Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Do You Believe in Angels?

Today was a pretty typical one in my humble abode. I worked, made dinner, did a bit of housework, watched the news, answered to callings of “Mom?”, and ran a couple of errands. Nothing remarkable for the most part – until late this evening.

After sitting down at my desk to browse the news and check in on Facebook, I saw the word “angel” three times in the span of a minute or two. As I sit here typing, I recall seeing Clarence, an angel from It’s a Wonderful Life, in a clip from the documentary Freakonomics that I just finished watching before sitting down at my desk tonight. (That brings the count of angel references up from three to four.)

Why is this significant? I’m not really sure. I don’t know what God is revealing to me at the moment, but knowing what kind of God it is that I serve, these angelic references were put before me for a magnificent reason! (Can I get an amen?!)

A recent sermon at church was all about the presence of angels, and shortly thereafter, my Sunday school class engaged in a discussion on the same topic. I guess this brings the angel reference count up to six now.

Angels. They’re all around us. They are the reason why we survive near-misses. Some of those misses are readily apparent – escaping an accident before your eyes – while others occur unbeknownst to us immediately – misplacing car keys and showing up late someplace or missing appointments altogether. Make no mistake about it, angels are real and they are sent to serve a purpose.

As a Christian, I don’t believe in luck. I believe in God’s intervention. The angels in the midst have undoubtedly intervened on my behalf more times than I can even imagine.

The incident that I remember most occurred when I was a young mother. My then-husband and I had packed everything but the kitchen sink into our infant son’s diaper bag for a trip around the highway loop to see my mom. (There’s no such thing as packing lightly when babies are involved.) The walk from our condo to the car was short and the surfaces upon which we walked were hard.

What do hard surfaces have to do with anything? Well, when we reached the car, we settled our son into the middle of the back seat and before we could drive away, somehow, managed to lose the car key! We frantically retraced our steps, tore the interior of the car upside down (or so it seemed), illuminated the area with a flashlight, and looked in places where they keys couldn’t possibly have been. All to no avail.

The trip to mom’s house would not be made that evening. They key had been lost, but neither of us even heard the familiar clanking of a set of keys hitting the ground. How was that even possible? The car key was on a ring with at least two other keys (the key to our condo and the mailbox key). Surely we would have heard them hit the ground!

There was something about the mysterious nature of how we seemingly lost the key, but I never doubted for one second that He was intervening on our behalf. Getting the spare key from the house wasn’t even a consideration, because I could feel that a higher being had a hand in this. He was protecting us from some sort of danger. I’ve always been convinced of that. I don’t know what lurking danger was kept at bay, but I firmly believe that angels were in the midst that evening.

Several weeks later, the set of keys turned up in a manner that only He could script! (Teary-eyed just typing this.) The keys were on a chain that had a “drop in the nearest mailbox if found” dog tag of sorts that my bank had given me when I opened my account years earlier. Apparently, someone found the set of keys and dropped it into a mailbox as the dog tag instructed. Tears again! The keys made their way to the local post office where none other than MY MOM had them fall into her hands while working her shift one evening. A coworker of hers found the keys while sorting a pile of odd things that sometimes ended up in mailboxes. The coworker recognized my name, which was engraved one of those cutesy vanity license plate thingies that you put onto your key-ring. Since my name is rather unique (finally, it counted for something), the coworker immediately took they keys to my mom and the rest is a mysterious, God-breathed history.

I’ll be honest with you, my faith had been shaken and weak for a number of years prior to the angel/key thing, but my outlook began to change after that incredible series of events. If I didn’t believe in angels before the evening that I lost my keys, I became a firm believer that night, and my belief was reaffirmed once they keys were found and returned weeks later!

Do you believe in angels?

P.S. – I do believe in angels, but have never kept my house and car keys on the same ring after that mysterious night. I call it “using the good sense that God gave me”. :)

NOTE TO SELF: Tell oldest son this story.

I ran across the following picture and message on my Facebook page tonight and know it’s worth sharing. May you find comfort that His army of angels is out there protecting us – even when we aren’t aware.

Stay blessed!


Me: God, can I ask You a question?

