Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Lessons from Grandma

It happens every year, at least once but often more than that.

I'll be wrapping a Christmas present and suddenly I'm transported back in time to the age of about 7 and I'm standing at the edge of the bed in grandma's back bedroom, about to get my first (and as it turned out, only) lesson in Gift Wrapping 101. I had never wrapped a present before and grandma had taken my brother and I shopping to get something for my mom. I'm not sure why I was picked to be the wrapper instead of him, but it was a lesson I'm glad I was given.

Grandma was meticulous about every detail of wrapping. First you lay out the gift then you pick the right paper. I'm not sure if she was this particular about every gift she wrapped but she was with this one. She picked out the prettiest paper she had, then had me roll it out. She showed me how to lay the gift on the paper then turn it this way or that, to see how it would fit best. Then, you bring up the edge of the paper just so, and put your first piece of tape on it. Very carefully turning the gift over to roll it up in the wrap until the entire gift is covered. That's when the Magic Scissors came out.

Grandma had the sharpest scissors in the history of humankind, and she showed me a trick to cutting paper. You sort of nick it just a little, hold the scissors at an angle and you just slide them right through the paper without ever chopping once. I learned over the years this only works with awesomely sharp scissors like grandma had, but it's the coolest way to cut paper, ever, especially if you have a large amount of gifts to wrap. It saves a ton of time. After the paper is cut, on goes the next piece of tape (which by the way were already ripped off the roll in roughly 1-2 inch strips and placed carefully in a neat little row on the footboard of the bed - no fumbling with the roll of tape during the actual wrapping process). Once that was done, the fun part begins. Turning the gift so that one end is facing you, you carefully fold down the top paper over the end of the gift so that the paper on the sides sort of forms what looks like wings. Then, you carefully put a crease in those wings and wrap them over the end like it's hugging the end of the box. Each wing gets a piece of tape and then you bring up the V shaped paper on the bottom and carefully tape that. She showed me how to do it first, and it took her about 3.5 seconds to complete the entire process. She didn't actually put the tape on, or make the real creases/folds in the paper (she just showed me where it goes), and then she unfolded everything and said "now you do it". I think I was in that back bedroom for a week or so trying to get my wrapping job to look exactly like hers. My "wings" were deformed then I ripped the paper, then the white underside of the paper showed through and no matter what I did I couldn't get it right. Over and over again I unwrapped it and tried to re-wrap it. Eventually, it was pretty close to being a good job and she told me to go ahead and tape it. "Now turn it around and do the other end exactly the same way" she said.

The movie Jaws hadn't even come out yet, but I'm sure I heard the Jaws theme music as I turned the box around. It didn't take me as long to get the other end wrapped the same way, but it was one of those weird/annoying/difficult challenges that it turned out I would learn later in life that I would love facing, just to get it right. Besides, this present was for my MOM, so it had to be as perfect as I could make it!

Once the wrapping was done, it was ribbon time. Oh ribbon time!! This was the most fun, ever. Grandma showed me how to slide the ribbon under the upturned box, twist it, flip the box and pull the ribbon up over the top. Again, it took her about 2 seconds to do it, then she pulled the ribbon off and handed it to me and said "now, you do it". Again with the Jaws theme music, just a little softer and further away in the background this time. As it turned out, I nailed it the first try! Somewhere in my little 7 year old head I became Super Christmas Ribbon Woman for just a few seconds. After that, it was just a matter of doubling up more ribbon, tying it at the X on the box, cutting the folded ends and going crazy with the edge of the scissors to make it curl.  Using a different level of pressure on each ribbon makes big bouncy curls or tight boing-y curls so you have to do each one just a little different. :-)

It's funny how every year for the last 40+ years I will start wrapping a Christmas present, and that entire lesson pops back into my head. When I think of it, it's usually just a flash but there I am, back in the back bedroom with the wall heater going, the bag of potatoes leaning against the wall there where she always put them and the smell of "grandma's house".

I think the last Christmas I was at grandma's house would have been in 1997, right before Kev and I were married and we moved 2500 miles away, but her wrapping lesson stuck with me, so in a way, grandma has always been with me at Christmas.  Just last night while I watched Kevin wrap the last few gifts I had to smile when I thought of how grandma would react, watching him.  She would have shifted her weight to one side, put her hands on her hips and say something along the lines of "Oh Kevin, you're NOT going to wrap it like that!" I just let him wrap it, like that.   (In our family we always joked that we're Irish when grandma got frustrated because our names changed from Carla to Oh Carla or Gary to Oh Gary, no matter who you were, you got the Oh at the beginning of your name).

My grandma passed away this year in January and it feels especially fitting that I document this memory of her because no matter what, as long as the Lord sees fit to let me stick around and wrap stuff, grandma will always be there wrapping it with me. Funny thing is, while I watched Kev last night, I had my hands on my hips.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Facebookery

Once again, Facebook has made a bunch of changes that you may or may not be aware of. It seems like they do stuff like this all the time, and it's usually a fluke when you discover it (or someone else posts about it). I discovered a couple of things yesterday and someone asked me to share it, so here we go.

Login to FB and click your name so the page redirects to your wall/timeline.  Once there, click "activity log".

When you click that you'll see in the left sidebar a list of options to choose from


From here, click on "All Apps". You'll see all the FB apps you use, down the middle of your screen.  Now here is what you might not know - it seems all these apps have a default setting to show all your friends you're using them.  Which is fine, if you don't care who sees what.  If on the other hand, you don't want to flood your friend's newsfeed with everything you're doing on FB, or if you're using an app that you don't want anyone to know about (for example, an upcoming surprise for someone or if you're just testing it out to see how it works or even if you like it), you need to select the app and adjust the settings:


I selected my twitter app for this and as you can see, it's set to show all my friends.  On your page, click the button next to whichever app you want to adjust the settings for:


And then select who you want to make your activity on this app available to.  I don't have a lot of apps on FB but you might, so scroll down the page to view the settings for all of them and adjust them accordingly.
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Here's another FB setting you might not be aware of.  Facebook "privacy" is pretty much a joke, but there are things you can adjust to keep your info a little more to yourself.  On your main page (your newsfeed page) you'll see this in the top bar:


Click the little gear icon and scroll down to privacy settings.  Click that and you'll see this in the left sidebar:


Click on Apps and read this very carefully under your list of apps:


Click the edit option to the right of this paragraph and be prepared to be surprised at how much of your info is being shared by your friends (bless their hearts, lol) whenever they're using different apps on FB:


The copy here says it makes your friend's experiences better and more social.  What they really mean is, your info is being plastered all over FB whether you like it or not, because your friends are using certain apps.  I was surprised at all the categories that were checked when I first looked at mine, so I unchecked them all. What you choose to allow is up to you, just be sure you hit SAVE CHANGES when you're done.

Hopefully this has been helpful.













Monday, December 10, 2012

Take the Fudge Poll!

Just for fun (and because I'm in Fudge Making Mode today!), I've added a poll.  You can see it at the top left side bar.

