Friday, October 23, 2009

Addicted to Tutorials

Ok, so I have been spending a lot of the time on the computer - but, obviously not blogging. I go on these tutorial 'binges' and just can't seem to do other things on the internet for awhile. I have the Adobe creative master suite and I just don't know the programs well enough! If you don't know, a couple years ago I started work at the Tabernacle in Decatur and fell in love with graphic design. (Like I needed another hobby.) However, I really enjoy this other creative outlet! There are so many things I can do. Last year, or well, maybe longer because it was before I was pregnant, I watched every single tuturial on InDesign from (Oh, Lynda, my life is not the same...) Well, I really miss my subscription. Sure, there are free ones, but it always cuts you off when you're getting to the good stuff. There's stuff on youtube, but really, it's so hodge-podge, and they end up leading you back to their site anyway, and Lynda is just so great of a detailed overview of the programs.

I feel I'm getting ahead of myself and making no sense. My point is, I'm hoping to sign up for a subscription soon so I can stop limping helplessly around photoshop. I mean, I've worked in there for awhile now, and I know some stuff, but I know there's soooo much more... I really want to be a better photo editor, and I think I have reached my cap on my own. I have a lot more experience in design and effects than I do with the finer details of professional photography. Now would be an excellent time to insert some of my work, but alas, I am not at home so that will just have to wait until another post.

We (the Webster clan) all went to the Vines botanical gardens Sunday and I'm really looking forward to getting my paws on those photos. They're going to be great! Now, off to indulge in more tutorials.

Wait! One more thing. I baked this wonderful chocolate peanut butter cake that my newfound old friend mentioned in her blog awhile back. Wow, rave reviews! I love to bake, and there's nothing like having people oogle and drool over your baked goods. It gives you a warm, gooey feeling inside.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From Where I Received a Creative Heart

This is something that burns deep within me and is very personal to my being. Creativity. This is not to be boxed up in the Michael's-Hobby Lobby-Joann's sense, although I can certainly lose myself for hours in those havens. I mean in the everyday, living, breathing, 'somehow I've got to make it through this day and get what I need done' way. Oh, and I'd really like some time with you, Lord.

The closer you get to the Creator, the more creative you become. I honestly have no idea when this concept came to me, if I heard it somewhere, or if God quietly spoke it to me until I finally heard and understood him. God, the Creator has made some amazing things. Most of which we have yet to understand, even when we think we do. Anyone with children will testify to experiencing this when they know something is best and the child can't fathom why on earth you might prohibit that. A helpful reminder of how we must look to God sometimes: arms crossed, pouting with our lip stuck out, hurt tears running down our chubby cheeks. We'll understand one day. Some things maybe even on this side of heaven.

I have so many things I want to do, need to do, and sometimes just can't get all the worms in the can. I try and try to do it in my own flesh, limited by my humanity. I forget that I was made in His image. His image. The Creator of everything mirrored Himself in me. I posess His creativity and that doesn't just mean 'crafts'. Creativity is a way of seeing the world, and seeing problems, seeing relationships, seeing our purpose. We have the ability to 'see beyond' the natural in how we live our lives and to do really amazing things. If I think God is calling me to do something and I think I can handle it, maybe it's not from Him. His track record is doing big things from unexpected places. Why? Because then He gets the glory - not me. Can I be creative enough to do all the things He's called me to do? Not in my own strength and imagination. Can He sustain me and give me ideas and solutions? Absolutely.

I love the Message bible. I don't memorize scripture from it because it translates a general idea rather than directly, but I enjoy reading the way it phrases things sometimes.

This is Romans 12:1-3: "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."

This is so good. I don't want to be limited in my thinking. I want to see things the way He does - big picture. I don't want to be forced into how the world says things should be done, I want to do them the best way - the way He intended. The way He's telling me. Whether it's how I'm a mom, or how I'm a wife, a best friend, a sister, daughter or fellow shopper at the grocery store. My worth and abilities are not limited by what I think I can handle. They're only limited by how much I'm willing to listen to His creative heart.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chocolate in the IV, Please

For those of you who are die-hard chocolate lovers, (Patrick) I'm going to up the ante. This following recipe is best served with cold milk. It is super rich; the chocolate chips are melted right in the batter! Enjoy. I love, love, love these cookies.

