Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cat Enjoys My First Dinner Plate Dahlia

This is my very first "dinner plate dahlia." It's not the full 10" wide that it was advertised to grow but it's about 8" wide and that beats any other dahlia I've grown by a long shot. Given that it spent most of April-August in a pot (although it didn't bloom until actually in the ground) I'm especially happy with the results.
My feral born cat, Baby, even took a minute to enjoy the giant flower. Notice how she stretched her neck to smell the giant dahlia bloom and kept the bulk of her weight away from it (for a quick getaway, if needed, I presume). Moose, our older cat, slept through the whole photo session.
I was so excited to see this first dinner plate dahlia flower I wrote a little haiku about it, although eight inches didn't work syllable wise so I used seven instead.

Haiku Poem
Seven inches wide
magenta and pink petals
dinner plate dahlia
Have you grown giant dahlias? If you have any tips about what works well or didn't work at all I'd love to hear them! This will be the first winter we dig our tubers up so any tips about that would be appreciated too. Otherwise I'll be following the Philadelphia Dahlia Society's instructions (they're north of us but that's where we bought the tubers from this spring).

May God bless you and those you love!

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

DIY Sleepy Time Tea Recipe

Image by Krosseel
Insomnia and other sleep issues affect a lot of people. However, I was surprised to learn that almost half of America has trouble sleeping. 30-50% of the population struggles with insomnia, according to Get Better ZZZS. In the article by they recommend this DIY sleepy-time tea to enjoy before bed to "help you unwind and bring on the zzz's.

  • 1 tablespoon dried lemon balm
  • 2 teaspoons dried peppermint
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried rose petals
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
  • 2 slices dried licorice root
Ground the ingredients in a mortar and pestle, then combine with boiling water in a teapot. Strain and enjoy!"

I enjoy a cup of tea as part of my nighttime winding down routine so I thought I'd give my own version of this tea a try. I don't happen to have all of the ingredients listed above on hand but I do plan to dry some of the lemon balm, peppermint, rose petals and lavender flowers from my garden and give that combination a try. If you have digestive woes though, the fennel and licorice would probably be especially beneficial.

On nights when I have trouble sleeping, I still use this hypnosis program. But most of the time my routine helps me wind down and sleep soundly. 

What works for you for good sleep? I hope you have deep, restful sleep tonight! May God bless and keep you and give you deep, restorative sleep!

Get Better ZZZS article on page 76 of the Fall 2013 issue of ZLife Magazine (for Zumba Instructors who are ZIN members)

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Disclaimer: This post is my opinion only and I wasn't paid or asked to write it. My only connection to anyone or thing mentioned is as a certified Zumba instructor.

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Top 4 Tips For Limiting Internet "Wasted" Time

Image by DHester
Some people use programs that lock them out of the internet during certain hours or that log all of their online time but my favorite tips (that I use myself) are low tech. These tips are little habits that lead into one another and, together, when I use them, help keep my internet time down to less than half of where I started.
  1. A Paper Log: Jotting down the start/end time of my computer sessions helps keep them shorter and I'm mindful the total time spent. When I use this method I tend to use a piece of scrap paper or a post it note for the day and I'll tally my total non-work related internet time. When I first started doing this I was astonished at how much time I spent online. Awareness is a great first step to change.
  2. Timer: I find that setting a timer for whatever amount of time I've decided is acceptable (say 15 minutes) for the session will help me keep to that time. This is especially useful for minimizing my morning Facebook time. I cut that time in half by using a timer (and the log helped me see how long I'd been spending to begin with). Speaking of which, I need to go back to using a timer because since I stopped my time increased. The timer really makes a difference for me.
  3. Avoidance: Seriously. Try not going online for every little thing. I track a lot of things and I used to go online to input the data throughout the day. To reduce computer time I don't just pop on here and there (because that 1 minute to log something in can easily turn into an hour chatting with friends, writing emails etc.). 
  4. Batching: Now I keep a notebook by the computer and write down the tracking numbers I want to input and do it all at once in a session towards the end of the day. By grouping my online tasks I manage my time better. For example, when I first started using Lift I would log on after each habit was done to check it off. It's far more time efficient to wait until my late afternoon session (when hopefully I've finished all my Lift habits for the day and can check them all off at once) than to log on every hour to check them off one or two at a time. 
I hope you find these tips help you reduce your internet time and wish you increased productivity and all of God's best blessings!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Animal Photos From the Montgomery County Fair

This week my husband and I enjoyed a trip to the Montgomery County Fair. This giant Brahman cow was reputed to be super friendly and she's much huger than she looks in the picture (over 1,000 pounds!). She's chewing on some of the straw but I like to think she was smiling at us.
This little baby miniature horse was adorable! But he'd apparently had too much flash already because he closed his eyes at the sound of my camera turning on. His mama was napping nearby.
This giant bull alternated between seeming to enjoy his bath and hating it but his cowboy took it all in stride.
Not sure if this is a baby llama, alpaca or something else but it was really cute!
If you follow my blog you know I love cats, but I didn't see any live cats at the fair so here's a blue-ribbon winning beautiful painting of two cats snuggling.