Feel free to take the poll and/or leave a comment if I didn't add your favorite Christmas fudge flavor.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Because He Understands

I've been tossing around the idea for this post for a couple of weeks now.  There were really only two things stopping me from writing it. 1. Time and 2. Criticism.  The time part is easy to explain: I'm just constantly busy with design work, housework, cooking, working out, running errands & all those other things busy moms are always doing.  Any "free" time I have these days is almost always spent in my comfies, on the couch with my husband, watching a movie (completely disconnected from my desktop, laptop or phone).  Today I've decided to make the time, because it matters to me.

The other thing stopping me was criticism.  Because I'm about to sing the praises of my husband, I thought of a blog post I read some time back that actually condemned wives for doing that.  Yes, you read that correctly.  There are people out there who believe women (and men) with great marriages should keep that to themselves and not upset those among us with rotten marriages by saying anything good, about ours.  On the one hand (a very small hand) I can understand the reasoning behind that.  No one with any amount of compassion wants to purposely upset someone.  On the other hand, our culture has become so backwards in it's attempt to be politically correct, good has seemingly become bad, and bad has seemingly become acceptable and encouraged. I don't subscribe to that kind of thinking so if there's anyone reading who does, feel free to write me off as a lost cause because I have a great husband and I want to tell about him.

First, please note that I did not say perfect.  Kevin is far from perfect and I am utterly thankful from the bottom of my heart.  If he were, or if he were a perfectionist personality, our marriage would have been doomed from before it began. I am someone with a boat load of flaws and faults and quirks and petty annoyances.  If he were perfect, he'd never be able to deal with me.   I did say he's great though, and now I want to tell why.  There is a "headlining" aspect of our marriage & family that it seems like no one on the planet understands, except for him. (I know there are others out there that do understand it, it just often seems like no one does).

Midnight Shift is who we are, like it or not. Like many families, I have a husband who works midnight shift.  Not only does he work this shift, but he works a rotating (2 weeks nights, 2 weeks nights), continental, 12 hour midnight shift.  In case you don't know what that means, it looks something like this, from his 2nd week into midnights: Fri., Sat., Sun (on - midnights 7pm-7am), Mon., Tues (off), Wed., Thurs (on midnights), Fri., Sat., Sun (off), Mon., Tues (on - days 7am-7-pm) and so it goes. To further complicate it and confuse anyone reading, because we live roughly 45 minutes from his workplace he actually leaves at 5:30 (either am or pm) and usually doesn't get home until after 8 am or pm and usually heads to bed within an hour or two after arriving home.  So all that to say, he's gone from home a lot on his work days.  Especially when he's on midnight shift, his days off are spent preferrably sitting in his comfy pants, doing a whole lot of nothing, trying to recover from such a grueling, demanding schedule.  When he's on days it's a little easier and those are the days we'll often go to lunch, or make a Costco run, or something enjoyable together.  Now while I don't work midnights myself, I'm actually on this same shift myself, as well as our family.  When he's on days we eat dinner without him and when he's on nights we eat dinner by 4:30 so he can eat with us before he leaves for work.  When he's on days I get up at 5am so we can spend a few minutes together in the morning and pray together before he leaves for work, and when he's on nights, I don't sleep.  Okay, I technically do sleep, but I don't sleep well, at all.  Of course I still get up early with the kids for school but there are many many days where by 9am I feel like I've been hit by a fleet of buses and I have to lay down before I croak.  There is just something about him being gone that doesn't allow me to sleep soundly at all.  Almost without fail, there is one night during his two weeks of midnights that my body finally crashes hard and I end up sleeping like a log.  It's usually one of his last nights of the shift and I look forward to it more than anything.  Not so unusual, it takes him about two weeks to finally adjust to the shift as well and just about the time it's time for him to start turning around for two weeks of days, he's sleeping a little better during the day and finds it extremely difficult to sleep at night.  This, is our life.  This has been our life for the last few years and we deal with it the best we can but it's not an easy trick.

Because of this kind of work/family schedule we can't do a lot of things the same way other families do.  Oh I've heard stories about women with a houseful of kids who homeschool them all and who's hubby keeps a midnight shift like Kev, and they still manage to mind the kids, the house, make quilts, be on every church committee and do it all while holding a baby & correcting math homework.  No, I am not being sarcastic or poking fun, I am serious.  Frankly, those women deserve a day spa trip and an award.  I know it's possible to do it because I used to.  Key phrase there: used to.  It finally hit me about a year and a half ago that I just can't do it all anymore.  I can't even do most of it anymore, it's just too exhausting. It's not so tough when you're 35 but when you're nearly 50 it's a different story.  People used to tell me ALL THE TIME "oh goodness you look so tired".  I always wanted to look at them like Spock from Star Trek, with one eyebrow raised (I can't raise one eyebrow or I might have done it) and simply reply "gee... ya think?!"  But I never did.  I'd always just smile and say something like "yeah".  I'm sure they didn't mean anything malicious by it but it sure doesn't make a dead-tired mom feel any better knowing she looks exactly like she feels.

Our family cannot do mid-week evening stuff, for the most part.  I can't see to drive at night and if Kev's on days he doesn't get home in time and if he's on nights, he's not here.  We can't do birthdays on actual birthdays (or anniversaries or any other special family things), we have to wait until his next weekend off and hope that works for everyone and no one gets sick or anything.  We can't attend church on a regular basis and haven't for a long time.  I wont even drive to the store alone if I haven't slept well, let alone put all the kids in the van and drive the 30 minutes to church.  I tried that once and it scared the life out of me how easy it would have been to fall asleep while driving.  This is just the way it is, and the way it will be until our circumstances change.  I'm not complaining about it, I'm just stating how it is.

The thing is, I don't have to explain any of this to Kev.  He understands it all because it's his life too.  He never tells me I look tired, he just says "baby I love you".  He never asks why I didn't do this, or that, he already knows.  He knows it's because there just wasn't enough time, or I was tired, or something else came up and I had to juggle tasks around.  He's the only one I can talk to about certain things because he gets it.  He doesn't expect me to be super-mom or super-wife and any effort I do make at either (and I still try) he appreciates and makes sure I know it.

But it's not just midnight-shift related stuff.  He understands my faults, my flaws, my insecurities, my hopes, my goals, my passions.  He supports me and encourages me and not a day goes by that he doesn't ask me about something that's important to me.  And every single day, without fail, he thanks me for dinner.  That might sound trivial but I know of women who's husbands never say thank you and trust me, the lack of that simple little two word phrase is very noticeable.

When I think about how blessed I am to have a husband like this, it makes me want to cry.  I know it's not common anymore.  I know it's not something that most women have and can be proud of.  I don't know why  God blessed me with Kevin, but He did and I cannot express enough how thankful I am for that, and for his understanding of me.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How I'm Doing It

After only four weeks of dieting, working out and learning all kinds of things I posted a few things here that I thought might be helpful and encouraging to others beginning this journey.  Let me tell you, being only two years away from 50 (and after having 7 kids) I honestly had no idea how hard it would be to whip myself back into shape. I mean, I suspected it would be hard, I assumed it would be hard, but I had no idea just how hard it would be until I got off my hiney and got to it.  And it's worth EVERY drop of sweat and sore muscle, I assure you.