God: Sure

Me: Promise You won’t get mad

God: I promise

Me: Why did You let so much stuff happen to me today?

God: What do you mean?

Me: Well, I woke up late

God: Yes

Me: My car took forever to start

God: Okay

Me: At lunch they made my sandwich wrong & I had to wait

God: Hmm

Me: On the way home, my phone went DEAD, just as I picked up a call

God: All right

Me: And on top of it all off, when I got home ~I just wanted to soak my feet in my new foot massager & relax, BUT it wouldn’t work!!! Nothing went right today! Why did You do that?

God: Let me see, the death angel was at your bed this morning & I had to send one of My Angels to battle him for your life. I let you sleep through that

Me (humbled): OH

GOD: I didn’t let your car start because there was a drunk driver on your route that would have hit you if you were on the road.

Me: (ashamed)

God: The first person who made your sandwich today was sick & I didn’t want you to catch what they had, I knew you couldn’t afford to miss work.

Me (embarrassed): Okay

God: Your phone went dead because the person that was calling was going to give false witness about what you said on that call, I didn’t even let you talk to them so you would be covered.

Me (softly): I see God

God: Oh and that foot massager, it had a shortage that was going to throw out all of the power in your house tonight. I didn’t think you wanted to be in the dark.

Me: I’m Sorry God

God: Don’t be sorry, just learn to Trust Me…. in All things , the Good & the bad.

Me: I will trust You.

God: And don’t doubt that My plan for your day is Always Better than your plan.

Me: I won’t God. And let me just tell you God, Thank You for Everything today.

God: You’re welcome child. It was just another day being your God and I love looking after My children…


There are many things that I need in my life, but I don’t need to wait until January 1st to begin executing a plan to become more organized, drink more water, eat more fruit, exercise regularly, focus more on extended family, and read the Bible more. Likewise, I don’t feel bad about setting goals after January 1st. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.

Sure, I’d love to do all of the things that I listed, and more, but I believe that an all-out campaign to conquer them all of them at once is a setup for failure. So, what do I think is the best way to attain each goal?

  • Make a list and be specific. Write down my exact goals and provide details regarding how I plan to accomplish them. (Ex: Increase daily water intake to 100 ounces by substituting morning coffee and bedtime tea for water and eating 3 servings of fruit each day.)
  • Set reasonable goals. Trying to be superhuman won’t work and will make me lose interest quickly. So, in relation to the goal of increasing my water intake, instead of trying reach my goal of consuming 100 ounces water on the first day, I will need to slowly add a few extra ounces here and a piece of fruit there until I reach my goal.
  • Prominently display list. Seeing my goals in writing will help me to remember what they are when they busyness that I call life gets in the way. Posting the list in my home office workspace will ensure that I’ll see it at least once per day.
  • Start slow. Setting out to transform one aspect of my life at a time versus trying to accomplish everything at once will lend itself to success. For instance, if my first goal is to drink more water, I will wait until that becomes natural (a lifestyle change) before embarking on the next goal.
  • Cut myself some slack. Everything won’t go as planned, so the keys to continued confidence, and ultimate success, are to recognize that there will be bumps in the road and quickly move past them to get back on track.

No, I don’t need to make resolutions to ring in the new year. What I desperately need is a plan that outlines the baby steps that I will take over time in order to realize longterm lifestyle changes. So you won’t find me loading up on bottled water, calling every out-of-town relative, and going for a 5-mile run on January 1st. You’ll likely find me doing something very similar to what I’m doing now, but with a cup of water beside me.

Happy New Year!


Stress-free Thanksgiving Vacation and Dinner…Almost

My first attempt at going solo cooking a Thanksgiving feast was nothing less than a total disaster in every sense of the word. Who knew that frozen turkeys required days to thaw? Who knew that there was a bag of innards that needed to be removed before cooking? Who knew that my parents didn’t wake up to begin cooking a lavish feast soon after midnight just because it seemed like a fun thing to do?

Well, apparently, the whole world knew except me. Draw your own conclusions as to how my first Thanksgiving attempt really went down; it’s too nightmarish for me to recount.