Have you ever entered in your county's fair? I'd love to hear about it! This year I might not be as active as last year but I am hoping to enter some flowers, herbs, handicrafts and photos. May God bless you and those you love!

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Brave Little Deer Photos

This wild little deer was drinking out of the elephant pool at the National Zoo (the elephants were in another part of their habitat).

 Although its family remained under the cover of trees and tall grass this brave deer kept drinking.

And then one of the elephants took a step towards the pool and the deer took off. The deer was so fast I only had time to get this last photo. It safely joined its family in the woods and the elephant decided to stay where it was.

This cute little deer brought to mind Psalm 18:33 "He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places." May God bless and keep you!

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

75 Ways to Feel Happier

While decluttering I found this undated list of happiness / positive thinking and living strategies I wrote some time ago. Rather than just type it up for myself I thought I'd share it with you. It's not a definitive list, just the result of a little brainstorming. These are things that work for me, my clients or people I know. There were 18 items on the list but as I started typing I thought of more and added them. They're in no particular order and I'm not sure what book(s) I was reading at the time I wrote the original list but The Holy Bible, The Happiness Project, and The Power of Less are some of my favorite books so they probably informed the list some. I'd be glad to do posts on any you'd like more information on - just comment below or email me at May God bless you!
  1. Blessing counting
  2. Sing praise or happy songs
  3. Deflect negative self talk
  4. Use positive self talk
  5. Create a positive environment
  6. Focus on priorities
  7. Arrange joyful experiences
  8. Relive joyful experiences
  9. Anticipate joyful experiences
  10. Enjoy joyful experiences
  11. Give others the benefit of the doubt
  12. Look for the silver lining
  13. See through eyes of love
  14. Give genuine complements
  15. Smile
  16. Be productive
  17. Spend time with supportive family members and friends
  18. Volunteer
  19. Choose to be positive
  20. Healthy habits
  21. Focus on gratitude
  22. Meditating on uplifting scripture 
  23. Pray
  24. Worship God
  25. Morning pep talk
  26. Evening relaxing routine
  27. Positive routines
  28. Seek peace - peacefully
  29. Build fun into your daily life
  30. Help a stranger
  31. Hug someone you love
  32. Enjoy the beauty in life
  33. Give to charity
  34. Complete a nagging task
  35. Choose compassion
  36. Let go of worry
  37. Enjoy life
  38. Meditate on God's Word 
  39. Read uplifting quotes
  40. Enjoy a comedy
  41. Be creative
  42. Kiss a baby 
  43. Spend time helping people less fortunate than yourself
  44. Cherish little moments of happiness
  45. Take time to celebrate your successes
  46. Tell your loved ones how much they mean to you
  47. Give a truly meaningful gift
  48. Call someone who is lonely
  49. Visit someone who is suffering
  50. Forgive
  51. Say no 
  52. Schedule breaks into your day
  53. Get enough quality sleep
  54. Eat healthfully
  55. Exercise regularly (check with your doctor first)
  56. Get rid of the clutter in your life
  57. Don't nitpick
  58. Put whatever's bothering you in a long term context (will it matter 5, 10, 20 years from now?)
  59. Question any limiting beliefs
  60. Act like you're happy 
  61. Read good-news stories
  62. Read uplifting books
  63. Limit your exposure to negativity
  64. Savor the little pleasures of life
  65. Align your behavior with your beliefs 
  66. Enjoy some fresh flowers
  67. Relish a bite of dessert
  68. Write a love letter
  69. Release unrealistic expectations of yourself and others
  70. Replace bad habits with good ones
  71. Enjoy some music
  72. Play with your pet (or a friend's)
  73. Walk in the rain
  74. Spend time in nature
  75. Choose joy
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Disclaimer: I wasn't asked or paid to write this post and am not affiliated with anyone mentioned except as a follower or customer.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Love Saves the Day - Book Review

I saw Gwen Cooper's Love Saves the Day on the "new books" shelf at the library and had to read it. Between the title (who doesn't want love to save the day?), the cute cat and the description on the back of the book I was hooked.