Well, as of yesterday it's been 10 weeks since I put the bowflex together and hubby and I started our diet and fitness plan and I'd like to share some results, and how we're doing it.  We didn't start keeping a weekly chart until we were already over a week into it, so here are the results from the last 9 weeks:

First up is Kevin because his results are way more impressive than mine :-)  In 9 weeks he's lost a grand total of 15.5 inches overall, and a very impressive 29.2 pounds! I'm very proud of him and the weight loss is quite impressive.  In case you're wondering, yes he is most definitely at the point of desperately needing new pants as they're literally falling off him, lol.

As for me, I've lost a grand total of 8.5 inches overall and a total (as of this morning) 11.7 pounds.  While I'm losing the weight at a much slower pace than he is, it's averaged out to just a little over a pound a week for me, and medical experts everywhere say that's a good pace to lose weight. Factors that make a ginormous difference for women (compared to men) and weight loss are also age, metabolism, fluid retention & monthly hormonal cycles. It's just a fact we have to fight harder to get the weight off than men do.  Kev and I recently had a conversation about this and even though most days I actually burn more calories than he does during workouts, he's still losing weight faster.  It's just the way it works.

So, here's how we're doing it.

FOOD

We both signed up at myfitnesspal.com about 8 weeks ago and it's been a tremendous resource for us.  When you first sign up you have the option to enter in your age, weight, weight loss goals, exercise goals and more and then it gives you a daily caloric goal to stay under, to achieve your goals.  For example for me, I have to stay under 1690 calories per day AND work out a minimum of 40 minutes a day (5 days a week) to achieve my goal weight of 165.  I try every day to stay under my food calories and go over my exercise burnt calories, and so far I've been able to maintain that.  Some days are better than others but I've only gone over my food calories once, in 8 weeks.

So, what do I eat to stay under my calories?  Pretty much whatever I want, lol.  However, my wants are much different now than they were 3 months ago.  I measure and weigh everything instead of eyeballing it, I read labels religiously instead of just tossing it into the cart, and snacks now are things like unsalted almonds and protein bars or veggie chips instead of chips & dip or cookies.  I could have a cookie if I wanted one, I'd just figure out the calories in it then get on the elliptical to burn it off.  I do that often, when it's been a higher than normal calorie day :-)  This past Sunday I made a dessert of whole grain cinnamon waffles, a scoop of chocolate frozen yogurt and drizzled with creamy caramel sauce.  Sounds pretty fattening, huh?  Well it wasn't, it was only 240 calories (and it was delish!)  The difference is, a few months ago I would have had 2 scoops and LOTS more caramel than I did on Sunday.  Smaller portions make a huge difference and you still get the enjoyment of the taste without the added calories.  While I do eat different stuff every day, here's a pretty typical day from this past Sunday (a non-workout day)

BREAKFAST: Kellog's brown sugar frosted mini-wheats - 11 biscuits (yes, I count them) & 4 oz. vanilla soy milk.
LUNCH: Elite brand chicken salad with cranberries & 6 whole wheat crackers
DINNER: Buttermilk mashed potatos (3/4 cup) & 3 oz. top sirloin steak.
DESSERT: 1 whole wheat waffle with 1 scoop of chocolate frozen yogurt and 1 tablespoon of caramel sauce.
BEVERAGES: 6 cups of coffee with fat free free french vanilla cream - 2 glasses of white wine

It could have been a better day (more fruit & a protein shake) but all that was 1664 calories.  Usually I have my protein shake for breakfast but Sunday is a non-workout day so I skipped it.  It might not seem like a lot of food, but I never end the day hungry.

EXERCISE

Now, this is where things get ugly, lol.  Okay not really but some days those last 4 reps of crunches feels like the weight of the world is literally sitting on my abs.  Here's what I do:

I'm currently doing circuit training with weight resistance & cardio on the elliptical.  If you have no idea what that means, it's this:

Monday - Wednesday - Friday I do 11 sets of exercises on the bowflex that range from bench presses, rowing & crunches and vary with the weight resistance.  For example the crunches I use 60 pounds of resistance but the leg presses I use 160 pounds of weight resistance.  I have more strength in my legs than my abs so I can tolerate a much higher resistance.  In between each set (16 reps each) I get off the bowflex and spend 60 seconds of intense elliptical.  Then it's back to the bowflex for the next set and repeat 60 seconds on the elliptical between all 11 sets.  A full workout like this takes roughly 35 minutes.  Sometimes a bit longer if I'm feeling pretty good and decide to do 2 sets of something instead of just one.  I also usually add anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes in the evening on the elliptical on these days.

Tuesday - Thursday - Saturday is straight elliptical.  The goal is 30 minutes but I usually go longer or get back on in the evening after dinner.  My goal there is to burn at least 500 calories just doing cardio and I usually hit it.

That's pretty much it :-)  I have my goal weight set right now to 165 but that will likely change when I get closer to it.  If I don't like the way my clothes fit at 165 I'll drop the goal down to 160 and go from there.  At the rate I'm currently losing, I should be close to my goal by the week of January 16, 2013 - 10 more weeks.  I'll check in before then and update my status.

Thanks for reading & feel free to share you thoughts if you like!

The Day After

Waking up and seeing the results of last night's US presidential election, only one thing came to mind, so I created these:

Available in store now in RED, SILVER, BLUE or BLACK.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Status Update, of sorts

I don't even know if I have any readers left here but I have a few things to say that I can't cram into 140 characters on twitter, or that seem reasonable even for a long FB status update. So this is where they shall go.

• Wondering... when speaking like a foul mouthed pig became so normal in our culture that even little kids do it? Here's the way it went down:

We were leaving a family "fun farm" a couple of weeks ago and it was already very dark.  I stopped with my youngest at the row of portable toilets on my way out but all the lights were out so we just walked away. A little girl of about 10 was standing there with an adult male (I assume it was her dad) and he said something to her about it being too dark to see, to use the bathroom.  She responded with this "I can't believe the f****** lights are out!"  I assure you, she did not say asterisk.  Dad responded with nothing. Nada, zilch, zippo.  It stopped me in my tracks, just a few feet from them and I said to my youngest "did that little girl just say what I think she said?!" Ruth replied, "yep, she sure did".  No doubt they heard us, as I wasn't trying to be quiet.  This happened a couple of weeks ago and it's been bugging me ever since.  Our culture has changed so much I can't even wrap my head around it. Honestly, I'm not even sure I want to.

• I got a super-cool package in the mail today and I blogged about it here. That's me there in that fun t-shirt (one of 8 in the package). But you prolly already knew that was me, huh?

• I have not read the book or written a review on Rachel Held Evans idea of living biblical womanhood.  I've heard from those I trust that the book made them go "oh no way, you've got to be kidding me" and I hate reading books like that.  I like reading books that people go "wow, this is fantastic insight".  So, don't look for any book reviews from me on this subject.

• Hurricane Sandy ripped through my area today with much less ferocity than it had when it hit the east coast, but it did knock some trees down and cause massive power outages.  Three of our kids stayed home from school today since their school was one that was without power, heat or phones.  We were spared, but we pray for those who were not. May God be merciful in their efforts to rebuild their lives.

