Friday, June 29, 2012

Bringing Summer Indoors

Aren't these beautiful?

They are cuttings from the Esperanzas (aka Yellow Bells) that were planted in our new landscaping out front a couple of years ago.  They grow like wildfire, require little to no watering and produce these amazing clusters of yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers almost year-round.

Because they tend to overgrow our landscape and sometimes make it hard to even see they other plants in front of them due to their willowy shoots and profuse blooms, I decided to get serious about trimming them back yesterday.

Unfortunately, that meant cutting off tons of these glorious clusters of flowers and I just couldn't bear to stuff them all in the trash.  So . . . I decided to do a little experiment and toss a bundle into some water and see how long they last!

So far, so good!

I think they look spectacular out here on the patio, atop my newly refinished sideboard that's just missing its handles before I can show it to you!  You might have also noticed my next (and almost last) patio project propped up behind it.  It's just been too hot to do much of anything outdoors other than swim here lately.  So it's nice to be able to bring a little summer indoors.

I am excited about the 'no-cost' decorating I can do for gatherings with these beautiful blossoms too!

Happy Summer Y'all!

Sharing this sassy summer idea at Wow Us Wednesdays,

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Citrus Water

Seems like I have been seeing an awful lot of posts about dieting, getting in shape and/or losing a few pounds here recently and it seems I'm in the same boat.  I've been pouting about it for months, because I was down 20 pounds and two dress sizes at Christmas after a year of hard work (Yay me!), but it just been in the last week that I've finally gotten motivated to take action . . . again (sigh).

It was also 92 degrees this morning at 9:00 AM and boy howdy is it ever hot now!!!  Either way, we could all use more water in our routine, so I decided to help myself (and my family) out with this simple trick for healthy living by putting the water front and center - of the kitchen that is!

I decided to dust off my drink dispenser and, fill it with some flavored water and keep in on the kitchen island to remind myself to DRINK UP!  This fabulous, little number came from Paul Michael.  I just luuuuuv it and I am so happy to be seeing it every day instead of just during get togethers, which we seem to be having far too few of lately!

Last time we were out visiting Speed in California (where he used to go for work quite regularly), they always had fresh, citrus-flavored water in the lobby every day and we would grab a glass each time we walked through.  So simple and so yummy!

Today I simly sliced up a fresh orange and floated in my water and ice - so refreshing!  I've also used lemon, cucumber and fresh mint from my garden!  All no calorie!  All delicious! {Mmmmmm}

You might even try cantalope water.  I had it served at a conference back in February and it wasn't my cup of tea, but many of my colleagues thought it was quite yummy, so don't be afraid to experiment with new flavors to figure out what you might like best!

And did you happen to catch my latest 'find' in one of the pictures above?!  Not sure it's staying where it is right now, so I haven't decided what color I want to paint it just yet.  Suggestions?

Happy (HOT) Summer Y'all!

Sharing this sweet summer sipper at Wow Us Wednesdays

Friday, June 22, 2012

Budget-Friendly Summer Fun!

Although Tuesday was the 'offical' start of summer, we've been sweating our patooties off here for well over a month - whew!  But school is out and swim team is almost over (hooray!) so I thought I'd better put together a list of Summer Fun activities that will wear them out keep them engaged without breaking the bank!  And although this list is somewhat 'local' I hope it will inspire you to check out what sorts of low-cost/no-cost fun might be going on in your community too!

1.  Hit the Beach . . . or lake or river - whatever you have handy!  When the weather heats up, a large body of water is a great way to cool off.  You can get up early and make a day of it at a State or city park facility (with access to actual restrooms) for less than 10 bucks, or just find a place to park somewhere along the 27 miles of coastline that we call Galveston for free!  So pack your toys and your sunscreen for a fun-filled and relaxing day!

2. Vacation Bible School! Our CCE program follows the school year calendar, so VBS is like a summer refresher and a week of fun all rolled into one! We are lucky enough to have more than one VBS curriculum going on at local churches in the area, so we can potentially hit TWO this summer and go with different friends each time! Sheep has been going to VBS since she was 4 years old and grows so much spiritually each time - even though all she knows is that she's having fun!! Most churches also offer financial assistance for those having trouble with the registration fee so don't hesitate to check it out!