Fast forward almost 15 years to Thanksgiving 2010. Two words: Boston Market. Yes, they have become my festive meal savior. The new tradition in my household is to log onto BM’s site, order a holiday meal complete with two pies, and choose a pick-up date and time. That’s exactly what I’ve done each Thanksgiving and Christmas since last year. So this year, pairing a vacation with the promise of having a stress-free, Thanksgiving feast seemed like the right thing to do. Those plans hit a snag and were in serious jeopardy just days before the big road trip.

You see, for the entire week leading up to Thanksgiving, I’d been terribly sick and was praying for a sign as to whether we should cancel our vacation plans, or stay at home while I nursed myself back to good health. The answer to that prayer? I awakened on Wednesday morning feeling much better than I had in a week.

I spent the morning taking care of a few chores, we left home just 10 minutes past our self-imposed deadline, and after running a few essential errands (including a stop at Boston Market), finally hit the road a mere 1.5 hours behind schedule. Success! This was going to be a wonderful Thanksgiving vacation.

Although the drive out of town was harrowing at times, we arrived at our destination unscathed, but you wouldn’t have known it if you’d seen the horror on my face as we drove up to the hotel. How could it be? I’d booked rooms at a townhouse-style hotel without knowing it! What’s the big deal? Well, the two rooms were in different buildings…a no-no as we were traveling with four children. Not to mention, breakfast was in a separate building and the only pool on location was an outdoor pool – a no-go in 50-60-degree weather.

Sigh! So I walked inside, inquired about a penthouse suite, learned that they were all booked, and ultimately handed over my form of payment – for two rooms – in separate buildings. Not one to be defeated, I headed out to the van to call the hotel company’s reservations center and found an alternative hotel that suited our needs. Just as I was giving the agent a credit card number, the call was disconnected.

Had I misinterpreted “the sign” about whether or not we should stay home? If so, how many more roadblocks would be in our way over the next few days?

Still not discouraged, I called the reservations center again, gave the agent very specific information about where we wanted to stay and skipped ahead to the good part where I heard the magic words, “Your reservation number is…” Yes! “Kids, buckle your seat belts! We have a new destination!” :-)

There we were, back on the road again, but this time, we needed only cover about 15 miles to reach our destination. As we sighted the new hotel, the word “Hallelujah” came to mind.

As we checked in, we found that although the new hotel had interior room entrances (not separate townhouse-style buildings), no adjoining rooms were to be had. Not a big deal, because the desk clerk said she’d give us rooms next to each other. Well, it turned out that the rooms weren’t next to each other as the room numbers would imply, they were across the hall and diagonal. Good enough!

After settling into our rooms, we headed out to pick up a few last-minute items from the grocery store and set out to find dinner as well. Panera was nearby according to our navigation system, so we headed over for dinner! The parking was metered, but payment wasn’t required this time of night. Another good sign.

My husband and I strolled hand-in-hand down the walkway toward a much-anticipated bowl of broccoli and cheese soup. It sure seemed dark inside, but Panera does tend to have tinted windows. We tugged at the door handles, but the doors were locked. Now what? It was getting late on Thanksgiving Eve and our dining options were dwindling by the minute.

Back to the car we went – no merry stroll this time. After using the GPS to search for other restaurants, we managed to find food. Finally, went back to the hotel to eat, my husband and kids swam, and I enjoyed the hot tub. A great night was had by all! Things were going our way.

As I looked through our “fully-stocked” hotel room kitchen, I realized that there wasn’t a pot big enough for something that I needed to make the next day. So we spent a portion of Thanksgiving morning hunting for a large pot in which to boil the pasta that was needed for the homemade mac & cheese. Sorry, but the mac & cheese and cornbread stuffing are dishes that I don’t think Boston Market does well. After just two stores, we found a suitable pot.

Let’s get this minimal cooking underway! Gosh! What was that horrid smell? The pasta! No! The pot was cheap, therefore, the pasta burned after just a few minutes – and it was still undercooked. After that part of this slowly-unfolding disaster was taken care of, I had to deal with the fact that neither or our rooms had ovens.

The hotel company decided that the extended-stay rooms no longer needed ovens, so all of the newly-built and newly-renovated locations that had granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and flat-screen televisions have…no…ovens.