Triple Chocolate Cookies (From Nestle Best Loved Cookies book from Avon)

1 ¾ Cups Flour
½ Cup Baking Cocoa
1 tsp Baking Soda
2 Cups (12 oz package) Semi-Sweet Chips
1/3 Cup Butter/Margarine
1 ¼ Cups (14oz can) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
½ Cup nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk flour, cocoa and baking soda in medium bowl. Melt only 1 cup of the chocolate chips and butter in the microwave; stir every 30 seconds. Stir in sweetened condensed milk, egg and vanilla; mix well. Stir in flour mixture. Stir in nuts and remaining chocolate chips (dough will be soft). Drop dough by rounded tablespoon onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are set but centers are still slightly soft. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 3 ½ dozen cookies.

Just for Fun

Lauren tagged me on this, and it sounds fun. Plus, the boys are happily playing together...for the moment... So here's the scoop on my and my hero.

♥ What are your middle names?
Barbara and Curtis. You can really tell those are namesakes ... we sound like an older couple...

♥How long have you been together?
About 2 1/2 years

♥ How long did you know each other before you started dating?
Oh gosh, over 7 years I think...

♥ Who asked who out?
He asked me out, sort of. We were hanging out as friends and then it just, changed.

♥ How old are each of you?
I'm 27, he's 24.
♥ Did you go to the same school?
lol, no - he was homeschooled

♥ Are you from the same home town?
Well, technically, yes. But we moved from Decatur while I was still a baby.

♥ Who is the smartest?
We both have things we're better at.

♥ Who majored in what?
Well, I was majoring in English when the boys came along. 5 more classes to go... He went straight to work full-time at a wholesale jewelry company. That's right...he brings me home pretty things...

♥ Who is the most sensitive?
HAHA, me.

♥ Where do you eat out most as a couple?
Eat out?

♥ Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?
Charleston, back when we thought we had no free time.

♥ Who has the worst temper?
Oh, me, definately.

♥ How many children do you want?
All of them.

♥ Who does the cooking?
Generally me because I'm home. But he enjoys it so much more. I'm in charge of the baking!

♥ Who is more social?
Um, I'm not sure either of us are. Probably him. I'm a homebody.

♥ Who is the neat-freak?
Me, hands down. Borderline OCD.

♥ Who is the most stubborn?
Wow, we're both pretty stubborn. That just might be a tie.

♥ Who wakes up earlier?
Him. And if the boys wake up before he leaves (which they usually do) he gets up with them so he can see them before work and I can sleep a little longer. :)

♥ Where was your first date?
I know it was Valentine's, but I can't remember where for the life of me.

♥ Who has the bigger family?
Lol, so many of these make me laugh. He is the 3rd of 8. So I'm gonna go with him and the Webster clan.

♥ Do you get flowers often?
Not really, because he knows that even though I enjoy them, there are things I'd rather he spend money on, like plants I can put in my garden :)

♥ How do you spend the holidays?
We try to do our own stuff and then visit all the families.

♥ Who is more jealous?
Gosh, I don't think we've ever had a 'jealousy' argument. We're both pretty secure in our love and respect for each other. We both make a strong effort to guard our hearts, probably to the extent some people might think is ridiculous. But you can't be too careful.

♥ How long did it take to get serious?
Well, like I said before, we knew each other over 7 years before that first date, so...

♥ Who eats more?
Him, by a little bit. When I was prego and nursing though, it was definately me!

♥ What do you do for a living?
For a living? Live. :) He's in the jewelry biz, and I love being a mom at home and keeping up the place, trying to do things for people in my spare time, baking, etc.

♥ Who does the laundry?

♥ Who’s better with the computer?
Probably me, but that's because I used it at work for years and he doesn't. Plus, I love training vids.

♥ Who drives when you are together?
Usually me, unless I'm tired. He drives all week commuting to work and I don't get to because I don't have a car, so I like to.

