Thursday, January 31, 2013

What's Making Me Happy Today?

Well, today I am happy because of:

1.  These new rose-print pants!  Slightly crazy and only $10!  Denim, very stretchy, comfy.
p.s. Mom & Dad, thanks again for the fuzzy warm FUSCHIA slippers!  They are my constant companions.

2.  This hummus!  Delicious with sliced cucumbers (or on boring chicken breasts!)

Look!  Made in Minnesota!

And look again!  "Gluten-free" right on the label!  I love to support companies that print it loud and proud.

3.  These shoes.  Perfect with skinny jeans and only $12 (Ross, you are amazing!)

I'm not sure what Allistiar thinks of the shoes . . . he's hard to read sometimes.

The cats also make me happy every day.  Here are some funny things they have done over the last couple of days.

Allistair has been trying to get out to Juvy.

And Stephen has been hunting more mysterious prey!

We found out that Bjarne has hyperthyroidism, which is why he smelled weird and lost a bunch of weight.  We give him a half a pill a day now, and he's started gaining some weight and being slightly less whiny.  He doesn't smell as icky now, either.  Thankfully the pill he gets is not very expensive and he does a pretty good job letting us shove it down his throat.  Poor little fella.  But he's not as sick as we thought!

If you are in Arizona, enjoy the beautiful 70-degree days!  (Though I hope we have a little more winter before it gets hot!)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Camisole Prey

It's been RAINING on and off for FOUR DAYS!  In fact, Greg figured out last night that we have gotten approximately 1/5 of our annual precipitation in just the last four days (though our annual rainfall is only around six inches).  I also discovered that August (monsoon month) is the most rainy month in Chandler, Arizona, and that January and March are almost equal in second place (January slightly rainier than March).  

Chilly, rainy days make the kitties want to snuggle . . . but then, kitties always like sleeping and snuggling!
Allistair's cute widdle nosey

Bjarne all relaxed

Baltazar close-up

Bjarne again

Allistair collapsed

Sometimes Stephen just needs to sit RIGHT ON TOP of someone (in this case, Baltazar!)

When Stephen gets relaxed, he forgets to keep his tongue in his mouth . . . CUTE!

And Baltazar may not be sure about the kittens sometimes, but when a sleepy little Allistair curls up next to him, he doesn't say no.  I like how Baltazar's tail is wrapped around Allistair like a seat belt.

Juildeen came over on Friday, and this week we made smoothies.

When I asked her what we put in the blender, she gave me a surprising answer!

I decided I need more vegetables in my daily rotation, and I started out by having a fruit smoothie that I sneaked spinach into (I didn't tell myself!)  It tasted delicious (like strawberries and bananas), and the spinach added pretty little green flecks to the smoothie.  I'm going to get kale and other green leafy vegetables at the store when I go next and see what else I can sneak in without myself noticing!

Can you see the pretty green flecks?

On to CATS! 

Allistiar loves to play fetch:

Recently he started to squiggle around on the cat stand like this:

And when he does that, Stephen wants to wrestle.

And here is the reason for the title of this post!  Stephen hunted a prey that was a surprise to us!

And he was obviously very proud of himself!  He holds his head high and steps along on his tip-toes!
Take care and keep warm!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tumbleweed Tree

I found this photo from around Christmas time, and I had to post it even though it's a month later because it's completely unique to Chandler, Arizona!  Every December, the City of Chandler makes a huge Christmas tree out of tumbleweeds!  They bring in many many tumbleweeds, hook them all together somehow, paint them white, and put on Christmas lights and a star!  Since this was the first Christmas in Arizona for Greg's Mom, we had to take her to see it (also, it's a mile away from our house - it's hard to miss!)  If anyone wants to make plans to see it next year, let us know!  

Time for kittens!

Stephen has decided that he likes to play fetch, too!  His grandma, Juvy, plays fetch with a mousie; his brother, Allistair, plays fetch with any number of interesting mousies; and Stephen has decided that his toy of choice is a hair bandie!

Attempt #1:

Attempt #2:


What makes our kittens happy?

What makes Baltazar happy?

Off to Bookman's (big awesome used bookstore) to turn in some books and look for some more . . . 