• I have a much bigger post coming soon on this topic but I wanted to report that after 8 weeks of being diligent on this healthy eating/weight loss/exercise kick, I've dropped 10 pounds (as of yesterday's weigh-in).  Even cooler, is that hubby has lost 27 pounds!  Pretty awesome, huh?  I assure you there is no trick to what we're doing, it's just a lot of hard work, watching our calories, making smarter food choices (no pre-packaged foods - it's pure garbage!) and getting on the machines faithfully, 6 days a week.

• I posted a FB status the other day that I soon removed for personal reasons, but essentially it was a rant about people who steal things.  I don't even think they realize that's what they're doing but it's exactly what they're doing.  Let me give you the mock scenario:

Mary the Uber-Talented artist has a gallery where she displays her work for sale. Selling her work is how she contributes to her household income to pay bills, send her kids on school field trips, buys her son new jeans every time she turns around because he's growing like a weed, make the car & insurance payment and put food on the table. Sculptures, paintings, hand-crafted jewelry, all sorts of wonderful items.  The vast majority of the people that come into Mary's shop really appreciate her work and purchase directly from her.  Some even commission her to do custom work just for them, and she really enjoys that.  Although, once in a while someone comes in, really loves her work and wants it, but doesn't want to pay for it.  When Mary isn't looking, they just take whatever they want and walk out the door.  Now let me ask you, what is that called? It's called shoplifting, and if you did it and got caught, you'd be charged with theft, and rightfully so.

So now let me ask you another question: if you do it to an artist who's merchandise is for sale strictly online (not an actual brick and mortar store), what is it called?  It's called common, normal, every day occurance, and yet it's still stealing.  People do it all the time and never bat an eye.  They take songs, games, programs, movies, images and more and they never pay a dime for them.  They like the work, they appreciate the work so much that they really want it for themselves but just not quite enough to actually pay for it. Somehow, somewhere along the way they've latched onto this idea that somehow, they're simply entitled to take what they want, for free.  You could never get away with that in real life, and yet people online do it every single day.  It's absolutely maddening and it happens to me more often than I like to think about.  Listen, if you're someone who normally takes without paying for it, KNOCK IT OFF.  Artists that have their work for sale (actors, musicians, artists, designers, etc.) sell it to make a living, just the same way other folks go to work every day to make a living.

Well, that's about all I have to say.  I think I did have other stuff planned but either it wasn't important enough or it'll just go in the next status update.  Thanks for reading. :-)


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Autumn Goodness: Pumpkin Spice Muffins Recipe

Yesterday afternoon after running errands, hubby and I went through the Tim Horton's drive thru so he could get a cup of coffee.  Now, if you've ever been to Timmies you know they have these giant, evil, horrific signs right near the order thingy that have pictures of massively delicious and fattening yumtastics, such as donuts and bagels and sammiches and other things.  Well, it's fall now so guess what they were showing off there yesterday?  You guessed it, their wonderfully-horrible-fattening delicious pumpkin spice muffin.  I've had one in the past, and let me tell you, one bite and you're pretty sure there's an angelic chorus being sung, somewhere.  They really are that good.

So, being calorie-minded I quickly checked an app on my phone for that specific culprit and I almost fell out of the van when I saw 1 muffins has 410 calories. FOUR HUNDRED AND TEN.  That's insane.  That's more than my entire dinner last night that consisted of oven roasted potatoes, carrots, onions and left over roast beef.  Anyway, all that to say, it just inspired me to one-up Tim Hortons with my own version of a low-fat, low-cal, awesomely delicious pumpkin spice muffin.  I am quite pleased to say, I have met that challenge and now I'll share the results with you! Yay!  If you love pumpkin, you're going to LOVE these:


2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 c. sugar
2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. almond extract
1.5 T melted butter
1T. sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Pre-heat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda & pumpkin pie spice.  In a separate bowl combine eggs, pumpkin, sugar, applesauce and almond extract. Mix well then add to the flour mixture.  Mix just until moistened all the way through then scoop into prepared muffin tin. (I used a 12 cup tin).  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

While muffins are baking, melt the butter and mix the sugar and spice.  When muffins are still warm, baste the tops with melted butter then sprinkle the sugar/spice mixture over the top.

I just ate one (I tried really hard to wait until after dinner, but it was impossible) and they are just fantastic.  Fluffy, sweet, pumpkinny wonderful.  And the good news is, they are only 138 calories per muffin. w00t!

Enjoy!

Pop-Culture Buzzword: Bullying

There are all sorts of buzzwords in our culture these days and "bullying" is most certainly one of them.  Now let me be clear when I say buzzword I mean a word that is used often, one that we see in print often, and is also often misunderstood or misused.

While the term bullying isn't new at all, the focus on it (and the effects of it) do seem to have a stronger focus in our day than even 5 or 10 years ago.  I don't really know why that is, but I assume it has a lot to do with the explosion of internet use, social networking, global connectivity, etc.

I will confess that the modern definition of the word seems to be a bit different than the definition I grew up with.  You see, I'm from the time when a "bully" was most often the mean, overweight, ill-mannered little booger on the playground who made you think he would beat you up if you didn't hand over your lunch, or lunch money.  He may or may not have ever beat anyone up in his life, but he was cruel enough verbally and intimidating enough physically to make you think that he likely had, and probably would, if you didn't do what he said.  As a kid, you just fear that bully.  If you see him coming you run the other way or hope he doesn't notice you.  As an adult, it's clear to me that these were kids that came from a home where either the mom or the dad acted exactly like that.  Kids act out what they learn at home, so if mom is going around the house screeching threats if things don't go her way, or if dad is threatening (or doing it) to slap mom (or the kids) if he doesn't get his way, then naturally the kids just pick up on it and learn that this is how you get your way.  I will also confess that there were times (more than I care to recall) when I was a younger mom that screeching and threatening when things didn't go my way, was a normal part of our home life.  Certainly not one that I'm proud of but it wasn't until someone said to me "how would you feel if someone talked to you like that?" that it really hit me.  Of course I didn't think I was a bully but there are different kinds of bullies and different kinds of bullying.

There are some things I'd like to toss out there about bullying.  You may or may not agree but this is the way I see it, from where I sit:

The word bully or bullying is over-used.  Some will say this and in some cases I think they might be right.  However, I think in some of those cases the people thinking it's over-used are those who still see bullying as the brat on the playground, and that's pretty much it. But, what about:

• The husband who consistently runs his wife down about her weight, or her cooking, or her hair style or whatever, in an attempt to get her to lose weight or dress differently or wear her hair differently?
• The mom who screams and cusses at her kids as a common form of communication?
• The teenage girls who insult, threaten and intimidate another girl at school because she's different in some way (weight, race, sexual orientation, etc.)? (remember the movie Carrie?  Count yourself blessed if you never dealt with the venom that can come from ignorant, self-absorbed teenage girls).
• The teenage boys that do exactly the same thing but more often take it another level by making it physical and actually assaulting other kids?

All of those examples are nearly textbook examples of bullies.  Someone using verbal or physical intimidation through threats or insults to "get" something.