♥ What is "your" song?
Love Somebody, by Keith Urban

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's Gettin' to be That Time of Year Again...

...and I am super excited. I'm really a warm weather kind of girl, but I try and find things to get me through the cold months. I love fall and winter because I really enjoy a cozy home. The fire crackling, hot cider or cocoa, warm cookies, the smell of cinnamon and Christmas trees, pumpkins and gourds, all the leaves changing color, the cool, crisp air outside...sigh. Oh, and it's so fun when all the family gets together during these upcoming holidays. We pretty much missed them last year because the boys were born November 21, just before Thanksgiving. They didn't get out of the hospital until December though and we couldn't take them anywhere and had to limit their exposure to people.

So now they're big and strong and I am excited about the coming season. I really love baking, but my kitchen gets soooo hot during the summer that I really try to limit my activity. But now it's getting cool and it just serves to warm up that end of the house :) Plus, I love the smells! I wanted to share two of my favorite recipes that I use every year. One is a cider drink that is delicious and smells great. Plus, if you have any left over it reheats in the microwave wonderfully. The second is my go-to cookie recipe that never fails to get rave reviews. It's a double chocolate cookie with chocolate chips, but I'll occasionally substitute with crushed Andes candies. Peanut butter or white chocolate chips work well too.

Teton Tea (From Better, Homes & Gardens Christmas Cookie magazine, 2005)
4 Cups Cranberry Juice
2 Cups Orange Juice
3 Cinnamon Sticks (or 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon)
¼ Cup Lemon Juice
1 Teaspoon Clove

Bring Cranberry Juice to a simmer, add Cinnamon and Clove, cover and simmer for twenty minutes. Add Lemon Juice and Orange Juice, let simmer until warm.

Double Chocolate Dream Cookies (From Nestle Best Loved Cookies book from Avon)
2 ¼ Cups Flour
½ Cup Baking Cocoa
1 tsp Baking soda
½ tsp Salt
1 Cup Butter/Margarine (2 sticks)
1 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
¾ Cup Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
2 Cups (12 oz package) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 375 F. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla in mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until puffed. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 4 ½ dozen cookies.

I would like to make an additional note about how much I love my baking stones. They are available from The Pampered Chef, although imitations are available. They are slightly cumbersome to work with, but are infinitely better in baking quality, especially when pre-warmed. These are two of them; the one on top is brand new, and underneath is one of my well-loved cookie stones. You can see how it darkens as it becomes more seasoned.

Happy baking! Hope you enjoy these recipes as much I have :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

It's Not Easy Being Green

I wouldn't say I've lived a posh lifestyle with complete disregard to the environment, throwing endless things away for convenience, but I definately could do better. Mostly I would attribute it to a lack of knowledge, not lack of caring. However, in the last 6 months or so my eyes have been opened to some things that I hadn't noticed. It started with my homemade laundry soap (courtesy of the Webster clan) and a daily awareness of wastefulness and reliance on manufacturing. Then, I found the book Green Housekeeping. Wow! So wonderful! Now, I will say there's some things in there that are a little over the top for me, but it has educated me greatly.

Now, I need to make a disclaimer: I am in no way saying I live the ultimate green life. But I am trying a little bit at a time to transform my way of thinking and living to better my children's future. Notice I did not say 'save the planet'. To be frank, this statement irks me because I think it's ridiculous. George Carlin may be crass, but he's not so far off to say we are egotistical to think the planet needs our saving - it doesn't. Now, before you get defensive thinking I'm saying eco living is hogwash, I'm not saying that at all. The planet will go on fine for many years until it's swallowed up by the sun. We as a race, however, will be in a mess of trouble. That's my point - live with a conservative mindset to better our futures and make ourselves more self-reliant. That's the mental direction I'm heading, one step at a time.