Rainy Day Snuggles + A Clean Closet!

Hello on a gloomy and drizzly day in the desert!  We don't have a huge number of days like this, and it's perfect.  I am at home working (and doing some laundry).  Just me and the cats (who are all snuggled in and sleeping happily).

Yesterday, when it was sunny and 80 (!), all five inside cats gathered together in my office, where I was working, to peek out the window and sniff the warm air. (From left to right: Baltazar, Claude, Stephen, Allistair, Bjarne)

Later, while I was cleaning the closet (old, ill-fitting clothes OUT!), Bjarne settled in on top of the pillows on the bed.

And Stephen settled in on top of Allistair!

Baltazar sat around looking sleepy.

So I mentioned that I cleaned out the closet . . . 
Look how great it looks!

Here's a funny little thing I found in the closet while I was getting dressed this morning:

And while we were at church this week (our new church meets on the campus of a large high school), I saw this sign in the library.  

I wasn't able to meet with Jessica from our new church because her son had a fever this week.  We did talk some more, though.  We love our new church!  We went to a training on Sunday for an amazing way of doing life groups they have developed - I can't wait to try.
Happy Thursday!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Captain Kirk!

Greg and I are going to see William Shatner LIVE tomorrow evening!  He's doing a tour where he does all sorts of stuff . . . I think promoting - um - himself!  Greg bought me his newest book, "Shatner Rules" for Christmas a year ago and I became an even bigger fan.  He's hilarious.  Plus, we are Star Trek geeks.  

If you didn't participte, I am sad to report that you missed the
It started out as a prank in New York City, but now that Phoenix has a light-rail, I guess it happens here, too.  I saw it in the newspaper.  People are weird.  Especially in New York City!

 (Be careful where you open that link - it shows people in their underwear, so it's probably not safe for work.)


Cinnamon Raisin

MMMMmmmmm . . . 
I made cinnamon-raisin bread on Thursday.  I have been looking for a recipe that turns out sort of like my Grandma's cinnamon-raisin bread (which we always called "Grandma bread"), and this is the closest I've come yet!  I had it rest out on top of the oven this time, and it rose a lot more and the texture is even better.

The weather has been warm the last couple of days, so today I'm wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt under my cardigan instead of a long-sleeved one.  We are able to have the windows open in the afternoon because it's into the mid-70s.  Lovely!

SAD:  I'm thankful God provided so many fulfilling and encouraging meetings last week, because this week was less encouraging.  After all the excitement and after feeling extremely valued by the new church we're attending as well as from the meeting I had on Tuesday with the agency downtown, I had a bit of a hiccup when the first church that purchased my curriculum told me they are going to write their own.  They have a very small team (last time I was there, they had five students), and the person who e-mailed said that they are full and not able to accept any more students.  They complained the whole time about the price of lessons ($50/month is dirt cheap!) and she said in the e-mail their group "needs more".  Of course, they only ever chose to use the first nine lessons (the first module) for the last year and a half because they didn't want to spend the money to purchase the next lessons, so of COURSE they are going to want more! 

Now they have a volunteer who said she's willing to write their lessons.  So I have to make sure they know that everything they've been using is copyrighted and all that . . . also, I am an eager-to-please sort of person, so it throws my head into a tizzy.  What I am writing is the best thing out there, it's WORKING for the kids who have been using it as it's meant to be used and it really is GOOD.  In my professional opinion, but also in the minds of people I trust who know what they're talking about.  But sometimes I let my feelings lead me astray and I start thinking, "But what if it's NOT good?!"  Then Cindy stepped in and said, "That is a BIG Satan LIE."  Just what I needed to hear!

I am feeling pretty much back to my normal positive self; the steps forward God has allowed more than compensate for a few hurt feelings.  Also, yesterday was spent on tidying up the newest lesson for delivery on Monday, and I am very proud of it.  It helped me realize all over again that I am not wasting my time on something that's not valuable.