Here is a possible mis-use of the word.  When Jennifer Livingston, a Wisconsin journalist, received an insulting email from a viewer that called her a bad example and bad role model because she is overweight, she fired back, when on air and labelled him a bully and his actions "bullying".  Now while technically the method he used to address her wasn't any kind of repeated, over-bearing, intimidating or threatening style (as is typical in bullying) I can see why it was quickly labelled that way.  It was rude, it was uncalled for, it was insulting and it just never needed to happen.  However, I'm not convinced, no matter how out of line the emailer was, that he deserves the label of "bully".  Bone-headed and obnoxious and no tact, yes, but bully I'm not so sure about.

This is where I go back to where I said at the beginning of this post that the modern definition isn't really the same as the one I grew up with.  Back when I was a kid, if someone called you fat they were just a rude person, they weren't a bully.  But now, apparently "bully" means rude and obnoxious as well.  No question about it, I applaud Jennifer Livingston for standing up and speaking out and using the experience to address her audience and maybe be a voice of encouragement for someone who is truly being bullied.

But I do have to wonder if as a society we're not doing more harm than good, by re-defining words and terms if it fits with our idealogies.  No doubt about it, bullying is wrong and cruel and hurtful, but just being a jerk isn't bullying and I think it waters down the seriousness of real bullying that causes real harm to those that never deserved it to begin with.

Friday, September 21, 2012

What I Didn't Know I Didn't Know About Fitness and Food

So, a handful of people already know this but for the last 27 days Kevin and I have been diligently working out, making smarter, healthier, informed food choices and just... well, trying hard to live healthier.  We decided to get ourselves an early Christmas present to each other and that present is this machine here.  This is the bowflex classic home gym, and it's probably the coolest machine I've ever used.  We bought it as an early Christmas present because it was on sale, plus there was a free shipping deal and those two factors combined made it nearly impossible to pass up.

I've been thinking about this for a week or so now and I thought I'd share some things I've learned in the last 27 days about food, recipes, working out, getting older, and trail mix.  Stay tuned, you might be surprised.

I'll start with the general observations first.  Please keep in mind I'm no expert on nutrition OR fitness, these are just things I'm learning along the way.

•  You're never too old to get off your butt and start working on getting into shape.  Granted, there may be legit physical restrictions for some folks but the majority of us don't have anything but a chip bowl full of excuses for not getting off the couch and working out.  My father-in-law has been one of my biggest inspirations for finally taking the fitness plunge.  He's nearly 70 years old and could outrun, out-bike, out-elliptical me any day of the week.  He still plays hockey, he still rides several miles EACH day on his bike, and I figured "if he can do it, I can do it!".  When I was young I was athletic, in shape and very competitive, and I'm itching to get back there now.

• That whole 6-8 glasses of water each day thing?  It's great if you can handle it but if you're like me and have (ahem) a microscopic bladder, it's not so great.  Never feel pressured to strictly follow that but DO drink lots of water every single day.  Your body wants it, and the more you drink the more you want.  Now, if you ever want to come out of the bathroom, just tone it down a little.

• Workout clothes make a difference.  Now, I don't know about men, but ladies, let me tell you right up front that a comfortable pair of shorts & tank top waiting to be put on every morning before you work out, actually does help motivate you.  Put your Sweat Uniform on, grab your shoes and pull your hair back the same as you would if you were going to a gym.  Sure, you can work out in your pajamas but it's kind of a psychological thing to actually prepare and get dressed for your workout.

• Music matters.  Well, your mileage may vary but for me, a silent room with nothing but the sound of the machines is actually quite boring.  However, if I put in a cd or turn on the radio, the time flies by much faster and I'm not actually watching the clock to see if I'm close to my goal for the morning yet.  I like the classic rock station but sometimes they play music I totally hate (like 80's stuff) so it makes me hoof it harder on the elliptical to get through that song.

• It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change.  It's been said a million times that the reason diets don't work is because they leave you hungry, miserable and really dying for that bowl of chips or piece of cake.  And, it's true.  If you do things right, there's nothing saying you can't still have stuff like that - you just have to learn how and when.  I'm pretty sure most people don't realize that. (more on this in a minute).

• Myth or Fact you'll gain weight at the beginning of a new workout?  Well, it's fact, sort of, and only for some people.  What happens is, essentially, your muscles go into a sort of shock at what you're doing to them and your brain sends a message that says "fear not, we'll save you!" and you'll start retaining fluid as a sort of protection for your muscles.  However, this is only temporary and you should begin to see the scales change after the first 2-3 weeks, as your body realizes what you're doing and your brain says "oh, well in that case, carry on soldier!"

• The "why" is different for everyone, but don't fool yourself.  Kev and I joined a fitness site where they have discussion forums and I've been a little surprised to see how many people (women, mostly) start a workout/diet plan to impress the husband or boyfriend or because the husband or boyfriend is a creep and makes insulting cracks about their weight. First, those men need to grow some tact and secondly those women are doing it for the wrong reasons.  If you're not doing it because you've decided it's the best thing for you, you're fooling yourself and it likely won't last.  Kev's reasons are similar to mine and for us both it's pretty simple: God gave us 1 body and we need to do our best to take care of it.  Both of us have a long way to go but we've started and we're hoping in time we'll get where we can both say "yes, I'm as healthy as possible".

• Before you begin a new workout routine (if you're currently not doing any physical fitness activity at all), take "before" pics.  Front, side and rear view - plus measurements & weight. Kev and I did this and we weigh-in every Monday and take our measurements.  The weight loss has been much higher for him than for me, but we've both lost inches and it's a great way to chart our progress and encourage us to keep at it.  We'll be updating pics once a month to see for ourselves the visual progress that you can't really see from looking in a mirror.

• Some studies have been done recently (I heard this on the radio from a fitness expert dude so I don't have a source quote to share) that suggest muscle fatigue during a strenuous workout is in fact only partly physical, and also partly psychological. In other words, you tell yourself you're too tired to keep going and once you do that, your muscles respond in kind.  If, on the other hand you tell yourself "I can do this" you may be inclined to feel a sudden second-wind of sorts and push on a little further.  Always the skeptic, I found this a little hokey so the next time I worked out I tested the theory by telling myself "I CAN do this".  Much to my surprise, I did do it and went longer on the elliptical than I ever had before.  So, it works.  Just be careful not to overdo any workout.

• Eating healthy doesn't mean twigs and sawdust.  My friend James (who's WAY older than me, and in way better shape physically, and another of my inspirations) has often been teased by mutual friends of eating sticks and hay, or sawdust, or whatever.  He changed his eating habits a while back and eats stuff like Kashi cereals so that's where the teasing comes in.  Truth be told, Kashi cereals are pretty darn yummy and way better for you than most of the other types of cereals out there.  The thing is, with the kinds of food choices we have at the grocery store there are a flazillion alternatives that we can choose to incorporate yummy, nutritional food that doesn't leave you hungry or full of useless calories.  The trick is to read labels.

• Seat realistic goals and you'll see REAL results.  Don't say "I want to lose 40 pounds" or "I'm going to workout for an hour every day". For most people that's a set-up for discouragement and often failure when they don't reach those goals as fast as they think they can (or want to).  Instead, aim for 1 pound a week or cardio workouts 3 days a week for 15, 20 or 30 minutes.  Start slow and work your way into a habit first (habit of eating healthy and habit of working out) and once you're into the habit, you can adjust things from there.

