Valentine’s Cards

We had a lovely Valentine’s Day. We’ve always made it a family day. We’ve tried once or twice going out for dinner, but the restaurants are so crowded it took a long time and wasn’t enjoyable. A few years ago for Valentine’s Day I used the recipe for Li’l Cheddar Meat Loaves but shaped the loaves into hearts, and that has become a tradition. (Note on the recipe: I use oatmeal instead of bread crumbs, only about 1 1/2 Tbs of brown sugar instead of 1/4 cup, and I omit the mustard because it gave it more of a BBQ flavor).

It’s also become a tradition to make heart-shaped cupcakes…


..and peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s heart candies on top.

img_0083I received flowers and candy from my dear husband and cards from him and Timothy.

img_0084Jason and Mittu and Timothy also gave us these cute magnets from Photo Barn.


I’ve also been making my own cards the last few years, and I know some of you like to do the same, so I thought I’d show them to you. I collect card ideas on Pinterest – I have one board for cards and one for Valentine’s Day. So when I have occasion to make a card, I’ll scroll through those for ideas plus the Cricut Design Studio. My generous husband gave me a Cricut Explore a few years ago, which can be hooked up to my laptop. They have “make it and take it” designs, which will allow you to cut the needed elements piece by piece and tell you how to layer them (the computer sends the design straight to the Cricut). Or, if you have an idea of your own, you can search for particular things, like “mug,” and it will show you several designs to choose from and then you can cut them out with the Cricut. So I peruse a lot of these ideas beforehand and see which one seems to “fit” the ones I am making a card for. I seldom copy a design exactly. Some times, like last Christmas, I don’t use the Cricut at all; this time I used it for every card. Of course, many things, like a mug, can be cut out without a machine like this. I can wing it with some things, but not so much with others. 🙂

So here’s what I came up with for this year:

For my husband:


For my oldest son, who lives out of state:


I had planned to put something like “Sending love your way…” on the front, maybe on one of the clouds. But I thought this looked balanced as is, so I put that on the inside.

For Jason, a coffee aficionado:


For Mittu (it’s nice to be able to do one girly one. 🙂 ):


I was particularly excited about this one for Timothy. He likes anything on wheels right now, and I had seen one design with a dump truck with hearts in it that I was planning on using. But when I saw the design for an excavator, I had to use it. He’s very much into excavators right now (and it is so cute to hear him say it) thanks to this guy, and can even name all the parts.


I was thankful to find stick-on letters (for sale half price!) for that one and the next one at Hobby Lobby.

This was Jesse’s. From the time he was very little, he’s always had a bright, happy spirit, so this seemed perfect for him.


And this was for Jim’s mom. My machine had some trouble with the small cuttings – I think maybe I need a new blade, but I didn’t have time to run out for one. There were four hearts layered for this one.


I enjoy making these as my gifts to my family.

All in all we had a great day. 🙂

Growing in Love

From The Greatest Thing in the World by Henry Drummond

A man once [read I Corinthians 13 once a week for three months] and it changed his whole life. Will you do it? It is for the greatest thing in the world. You might begin by reading it every day, especially the verses which describe the perfect character. “Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself.” Get these ingredients into your life. Then everything that you do is eternal. It is worth doing. It is worth giving time to. No man can become a saint in his sleep; and to fulfill the condition required demands a certain amount of prayer and meditation and time, just as improvement in any direction, bodily or mental, requites preparation and care. Address yourselves to that one thing; at any cost have this transcendent character exchanged for yours.


15 Things You Might Not Know About Me

I follow Inspired by Life…and Fiction because I read three of the authors who blog there. Recently they all took turns doing a “10 Things You Might Not Know About Me” post that was really fun, so I thought I’d steal borrow the idea. It’s ok because they confess they stole borrowed it from someone else as well. 🙂 But as I contemplated what to share, I decided to expand it to 15.

So here we go:

1. I think I come across as a mild-mannered, quiet person, so I think people would be surprised to know that I can be really competitive. Not in anything physical or athletic. But if we’re playing a game, I’m not going to trash talk or bluster or be cutthroat about it, but I am going to quietly and stealthily do everything in my power to sneak up behind you and WIN! (Bwahahaha!)

2. I’ve spent my whole life in the Southeast: I grew up in southern Texas and spent most of my adult life in SC, but I don’t have a Texan or Southern accent.