HAPPY:  The woman with whom I've been in discussions at our new church called again this week and said she brought me up in a staff training they were having (incidentally about leadership levels).  They were figuring out how to make sure that leaders share the church's vision and culture, and they're putting together a four-week leadership course for people who are leading other people at level four (see link above): reproducing oneself.  Before that, the team had decided that overall, people should be actively engaged in the church for six months before having the opportunity to lead a team.  This woman (okay, her name is Jessica) said, "But what if someone comes along with a great skill set?!  We need someone like . . . no, not someone like Christie - we need Christie!"  And she got feedback that there wouldn't be a problem having me lead a team as long as I'm involved and committed and available to go through that class.  So she called to clarify what our commitment is to the church and whether we really buy in.  I told her we signed up for Starting Point (getting to know the church and their beliefs and history and all that - though we have been poring over their website for weeks already!) and are taking steps to join a Life Group (small groups of people who are living life together and supporting each other on a more personal level).  After knowing that we are planning to stick around, she is able to advance the cause.

Juildeen and her Grandma, Elaine, came over yesterday afternoon to hang out and bake cookies.  While the cookies (Juildeen requested ginger snaps) were in the oven, Juildeen found a grabber tool and Allistair jumped at it.  She thought that was hilarious ("Allistair in the circus!" and "Allistair is dancing!").  She entertained him and herself for quite some time.

She doesn't like to help the cookies off the spatula when they're still hot, so she shakes the spatula up and down until the cookies fall off.  These cookies were on the tender side, and the ones that were treated that way broke into pieces.  She hung her head dramatically and said, "I'm a bad cook."  Once she tasted the cookies, though, and decided that they were good, I was able to convince her that she is a good cook!

Hope your weekend is a wonderful one!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cactus Cups!

For those of you who don't live in the desert, I try to capture photos of Arizona sights that you probably won't see anywhere else.

Today, I present Exhibit A: Styrofoam cups on cacti!  
Cacti are most likely to freeze on the very tips, so people who have lots of the pointy sort of cacti often put Styrofoam cups over the tips of these cacti to protect them on nights when a "freeze warning" is in effect (like the last week).  Usually it's for more than one night in a row that we have freeze warnings, so the cups stay on during the day to save the labor of taking them off, then putting them back on again.

This place is an air conditioning installation and repair business.  They have a beautiful cactus garden, and it's hilarious with all the cups!

And I had an exciting surprise when I went out to cuddle Juvy a couple of days ago: ICE in the fountain!

It is always (at least always in my experience) above freezing during the daytime, so the ice didn't linger long.  But it was beautiful while it lasted!

Church Update: The woman I've been in discussions with from the church we like e-mailed and said she wasn't able to meet with her HR department yet, but she is very serious about believing there is a place for me there.  She made some very generous and flattering comments and made me feel happy to be appreciated.  After a while of feeling un-valued, it's nice to have other people fighting FOR me rather than against me.

Chirp update:
I had a meeting with a woman from a well-known agency in downtown Phoenix (I try to keep names out of this blog) that provides support and resources to people with behavioral and mental disorders (depression, drug abuse, etc.)  She was given my name by someone at our previous church who has known me for many years.  This woman was interested in finding out more about me and what I do because their agency is thinking of expanding the services they provide and including more resources for children and adults with developmental disabilities (Autism, Down Syndrome, cognitive disability, etc.), but their clinicians don't really know anything about those areas, so they're looking at providing training, which they are considering having me give IF they decide to expand their scope of practice.  

She also wanted to talk about the church consulting and curriculum because her church (in her own words) is "not a fast-growing denomination" and "not relevant" to her community; she thinks one excellent way to become relevant would be to reach out to families that have children with special needs.  She has an adult son who is on the Autism spectrum who functions pretty well, but it increased her concern for how people who DON'T function well get to know Jesus.  She also said kind and generous things about our willingness to move outside our comfort zone to do what we believe we're called to do . . . and she complimented Greg a lot for being a rock and a wonderful support to me.  I couldn't agree more.  I may be a voice for kids with developmental disorders, but Greg is really the voice for ME.  I wouldn't be able to verbalize the "why" of what we're doing without him.