3.  Visit the Museum!  We are lucky enough to have three major museums, including a recently renovated (and totally awesome) Children's Museum, only 30 minutes away!  The Houston Museum of Natural Science just opened an all-new Paleontology Hall so my little dinosaur fan can get his fix!  Museums are a great indoor option on those sweltering summer afternoons, and family pass options make them affordable too - RAWR!!

4. Check out Community Education! Another great low-cost alternative in our area are the summer programs offered through our Community Education Office. Local teachers, coaches, scientists and artists host summer classes on everything from basketball to cupcake decorating. These 2-hour, daily classes usually last all week and cost less than $50 - a real bargain! In the past, Sheep has taken art, cheerleading, and a class on fairies!! The YMCA also offers many of these same programs, but our community education office is able to offer them at a much reduced rate - yippee!!

5.  Stroll though the ZOO!  This has always been a family favorite, so we grab season passes for the Houston Zoo each year.  If you're not up for a season pass, then try visiting in evenings.  The zoo crowds have thinned and the difference in shade is appreciable!  Even the animals seem to enjoy the evenings and are moving around more!

6. Volunteer! Volunteering is a great opportunity to teach children about the reward and the FUN that comes with helping others! Volunteer Houston is an organization that helps match volunteers with their interests across the city and has activities for youth as young as 5 years old. Some activities even say 'no age limit' when accompanied by an adult - so check it out and get out into your community this summer! You won't regret it . . . and all it costs is your time!

7. Ride the Train! Did you know that The Galveston Railroad Museum offers FREE rides on the Harborside Express from 11 AM - 2 PM every Saturday on a first-come, first serve basis? Entry into the museum itself is only $6 for adults and $4 for kids, making this a very affordable excursion! You could even combine it with a wander down the strand or a stop at the beach too while you're there. So what are you waiting for . . . . All Aboard!!

8.  Head to the Farm or Orchard for some pick-your-own fun!  We LOVE picking strawberries in the Spring, but peaches, blackberries, blueberries and more are all within an hour's drive.  It's amazing that such a simple activity can be so much fun for everyone - perhaps because you get to eat your way through!  You can find pick-you-own farms and orchards anywhere in the U.S. by heading to and it's a great way to support your local farm businesses too!

9. Loiter Around Your Local Library! In addition to it's usually toddler storytime offerings, our library has a great list of summer activities, many suitable for kids of all ages. You generally have to get there plenty of time in advance, as participation is sometimes limited, but it's also usually free! Now how's that for budget-friendly?!

10. Sign-Up for the Reading Club! While you're visiting the library, sign up for the Texas Summer Reading Club, which encourages young readers (and pre-readers) to pick up a book with certificates, fun prizes and coupons for more discounted or free summer fun! Our coupon pack included vouchers for a FREE burger, a FREE Sonic drink, a FREE TCBY yogurt, a FREE admission to a local water park, 2 FREE tickets to a professional baseball game, FREE dinner at a local restaurant AND discounted indoor bounce house fun - amazing!! Sheep has plans to read enough to earn another trophy this year and I must say reading has always been one of my favorite ways to spend a summer afternoon! A trip to the library is also another great indoor option for those hot afternoons - no sunscreen required!

11.  Make Your Own . . . Ice Cream, Popsicles, or other frozen treats!  Wondering what to do with all that fresh produce?  Then spend some time in the kitchen making your own summer treats.  As I've mentioned before, the kids and I love making and baking things, so it's always a go-to activity for us.  And making frozen goodies usually doesn't require heating up the oven (or the house!).  It's also a great way to keep those math facts from slipping away during the dog-days of summer!

12.  Catch a Movie!  Cinemark Theaters has a Summer Movie Clubhouse that offers 10 shows for only 5 dollars!  All shows start at 10 AM on Tuesday around here and the place is full of little ones, so you won't be the only one following Snacks your toddler up and down the steps during Winnie the Pooh or Dolphin Tale.  See you at the show!