3. When I get really tired, I get either weepy or giggly.

4. I don’t like for anyone to touch my feet. I can’t stand the thought of a foot massage or pedicure. And don’t even THINK about tickling. 🙂

5. I made a D in my college Food Prep class – and I was a Home Economics Education major. That was quite a blow. Failing at any other subject is one thing, though that would sting, too (#1 applied to academics as well, and I had been an A student all through high school), but failing at food preparation was another. I felt like I was failing at being a woman. I had been cooking since my teens, and my family seems to like my cooking and no one has died from it in all these years. But I did not know how to manage my time well in college, so trying to get everything done on time (and failing to do so and getting lower grades because of it) was a major stressor. Looking back, I was taking more hours per semester than any of my kids did when they were in college plus working part-time. Why did I do that?! I wonder if colleges now have reduced their requirements or if that particular major just required more. I could do better at that part of college life now, but I think there would be other stressors at this stage. 🙂 I couldn’t count that class toward my major requirements, so I took Advanced Child Care to replace the credit, which I think was a big help to me in the long run.

6. I originally wanted to major in English but talked myself out of it, because what can you do with an English major besides teach? Sigh. If I could only go back and talk to my teenage self about that now. With my interest writing now, that would have been a big help. But I saw that most of my female classmates did not go on to college, so I reasoned that Home Ec. would be practical thing to teach. I had thought it would center on…well…home. But I never felt like I fit in to the “professional home economist” role portrayed in college, and yet I never felt the freedom of conscience to change. My husband and I talked about this a lot when we first married and concluded that, no, I wasn’t a failure and didn’t miss God’s will in college. Several of my classes were home, marriage, and child care classes, in a Christian college, so I was taught a lot there that I needed and would have missed in another major. So even though a lot of what learned in college didn’t show up in my grades, it did sink in. (And after all of that, when I graduated, the last thing I wanted to do was teach high school. 🙂 But I think my education classes did benefit me in teaching my children and in general people skills).

7. I don’t spring clean. The thought is overwhelming. I’ve always disliked the idea of having to turn the whole house inside out cleaning just because the calendar says it’s spring. I tend to take care of things as I notice they need attention, whether it’s removing stray cobwebs or cleaning out a closet, so I think I get around to everything eventually. As I was contemplating this post, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to admit this, I was encouraged by Dianna’s post and her quote from Laura Ingalls Wilder. So I am in good company and don’t feel guilty any more. 🙂

8. I secretly would have loved to have been on one of those makeover shows that used to be on. Well, maybe not be on a show, but I would really love for someone to show me how to do makeup, what hair style and clothes would look best on me, etc. I’ve only worn mascara (because I feel like my eyes look half closed without it), and because when I was younger, my natural complexion looked ok (my cheeks always looked like they had a little blush on them – I always figured, why cover all that up and put artificial blush on?) But as I got older, the complexion got more splotchy and too red in places, so it would be nice to know how to look “made up” yet natural. Whenever I have tried it on my own, though, it hasn’t looked right. Plus I have never been completely satisfied with my hair, at least since high school. I’d like for it to have a little bit of a wave to it. In its natural state, it’s straight as a board except the ends, which look like an old straw broom. I’ve never been able to figure out how to put it up attractively. It slithers out of pins and combs and usually has ends sticking out every which way. Even though the “messy bun” is stylish now, I just can’t stand it on myself.

9. I don’t like flavored coffees. I don’t know why – if I did that would give me more of a variety of warm things to drink in the winter. But I guess it saves me a lot of money at coffee places. 🙂

10. Scented candles, soaps, lotions, etc. give me a headache.

11. I am sorry to say I have horrible handwriting and it’s only gotten worse as I write less. My first bad report card grade was in handwriting in 3rd grade. When I was in first grade, I was in a classroom with 1st and 2nd grades combined. I wanted to do what the second graders did (see #1 again), and was trying cursive as they were learning it. When the teacher noticed, I was sorely chastised and told I was not to learn that yet. So I blame my bad handwriting on being traumatized by that experience. 🙂 But that probably had nothing to do with it.

12. I am the oldest of six. We’re spread out across 17 years, five girls and one boy, poor guy.

Me as a teenager with my youngest sister

13. I don’t travel well, mainly due to IBS, but even before developing that, I just always felt yucky traveling. I wish someone would hurry up and develop that Star Trek transporter. 🙂

14. I once dated a mannequin. Or rather, a real guy who worked as a fake mannequin. There was a newspaper article on him around that time where he said the hardest part was not responding to people, especially when they tried to make him laugh.

