It's another simple thing but it tells him you're thinking of him as well, and he will definitely appreciate it.

One of the most exciting things about a great marriage is the opportunity you both have to wow the other, and show them how much you love them and appreciate them.  In most marriages that wowing has taken a back seat to work, home repairs, kid's routines, and great number of other important but distracting things.  When you begin to bring that wow factor back, it's a wonderful way to bring a spark of passion back into your relationship that you'll both notice, both really enjoy, and have quite likely missed over the years.

In tomorrow's conclusion of this series I'll be sharing some favorite quotes about marriage relationships, a little bit of personal experience in applying some of this advice that you've read about in the series and how it's changed my own marriage, and the long lasting benefits for the whole family when your marriage is something you work hard at.  My husband and I were discussing this series yesterday and agreed that our hope was that both husbands and wives might be reading these posts together and being honest with themselves (and each other) in areas where their own relationship might be in need of a little help.  Our hope is that by taking in this information and applying the suggestions where needed, that other marriages might be wonderfully blessed and rejuvinated.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas if you'd like to leave a comment!




Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How To Have The Most Fabulous, Fantastic, Fiery, Fun Marriage, Ever: Part 2

Continuation of the series, today I want to focus on the most commonly given advice by professionals in regards to both emotional and physical intimacy for married couples. I do not pretend to be an expert at all, I'm merely passing along some really great advice so that your marriage might also be super fantastic! It may be that your own marriage is great in most areas but in need of a little help in one or more of the others mentioned here. It may be that you're in need of more in-depth support and counsel and if that is the case I cannot recommend more strongly, that you get whatever help and support you need right away to turn your marriage around. 

If you're just reading for the first time, the introduction to this series is here and part 1 on spiritual intimacy is here

For many married couples the passion and the tingly excitement of being snuggly close to their spouse tends to fade away after a time. This is quite normal and happens in almost every marriage. Between work, kids, pregnancies, school-related schedules, the home, outside commitments such as church ministry, sports, hobbies or community involvement and wide variety of other factors, many married couples tend to fall into a routine that leaves very little snuggly time for each other. Time together often means discussing bills, kids, home repairs, or other important things that do need to be discussed, but once those things are addressed both spouses tend to go their seperate ways and back to their routines. It's nothing that either spouse plans, it just becomes a habit if you're not mindful of it, and after a while you'll actually begin to grow apart instead of growing closer. This is dangerous ground friends, and this is where potential temptations, bitterness, resentment, despair, lonliness and more may come along into your relationship and you may find your marriage in a great deal of distress so please take this to heart.

There are numerous articles online and many books out there that address this very subject and truth be told they all pretty much say the same thing. Many of these are written by doctors, therapists, counsellers and pastors who have had years and years of first hand experience helping married couples find their way back to a genuinely fabulous marriage when something, somewhere went wrong. All these books and articles say generally the same thing because there really is "recipe" for a fabulous marriage if both husband and wife are willing and desire it. I wont list all the suggestions but I will mention many of them. If they seem obvious, please remember that no matter how obvious they seem, most of these are things married couples tend not to do, after their routines begin pulling them apart. These are helpful things to begin drawing you back together, where you should be.  

Spouse Time Take 15 minutes (or more) each and every day to sit together and talk. Turn off the tv, stereo, radio, laptop, cell phone or anything else that can distract you and sit together on the couch or go for a walk together. This is not errand time or walk the dog time or take out the trash time, this is 15 minutes of Spouse Time. Ask how his day was or what her plans are that day and really listen to what the other says without interupting them to unload about your day, before it's your turn. Both husbands and wives need to know the other actually hears them, supports them and cares about what troubles them or what made them smile that day. It may seem like a very simple thing but what this does is re-builds that critical, wonderful, emotional intimacy with each other that may have fallen by the wayside. Once you begin doing this you'll both look forward to that time each day when you know you'll have each other's undivided attention to share whatever it is you want to share about your day. Depending on your routines it may be best to do this in the morning or in the evening after work. Pick whatever time works best for your personal situation and dedicate yourselves to a minimum of 15 minutes of Spouse Time each day.

Face Time  As silly or trivial as this might sound at first, you and your spouse dedicate yourselves to a minimum of 15 seconds each and every day of tender, passionate kisses without the expectation of anything else.  It may sound silly to those couples who already do this but for many couples that kind of closeness was discontinued a long time ago.  Like many other areas of marriage this kind of tender closeness just gets lost in the shuffle of life and ends up being replaced by a quick smooch on the way out the door.  He misses it, she misses it but life is busy, the kids have soccer practice, he's exahusted from a hard day, she's running behind for this appointment or that and on and on it goes.  Many married couples work really great together as a team to juggle the household but they often forget to spend that close face time with each other.  It brings back a daily dose of a very special emotional and physical closeness that may be in a need of a great big refreshment.  Make sure it's no less than 15 seconds when you begin, and even if one of you is giggling through it while the other is mentally counting away the seconds, you'll find before long no one's counting, no one's giggling and you're both looking forward to it every day.

