Wednesday, June 27

Introducing...The Owl Corner! Learning is Fun Again. Plus, A Floral Arrangement and Other Neat Stuff!

The Owl Corner
Photo by Harrison Benjamin, from
Welcome to a new series that I dedicate to my sister called "The Owl Corner".  She loves owls, so I'll add a little info about owls in her honor!  Some brief fun facts on owls:
-More than 130 different types of owls live all around the world, with habitats ranging from the North Pole to the deep tropics.  Only 19 types of owls are found in North America.
-The smallest owl is the Elf Owl, which stands at 5 1/2" tall, and the largest owl is the North American Gray Owl, which stands at over 2'.
-Owls are known for their incredible vision and hearing.
-An owl's feet have two toes that point forward and two toes that point backward to give a stronger grip on prey.
-Owls help control the rodent and insect populations, and are fascinating to watch.  Keep an eye on your small pets outside, though, because large owls (as well as other large birds of prey) have been know to attack kittens and small dogs.

The owl pictured (and oh my gosh, isn't he cute??)  is an Eastern Screech Owl.  It can be found east of the Rockies, and lives on small animals and insects.  They range in size from 6"-10" tall, with the females being larger than the males.  A neat fact: screech owls usually mate with the same partner for life, and usually lay a nest of 2-6 eggs at a time.  They prefer to live in dense trees, and you'll need to have good eyes to spot them during the day: they like to nest in tree cavities and evergreens at least twelve feet off of the ground, and some can even be found sixty-five feet up in the taller trees! 
(Information take from,, and

Fake Flower Arranging 101
The other day, I wandered over to the local Hobby Lobby (it's always dangerous when hubby leaves for business trips, because I have to find some way to entertain myself!) and of course, I headed to the clearance aisles first.  Usually, they only have broken, chipped, useless items in the clearance, but it's my nature to investigate to the fullest extent, and this time, they had some things that I could use!  I am really interested in glass items right now, and I like to use them to decorate the house in all sorts of ways.  This trip, I found a glass thingamajig that looks like it could be used for keeping olive oil or something similar for cooking, but it didn't have a glass stopper in the top (which, if it originally had one, would explain why it was on mega-clearance).  I had to have it, and I also had to have a neat outdoor thermometer that looks like a sun.  I had an idea of what I wanted to use the glass bottle for, so I meandered over to the fake flower aisle.  Normally, I am not a fake flower fan, but I found some that I really liked (I can't call them silk, because they aren't made of anything remotely silk-like.  It's more of a flocked flexible rubber that looks a lot better than it sounds).  I purchased the glass bottle for $1.60, thermometer for $6.00, and flowers--three stems at half price for a total of $6.00--for a grand total of $13.60 plus tax.  I proudly walked out with my prized new possessions, eager to get home and get crafty!  Once home, I clipped the stems of the fake flowers to the lengths that I wanted them.  Then, I arranged them, one stalk at a time, tying each stalk together with floral wire that I already had.  When I had arranged them the way I liked, I tied them together one more time with a length of floral wire, then I wrapped it all with ribbon.  I tied the ribbon around the top, a little lower than where I planned to end with the ribbon.  With the ribbon tied, I began winding the ribbon very tightly around the bunch of stems, going down the stems first, then tightly wrapping back up the stems to the top.  When I got to the place I wanted to stop, I cut the ribbon, folded the cut end under, and fastened it in place with a straight pin.
If you do this, you can be more decorative with the straight pin, using something with a decorative head, or weave multiple colors of ribbons around the stems in a braid pattern.  I was happy with what I did, but the possibilities are really only limited by your imagination.  I then placed the bouquet into the bottle, and wrapped more ribbon around the top of the bottle, making a bow.  And voila!  For about $10, I had created a nice centerpiece or decorative vase for any room in the house.  All you need is a good clearance selection and a little imagination.  I still have to place my thermometer, though.