What happened to “all the comforts of home?” Utensils…check! Full-sized refrigerator and freezer…check! Cloth dinner napkins…check! Dishes…check! Dishwasher…check! Mixing bowls, pitchers, pots and pans…check, check, check!

Oven…Houston, we have a problem. My home, as do most others, surely has an oven! But no ovens were located in our “fully-stocked” hotel room kitchens. Luckily, the front desk clerk offered to let us use the ovens in the main kitchen that the hotel’s chef uses.

Final crisis averted.

We enjoyed our almost-stress-free feast and relaxed before heading back to the pool and hot tub.

Our Black Friday plans didn’t involve going to stores that would be the scenes of pushing and shoving, so we slept in late (7 AM), enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and headed out at 9:30 AM to pick up a new blazer for my husband and camera lens for me. We conquered Black Friday sales in under an hour and ended up having the rest of the day to do whatever our hearts desired.

Speaking of which, we haven’t decided what to do for the rest of the day. The kids are enjoying a low-tech game of Monopoly, my husband has awakened from a nap, and I’m bidding farewell for now to you.

I hope that a Happy Thanksgiving was had by all!

Feeling truly blessed,


October 2nd Is Name Your Car Day!

Clio. Patsy. Felix. Floyd. Reg. (short for Reginald). No, those are the names of actors, pets, family, or friends. They’re car names. You read that correctly. Cars! Not the names that manufacturers give to their creations. But names given to vehicles by their owners. These personifying names were posted by members on the Facebook page “Naming Your Car and Referring to It As a Person”. (There’s a page or group for just about anything one can imagine.)

I don’t recall ever having named one of my vehicles. However, I do remember the name that my mom gave to her pre-minivan era, people-mover: a light blue, Ford station wagon with external wood-grain paneling (pretty image, huh?). Her name – Betsy! The car – not my mom.

October 2nd is Name Your Car Day! Who knew there was a car-naming holiday? I didn’t until an hour ago. As I stated earlier, I don’t believe I’ve ever named one of my vehicles. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. lists the following advice for those of us who need car-naming tips.

  • Don’t select wimpy names. That might give your car a personality complex and it will perform accordingly.
  • Do give a strong, aggressive name to sports cars and cars with powerful engines .
  • Sleek, sexy feline-like cars savor names that begin with “lady”.
  • Old junkers are proud just to be around. You can call them just about anything. Try “Tramp“, or “Old Yeller“, “Old Blue“.
  • Pick names to reflect your personality.
  • “Pickemup” trucks must have country names.
  • Don’t give common names (like Joe, Mike or Sue) to luxury cars. They beam over names like Reginald, Archibald, and Crystal.

My newest vehicle is a combination of several “personalities”. It’s a sleek, black, luxury minivan with a large engine that goes, “Vroom!”. Following the above advice, whatever name I choose should match my personality.

Brutus is out; it’s a strong name, but there’s nothing sleek or luxurious about it. I’m also not a guy.

Candy is very feminine, but it’s lacking the strength that defines both me and my vehicle.

Hmm, Charlotte is a strong, feminine name. I’m channeling the character, Dr. Charlotte King, from television’s Private Practice. That names fits for other reasons, too. Charlotte’s medical speciality? Sexology!

I think I’ve found a name! My strong, black, sexy, luxurious minivan could be aptly named Lady Charlotte.

Lady Charlotte is a few months shy of her first birthday, but when the day arrives, I’m sure she would love to receive birthday wishes. Good thing there’s a greeting car for that!

What’s your vehicle’s name and why did you choose it? If you’re thinking about naming a vehicle for the first time, what names would make the list of potentials?


Lip Balm Addiction

Addiction is defined as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” I like to think that the definition can be expanded to include lip balm as a habit-forming substance.

I…must…have…lip…balm. For as long as I can remember, my need for lip balm has been at the top of my hierarchy of needs – right up there with air, food, and water.