My mom told me about an article she read (I have no idea where) in which a man saved all his trash for a year. Yowza! He realized a vast majority of it was product packaging and food waste. I would love to compost but at the moment I am too cheap to spend money on a compost bin. Shame on me. Christmas gift anyone? It really made me contemplate how I purchase things and what I do with the packaging. I have begun to change my purchasing choices based on this fact. I have also started saving a lot of packaging and creatively repurposing it throughout my home. I love to organize, so I can't complain about my lovely assortment of boxes, bins, jars and bottles. Something very fun I have begun to do is use these in drawers as custom organizers. I love all the little plastic ones you can buy, (oh, the Container Store...) but they are expensive and I just can't rationalize it when I can do this for free. Plus, there's a greater variety of sizes. It may not look as 'pretty' but I'm much more satisfied reusing these boxes than throwing them away and buying more plastic. It could use some fine tuning, but here's what I did with my kitchen junk drawer:

I don't have a before picture, but I'm very pleased with the results. I mean, what does your junk drawer look like? If it's like something out the Container Store catalogue, I don't want to hear about it. On second thought, go ahead and post a pic, I'll live vicariously through your pretty drawer...

Now, I make a lot of my own baby food, but I don't make all of it. Therefore, I have quite the collection of baby food jars. These are wonderful for so many things! One of my recent repurposes for these were some homemade decorative pumpkins. I have been oogling the ones in stores, especially the ones made out of grapevine. But I don't have any grapevine. I do have lots of kudzu I just might try drying out though... Anyway, I had also seen some cute fabric ones that I like but once again, I'm just too cheap to spend money on something I really don't need. So, the other day when the boys were particularly happy, I rummaged through my stash and came up with these:

They weren't really the fabric I wanted, but I didn't purchase anything to make these. I took 3 baby food jars of different sizes, stuffed a square of fall colored fabric around and in to the center. Then I took a torn piece of cardboard and rolled it up for a stem. The leaves are from a silk fern I had left over from a floral project. The bows are rafia and for a finishing touch I wound some gold wire around a pencil to use as a curly vine. Overall, I was pretty happy with my makeshift pumpkins.

I'm really enjoying this transition in my life and I'm looking forward to new creative ideas for a self-sustaining lifestyle. I only have 1 1/3 acres, so I won't be buying a dairy cow or chickens anytime soon, but I hope to start a garden next year. I'm definately doing an herb garden - I want lots of lavender. What are some of your favorite ways that you try to live green? Thanks for sharing!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Without running out the door screaming?

Sometimes people say to me things to the effect of, "I don't know how you do it with twins." Well, to be perfectly honest, there are some days where I wonder how too. Especially those first months...phew! (I do need to give credit where credit is due, however, to a wonderful husband and amazing family who gave me much needed reprieves and sleep.) Well as I was feeding the boys their lunch today, which is a very interactive time, I had to laugh again at this thought. Most days we make it through without me having a melt down, but there are definately times having sweet potatoes spit in your face invokes a little craziness. I fend off food spit irritation by just putting on an apron. I try to streamline meals with side to side high chairs and alternating bites. Finger foods are a nice anti-screaming item while I spend a whole 30 seconds warming up food. Today I had to actually laugh at the antics and decided to share them with you.

The older they are getting, the more they like to help. I was say about one in three meals they end up with food in their hair and eyes. I spend a lot of time cleaning up because I hate bugs. This brings me to another necessity:

The jumperoo and exersaucer. These things have been worth their weight in gold! The boys spend about 15 minutes in them after each meal because they have reflux. I usually put on a Baby Einstein because they're not big fans of me leaving the room to clean up after the meal-tastrophe. I know you're not supposed to let babies watch tv. However, I don't think a crying baby is any better off than a happy baby watching tv. Sometimes, you have to wipe up bananas off the floor, take a 3 minute missions trip shower, or just go pee (shock). And if your children are anything like my children, they think the sheer gall of my desire to do these things equals abandoment. So I distract them with a little Baby Eistein. And I think I'm a better mom for choosing that over a heartbroken child. Just like when I'm having a losing-my-mind meltdown and I choose to put a Baby Einstein in so I can go in the other room for a half an hour and read an unimportant book so I can gather up what's left of me, I think I'm a better mommy for it. Crazy mommy with the babies who are crying...or...happy reading mommy while babies watch tv. It's just reality.

Right now, the boys are napping. Here's naptime for this season of their life.