The Hawk Flies at Midnight
Photo courtesy of
Well, maybe not midnight, but the other day, while I was leaving Jo Ann Crafts (again, hubby leaves me alone, so I have to do something with my lonely self), I heard a rustling in the decorative shrubs near the door as I was heading back to my car.  I looked over, and out of the shrub pops a hawk!  I stopped and watched to see what he would do.  He had something in one of his claws, which piqued my curiosity.  He then hopped out into the mall driveway, and he watched me as I moved closer to see what was in his grasp.  He gave me the bird eye the whole time, as though sizing me up (who would win in a fight--a thirty-something, out of shape woman or a hawk with a very pointy beak and sharp talons?  Before you answer, I should say that I'd put my money on the hawk) but allowed me to get within ten feet of him and see that what he had as a small bird, likely a sparrow, that I didn't think was quite dead yet, because one leg kept twitching.  I didn't know that birds ate other birds, but this one was very obviously about to be the hawk's dinner.  We just stared at each other for a few moments, I observing just how pretty the hawk was, and he likely thinking nothing of the sort about me.  Then, a van came up the driveway, and the hawk flew away with dinner, and I was left standing in the middle of the mall drive watching the hawk fly to the top of the building.  The guy driving the van must have thought I was lost or crazy just standing there, but I didn't care.  It was a rare glimpse of nature that I don't get to see very often while living in town.  It was really fascinating.  Oddly enough, another day last weekend, hubby and I saw a fox in the broad daylight standing in a field near a busy road.  Maybe the animals are trying to take back their property!

Miscellaneous Plug
Finally, I have to mention this nifty storage solution for anyone who likes to do canning: Jar Boxes!  I found this on the Little House on the Prairie Living blog, a blog which I follow and where I find a lot of useful info on homesteading and the like.  The author found these while trying to find a solution to moving all of her full canning jars in her pantry.  I have to say, I'm very interested in these!  They are currently only available online, but will be found at Menard's in the future.  To view her blog about these and see pictures, click HERE.

I struggle every day with the influences of the world around me.  It's not easy, in a world of material means, to remember that having what you want is not really the ultimate goal in life.  Whenever I read the following passage, I always feel a conviction to do better with my goals and priorities: "If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." 1 Timothy 6:3-8.  To sum it up: When someone tries to twist the words of Jesus for his own gain, he will never be content, and he will always perpetuate a "constant friction" between himself and those around him.  Being content with what God has given us, and not constantly striving for more, is where our focus needs to be, because when we are truly content, truly thankful for the provisions that God has bestowed upon us, that contentment will be more satisfying than anything that money can ever buy.  A great life lesson! 

Thursday, June 21

Life Happens

My Husband's Birthday
This week, we celebrated my husband's 30th birthday.  Hard to believe he's finally joining me in the thirties!  We went out to dinner at our favorite restaurant to celebrate, and I got some balloons, a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, and a can of Pibb for decoration.  If you knew my husband, you would understand the Doritos and Pibb, so for those who don't: the Doritos are in honor of sticking to good eating habits for six months now, and the Pibb is in celebration of his vow to not drink any Pibb (his favorite pop) from the beginning of the year to his birthday--six and a half months, a big commitment for him.  He got to enjoy some old favorites on his birthday!   We were up to visit my family over the weekend, and while we were up there, we celebrated his birthday with a golf-themed ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins.  We had a few days of birthday celebration for him, but he left for a business trip the day after his birthday.  :(

An Owl for My Sister:

Crescent Roll Pockets
So, at work today, I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with the half of the can of crescent rolls that I would have left over after I made a pot pie for dinner.  Then I had an idea.  I decided to try making them into chocolate-stuffed and cinnamon-sugar-stuffed pockets!  Below are the steps and recipe for the creation I call "Crescent Roll Pockets":
First, create four rectangles from pinching the seams together of each set of triangles, like in the picture above.
Pat the rectangle out and make it more uniform in shape, if necessary.  For the picture above, I sprinkled about a teaspoon of cinnamon on the dough, then roughly 1-2 tablespoons of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

For this crescent pocket, I decided to try and make it cinnamon-sugary.  I spread butter over the dough, then mixed 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of lightly-packed brown sugar in a bowl, then spread it over the butter.  You can certainly experiment and create whatever flavors you want!  Just be sure to leave an edge around the dough for sealing.

To fold the dough, follow the steps in the pictures above, and when you've folded all of the sides in, pinch the seams together on the top to seal and keep the stuffings in.  Bake them in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until they are golden brown, then remove them from the oven and let them cool for about 10 minutes.
 While the pastries are cooling, make the glaze: 1/4 to 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk, and about 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Mix all together in a small bowl, adding milk a little at a time until you get your desired consistency for the glaze.
When the pockets are cooled, drizzle the glaze over the top.  Then, grab a fork and enjoy!  You're welcome.