15. My husband was once in a magazine ad for the company where he was employed at the time. His boss was supposed to be, but they couldn’t find him when the photographer was ready to shoot, and Jim was there, so he was asked. I know we have a copy of it here somewhere – if I knew where it was, I’d scan it in, but I think it used this photograph or one like it:

Isn’t he cute? 🙂 I know this is technically about him and not me, but we are one, right?

And there you have much more about me than I am sure you ever wanted to know. 🙂 How about you? What about you might others be surprised to know?




Laudable Linkage


A lot of my blog friends and a family member or two are experiencing a lot of snow this week. A perfect time to get cozy and read some edifying material. 🙂 Here are a few thought-provoking reads that caught my eye the past week or two:

Are You Not Ready to Worship? HT to Challies. “A worship leader who’s aware that his/her congregation is most likely filled with people who aren’t exactly fired up and ready for…. epic worship…will present a congregation with the gloriously good news of a great and faithful God, a gracious Redeemer, and a generously outpoured Holy Spirit, instead of a guilt-inducing pressure to hype something up that isn’t there to begin with.” Yes. I hate to hear people being scolding for how they are singing or what they look like while singing – that’s not particularly worship-inducing.

Christian Life Beyond the Quiet Time.

Photobombing Jesus: Confessions of a Glory Thief, HT to Challies.

Five Tests of False Doctrine.

Theonomy, or “a movement that teaches the earthwide rule of God through the reinstitution of the Law of Moses for every nation.” Why people promote this and what’s wrong with the idea.

If Abortion Was About Women’s Rights, What Were Mine? From an abortion survivor.

9 Things Your Kids Need (But Won’t Tell You)

On love and marriage:

If You’re Looking for Romance, It’s Probably Right in Front of You.

One Hour in a Restaurant Doesn’t Make a Good Marriage.

On politics and social media:

7 Questions to Ask Before Posting About Politics on Social Media

7 Ways to Do Political Punditry Wrong in a Polarized World

And lastly, I debated about this one lest it sound like I thought yelling at God was ok. But if you think of it more like an anguished prayer, I think many could commiserate with this little boy:

Thankfully it’s not too cold where we are, and next week doesn’t look too bad except for some cool nights. But I am ready to see spring!

Have a great weekend!



Friday’s Fave Five


friday fave five 12
It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

Wow, another week has flown by quickly. I’m thankful for an opportunity to sit down and reflect and appreciate the best parts of it.

1. Good news from Timothy’s cardiologist. When Timothy was born about ten weeks premature, he had a little hole in his heart that normally closes up before babies are born. It caused a heart murmur, and his parents have had to take him him to have it checked out occasionally. They just had an appointment this week, and the echocardiogram showed it had closed up completely. No more visits to the cardiologist or concerns about heart issues!

2. Comfort. When they tried to start the echocardiogram, Timothy got so upset that the technician went to tell the doctor that they weren’t going to be able to do it. His parents held and comforted him and gave him something to drink, and then asked him if he wanted to go to Grandma’s house later. They said that seemed to calm him down, and when the technician came back in, she was able to complete the test. Though probably all of the comfort measures contributed to calming him, it touched my heart to think that the thought of going to Grandma’s helped. I hope he will always regard Grandma’s house that way.

3. Spending gift cards. I had received a couple of gift cards to Amazon for Christmas and enjoyed spending them this week. A couple of items had been in the back of my mind for a while, and it suddenly clicked that I could use the cards for them.

4. Two nights off from cooking. Jason and Mittu brought take-out Mexican food over on Friday night. Then Saturday, Jim was over at their house and saw that while they were working on painting their kitchen cabinets, everything in the cabinets was out on the counters and table. It’s hard to cook while a project like that is going on, so he offered for them to come over and he went out to get take-out Chinese food.

5. Unexpected words of encouragement. A friend send me a sweet note this week that was a big encouragement to me.

6. Bonus: Acetaminophen. I’ve been having some muscle spasms in my back this week, and I am glad that helps.

Happy Friday! Hope you have a good weekend and stay warm!