• Find a site like this and use it. This is the site that Kevin and I joined and we both really like it.  You can set your goals, enter your current weight, update your weight and goals as things change, enter in a food & exercise diary every day and all of that helps you really see where you're at.  How much sodium or protein do you need to have every day to stay under your limit to reach your goal?  You probably have no idea, and neither did I until I started using this site.  Now I can't verify that it's an exact science or anything but it sure gives you a really good idea on where to start, and how to adjust your own diet every day.

• Food, beautiful, tasty food.  Contrary to popular opinion, food is NOT your enemy.  What is your enemy is your own ignorance of what kinds of foods are wrong or bad, how much of them would be bad, and what time of day you eat certain types of foods.  God made food taste good for a reason: so we can ENJOY it! Educating yourself on your own nutritional needs (like using that site I linked to up there) helps you make much smarter food choices.

• RECIPES!  Our oldest daughter turned us on a couple of weeks ago to Punchfork, which lead us to skinnytaste and other fantastic sites.  We've tried several recipes we've found there and so far every single one of them have been crazy delicious AND healthy! Go there. Love them. Eat well. You're welcome.

Well, that's about all I have.  Oh, except for the trail mix.  You may or may not know this but I think most folks just naturally assume since it's all natural it's good and healthy. Right?  Well, here's a perfect example of what I was just talking about.  Trail mix is actually good for you but in extreme moderation.  We bought some yummy stuff called Harvest Blend that has all sorts of nuts and dried fruits and it truly is delicious.  However, a single serving is 1/3 cup and in that serving are 200 calories.  If we had eaten that as a snack the way we used to eat stuff like trail mix - just pour some into a bowl and grab handfuls and nibble on it - we'd each likely eat well over a cup of it and that's 600-800 calories. To put that in perspective, that's almost twice as much as in a slice of commercially prepared cheesecake.  Granted, the "good" stuff in the trail mix far outweighs the bad stuff in the cheesecake but if you're watching your daily calorie count, you have to be smart about portions - even if it is "good for you".

Again, I'm no expert on any of this, but I sure hope this has been some benefit to someone.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Peach Pancakes

I've been trying a lot of new recipes lately and this one I just had to share. As far as I'm concerned, anything that is a.) a big hit with the kids and b.) healthy, is worth sharing! If you love peaches, you're going to love this:

Healthy Peach Pancakes

1 c. flour (either all purpose or whole wheat)
1 c. oats
2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
2 eggs
1.5 c. milk
1 T. canola oil
1 peach pureed

In a medium bowl combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl whisk together the milk, eggs & oil. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture & mix well. Add in peach puree and mix well. Pour onto hot griddle by 1/4 cups. Makes approx. 18 pancakes.

Now, here's some make-ahead tips: 1. puree the peach the night before if you're going to make these for breakfast (especially on a school or work day) 2. do the same for the flour/oat mixture and make sure you put it in an air tight container.

Nutrition info per serving: 130 calories, 3g fat, 21g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 6g protein.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Few Things to Share

It just dawned on me today that I never wrote a blog post to commemorate my 8 year anniversary of blogging.  Well, let me take that back.  I did actually write one but it was all in my head and never made it through my fingers and onto my keyboard.  I write a lot of those kinds of posts these days, usually while driving to the store, or doing a chore around the house.

So June 2012 marked the 8 year point for this blog.  In some ways that seems very odd.  I mean, what can one person possibly have to say for 8 years?  Judging by the massive drop in readership, I'm going to guess what this one person has to say has become... not very exciting.  I'm not even sure it ever was exciting, but my lack of blogging certainly had a large part to do with the loss of readers & interaction, I'm sure.  I'll be totally honest and say I miss that. I miss the dialog, the good points folks would raise, the questions, the exchange of ideas, support and encouragement.  I miss it all and yet, I just don't have time to invest in blogging the way I used to.  Working full time on my design business wasn't really something we planned, but  once we decided we were buying a house it became something I needed to do.  The harder I work on that, the faster we can get where we want to be, so that's what I do these days.  Lots of trade-offs going on there.

So while this isn't really a 'status update' like I often post, it's sort of one, and sort of just a 'here's some stuff I'm thinking about' list.  Maybe it's stuff you're thinking about too.

ENTERTAINMENT

I read a news article the other day that assured me our modern culture is in fact swimming in the sewer. Apparently there's a movie about to be made about a sex addict and the scenes in the movie will not be acted out, but genuinely performed (then edited for whatever legal purposes they have to do that).  Now from where I sit, this is nothing more than pornography with a Hollywood stamp of approval.  Color me disgusted on that one.
---
In other entertainment news, our family watched The Hunger Games the other night.  Despite the plot, which was horrible (just the idea of sending a child tribute to fight to the death is creepy enough) I think it was a really well written story.  The actress that plays Katniss did a superb job, as did the actor who plays the boy from her same district.  Woody Harrelson (who tends to drift over to the creepy side quite often) actually did a pretty good job too.  The one thing that really bugged me about it - and this is completely dumb - is that the fashion trends in the Capitol reminded me of the party goers in Rocky Horror Picture Show. Hideous.

SEASONS

Summer is quickly coming to a close and I'm already beginning to miss it like you miss your best friend moving away.  The thing is though, I absolutely love fall.  Correction, I LOVE fall.  I love the colors, the smells, the foods, the feeling you get when you see/smell the first wood smoke from a fireplace - I love all of it.  The thing I don't love about it is that it means Old Man Winter is coming quickly behind it.  Old Man Winter is like the monster under your bed when you're a little kid that turns you into a Olympic Gold Medal Long Jumper because you've mastered the craft of leaping from your doorway all the way to your bed without ever going near the edge of the bed where his vile, pointy, ice-cold talons can reach out and grab you.  Too bad we can't just jump from the end of fall to the beginning of spring like that.

NEW STUFF

There's a new group-blog coming to town that I'm looking forward to.  It's called Out of the Ordinary and is a collaborate effort of several ladies I'm already familiar with.  Bookmark it and check it out when the debut post goes up in two weeks - I think you'll be richly blessed there.

Well, that's pretty much all I've got today.  Thanks for coming by :-)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Birthday Flavored Numbers

I was born in 1964 on December 12th. So this means, this year I turn 48 on 12-12-12.  Here are some edge-of-your-seat, gripping math facts about the numbers 64 and 48 and 12 (and keep reading for what it all really means):

• 6x4=24/2= 12
• 4+8= 12
• 48/4= 12
• 12-12 spelled out, has exactly 12 letters in it
• December 1964 is exactly 12 characters
• 12-12 is 12 days from Christmas Eve. which is 12-24 (24/2= 12)
• 12+12+1964 = 1988-12= 1976.
• 1976 is the year I turned 12, on 12-12.
• That was 36 years ago. 36/3= 12

I realize after reading all that you're just astounded, but here's what it all really means:

1. I can perform basic math
2. I actually do sit around sometimes and think about this stuff, because it's weird, and fun. But, mostly weird.
3. Someone should throw me a HUGE birthday party this year, since it's not that often you get to have your birthday on 12-12-12.