Preferences, Preparation, and Placement

I’ve come to love the Carmex brand and prefer cherry- or strawberry-scented moisturizer more than the original, but if I’m ever away from home and have lost my “travel” stash, I’d try just about any brand. Speaking of my travel stash, I have several sticks and tins of Carmex strategically placed within reach of just about anyplace that I plan to spend a lot of time: my desk, my vehicle, my purse (usually very close by), and my nightstand. I pretty much have my bases covered, but there have been a few close calls. Like the time I switched purses and forgot to transfer my lip balm between them. Or the time my lip balm rolled off my nightstand and was “lost” for two days. Then there was that other time (or two) when I thought a coworker pilfered it for some unknown torturous reason.

Validation? Advice.

I thought my attachment to lip balm was just another one of my neurotic attributes that distinctively defined me. That was until I saw a news report about people who couldn’t be without the waxy substance. “There are others out there who can relate!,” I thought. Finally, I knew that my need was indeed a real health concern. Or was it? It depends on who is asking and who is answering.

A quick Google search tonight found articles from the Washington Post (Dec. 14, 2008) and Fox News (Nov. 4, 2008) on this rather unique condition.

The Post reported that “there are countless Facebook groups are dedicated to the ‘crackstick’ ” (gotta join, brb). OK, so after providing what seemed like written validation at last, the Post stated that “lip balm isn’t addictive.” Really?! Tell that to my lips! Did they conduct scientific research to disprove the belief that lip balm addiction exists? No, but they did provide a few bits of advice to reduce dependency on balm: use petroleum-based rather than wax-based products, don’t lick your lips, be mindful of the sun, and finally, think about whether it’s the product or the behavior. (Note: The mere fact that they provided this advice seems as if they can’t make up their minds about whether or not lip balm addiction really does exist.)

While the writers at Fox News also aren’t keen on calling lip balm dependency an addiction, they did seek the advice of someone in the position to give a professional opinion about the topic, Dr. Marcia Driscoll, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Maryland. Dr. Driscoll conducted a very small, but telling experiment with a few colleagues. She reported that upon asking three colleagues about their use of lip balm, all of them reached into their pockets and pulled out tubes of lip balm. Dr. Driscoll admitted that “this [need for lip balm] might be more common than I believe.” Ding! Ding! Ding! Bingo, Doctor!

Her advice to those of us who are dependent is to avoid lip balms containing phenol, lanolin, parabin, and fragrances as they may initially seem to provide relief, but will be irritating if used long-term. Driscoll believes that the irritation could be what causes users to become dependent. She advises that petroleum jelly is as good option for preventing and soothing chapped lips and will not lead to dependence.

Next Steps

Maybe I’ll take some of the advice. Maybe I’ll just continue to replenish my stash, as needed. Maybe I’ll need an intervention led by my loved ones. Regardless of my next steps, I don’t think I’ll be able to throw away my Carmex just yet.

Kudos to the creator of Lip Balm Anonymous, Kevin Crossman, who went cold turkey and has been without lip balm for 16 years! I should be so brave!

Do you suffer from lip balm dependency? If so, share your habits and nightmares in our comments section.


Other Resources

Lip Balm Anonymous (web site) and Facebook page

The Last Full Weekend of Summer

It seems like just yesterday when flowers began to open, grass awakened from a slumber, and the warmth of the snow broke through from a long, cold winter. As I enjoy the last full weekend of summer, I’m experiencing mixed emotions. The warm, yet vibrant, foliage colors of Fall and the near-perfect weather are simultaneously relaxing and exciting. However, feelings of impending cabin fever lurk just beneath the surface. Weather bleeds into other seasons, so the delight of Fall will soon be interrupted by cold, harsh winter weather – even if the calendar doesn’t agree.

Twice I’ve had to resist the urge to drag bins of autumn decor from their cozy hideaway in the basement, because the calendar month still reads, “September”. Dare I rush the end of summer? I think not! Fall will be here soon enough, so for now, I sit here with every window of the house opened allowing each room to benefit from nature’s air freshner. A slight breeze, the sound of children playing and birds chirping, the hum of a neighbor’s mower, and temperatures in the low 70’s are the perfect backdrop for the last full weekend of Summer.

How are you spending the last full weekend of Summer?