I especially enjoyed Prudence the cat's perspective. The story was fantastic and I'd recommend the book to all cat lovers. I did find myself skimming bits here and there (more so when the story was told from the humans' perspective) but found myself laughing and crying and really loved Ms. Cooper's "first beautiful thing" concept.

A line that resonated with me was "Laura tried to wear logic like an armor (page 175 of the large print edition)." Maybe because I know certain folks who do just that and the words clicked. But my favorite concept from the book (besides all the lovely cat observations) was the aforementioned "first beautiful thing" concept. I don't want to spoil the book so I won't go into detail on how it was used there but really, aren't we all occasionally asked about our first memories? And for people with traumatic childhoods... just having the question asked can be painful. But, now I can ask - what is your first most treasured memory? What is your first beautiful thing? And that should only bring smiles.

Thanks for reading my little review. May God bless you!

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Andean Bear Cubs Playing and Eating (Photos and Haiku Poem)

This weekend my husband and I had our first sighting of Curt and Nicole, the Smithsonian National Zoo's newest Andean bear cubs. They were born in December but didn't make their public debut until May and this was the first time since then that they've been out at the time of our visit. We stayed watching them for quite a while because they were actively playing and eating and seemed to thoroughly enjoy their habitat. Their mom, Billie Jean, seemed to enjoy her nap just as much as the baby bears enjoyed their romp.  Above you can see the twins sitting up and their mom's back (she's in between them, sleeping). Sadly, their dad, Nikki, passed away before they were born. However, the zoo staff is clearly working extra hard to make up for this lack because the cubs seem totally well adjusted and happy.
The cubs feasted on what looked like oranges, apples and peanuts. While they didn't succeed, they even tried to climb one of the trees. Their playful antics inspired me to write this haiku poem:

Andean bear cubs
try to climb trees, frolic and
feast on fruit and nuts

 I loved the expression on this cub's face when it took an eating break.
Above you can see one bear playing with a cardboard box (it's not just cats who love them) while the other cub enjoys the pile of fruit and mom continues sleeping. I hope you enjoyed these cute bear cub photos. May God bless you and those you love!


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Monday, August 12, 2013

10 Minute Office Supply Cube Reorganization and Clutter Removal

Recently I took 9 minutes and 35 seconds (rounded up to 10 minutes in the title) to declutter our office supply cube. It started out organized but I haven't tended to it in over a year and it was getting hard to fit back in its spot on the shelf. You can see the "before decluttering" picture above and the "after decluttering" picture below. The "before" is a scrambled mess and the "after" is a manageable, categorized collection.

 Here are the steps I took to organize our office supplies:

  1. Remove everything from the bin, loosely sorting into categories and putting things that belong somewhere else in a basket
  2. Clean the bin
  3. Firm up the categories (the categories I ended up with that went back in the bin were writing implements, paper [sticky notes and notepads], staples, clips - we keep full sized paper on a bookshelf in the office and printer cartridges and software have their own cubes); there were also things for the donation bag)
  4. Put rubber bands around categorized items as appropriate (loose writing implements together, paper together etc.). My hope is that this will help the categories stay categorized more easily but I'm not the only one using the bin, so we'll see how that works as time passes.
  5. Put the categorized keepers back in their new homes
  6. Enjoy the newly organized space!
 Another view of the "before decluttering" office supply bin.

This is what the office supplies looked like spread all over our dining room table. Only the decorative items weren't in the bin (the flowers, canister, fountain, starter plants and digital frame). Hard to believe all that stuff came out of the small cube!

So, after a few days of using the newly organized office supply cube I'm happy with the results. It was definitely worth the time it took to clear the clutter and make things easier to find.

May God bless you and those you love!

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bees Fighting Over Sunflower Photo Series With Neat Motion Picture

Today at the U.S. National Arboretum I enjoyed watching these bees fight over this sunflower. What I didn't know when I loaded these photos is that Google's magic will make a motion picture out of such a series. It's the last photo and I hope the motion shows for you as it did for me. I was really tickled by this newly discovered feature.
 Above you can see a bee coming in to attack the one already on the sunflower.
 Above you can see a bee planning a sneak attack from the top left quadrant of the sunflower.
Another bee on bee dive bomb attack in the making.
In this final regular photo, the bees are sharing the sunflower (I love a happy ending). This last photo I adjusted so you could see the two bees (barely) in the bottom left quadrant of the middle part of the sunflower. The first four were untouched.
And, lastly, here's the magic motion picture. Isn't that neat?