(THIS NOT-SO-SUBTLE HINT-DROP HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO YOU BY ALL THE LETTERS THAT SPELL OUT CHOCOLATE CAKE AND THE NUMBER... WELL... 12)



Sunday, August 5, 2012

Welcome Home Soldier - We Salute You!

Sometimes the way God orchestrates events to come to pass is just astounding to me.  I've been a Christian for 18 years and it still just amazes me how God's always working behind the scenes, so to speak.  Allow me to tell you a little story that made me think of this recently.

Growing up in a military town as I did, military life was just the way of life for most people. By that I mean, homecomings, being deployed, getting re-stationed, families coming, families going away, military weddings, military funerals and holidays like Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day being monumental events that were celebrated community wide.  As I kid (and even as a young adult) I never really gave it any thought, it's just the way it was.  It wasn't until I was in my 20s and moved to California the first time to a non-military town that I realized how different local culture really was, from what I was used to.

I'm not sure how old I was, maybe around 10 or 11, the first time I remember hearing the adults talking about the "shameful" way the military were treated when they came home from Viet Nam, but I remember it being a pretty big topic of discussion. At that age not only did I not really understand, but most of the adults tended to change the subject when kids were around so I never really knew the details, as a child.  What I do remember about it was that it was that era, that part of American history that first caused me to feel a genuine sense of gratitude for our US soldiers.  At that age I probably didn't think about it for longer than a few minutes whenever it came up, but the one thing I do remember about it was it always made me feel like I wished I could do something to make it right.  My sense of patriotism and support for our troops was given a real booster shot at that age and it's stayed with me ever since.

Now we fast forward 35+ years.  Just a few days ago I was given the opportunity to design some fun new products in store, those being yard/lawn signs.  I posted about it the other day, but what I didn't post about yet (because I hadn't created them yet) was that with this new product one of my first thoughts was "oh my goodness, FINALLY, I can do something to make it right!"  That's right, I immediately remembered that helpless feeling I had at 10 years old, whenever I heard about the horrible treatment our soldiers received when they arrived back on US soil.  Finally, my chance to make some kind of contribution, some kind of tangible effort to show my gratitude for our military.  If, in some small way, I can help be a part of celebrating their bravery, then I feel like I've at least given back. I know in the grand scheme of things it's pretty small potatoes when it comes to God's divine orchestration, but I'm hugely thankful for it all the same.

Brand new in store as of today, Military Welcome Home signs.  Here are a few examples, but you can see the whole line here (some styles may not be viewable yet, as zazzle only indexes new product once a day, and I've been adding all day long!):

Saturday, August 4, 2012

On Being Real

Some of you might be surprised to see so many blog posts from me all of a sudden.  Well, I have stuff to say and this is my "say stuff" place, so this is where it goes.


Just like many of you, I see things online all the time and immediately think "that's so photoshopped".  In a way I kind of wish I were still bright eyed and innocent of how much deception there is in the world, because it was a lot more fun back then.  Truth is though in our day with so many people fancying themselves experts with photo editing tools (and so many more who are true geniuses with these same tools) it's pretty hard to believe just about anything you see.  Here's an example of how easy it really is. 

This is a picture Kevin took of me back in the spring.  I'd just woken up from an afternoon nap, went out onto the deck with my coffee and he snapped this pic with his phone.  Not the best quality pic, but it's the real me (on the left). I have wrinkles on my forehead, saggy upper eyelids, deep laugh lines, the beginnings of what I assume are jowels, tons of wrinkles on my neck and dark circles under my eyes. I didn't change anything at all about the original pic, except to crop it for side-by-side purposes.  Now, in the picture on the right, I did some "Maybe she's born with it... Maybe it's photoshop" slight smoothing.  Gone is the jowel & neck wrinkles, smooth is the forehead, gone are the dark circles under my eyes and I even gave the corner of my mouth a little upturn instead of it's natural downward tilt. Then, I adjusted the contrast to give my features a sharper look.  All of this took me less than 10 minutes.  If someone didn't know what I really look like, they wouldn't know the difference if I just posted the pic on the right, instead of the real one.  The only thing I didn't change at all was my hair.  At the risk of sounding conceited, I was totally having a great hair moment, even after napping. :o)  It happens about once a year, oh yeah, I'm claiming it!  The thing is though, between genetics, gravity and age, this is just the way it all pans out.

Anyway, the reason I wanted to give this example of how easy this is to do, is because now I'm going to post a picture of women in their underpants.  I know, I NEVER post stuff like this here but for purposes of the post, I sorta have to (besides, it's all over FB anyway, you've prolly already seen it, and it's actually more clothing than you usually see on the beach, so please accept this as my disclaimer):

This picture has shown up several times in my FB feed recently and every time it does, I just ignore it.  Today though I decided to click on it to find out what the point of it was, and essentially the point of it is, to show how Victoria's Secret defines "beauty" and by contrast how Dove defines it.  Clearly, based on the selected models, VS defines beauty as rail thin, where Dove defines it as curvy.  That's not really much of a surprise.  What did surprise me however were the comments on the FB post.  Aside from a few extremely lewd comments from pigs who have apparently learned to type, were some really really cruel and insulting ones towards to the VS models as well as the Dove models.  Most were assuming they were both photoshopped (and I'm sure they likely were, by professionals who smoothed out wrinkles, and gave a little gravity boost here and there) but the thing that struck me most bizarre where the "way too fat" and "whale" remarks from men about the models in the Dove ad.  Way too fat?  Whales?!  Seriously dude, are you completely mental?  To me, those models look like real, normal women.  They represent what the vast majority of women are shaped like where the models on the top (and the models not shown, which might be the Deep Fried Foods Beauty Campaign - the one I'd model for, in my sweats) represent the minority.  

I wanted to check for myself to see if these were real campaigns by these two companies (again, there is so much fake and phony junk online, you always have to check) and I ran across a post at curvygirlguide.com that said (in part) it better than I ever could (the red emphasis is mine):

"There is nothing realistic or responsible about the way Victoria’s Secret portrays women. It’s appalling to me that an Angel can so wholeheartedly and enthusiastically encourage “little girls” to become the type of woman who perpetuates this unhealthy ideal of what a woman should look like.
I eat food. Real food. Solid food. I don’t count on vitamins and supplements for my energy; I count on burgers, pasta, chocolate, and coffee. I am seven inches too short and several sizes too big in the hips and too small in the breasts to be deemed beautiful enough to walk down a runway in my underwear and a pair of wings. I have stretch marks on my stomach and dimples under my butt and bags under my eyes, but you know what, Victoria’s Secret? I truly do love my body!"
Oh how I wish our girls could grow up in a society that values and appreciates women for who they are, not what they look like.

Here's Your Sign

It's been said that artistic, creative people are a bit "different" than non-artistic people. Sometimes we're jokingly referred to as a bit "wacky" but it's true enough that we are different and one of those differences is the way we see things.  For example, non-artistic people see something like an advertisement and usually don't give the material a second thought.  They either like it, dislike it, or don't care one way or another.  An artistic person on the other hand views the same exact material and their brain-gears start churning away in categories of questions such as "would I have used that color?" "the font is nice but it's off center" "this element works well, I would have used that too".  We look at the material as if we created it ourselves, or how we would have created it, if it were our project. I don't really know why we do that, but almost all of us do, myself included.