Date Night Do you remember that excitement and anticipation you used to feel when you were first dating your spouse? Looking forward to seeing him or her that day or night, and the plans you had for dinner or a movie or an afternoon at the lake? If you and your spouse are like most couples, that's a fond and treasured memory tucked away safely someplace behind kids, work, car repairs, the dog pee on the carpet, errands, appointments and about a hundred other things. In all the reading I've done on this subject, Date Night is one of the most common perscriptions professionals hand out for rekindling that emotional intimacy in your marriage. It doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive but you should agree together on a night that works for both your schedules each week and make that night YOUR night for your date. As much as you are able, never let anything interfere with that and start making it a regular thing.

Private Time Private time is exactly what you might suspect it is and it's a most serious, private, critical element of a wonderful marriage. While physical intimacy with your spouse does not guarantee a fantastic marriage all by itself, if there is any kind of dysfunction in this area it almost certainly can be a destructive force in your relationship. Scripture is clear that when a man and woman join in marriage the two become one flesh and that is exactly what it means. A bond is formed in marriage of spiritual, emotional and physical closeness that should only grow deeper and stronger with time. Whatever you do, never let anything disrupt your physical intimacy time together and make sure it's a regular thing. It's very easy to let work schedules or other factors come between you and your spouse's time of physical closeness but it's a very dangerous habit to get into. Without this, relationships begin to take on the baggage with both spouses of lonliness, insecurity, doubts, bitterness, resentment, indifference and in no time at all it begins to eat away like an acid on the emotional and spiritual intimacy as well. Whatever you do, guard this area of your marriage closely. If your marriage is already on shaky ground in this area, experts and professionals suggest you begin scheduling times of physical intimacy. As robotic or clinical as that might sound, these same experts who have been counselling married couples report that when husbands and wives actually do this, it brings them closer together in every other area as well, and before long the "schedule" is out the window and they're doing just fine.

If such things as bitterness and resentment have already begun to build in this area, it's essential that you both take the time to sit together and in a non-threatening, non-condemning non-accusatory way, express your thoughts and feelings with one another with the goal of asking "how can we fix this?" and coming to an agreement to work on it, and begin loving each other the way you should.

I hope this has been some benefit today and I would welcome your thoughts and ideas if you'd care to leave a comment. Tomorrow I'm going to focus on a bulleted list of Honey-Dos and Honey-Don'ts for both husband and wife.
Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How To Have The Most Fabulous, Fantastic, Fiery, Fun Marriage, Ever: Introduction

Early this morning, possibly too early for the coffee to have done it's caffeinely-duty, in my efforts to post part 1 of this series I accidentally deleted the introduction. Thanks to the magic of rss readers however, I was able to retrieve that first post and so I will share it again (even though now the posts are out of order, lol)

I would like to make it clear from the beginning that what I'm going to share here is not from my own personal wisdom or my own subjective experiences, but rather from the combined wisdom of men and women much wiser than myself who have in some cases decades of experience in professionally dealing with marital issues. You'll notice the title says "introduction" because that is exactly what this first post is. At the suggestion of a friend, I will be posting this week on this topic and I hope you'll come along with me each day as well as share you own thoughts, questions or ideas in the comments. I can't promise to have an answer for every question but I'll sure try my best.

I have a friend who has often said "husbands, date your wives, or someone else will". What he means by that is if husbands don't take the time and the effort to make sure their wives know they are loved and appreciated by being as attentive to and affectionate towards her as he ought to be, the wife might eventually find herself looking for someone who will take that time and make that effort even if the very idea of it horrifies her and was something she never thought she would find herself thinking. Ladies, it works in reverse as well, and in far too many cases it's the wife who neglects her husband and to his own horror and shame finds himself looking and thinking about what it used to feel like to have that kind of affection.

Now before anyone reading dismisses this idea as something that could never happen to strong, dedicated believers, it's a good to keep the facts in front of us and the facts say the divorce rate among professing believers is just slightly lower than it is with unbelievers. The latest data on that I have found is that the unbelieving community's divorce rate is roughly 51% while the professing Christian community comes in at 42% (of all marriages ending in divorce). Sadly, the facts bear themselves out and Christian marriages do fall apart and divorce does happen. But, it doesn't have to be this way and there are real, tangible, life-changing ways to prevent it as long as both husband and wife want it and are willing to work at it and do what it takes to have a fantastic marriage.