It was interesting that all the people I've been meeting with lately really want to know my "story" - as I share why I'm doing what I'm doing and what Greg & I believe our purpose to be, they buy in completely and become my biggest advocates.  The woman from the downtown agency decided she's going to open discussions with family members who live in different cities to approach their leaders and that she's going to talk with her own church leaders about providing support and spiritual education to kids with special needs and their families (with the help of me and the Chirp Curriculum).  Pretty cool.  Also cool is that she is from a completely different, much more traditional branch of Christianity than I am.  The differences are not in fundamental beliefs, but in practices - how we carry things out.  

It would be really neat if the Chirp method and curriculum were used in all sorts of different Christian denominations to reach kids for Jesus!  (I always do my research before discussions like this, though, because I will only work with churches that practice what I believe to be Biblicial Christianity).

On a completely different, and lighter, note: here is something that has made me extraordinarily happy this week:

New jeans!  I have not really been a jeans person in my adult life, especially with all the hormone trouble that left me with lots of hot flashes and scar tissue in my abdomen, but this year I have run very cold (yay!), and I find myself wanting to put on pants every single day.  And I didn't have very many that were in good shape (I have a few pairs I wear hiking or doing stuff around the house, but I wouldn't feel good about wearing them to meetings or things like that).  So I went shopping and found this pair at GAP - and they have adorable little bubbles painted on them!  :)  And they fit just right.  Yesterday I just had a casual meeting at a coffee shop, so I wore them with gold sneakers (made by Superga).  I felt adorable alllll day long and that's a great feeling!  I may have to invest in another pair if my budget allows it . . . 

Have a happy Thursday!


Saturday, January 12, 2013

BIG Prey!

You may believe that it never gets cold in the desert, but . . . 

It was 31 degrees outside when I checked the temperature this morning!

And I think somehow the dry air makes it feel even colder - or at least CRISPer.  It smelled delicious outside this morning.  Very wintery.  I heard it was some of the coldest weather for the Valley (the Phoenix Metro area) in the last 10 years!  

Our mysterious neighbors were still sitting out on their deck in spite of the chill in the air.

Greg and I spend time and use up our brain cells coming up with theories about why these girls are out on the deck in the wildest of weather and at all times of day.  It's very strange.  We imagine all sorts of shenanigans are going on in that house.  We are pretty sure it's not something as simple as one smokes and the others don't like it because they smoke out on the deck (I am pretty sure I smelled cigars this morning!)

Does their house smell really bad?  Rotten carpet?  Walls covered in black mold?
Do they have claustrophobia and are afraid to stay indoors too long?
Is one roommate involved in an illicit activity and the others are avoiding it?
Do they trade off having over their boyfriends for dates and the other ones have to sit outside?
Does one prefer food that the others find objectionable in smell?
Hmmm . . . any other ideas?

Here are a few things that are making me very happy on these CHILLY days!

#1:  Home-made bread!

I used Pamela's Gluten-Free Bread and Baking Mix and the recipe for white bread on the bag.  The receipe called for the bread to "rest" (gluten-free breads don't really rise during the "rising" part of the recipe; they rise during baking) for one hour and bake for 70 minutes, but I let mine "rest" in my oven, set on "proof" for one hour and then only needed to bake the bread for about 45 minutes.  As you can see, the texture is nice.  It's still denser than non-gluten-free bread, but I am quite proud of it.

The bread did rise quite a bit more than I expected, and it's just as good as the pre-made frozen gluten-free bread (Udi's) I have been buying, if not better.  Also, it didn't take long, didn't require a lot of work or ingredients, and made the house smell delicious while it was baking.  I can also customize this however I want.  I'm already planning jalepenos & cheese and cinnamon & raisin for sure!

One negative to baking my own bread is that I am not able to slice it as thinly as the pre-made breads are sliced, so it may not be as good for grilled cheese sandwiches or other sandwiches that require two pieces of bread.

Perhaps an electric bread slicer would solve this problem?  Not sure.  I will keep experimenting!

I like how the top came out all swirly (because gluten-free bread puffs up a little, but doesn't lose the shape of the dough when it was put in the pan).