When I was a little kid, riding along in the car with my family I'd see roadside stands (especially in the summer months) for pretty much anything you can think of: fresh produce, lemonade, pumpkins, watermelons, raspberries, etc.  I still see those same kinds of stands where I live now and to this very day, whenever I see the sign for the roadside stand I'm either impressed or I cringe.  It's either a really well done sign or one of those hand painted ones.  I've always looked at those signs and thought "I should make a sign for those people" (for the ones that make me cringe).  I mean, the whole point of an advertising sign is to make it eye-catching, appealing, and to draw those drivers right off the road and turn into your stand and buy your goodies, right?

Well, I finally have my chance to say "here's your sign"!  Zazzle has recently partnered with Speedy Signs and given us designers a great new product (in 3 different size options) with the 4mm thick corrugated plastic, weather resistant lawn/yard signs! Let me just say, I'm having a blast designing for these signs.  It's a brand new line so there isn't a huge selection yet, but here's a sampling of what's in store (you can see them all by simply clicking here):

BIRTHDAYS
Red Carpet Sweet 16 Personalized Birthday Yard Signs
Red Carpet Sweet 16 Personalized Birthday Yard Signs by reflections06


HALLOWEEN
NEW BABY

And finally, my favorite category so far... ROADSIDE STANDS
Local Fresh Sweet Corn Lawn Sign
Local Fresh Sweet Corn Lawn Sign by reflections06


There will be many more categories and selections within each category coming soon and yes, I do custom signs as well.  If you have a business or a special event coming up (birthday, new baby, retirement, engagement party, craft show, etc.) and you'd like a custom sign, drop me an email and I'd be happy to work with you to create the perfect sign! 

Friday, August 3, 2012

You Keep Using That Word: I Don't Think It Means What You Think It Means

With all the controversy lately surrounding the whole Chick-Fil-A situation, I've noticed more and more, certain words being used in a completely incorrect way than what they are technically defined as. 


 Here are a few: 


 HOMOPHOBIA


That's a biggy, and one we hear all the time. But, what is homophobia, really? First, let's look at the dictionary definition of a phobia:


"an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation"


Now allow me to confess something.  I do have a phobia.  It's called mazeophobia and you've likely never heard of it.  It's not even in most dictionaries because it's a relatively new word that means a "fear of getting lost".  Yes it's true, I have an irrational, illogical fear of going places I've never been, by myself, because I'm afraid I'll get lost.  It's so bad that for Christmas 2011, hubby bought me a GPS to help me conquer this phobia.  Before that, even the suggestion of driving somewhere alone (somewhere unfamiliar) would case me to feel anxiety, stress and start coming up with excuses for why I couldn't do it.


Now, going back to the real, historical, commonly accepted definition of the word phobia and adding "homo", those who throw the word around so liberally, literally want us all to believe that there are all kinds of homophobics out there in the world.  People who have an exaggerated, inexplicable and illogical fear of homosexuals.  Seriously?


I've been alive for nearly 48 years and in those 48 years I've honestly only met a handful of people that I can think of, that would literally fit that description. I can recall a few conversations with some of those folks from 20+ years ago and remember thinking their attitude toward gay people sounded nearly identical to the way a racist sounds when talking about blacks, Asians or whoever they happened to be racist towards.  


Well, I've never been a racist, nor have I ever been a homophobe but the tone and the attitude disgusted me, even as a non-Christian.  And yet, I have actually been called homophobic.  Why?  Well, because I disagree with the homosexual lifestyle.  That, and only that, is the reason I'm called homophobic.  Of course it's not true, and of course my own attitude and that of MOST Christians toward the gay lifestyle is not even close to genuine homophobia, but that's the word that gets thrown around to make us sound like monsters, victimizing, discriminating against and hating on an entire class of people.  In a word?  It's a large load of bullsnot.  I would have used a different word there a few years ago but I'm a Christian and I don't like to use those ugly words anymore.  It totally fits though, and I think 99.99% of my readership will agree.


Which brings me to another word:


BIGOT


That's another one I've heard a lot lately and believe it or not, something else I've been accused of.  I actually laughed out loud, literally, the first time someone called me that.  They might as well have called me a potato chip with dreadlocks (since that description of me is just about as accurate as a bigot would be).  Here's the dictionary definition of bigot:


"a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance"


Okay now... let's just get real for a minute, shall we?  There are some folks on this planet that call themselves Christians, yet openly and obnoxiously treat members of numerous classes of people (homosexuals included, to be sure) with hatred and intolerance.  First, these people are not Christians and secondly, they truly do not represent Christianity in any way, shape or form. I think most rational, mature people understand that.  Anyway I hope they do.


Secondly, the most ironic thing of all to me is that it's the very people that accuse others of being bigots (many times) that are the ones who are intolerantly devoted to their own prejudices.  There is NO room (none, zero, zilch, nada) for disagreement and if you dare do disagree, you're not only a bigot but a homophobe.  See how that works?  Further, no matter what you say, or how you say it, or how kind or sincere or genuine or heartfelt, if you express any kind of disagreement you're met with name calling, insults and derision because you're still the homophobic bigot.  Why?  Because you disagree.  Yes, it really is that simple.


Now here's another buzzword flying around the social networking arena, blogs and mainstream media outlets:


HATE


Oddly enough, you'd think we all know the meaning of this word but it doesn't really mean what we think it means.  While the dictionary says one thing:


"intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury"


What it really means in today's definition is "if you disagree with me".  Yes, if you or I or any other Christian, regardless of lack of display of any type of anger, hostility, fear or what have you, if we disagree with the homosexual lifestyle we are vile, homophobic bigots filled with hate.


Now I realize there are some really sharp folks out there who see this the same as I do.  I also realize that some of those folks are gay/lesbians themselves.  I know this for a fact because I recently read a blog article by a professing homosexual that finds himself truly disgusted with the headgames and wordgames being played with the hot buzzwords of the day.  I found that quite refreshing that someone I disagree with on this subject was at least honest enough to say "yes, it's going on and yes some of us are willing to admit it".  I know for a fact also that many many Christians see this to as we're all sort of backed into a corner trying to defend our way out from these downright phony accusations.  It's practically impossible though.


I never read the book "1984", but from what I've heard lately, this whole redefinition of words and way of thinking is one of the ways the people were so easily controlled, in the storyline of that book.  Personally, I find it mind-boggling that sharp, well-read, educated people would buy into this garbage and let themselves be controlled by idiotic word games, when the truth is staring them right in the face.


What is the truth?  It's simple really.  We just disagree.  It doesn't mean we hate anyone, it doesn't mean we wish them harm or injustice or want their human rights stripped away.  It means we just disagree.  We (Christians) have a different world-view because we believe the Bible.  That's it.  It's not complicated and it's not calculated and it's not hard to understand.


For those that is, that really want to, and haven't jumped on the bandwagon.