Over the last few months I've read and heard other variations of that "husbands, date your wives" quote and it made me curious as to what forms the building blocks of a truly phenomenal marriage. If you will, what are the do's and don'ts, what works and what doesn't, and what a successful, lasting marriage really looks like My own husband Kevin and I have been setting aside good quality "talk time" to discuss these things and now I'd like to share some of them here with you. Much of what I'll be sharing will certainly not be anything new to anyone, but it may be that it has been set aside or even forgotten in your own relationship with your spouse. It's not an exhaustive solution to turn your marriage into an Emmy award winning relationship (but if you and your spouse decide to apply everything you read here and it transforms your relationship into something crazy-fantastic, I want to hear from you!), but I do hope it serves to bless your union and give you and your spouse something to consider, pray about and talk over. These are things that will change your marriage for the better whether you've been married for 6 months or 60 years.

It's never too late to have a wonderful relationship with the one you love most and it's never to early to commit these things to your memory before you get married so you're well informed ahead of time. In closing for today I'd like to add that researching this subject online is very difficult unless you're open to all sorts of material that Christian men and women should never allow before their eyes. Through the magic of google's (locked) safesearch, and through talking to a couple of friends I was able to gather quite a bit of wisdom and I hope to pass it on to you. I even purchased a book on one particular area so that I could read offline in my own leisure time and discuss these things with my husband. There will be some areas that will not be exactly "easy" to address but they're all important so I hope to be able to address them in a safe and helpful way for both men and women reading.

I hope you'll be back tomorrow for part 1 of this series.
Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

How To Have The Most Fabulous, Fantastic, Fiery, Fun Marriage, Ever: Part 1

(not being completely familiar with the new blogger interface, I accidentally hit the wrong button and deleted the introduction to this series from yesterday) EDIT: I have recovered the introduction and you can read that here)

As a preface to this series I want to point out one simple fact, based on all I've read. That fact is this: what will make or break a marriage is the level of intimacy you have with your spouse.  More specifically, or to understand better what I mean by intimacy is to understand that when it comes to marriage there are three basic categories of intimacy and they are spiritual, emotional and physical.  If those three areas are strong and healthy and you're mindful of them always, you will have a fantastic marriage. If any one of those three areas is suffering (and the reality of it is, in most marriages one or more of those areas do suffer from time to time), there are very real ways to address them and make them strong and those are the three areas I'm going to focus on for the purposes of this series of posts.  In truth, they actually all blend together and overlap in a hundred different mysterious and wonderful ways but I'll focus on each area seperately, as best as I can. First, and most important in any Christian marriage is the level of spiritual intimacy you and your husband share.

Pray Together

This one might seem like a no-brainer for Christians, but from all I've read many Christian couples don't actually do this, or used to do it when newly married but allowed their busy lives to sort of edge this kind of prayer time out of the picture. I can testify that it's very easy to allow that to happen, even if you didn't want it to.  They often pray as a family together, and the husband or the wife may pray for the other, in their own quiet prayer time but they often do not pray as a couple together. The benefit of this is that both spouses hear what is on the heart and mind of the other and can go to the Lord in prayer with them, and agree in prayer together.

Husband, is she asking the Lord to give you strength to avoid temptation in our modern world where impure messages and images are everywhere you look?  Hear her prayer and praise God for her support and her love for you and her dedication to keeping your marriage pure and solid, and go to the Lord together on this. 

Wife, is he asking the Lord to help you manage your busy schedule and give you refreshment when you feel down?  Praise God for him that he goes to the Lord in prayer for you in this way, that he knows and understands how difficult it can be sometimes to juggle so many things, and that he's in your corner and cares so much about you, and agree with him in prayer. 

As a married couple going together before the Lord in prayer this way you will grow closer together and that is the goal.  My husband Kevin and I used to do this but as life tends to do, we adopted different routines and schedules and let this one slip years ago.  We've recently begun doing this again every day and I cannot tell you how much it blesses me to hear what he prays for when we pray together, or how it blesses me to hear him whisper "yes" when I am praying for him in certain areas.

Thank the Lord for your marriage, for your family, His grace, strength and the conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit in all your thoughts and words for both of you. If you already do this you already know how close it makes the both of you and how much stronger your relationship (and your entire family) is because of it.  If you've let this slip or have never done it, you're in for a wonderful surprise when you begin praying this way and you'll both be happier for it.

If your marriage is in need of a spiritual refreshment and this is something you're not doing, have never done or let slip, I would encourage you both to begin doing this, this very day. A Christ-centered marriage is the most beautiful kind of relationship, with a most incredible spiritual intimacy and coming before Him each day, together in praise and petition for one another will make your bond stronger than you ever realized it could be.


Graphic design by Carla Rolfe