13.  Splash at Your City Pool!  Even if you have a pool in your backyard, sometimes you need a chance of scenery and the city pool is a very low-cost alternative.  And don't forget to look beyond your own borders!  One of the best city pools I've visited recently was two towns (about 30 minutes) away, but had two water slides, a wade-in section, a mushroom waterfall and a splash pad - all for only $1.50 per person!  Some city pools are also offering covered cabanas for rent as well - what a great place to meet with friends without having to clean up the house - ha!  Even better, our city pool offers one or two 'Dive In Movies' on Friday nights during the summer months and they are FREE, so don't forget to check out your local Chamber of Commerce website to see what they have planned!

14. Go to Camp! Both the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America offer all kinds of low-cost day, twilight and resident camps for kids, and many times these camps are open to the public or those 'considering' joining the organization. Sheep has already had fun at a three-day Girl Scout day camp in our area that included a t-shirt, activities (archery was her favorite) and a reusable water bottle for only $20! These organizations also have financial assistance programs available so that no one is turned away from camp for inability to pay.

15.  Feed the Animals?!  Usually you're not allowed, right?  Not so at the neighborhood lakes, where ducks abound and are usually so tame that they've been waiting for you to get there!  We also have a local pond close by that is teeming with turtles!  Here's a tip -  they LOVE Cheerios!!  Your leftover hamburger or hot dog buns from the backyard cookout will work well too!  And again, this easy entertainment doesn't require lots of preparation and is a great way to break up the day!  We like to head out in the evenings when it's a little less hot and humid!

16.  Spend Time Stargazing . . . either in the backyard on a quilt, or you can drag that quilt in to town to check out the stars of a different kind!  Theater Under the Stars puts on AWESOME outdoor symphonies, plays and musicals that you can see for FREE on the hill all summer long!  So pack a picnic and some mosquito spray and remind yourself that bedtimes are more guidelines than rules in the summer!

Swim team wraps up at the end of this month and after that, we plan to hit the road with our activity list handy!  Won't you join us?!

Happy Summer Y'all!

Sharing this Sassy Idea at Creative Me, Mop it Up Mondays,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Saturday was our summer outing with the girl scouts and they voted to go see Pinkalicious - The Musical at the Main Street Theater in town!  They also voted to included moms in this fun afternoon outing and we were all more than happy to oblige!  This was sort of our 'end-of'year/cookie celebration' bash all rolled into one so we made a day of it by meeting for lunch at a nearby restaurant in advance of the matinee.  Yummy, yummy, yummy!

Now I don't know about you, but summer seems to be flying by already and swim team has turned out to be a fun but MAJOR time commitment, so I hadn't really given much thought to this outing until a few days before.  But you know me and know that I simply CANNOT leave well enough alone!   So I decided on Wednesday (yikes!) that I simply had to wanted to make Pink!  Pink!  Pink! cupcakes for lunch AND a little gift for each of 'my girls' and I had the perfect Pin-spiration for it too!

I came across this darling printable from Shyanne @ Shy by Design and pinned it because I KNEW it was something I would be making one day for Sheep.  As you can see, she had it framed in this amazing over-sized, ornate black frame and not having found one for myself just yet I had put it on the back burner - where it emerged as the Perfect Plan for a Pinkalicious Party favor!

Pinned Image

After all, isn't this the true message of Pinkalicious? 
It is certainly the message I want my girls to focus on anyway, especially in the years ahead!

I downloaded the FREE printable but quickly realized it was the wrong size and orientation for my idea (and my dollar store frames), so I was going to have to make my own.  Mind you, I do not have any graphics design training or experience and I certainly do not own or know how to use any sort of graphics program, so I had to put my thinking cap on  . . . and here's how I got it done!