The Evergrowing School Supply List

My, oh my, how they have grown! Back in the day, my parents needed only supply my siblings and me with paper, one notebook with dividers, a pencil box, writing utensils, and an optional backpack. Nothing more was required or expected. Our schools provided glue, rulers, scissors (left- and right-handed), textbooks, and all the stickers a kid hoped to earn.

Fast-forward 30 years: my children’s school supply lists have sucked the excitement out the start of each school year. Back-to-school shopping had become an Olympic sport of sorts. Dash here for that supply! Fly to that planet for another! Outspend the previous year’s list, but try to find the best deals in town! It was exhausting and there were many rules. Only send specific brands of crayons, disinfectant wipes, and pencils. Only send certain requested folder colors (even if the demand was for six named colors, one of which no store seemed to carry). Don’t buy small boxes of facial tissues. Don’t label items. Do send everything on the first day or expect to get a note from the teacher.

One hectic summer’s end, a few days before school was due to start, I dumped the contents of all of my shopping bags onto the floor, gathered the supply lists for each of my four children, and started sorting my “scores’ into piles. Piles quickly became mountains and soon, I had to ask for help. I suddenly got a glimpse of what it must be like to work in a distribution center.

After an hour or more of sorting supplies with the assistance of my little helpers, inserting items into newly-labeled and overstuffed backpacks, and putting everything else that wouldn’t fit into plastic shopping bags, this huge task was completed. Mission accomplished! I deserved a pat on the back and an “A” for effort.

The elation was short-lived. The first week of the new school year, each of my four children came home with new supply lists from their “special” classes: art, foreign language, music, and physical education. Really?! More?! Back to the grind (a.k.a. school shopping) for me.

I soon learned that every item I’d doggedly tracked down, purchased, sorted, and labeled was tossed into a “community bin” for disbursement as teachers saw fit. With that knowledge, I decided that enough was enough. No more would I spend hundreds of dollars on school supplies. No more would I run to just about every store in town trying to find 2″ binders in our local school district’s colors, per demand. No more would I send a half-dozen rolls of paper towels on the first day of school. No more dozen red pens! No more dry erase markers! No more! Enough was enough! The next year, I sent what I wanted to send in the quantities that I decided and when I received notes from the school, I kindly explained that my children would receive their supplies per my distribution plan. Problem solved!

How does your school supply list compare. Check out these lists for the 2011 school year. Find out which one requests “one used clean sock”!

Happy New School Year!


Is This Thing On?

Best Books Network has been away for a while, but the random thoughts and happenings never take a break. Some of the randomness that I’m excited about:

Spring is here, but with record rains thus far, I’d love to be able to have a week-long stretch of nothing but sun and warmth.

I repainted the family room 2-3 months ago, but still haven’t finished painting the fireplace hearth. That project started sometime around Thanksgiving and needs some closure – for my sanity.

The first floor half bath is getting a makeover as well, but that too, has stalled. So far, I’ve painted a lone stripe of the new color on the wall and haven’t gotten back to it yet. It’s a good thing we don’t entertain.

I’ve discovered a local meat shop and am hooked! The guys provided excellent service and even gave me a wonderful tip on making BBQ ribs that turned out wonderfully. No more fresh meat purchases at the grocery store for me! Kudos to small businesses with great service and excellent pricing!

Now that I’ve made a change in my shopping habits, I’m looking forward to purchasing fresh produce at local farmer’s markets. Sure, I’ll still get my bananas at the chain store, but veggies and all other fruit are fair shopping game.

My treadmill has found a wonderful new home and that has freed up space in my gym for a new elliptical. The workouts are very challenging, but easy on my knees, hips, shins, and back, so I’m in love with a hunk of metal…even if it makes me work hard!

My unfinished home improvement projects mean there’s a lot of work to do, but I love a challenge. Once the inside projects are done (who am I kidding?), I’ll move on to outside projects. I really need to stop watching DIY shows on television.

What are you looking forward to this spring and summer?

Let’s chat!


Valentine’s Day Craft Ideas

Looking for a way to tame cabin fever, have fun with the kids, and celebrate Valentine’s Day all at once? Try these easy craft ideas that require little to no materials.