Book Review: Twelve Years a Slave

12-years-a-slaveSolomon Northup was a free black man living in New York in the early 1800s. His father had been a slave and was freed, and his mother was free. His father became a farmer, eventually owned his own land, had the right to vote, and educated his children. Solomon married Anne Hampton and they had three children. Anne was a noted cook and worked for different hotels and taverns. Solomon was a professional violinist, but the inconsistency of his opportunities to play led him to supplement his income by a variety of other jobs, often carpentry.

When he was 32, he met a couple of men who said they were circus performers on their way back to Washington, D.C. They planned to give several performances along the way and asked him to come with them and play his violin. Anne was away and he thought he would be home soon, so he didn’t notify her. Slavery was legal in Washington, so they advised him along the way to obtain papers declaring his freedom.

One afternoon after the group stopped in a saloon he became terribly ill. He went back to his hotel room in not a very good state (probably drugged). “The memory of that night of horrible suffering will follow me to the grave,” he later wrote. During the night some men came to his room and said they were taking him to a doctor. On the way he became “insensible” for an unknown period of time, and “when consciousness returned, I found myself alone, in utter darkness, and in chains.” His papers and everything else were gone.

He later discovered he was in a slave pen within sight of the US Capitol building. When someone finally came into his cell and he protested that he was a free man, he was severely beaten.

He was eventually taken to Louisiana, his name was changed to Platt and those holding him said he was from GA. He was bought for $1,000 by a farmer named Ford who later became a preacher.

In many northern minds, perhaps, the idea of a man holding his brother man in servitude, and the traffic in human flesh, may seem altogether incompatible with their conceptions of a moral or religious life. From descriptions of such men as Burch and Freeman [those who sold him], and others hereinafter mentioned, they are led to despise and execrate the whole class of slaveholders, indiscriminately. But I was sometime his slave, and had an opportunity of learning well his character and disposition, and it is but simple justice to him when I say, in my opinion, there never was a more kind, noble, candid, Christian man than William Ford. The influences and associations that had always surrounded him, blinded him to the inherent wrong at the bottom of the system of slavery. He never doubted the moral right of one man holding another in subjection. Looking through the same medium with his fathers before him, he saw things in the same light. Brought up under other circumstances and other influences, his notions would undoubtedly have been different. Nevertheless, he was a model master, walking uprightly, according to the light of his understanding, and fortunate was the slave who came to his possession.

This, especially the parts I highlighted, helped me in understanding why a professing Christian could ever hold a slave. Someone once said that though the Bible doesn’t expressly forbid slavery, applying Jesus’ admonition to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” would nip it in the bud. I don’t know why it took Christians so long to realize this.

Ford and Northup had a good working relationship. The latter was able to use his carpentry skills in a variety of ways and knew he was appreciated. Ford took time to instruct his slaves spiritually. But when he came into debt, he had to sell several of them, Northup included.

After his severe beating for maintaining his freedom, Northup kept quiet about it, and with his name change, it was impossible for anyone he knew in his previous life to find him. The next two masters he was sold to were cruel and unreasonable. He was beaten, unjustly charged, worked to exhaustion for the majority of his time in slavery.One of his masters taught slaves Scripture as well, but took passages about slaves out of context and misused them to justify his beating of them.

Finally when his master had a visitor, Bass, who argued with him about the justice of slavery, Northup took a huge chance to talk with him privately to ask if he would send a letter in his behalf to friends in NY who might be able to advocate for his freedom. It’s amazing that the letter got where it needed to go and then that those who worked to liberate Northup found him, as Bass had not signed his name (fearing repercussions) and Norhthup’s name had been changed. A whole series of seeming coincidences (or, as I prefer, signs of God’s providence) worked together, and the scene where Northup realizes who the men are who have come for him is priceless.

Along with telling his own tale, Northup tells of several others he encountered along the way. Slave women had  a particularly hard time of it: when the master made sexual advances toward them, they could not refuse, at least not without beatings; when the master’s wife knew of it, then she was jealous and dished out her own punishment. One such woman with two children was sold with him: her master’s wife sold her and her children when the master was out of town, and the scene of her separation from her children was heart-wrenching (one was sold to someone else; the seller just out of spite  would not let Ford buy her child). She was ever after a broken woman.