I have dubbed this process 'Ghetto Graphics by Jen' and it's so simple anyone can do it.  And you probably already have everything you need on your computer to make one for yourself as well!  I honestly have no idea how others are getting these things done, so maybe some folks are doing it this way too, but I kind of doubt it.  If you know, fill me in!

Now I may not have any graphics programming experience, but I am familiar with Power Point.  In my former life, I put together plenty-O-presentations and lectures and what not, so I used what I knew!

Ghetto Graphics
by Jen
  1. Used my home scanner and a piece of scrapbook paper to mimic the background of the pinspiration piece.
  2. Inserted the .jpg file of the scanned paper into PP as my background.
  3. Used text boxes to insert my wording over the background and then saved the slide as a .jpg as well.
  4. Opened the new .jpg file in Microsoft Picture Editor (came in the standard home Microsoft XP package) and cropped photo to 5 X 7 size and saved.  I made sure to leave a lot of room on the left-hand side so that a picture could be added later.  I really wanted to add a picture of each of the girls myself, but my co-leader has been 'helping' me understand how to scale back my BIG IDEAS into something more manageable (Thanks Kristi!), so I decided to make space for a picture, but leave it blank instead.  And frankly, it's pretty stinkin' cute as is!
  5. Uploaded to Walgreen's and printed my copies.  Now, Walgreen's has a cool feature that tells you how large a print you can make based on the resolution of the photo and this would not have printed well larger than an 8 X 10, but it was plenty big for me.  Other people's printables are probably much higher quality/resolution than what I ended up with using the 'Ghetto Graphics by Jen' method, but it worked and it was relatively quick to do too.  So humph!
Both the girls and the moms LOVED them and I think it is adorable if I do say so myself!!  The cost with printing came out to about 2 dollars each, but could have been cheaper had I been able to scrounge up a coupon for prints - how's that for using resources wisely?!

As for the musical?  Well, it did NOT disappoint and was just the right length for our rowdy, group of 6 and 7-year old girlie scouts - ha! 

Afterward, we stood in line for pictures and autographs with the cast - who all thought Sheep had an acute case of Pinkatitis herself since we had colored her hair beforehand!!

I must say, at less than 20 dollars for a full-priced ticket (and only 10 for groups of 10 or more!), Main Street Theater for Youth is a great time and great value!!  Such fun memories!

Happy Summer Y'all!

Sharing this sassy soiree at Whimsy Wednesdays, Mop it Up Mondays, Sew Chatty, Savvy Southern Style, Cowgirl Up!

A Little Fun-Fetti!

What have you been up to this summer?  We've been busy doing, among other things, some baking.  The kids love to get in the kitchen and it's one of my favorite places to be as well, so it's always been a 'go-to' activity for us!

I don't normally use mixes when I make a cake (although I have been known to use a box mix as a starting point.  Love me some Cake Doctor), but when Sheep laid eyes on the fun-fetti cake mix, she knew it was the cake for her!  You know the one I'm talkin' about.  It's a white cake with rainbow sprinkles in the mix and let me tell you, my girl just loves sprinkles!  On ice cream, on cup cakes, even on waffles and pancakes - bleck!

<strong>Funfetti®</strong> <strong>Moist Supreme®</strong> Premium Cake Mix
 Truth is, I've always loved fun-fetti cakes too because they really are so much fun - like a little surprise inside!  Well, after celebrating several occasions with a boxed mix fun-fetti cake, I decided that I could probably just make my own somehow and gave it a try with some Wilton Rainbow Jimmies mixed in the batter.  (Needless to say, we don't always have a fun-fetti cake mix in the pantry but we must ALWAYS have sprinkles!)  It worked like a charm!

Aren't they cute?!! 

So, now you can use your favorite cake recipe and just add jimmies to the batter
(the more the merrier) for a little fun-fetti of your own!