Bead Bracelets

These gifts are simple and inexpensive. You’ll need:

  • Clear beading string (stretchy)
  • Red, white, and clear beads
  • Scissors

Simply cut clear beading string into 8″ lengths and add beads in whatever pattern your heart desires. Once bracelet is at desired length, tie ends into triple knots and snip excess string.

Keepsake Box

Making your own jewelry or keepsake box is a great way to pass the time when cabin fever has taken hold. These inexpensive items can be purchased at your local crafts store.

  • Small wooden box (unfinished)
  • Wood paint (or spray paint for shorter drying time)
  • Stickers

Lightly sand the box to remove rough edges then add coat of paint. Let paint dry completely before adding second coat. Finally, decorate with stickers and/or paint festive designs onto box. Viola! A simple, personalized keepsake or jewelry box.

Paper Wreath

Materials needed:

  • Construction paper or card stock in traditional valentine colors
  • Glue or yarn

Draw heart template onto construction paper or card stock. The firmer the template, the easier it is to trace.

Trace approximately 15 impressions of the heart template and cut from paper.

Decorate each heart with drawings or messages.

Line up the heart cutouts to form a circle and adhere with glue, or punch small holes (one on each side of heart) and string together with yarn.

Hang finished wreath for everyone to see!

Word Search

Make a list of words that remind you of Valentine’s Day, then enter them into a free online word search puzzle maker, such as the one found at Discovery Education. Print and search!

For an added seasonal touch, print word search on translucent paper (found in craft stores), then glue to red construction paper being sure to have a border for decorating purposes.

Winter Weather Survival Kits for Home and Car

As a winter storm of epic proportions blankets much of the nation in snow and ice this week, I wondered if I was ready for an extended power outage. Perhaps because the power flickered a few hours ago – giving me a scare and glimpse of what life would be like without electricity in the dead of winter.

“Where are the flashlights?”, ” How will we cook if the electricity goes out?” (Wish we had a gas stove.) ” Will we be able to stay warm, or will we need to flee to the nearest warm hotel?” These are all questions that I pondered during a very brief powerless (no pun intended) life tonight.

Before panic sets in within your house, there are many things you can do to stay safe and warm. North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives suggests having the following items on-hand in case of a winter weather emergency:

The Essentials

  • Food: Food that requires no cooking or refrigeration such as bread, crackers, cereal, canned foods, and dried fruits. Remember baby food and formula if you have young children.
  • Water: In case water pipes freeze or rupture, keep a supply of tap water or purchase bottled water. The recommended amount of water to keep is 5 gallons per person.
  • Medicines: Roads may be inaccessible for several days due to the storm. Make sure to order or refill any prescriptions that family members may need.
  • Identification: Make sure to keep forms of identification with you such as social security card, passport, photo ID, and driver’s license. In addition, make sure to have bank account information, and insurance policies.

Emergency Materials

  • Alternate methods to heat your home:
    Dry firewood for a fireplace or wood stove
    Kerosene for a kerosene heater
    Furnace fuel (coal, propane, or oil)
    Electric space heater with automatic shut-off switch and non-glowing elements
  • Blankets
  • Matches
  • First Aid kit and instruction manual
  • Multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered radio, clock/watch
  • Extra batteries
  • Shovel
  • Rock salt
  • Non-electric can opener

What if you’ll be driving in the midst of a severe winter storm? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommends planning your travel and checking the latest weather reports along your route. They also offer the following tips to keep you prepared in the event extreme winter weather:

    • blankets/sleeping bags;
    • flashlight with extra batteries;
    • first-aid kit;
    • knife;
    • high-calorie, non-perishable food;
    • extra clothing to keep dry;
    • a large empty can and plastic cover with tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes;
    • a smaller can and water-proof matches to melt snow for drinking water;
    • sack of sand (or cat litter);
    • shovel;
    • windshield scraper and brush;
    • tool kit;
    • tow rope;
    • booster cables;
    • water container;
    • compass and road maps.
  • Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Try not to travel alone.
  • Let someone know your timetable and primary and alternate routes.

My home-preparedness kit is excellent, but I’d be in big trouble if I were stuck in my vehicle this winter. How do your home and vehicle survival kits fare? “Bring it on!” or “Yikes, I need help!”?

Let’s chat!

Love to all!