A Loss in the Family
I mentioned earlier that we were up to visit with family over the past weekend.  The reason was because my uncle, my mother's brother, passed away from an illness.  It was a sad time, for obvious reasons.  He was always a good uncle to us, and he was always nice to us.  I have many good memories of him, and he was a neat man.  He liked to dabble in all sorts of hobbies: he tried growing crops, he did canning, he created barbecue sauce, he brewed his own raspberry wine, he restored antique telephones, he sold Christmas trees, and just generally seemed to enjoy life.  He seemed to succeed in anything he tried to do!  He even gave us one of his phones a few years ago, and it's been a prized possession of ours ever since.  Now, it's something that will always remind us of him every time we see it hanging on the wall in the kitchen. My husband didn't know him extremely well, but he always enjoyed the times that we were able to visit with my uncle.  Please pray for my uncle's children, grandchildren, my mom, and my mom's other brother, who are still grieving, but are glad for the time they were able to spend with him on earth.

Sad Garden
Sad, sad, sad.  It's certainly struggling under the severe conditions that seem to have settled over this part of the country.  While I water whenever I can, it doesn't seem to help that much.  There's such a difference in the plants when it rains, as opposed to a good soaking from the hose.  Though I would love to have a rain barrel, and not have to use chemically-treated city water in the garden, a rain barrel does no good if there has been no rain!  Everything is still alive, but it seems that the hot sun beating down all day just makes them so droopy.  It's cloudy now, and there is rain in the area, so here's hoping for a good soaking from mother nature!
A blossom on my pumpkin plant

My heirloom chocolate cherry tomato plant--hoping to keep some of the seeds and do it again next year

Rain's a-comin'!
I feel like some days are a real struggle.  Life is hard, even though we have all of these incredible conveniences today.  The world is not a friendly or nice place, so we take comfort and refuge with family and friends that we love.  And that's not a bad thing; we are meant to have relationships with the people around us.  But are we building the kind of relationship that we need to have with the One who created us?  He loves us more than we can imagine!  He will give us strength to endure each day, each hour, each trying minute of our lives.  The trials and grief, along with the joys of life, all work to mold us into the person that He wants us to become.  "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

Tuesday, June 12

Some Pictures For Your Enjoyment

No, nothing to eat yet from the garden.  It's still a bit early.  But here are some more recent photos of the garden for you to enjoy!

Okay, not the garden.  But my African violet just keeps's so pretty!
The cucumbers are really taking off!
My corn.  I planted four, and a squirrel dug up one.  Now there are three and a sprout.
Two pumpkin plants.  I can almost smell the pie...
One of the pepper plants.
My parsley from the Farmer's Market.  I used some in my lasagna tonight.  Yum!
My patio plants--from top left, clockwise: mosquito plant, red maple from Greenfield Village, miniature rose from my co-worker on Secretary's Day, mosquito plant, and parsley.
 A side note--I took a stem from one of my mosquito plants to see if I could get it to grow.  I tried soaking it in water for a few weeks to see if it would sprout roots, like some other plants do.  It didn't, but the stem is still very much alive and healthy, so I'm going to plant it in a pot and see if I can get it to grow like that.  I'll let you know what happens!

There has been quite a lot going on in our lives here lately.  I don't feel like going into the details, but the past few weeks have been emotionally and physically trying.  Sometimes I wonder why life can't be all sunshine and daisies and chocolate, but really, life hasn't been that way for anyone since Eden.  We have to take the good with the bad, and find a way to cope with whatever comes.  For me, coping comes from the faith I have in God's control over our lives.  In John 16:33, Jesus is speaking to His disciples, telling them that He would not always be with them in the way that they have always known, and their lives were going to change dramatically: "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  Whoa.  That's quite a statement.  Not too many people can say that they have "overcome the world" and actually mean it.  But Jesus did, and wasn't lying--He did something that no one else could or will be able to ever do!  He conquered death.  He won the battle, and the enemy could not change that outcome, no matter how much he tried to (and oh yes, he tried hard over the centuries).   I have heard people say that there are only two constants in life: death and taxes.  And guess what?  No one can escape from either of those.  Many have tried, especially the taxes (Willie Nelson is the first that comes to mind), but ultimately, no one succeeded.  There is nothing to fear with death when you have faith in Christ.  Yes, your body still dies.  You have to say goodbye.  But you will live again with the One who created you, and among loved ones who also believed.  That's how I want to spend eternity.  And we will pay our taxes faithfully each year until then. 