#2: New Fleece-Lined Trench Coat!
And when I went to the consignment store last weekend with Cindy, I came across this beautiful red DKNY trench coat.  I had a light summer trench coat already (thanks Mark & Jillian!), but this one has a fleece lining, so it's excellent for our mild Arizona winters.  Over the years I have slowly gathered a brown leather moto jacket, a black leather scuba jacket, a lovely faux-fur cropped jacket (thanks, Dad & Mom!), but I am glad to have another coat in my rotation.  I like that this one is longer, too, because it covers up more on chilly or rainy days.  I love that it doesn't have a belt.  It is fitted, though, so it's flattering.  And the little patch pockets are much more appealing than the pockets on the hip seam.

Lovely button detail (I love the little wrap-around belt on the wrists!)  And look at the snap-style buttons with the red trim!)

Here is the back - nice back pleat and cute little button.  And all for $38!

#3: New Summer Wedges!

I won't be wearing these until spring (okay - for us, that's probably March!), but I found them for a good price at DSW.  Those of you who know me know that I pretty much wear only Born shoes.  At least, anything that has a heel has to be Born.  I do love Superga sneakers, too!  And Minnetonka Moccasins around the house (thanks, Mom, for the Minnetonka slippers keeping my feet warm right this minute)!

I have been on the hunt for wedges for a number of months because I am getting older by the minute, and I spend quite a bit of time on my feet, so wedges are comfier.  These are a fairly low wedge, too.  Hooray for Born - they've done it again!

In case you were feeling kitten-deprived, here is a video for you.

Stephen and Allistair love to hunt new "prey".  Here is a video of Stephen and his amazing find!

And some Juvy photos.  She is adorably round and cuddly like a little tiny bear.  In fact, whenever I see bears on TV, I sort of want to cuddle them.  But Juvy is much better (she doesn't eat my face off!)

When she was at the vet one time, the vet told us that Juvy is actually a "cinnamon" black cat because sometimes there are patches of cinnamon-brown fur on her as well as dark black.  It's very pretty.  She often looks as if she has brown stripes running through her black fur.  If you look closely at the following picture, you can see a cinnamon patch right next to her nose! (near the top of the photo)

Here are a few more snuggly baby photos, too.  It's chilly outside and inside, so they are being extra sleepy and cute!


Look at Baltazar's cute little pink feet!

And when I was browsing online today, Stephen decided to climb on my lap and help!  Such an industrious kitten!

Church Update
Church #3:  PASS!
Once again, we visited two churches last Sunday, though it may be our last weekend doing that
because Church #3 received a passing grade!
We loved it!  Great music, relevant and well-delivered message, theologically sound, friends who are non-believers would feel welcome, nice people, everything done on purpose.  Lovely.

In fact, I knew three of the people on the stage.  All three have been either interns or attenders at our previous church at some point.  Cindy visited with us and gave Church #3 "five stars!"

On our way out, one of the dudes I knew (we'll call him "David," since that's his name) happened to be out front and stopped me to chat and when he found out we are "shopping" for a new church home where we can plug in (= give & serve), he asked if he could introduce me to someone . . . turns out they have been wanting to get a special needs team started but they haven't quite figured out the plan yet - !!!  David had already given my contact info to their Early Childhood Director, and she was planning to get in touch to ask some questions.  So I met their Early Childhood Director on Sunday, and she said she'd be in touch this week, which she was.  We talked for over an hour on Thursday.  It was a phone interview, in spite of the fact that I am not looking for a paid position.  She shares my vision for reaching kids with special needs and their families.  It was great to get such positive feedback (she talked of my "vast expertise and knowledge").    We will be having more discussions about whether this is the place Greg & I belong or if I will be providing consulting support instead.

I will keep you up to date on how things progress.  We're attending there again tomorrow.

Church #4: FAIL
It was a "pretender".  It pretended to be welcoming to all sorts of people, but didn't act like it.  It pretended to be about practical life, but the message definitely wasn't.   We didn't agree with the way the speaker interpreted Scripture.  Didn't like the style of music.  Didn't think the people were welcoming.  Pastor seemed snobby and not in touch with reality.  Obviously someone feels at home there, since it's not a small church, but we didn't.  Good to know!

I am glad we have a good knowledge of what we believe and why, because it would be really hard to choose a good church home otherwise!  

Have a great weekend!  Keep warm and cuddle the people (and animals!) you love.