Hope you're enjoying your summer as much as we are.  Hope to get a few posts up soon about our adventures, but we're having so much fun that I haven't had time to sit down and write about it so we'll see!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

'Partner Pie' Bridal Shower Idea

It's not often that I get invited to a bridal shower these days - most of my parties involve pizza, pools and pint-sized partygoers instead.  So having the chance to celebrate my neighbor's (and friend's) daughter's upcoming wedding with them was a real treat!!  I have always loved weddings and ALL the fanfare that goes along with them - long before I was even a bride myself.  And now that I've been married for close to a decade (!!) it seems I enjoy them even more.  They are such a great reminder of all the reasons I married my hubby in the first place.  Kind of like a walk down memory lane and a renewal of our vows all rolled into one.  I guess I'm sappy like that {smile}.

What made this bridal shower even better is the fact that the bride is just about one of the most Spirit-filled women I know.  She truly loves the Lord, has a heart for His service and it is just amazing to see how the Lord moves in her life.  So inspirational!

Needless to say, her shower was one that honored her love of God and family (and her fiance) and this fun, Christian shower devotional was something I knew needed to be shared!   'Partner Pie' was written by Christian author Lorna Seilstad, whose website is full of great ideas for showers, bible studies and more, so I hope you will check her out!

To do this fun devotional at the next shower you hostess, you will need:
  • 1 pie plate
  • 1 package of pie crust or pie crust mix
  • 3 packages of canned pie fillings
  • 2-3 jars of pie spices (Think cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)
  • Small bag/box of sugar (Can be white or brown)
  • The hostesses also gave her that stinking' cute apron as well before they started - so fun!

Partner Pie

We are going to give you the recipe for this ultimate experience. Whether you’re soon-to-be married or you tied the knot years ago, take a look at the recipe for “Partner Pie.” When baked with prayer, 365 days a year, nothing is sweeter.

1. First, you need a good foundation.   (Present the pie plate)  The only foundation for marriage is based on loving, serving, and honoring God together as a couple and in your family. Decide, like Joshua did in the Old Testament, and say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
2. Next, you need the bottom crust, which in Partner Pie, represents your commitment or covenant that you will make with each other before God. (Present package of pie crust.)

It is also a reminder that after God, to put your spouse first. Love for each other cannot be what you build your marriage on because feelings change from day to day. However, the promise you make to one another on your wedding day is a great basis on which to build. God takes covenants very seriously. Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” Will your children’s children look back at your lives and say that you kept your covenant of love?

3. Now, it is time to add some filling. Pies can be made out of many different ingredients, everything from apples to sweet potatoes, but we could think of no better filling for Partner Pie than the fruits of the spirit. We’ve divided them into three sections.  Love, joy, and peace (Present first pie filling) - These first three fruits of the Spirit will bless your marriage with contentment.  It may take a lifetime to discover, but watch to see what makes your spouse feel loved, what brings them joy and what puts them at peace.

Patience, kindness, and goodness (Present second filling) – These three fruits of the Spirit will bless your marriage in the way you treat one another. Your real test of love will show in the small, day to day differences like who likes to be on time or whether the toilet paper goes over or under. You may find it challenging to be kind to a mate who is not focused on meeting your needs right now or good to one who has hurt you, but giving patience, kindness, and goodness shows your love in ways words never can.

Faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Present third filling) – These last three fruits of the Spirit will bless your marriage with a sense of security and respect for one another. Faithfulness says “I have chosen you over all others, and I belong to you and you alone.”  Gentleness says, “I love you so much about you that I will chose my words carefully.” And self-control says, “I will put my needs, wants, and desires second to yours.” By blessing one another with faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, your life stands as a constant reminder of your promise to love, honor, and cherish.
4. Pies aren’t good without a few more things. You need some spice (Present spices) which represents romance in our pie. Without romance, marriage may get dull. Be creative and adventuresome. Your pie will also need some sugar. (Present sugar) This represents laughter. Laughing together is one of God’s greatest gifts to us so take advantage of it.
5. Finally, you can add the top crust. This seals your Partner Pie with promise and keeps the filling in. Note the top of a pie is vented.  This way some of the aromatic fragrance of the pie can escape for the world to smell. It also allows for a partner to let off steam once in a while without destroying the whole pie.
6. To finish your Partner Pie, bake it with prayer, 365 days a year.