Friday, June 1

Scented Gels

I found a post recently about how to make your own air fresheners (to view that blog, click this link: Delightful Country Cookin' ).  I love scented things, and I like to set out candles around the house to make it smell good (although I don't burn them very often).  The idea of creating my own scented gels to set out around the house intrigued me.  Plus, it seemed like a really easy project!  It's been a long and trying week, so I felt the need today to do something fun and creative for a rainy day.  So I ventured out into the deluge and picked up everything I would need to make my scented gels:

 Two boxes of Knox gelatine (4 packets per box)-$1.25 per box at Walmart
Heat-proof jars-I used Ball 4 oz. decorative jars-$7.47 for a box of 12 at Walmart
Scented oil for candles-I chose two scents-$2.99 per bottle at Hobby Lobby
Food coloring of my choice-it's most likely in your pantry already!
2 cups of water, divided
2 TBSP salt 

Perhaps I should note that this is the first time I've used gelatin like this.  I've made Jell-O before, but it's not quite the same experience.

I have a lot on my mind right now, and I guess I wasn't concentrating quite as much as I should have been.  I read the instructions and wrote them down for me to take to the kitchen, and read them again as I gathered my supplies.  The instructions go like this:

Add a few drops of food coloring to each jar, then add as much scented oil as you would like.  The more oil you add, the stronger the smell will be.  

 I got through this step.  Then things went awry.  Terribly awry.

The next step:
Bring one cup of water to a boil, then add four packets (one box) of your gelatin.  Stir until completely dissolved (which, according to the gelatin box, should be about five minutes).

I promptly added one cup of water to my sauce pan and dumped in two packets of gelatin before I realized my mistake.  Boil the water before adding gelatin, stupid!

I sighed and dumped my gooey water out, glad that I had purchased an additional box of gelatin.

So, I started again.  I boiled one cup of water, then grabbed two packets of gelatin at the same time and ripped off the top to pour the contents into the pan.  Except that one packet fell out of my hand.  And into the boiling water.  And the packet was covered by the sticky granules of the other packet that was still in my hand.  I grabbed a fork out of the drawer and attempted to fish out the quickly-hardening, gooey, sticky paper packet and managed to get everything sticky.  Who knew that pulverized animal bones would be like playing with tacky glue??  Doing my best Marge Simpson annoyed grunt, I finally succeeded in fishing out the packet, but there was no saving it, and I had to throw it away.  Thankful that I had purchased two boxes of gelatin, I dumped three of the four remaining packets into the pot, and tried to stir it with a whisk.  It was like a giant lump of goo, and it seemed like no matter how much I stirred, it didn't break up the lumps.  I don't know, maybe it's supposed to act like this.  I let it go for a few minutes, and it came to a frothy boil, and after about five minutes or so, the clumps of gelatin finally broke up and dissolved.  Onto the next step.

Add another cup of water to the pot, and your salt.  Stir until the salt is dissolved.

I left the pot to sit for a moment as I poured in the water and measured out the salt.  I went back to stir the pot again, and the gelatin had formed a crust along the bottom of the pan!  Grrrr!  I stirred and whisked as though my life depended on it.  I finally scraped the crust off of the bottom of the pot, and it began to dissolve, finally.  I was relieved.

After the salt was dissolved (and by the way, watch the pot carefully after the last two additions--it wanted to bubble over once it heated back up), the next step is this:

Quickly pour the liquid into your glass containers.  Stir them with a plastic or disposable spoon to mix the scented oil and food coloring.  Then let sit overnight to solidify.

I poured the liquid evenly into my jars with the help of a canning funnel.  I was able to fill four 4 oz. Ball jars with the liquid.  Obviously, this recipe makes 16 oz. of liquid, so you can get one really big jar, two pint jars, or four 4 oz. jars.  You can adjust the recipe accordingly to fit your needs.

I would say that if everything had gone smoothly from the start, it would have been a relatively short project.  It was still a fun learning experience, and a welcome distraction.  I think this is something that you could do with kids, if they want to experiment with scented oils and learn about using gelatin.

It's really easy for me to become distracted.  It seems like I'm always thinking of a million things at once that I either need to do, need to keep track of, or need to remember for later.  And it has been a tough week.  It's a good reminder to me to keep my focus on God and not things in this world: “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.  Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock."--Isaiah 26:3-4.  That's my challenge--keeping my focus on the everlasting Rock.