He also writes of moral dilemmas he found himself in. At one time he was “promoted” to a driver, and part of his responsibility was to whip other slaves who were not performing up to par. “If Epps was present, I dared not show any lenity, not having the Christian fortitude of a certain well-known Uncle Tom sufficiently to brave his wrath by refusing to perform the office.” Instead, he got proficient with the whip to make it look like he was beating them, yet not letting it actually touch them, and they writhed as if beaten. Another time he secretly obtained paper, made ink, and wrote a letter to friends up North, and took a chance by asking someone to send it. But that someone told his master, though he didn’t give a name. His master confronted him, and he knew it would mean a beating, if not death, to have been found out. He asked how he could write a letter with no supplies and suggested that the man, who had been working temporarily for Epps, was trying to scare him with the thought of runaway slaves so Epps would hire him as an overseer. Epps believed him.

One of the conversations Bass had with Northup’s last owner was the following:

These n…. are human beings. If they don’t know as much as their masters, whose fault is it? They are not allowed to know anything. You have books and papers, and can go where you please, and gather intelligence in a thousand ways. But your slaves have no privileges. You’d whip one of them if caught reading a book. They are held in bondage, generation after generation, deprived of mental improvement, and who can expect them to possess much knowledge? If they are not brought down to a level with the brute creation, you slaveholders will never be blamed for it. If they are baboons, or stand no higher in the scale of intelligence than such animals, you and men like you will have to answer for it. There’s a sin, a fearful sin, resting on this nation, that will not go unpunished forever. There will be a reckoning yet—yes, Epps, there’s a day coming that will burn as an oven. It may be sooner or it may be later, but it’s a coming as sure as the Lord is just.

Later he asks, “What difference is there in the color of a soul?” Indeed.

After he was united with his family, Northup wrote of his experience in 12 Years a Slave  The book ends fairly soon after his reunion with his family, and afterward, according to Wikipedia he worked “again as a carpenter. He became active in the abolitionist movement and lectured on slavery.” He was uniquely gifted and qualified to write this book and shed light on a horrible institution and give voice to others who could not share theirs.

In the “enhanced edition” of the book, which is supplemented by the research of Dr. Sue Eakin, she writes, “In 1853, Solomon’s autobiography brought immediate reaction from New York newspapers, and his first-hand account was perceived as validation of Stowe’s portrayal of Southern slavery. Twelve Years A Slave was published less than a year after Stowe’s spectacularly successful fiction.” Her own story of discovering the book as a child and then spending decades of her life researching it is pretty interesting as well.

I listened to the audiobook based on Eakin’s version very ably read by Louis Gossett, Jr. and read parts in the Kindle version as well.

Genre: Classic non-fiction
My rating: 10 out of 10

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)


Book Review: The Tidewater Sisters

tidewaterThe Tidewater Sisters by Lisa Wingate is a sequel novella to The Prayer Box. At the end of the latter, sisters Tandi Jo and Gina had had a confrontation and parted ways in opposite directions figuratively.

In this new book, Tandi is busy getting the Poole house ready to become a museum as well as planning her upcoming wedding. Right in the throes of all of that she receives notice that she is being sued for fraud connected with a piece of real estate — real estate that she doesn’t even own.

Suspecting that Gina is behind it, Tandi Jo takes an unplanned trip to the Tidewater area of NC to see what’s going on. She confronts several elements of her past: her grandparents’ home, her old boyfriend, and old family secrets. She also discovers secrets that Gina has kept from her for years and tries to unravel the legal situation. How will the impact of all of that affect her future?

As this is a very short book, there is not much else to say without revealing too much of the plot. I enjoyed Lisa’s writing here, the humor tucked in places and the pathos in others. I also appreciated, if I can say this without spoiling anything, that though the sisters do eventually come to an understanding, Gina does not have her “come to Jesus” moment here. Some authors would have resolved things in that way. While I like to think that everyone, even in fiction, is a candidate for redemption, and would hope that Gina would come around eventually, realistically in life sometimes you just have to let people be who they are and move on. As Tandi says in the book, “Eventually, you must stop running to something or from something and embrace where you are. Otherwise you’ll never embrace anything.” As one line in the old hymn says, “Though none go with me, still I must follow.”

The only thing I didn’t like is that the book ended at what the Kindle app said was the 62% mark. With so much left in the book, I wasn’t expecting the story to wrap up yet, so I was surprised and disappointed and just not ready for the end. Even though the main issue was resolved, I was expecting to see the wedding. 🙂 The rest of the content is lengthy excerpts from three of Lisa’s other books, two of which I had already read and one I have on hand and didn’t want to read a preview of yet.

But overall, it’s a very enjoyable read.

Genre: Christian fiction
Potential objectionable elements: None

My rating: 9 out of 10

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)