I give them a bottle until they're sleepy (I sit between them) and plug in a paci. This happens around 10 or 11 am for about 1-2 hours, and then again around 3 adding up to about 3 hours of napping a day. The first half hour of their nap they're pretty conked out so I sneak off the couch to the computer, which is right by the couch. Sometimes I just stay there and read or watch a little tv. I think it's very important to allow myself this bit of downtime during their naps even if I'm not napping because I'm more ready to be a mommy again when they wake up. This supermom ideal that we're supposed to adore being a mommy 24/7 with no desire for anything else is an impossible goal and only leaves us feeling beaten down and like a failure. So I'm here to tell you, don't feel guilty for allowing yourself some mental rejuvenation throughout the day. We need it.

Oh, the point of this was to sing the praises of the boppy. Hands down the best invention ever. When they were little I used it to nurse them, and they also slept in them because they were so teeny tiny. I still use one under my arms when I rock them because it takes the pressure off my elbow.

This was how they slept for awhile.

This is how we fed them with a bottle. I did the same thing when I nursed, with a little rearranging :) I did actually nurse for 6 months, which was very very hard. I wear no badge of honor and don't declare it a heavenly experience. There were some days I wanted to just quit, but I felt guilty because I knew it was what was best for them, especially being 7 weeks early and I didn't want to be selfish. Along about 6 months though, they got very difficult to control at the same time and I knew I couldn't just leave one alone every 3 hours, so, I weaned. They are doing great however, and never lost an oz since the day they were born. You can tell from the pictures how chunky they are :) They stand and crawl and play now, so I am extremely grateful for the play yard.

We cornered off an entire section of our living room, which was a big sacrifice, but totally worth it. We spent around $130 on a new heavy-duty gate (after researching) because I just had this feeling a used plastic gate wouldn't last 2 years with twin boys and I'd end up having to buy another one (or two) anyway. This is great because it gives them a totally safe zone that's fairly large and free of hanging stuff on the walls, trashcans, bookshelves and electrical cords. I can usually cook dinner (when I'm feeling like it) around the corner without too much trouble.

This certainly was not every wonderful thing we came up with for survival, but just a glimpse into our 'double' world. Thanks for all the times you've complemented me for raising twins. I know God never gives you more than you can handle, but sometimes I wish He didn't have so much faith in me :) He's had to give me quite a large share of grace...and I suppose I've grown in a lot of ways through this amazing experience.

Proverbs 31 - Selling my wares

The one thing about art that always holds true is that it's subjective. I come from a creative family and have spent many years finding new projects. Even if they end up finding a home cleverly organized with their counterparts I don't have time for, I always want a new one. It's kind of like wandering into a bookstore. It's irrelevant that I have 17 books and 32 magazines waiting to be read, the smell of fresh, new books never loses it's allure.

I have found many wonderful creative outlets over the years, some that I was enthralled with for a season, others that repeatedly find their way to the top of my 'want to do list'. I fell in love with scrapbooking about 11 years ago and that has proven very rewarding. My maternal grandmother taught me crotchet, punch rugging and freehand embroidery, which took me a few years to really get the hang of. If only my carpel tunnel would let me crochet more. I tried my hand at knitting, which I found rather annoying. Beadwork of all kinds has wound it's way through my past, starting with indian beadwork, then miscellaneous jewlery and most recently bookmarks. I'm a sucker for bead sales like they're new books... I have the beginnings of quilting, yet haven't really finished one of those projects. My mom taught me to sew years ago, a trade which I became comfortable with only in my adult years. (If I really am an adult.) Of course random crafts fill half my drawers and bins to keep my big, consistent projects company.

My one conundrum over the years has been that I couldn't make money with my creativity. I tried a craft mall, ebay and the mart with little success. I have pretty much resigned myself to enjoy them for the value they have to me, and those that I choose to give them as gifts to. But then I found out about I am super excited! A site just for the peddling of handmade goods? Fantastic! Everyone who wanders there for purchases is expecting unique, quality handmade items. Perhaps I have found my outlet. I'll keep you updated when my page is ready...