I thank God for the many blessings in my life, which include my wonderful husband, the abilities He's blessed me with (walking, seeing, photography and so much more!), beautiful flowers, and your kind support. May God bless you and keep you!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Questions To Help With Decluttering Clothing

Image by Gracey
A client was looking for more questions to help her with clothing decluttering (in addition to the usual do I love it/use it/need it questions) so here are some that I brainstormed for her and hope will help you too.
  • Does it flatter my figure?
  • Do I feel great when I wear it?
  • Is it comfortable?
  • Does it project the image I want to share with the world?
  • Do I have another, nicer version of this?
  • Is it a flattering color for me?
  • Is it still in style? (even when styles come back they often change just enough that our old things probably won't work)
  • Do I have space for this in my closet/dresser?
  • Will I wear this in the next year? How many times? 
  • Is it worth the space in my closet/dresser?
  • Have I worn this in the last year?
  • Does it fit me properly?
  • Would it get more use in another home?
  • Do I know someone who would love this more than I do?
  • What is keeping me from letting this go? 
  • Will this go with at least 3 other outfits I own?
  • How many of this type of clothing item do I want to keep and have space for? Say it's 10... then only keep the best 10.
  • Is it stained? Stretched? In any condition other than excellent? Is it worth repairing?
  • Does wearing this item make me feel good or bad? Light or heavy? Happy or sad?
    Free or constrained?
  • If I were moving tomorrow, would I take it with me?
  • Is this item a vital part of my wardrobe or just clutter?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

ReFocus: Living a Life that Reflects God's Heart - Book Review and Selected Quotes

I enjoyed Jim Daly and Paul Batura's ReFocus: Living a Life that Reflects God's Heart. I bought it at a Barnes and Noble with a gift certificate and will be passing it on to my Mom now that I'm done with it. It was interesting to see a bit inside Jim's mind and good to have many Christian concepts reinforced. I also learned a few things, which is always nice. Below you'll find 16 of the quotes from ReFocus I decided were worth typing up for future reference and worth sharing here. I pray one or more will bless your heart! I have a long way to go before I can say I'm fully living these out but God is working on me and hopefully with each day I'll come closer to where He wants me to be. Each quote starts with the page number from which I derived it.

24 “May the Lord bless and guide your thoughts as we confront one of the greatest tests of our time - the challenge of refocusing our efforts on living in such a way as to invite others to experience the love of Jesus and come to know him as their personal Savior.”

28 “God loves you just as much as He loves me. Do you know that?”

34 “My role... I was a resident of two places, earth and heaven. While on earth, I was to be a good citizen, and in whatever I did, I was to do it joyfully and bring glory to God in the process.

51 “We are not called to be successful; we are called to be faithful. As a famous poet once aptly put it, “Do thy duty, that is best; leave unto thy Lord the rest!” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in The Theologian’s Tale: The Legend Beautiful

72 “The distinguishing mark of a Christian, said the famed British preacher Charles Spurgeon, is their confidence in Christ’s love for them and the offering of their love to Christ. Because Jesus Christ has conquered sin, it’s not up to us to conquer but instead to live in such a way that those within our sphere of influence know that Jesus Christ not only loves us but that He loves them too.”

113 “When was the last time you stopped to ponder in wonder and awe at the promise of life eternal for those who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior?” He quotes the lines of a George Beverly Shea hymn, The Wonder of It All “But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul is the wonder that God loves me.”

137 “If we are going to reclaim the essence of the gospel and change public perception about what it means to be a Christian, it will take a lesson in communication. It will require a willingness to have a conversation... It will mean active and respectful listening. It will involve not only thinking before we speak but also praying before we think.”

143 “The Pharisees consistently wanted to make godliness about what one does. Jesus consistently made it clear that godliness is about why one does what one does. People focus on externals; God focuses on our hearts.” … “We must consistently pause to listen to our Father’s voice... I wonder if it would serve us well if we were to pause when we come to a place of potential conflict, look to our heavenly Father for guidance, and then listen to Him, as well as those across the tracks from us. Too often we lower the crossing gates and sound the alarms, determined to segregate ourselves from the viewpoints of others instead of realizing that neither of us has to be thrown in front of the train.”

143-144 “Our communication about anything related to our faith - and therefore, about everything - must begin with the sound bite of silence. We must be consistently still before God and acknowledge our awe at who He is, what He has done for us through Jesus Christ, and what He continues to do through His Spirit.
146 “God does not want us to become pleasant, passive and accepting of everything as we interact with and speak to the world around us. Nor does He want us to be obnoxious, antagonistic and judgmental. God only asks us to speak His truth from hearts grounded in love. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).

150-151 As followers of Christ we are called to be supermodels - not glamorous stars walking the runways of fashion but flesh and blood men and women walking the streets of daily despair with the good news of God’s love. Our lifestyles, decisions, and actions must exemplify and align with our thoughts, words and beliefs. To live out this authentic faith, we must integrate our minds, our hearts and our actions.”

151 “Our spiritual growth is tied directly to these three - our beliefs about, our awareness of, and our obedience to God.”

169 “My calling is to engage people, to express a biblical perspective on an issue, to show others the love of Jesus, and to trust the outcome to Him.”

172 “By listening to God’s Word first thing in the morning, my perspective is rightly ordered for the remaining hours of the day. It gives me perspective. To the best of my ability, I can try to put God first by disciplining myself to think of His instruction before considering any of the day’s assignments. I like the late Dr. Adrian Rogers’ take on this challenge of prioritization. ‘If I put things between me and Christ, it is idolatry,’ he once stated. ‘If I put Christ between me and things, it is victory!'"
191 “At the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, Jewish parents would typically teach and recite with their child a single prayer at bedtime - Psalm 31:5: ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth.’ I found it interesting that Jesus’ final statement on the cross was the very same prayer parents were saying with their children - only with the word ‘Father’ added to it. This fact prompted theologian William Barclay to observe that ‘Jesus died with a prayer on his lips.’”

198 I thought this was an excellent summary of the book and, appropriately, it was the last sentence of the book: “The Lord wants us to draw nearer to Him and to live lives that reflect His heart, not the ways of the world.”

May God bless Jim Daly, Paul Batura, Focus on the Family and may He bless you too!

Disclaimer: This post is my own opinion and I wasn't asked or paid to write it. I am not affiliated with anyone mentioned in the post except as a voluntary donor.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Kisses From Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption - Book Review

Image source:
When it was first published I read an interview with Katie Davis and was so inspired by that little view into her ministry I knew I'd have to read her book, Kisses From Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption. Katie wrote the book with Beth Clark and the book was amazing. I laughed and cried and was completely humbled by Katie's love for Jesus and His Ugandan children.

Katie's great love is not just in word but in action. She takes in countless children, picks jiggers from their skin, treats them for scabies, cleans their infections and wounds and, for some, shows them the only love they've ever experienced on this earth. This true story is well worth reading. Seeing the world through Katie's eyes made me want to live even more for Jesus.

A weird but welcome result of reading the book for me is that it's made it easier to declutter. I'm blessed with such abundance while there are people on this planet dying for lack of food. My little part is to donate this extra stuff and pray that it will actually be used to help the less fortunate. I thank God for Katie's beautiful heart for Him and for the people He's put in my path to shine His light on me. I pray that I might shine His light on others.

My mother, who has done some short term mission work herself, raved about the book and also enjoyed it. If you read it, I'd love to hear what you think about it too.

May God bless Katie Davis, her Amazima ministries, her precious children and may He bless you too!

Disclaimer: This post is my own opinion and I wasn't asked or paid to write it. I am not affiliated with anyone mentioned in the post except as a voluntary donor.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

How I Decluttered 3 Shelves in 9 Minutes Plus a Decluttering Haiku Poem

Recently I took 9 minutes to declutter the three shelves of this little bookshelf (above). You can see the "before" picture on the left and the "after" picture on the right. It's still not the prettiest part of our house but it's a lot more functional now. Here are the steps I took to get it done:
  1. Remove everything from all 3 shelves
  2. Put things that belong somewhere else in a basket
  3. Clean the shelves and dust anything that needs it
  4. While the shelves dry, sort what is going back into categories (the categories I ended up with that went back on the shelves were gardening, cleaning and pet food; there were also things for the recycling, trash and donation bins)
  5. Label anything you won't remember (in my case this was the sunglasses box on the top shelf in the after picture - this box was present in the before picture but hard to see because of all the clutter)
  6. Put the categorized keepers back in their new homes
  7. Enjoy the newly cleared space!
And, if you've been following along, I also took a photo of the microwave area which is still nice and clean from my previous decluttering session.

Here is my little decluttering haiku poem promised in the title of this post:

Decluttering frees
us to focus on the best.
Simplify to joy
Are you working to unclutter or simplify your home? I'd love to hear about it!

May God bless you!

PS In case you're wondering the Whole Foods bag is what we use for our recycling. Not pretty but I haven't come up with an inexpensive better idea yet. If you have one I'd love to hear it!

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