Saturday, July 31, 2010

Explorations: Armstrong Folk Festival

Last year, we did not get to attend the Fort Armstrong Folk Festival, because we spent that weekend, as well as the next weekend, moving in to our house.  So I was bound and determined to go this year.  The Festival stretches through Riverfront Park, and part of Water Street is shut down, so that people can mill about.  Given the size of our town, and the limited parking opportunities, we decided to just walk down, and of course, we took the dog.  As you can see, it was a beautiful evening.

The Festival is an interesting blend of craft/artisan booths, food booths, and some entertainment.  One of the first vendors we stopped at was a man who made amazing wood sculptures and furniture.

As a woman, I am always looking for cute crafty items to make our home pretty.  There were plenty of vendors who specialized in door hangings, yard accessories, and other crafty items.  Prices seemed pretty reasonable.
We actually saw about 3 booths specifically devoted to pet items or items for pet lovers.

Dexter loved that of course.  He also loved the fact that there were quite a few other doggies there, and he made fast friends with a cute little black doxie named Lucy.

Several of the artisans were there working on projects for the crowd to see.  I saw a glass artisan working on handmade glass beads.  It was pretty fascinating.

A lot of the local organizations, such as churches, the Elks, and the firemen, had set up various food booths, usually selling standard festival food like funnel cake, fries, and burgers, or local favorites, like fish sandwiches, ham barbecue, and haluski.  There were outside vendors selling more "exotic" foods like falafel, gyros, and paella of all things.  But the booth that tempted me the most (though not enough to give up any Weight Watchers points) was the booth selling roasted, candied nuts.  The smell was so amazingly tantalizing, it wafted throughout the festival.  And I just love that a Burgh based nut company named themselves Yinz R Nuts
While this is not the kind of festival that has rides, there were a few little games for the kids.  But honestly, we saw tons of children there, and they all seemed pretty entertained with the festival itself (not to mention obsessed with petting our dog).
Another big part of the Festival is History.  There are usually historical speakers or reenactments during the Festival weekend.  Because Kittanning was a site of battle in the French and Indian War, there are usually actors who will portray some part of that battle.  Also, there are Civil War reenactors that attend each year, and we got to see some.
There were also so botanical displays, and it looked as if there had been some botanical additions to the park's flowerbeds.


As we walked, we got to hear two very different forms of ethnic entertainment.  First, we heard a Polka band played, which made me feel right at home.  Then as we walked on we heard a man performing Celtic music, by which Hubby was more impresse

So, as you can see, the Fort Armstrong Folk Festival really does have quite a lot to offer.  Walking through the Festival grounds, I was a bit amazed at how transformed this little section of town looked. 

So, if you are in the Kittanning area, take some time to visit our humble little Festival.  It is one of the many things that makes this small town shine.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Word Filled Wednesdays: Cheerful Heart

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps
a person’s strength."
Proverbs 17:22 (NLT)

What does it mean to have a cheerful heart?  Does it mean we smile and pretend we have no problems?  Or does it mean that we take the situation we are given, and try to see the positives in it, to make the best of it.

I am going to let you in on a little secret.  Everyone has problems.  Sometimes, those problems are trivial, like a run in a new pair of pantyhose.  Sometimes, the problems are serious, like illness, or job uncertainty.  But, I strongly believe that, in the midst of any problem, one can have a cheerful heart, which can provide comfort during one's trials.

People, in my opinion, misunderstand cheerfulness in the midst of problems.  A cheerful person is sometimes viewed as being weak, or naive, not fully grasping the gravity of the situation.  Perhaps, for some people, that is the case, but for many, many other people, this cheerfulness comes from knowing that the Lord is in control.  We rest assured that in all things, God is at work.  Even the toughest of situations has the ability to provide goodness and blessings.  It is difficult to keep that in mind when in the midst of a tragedy, but in all things we should thank the Lord. 

One of my biggest pet peeves for years was traffic.  Living in Pittsburgh, the land of bridges and tunnels, I encountered traffic daily.  I used to sit in a line of cars each morning, inching toward the Fort Pitt tunnel entrance.  It made me so cranky.  Then, one day, I decided to thank God for the traffic.  I prayed for all the people during their morning commutes, and I thanked Him, trusting that this traffic served a purpose.  Perhaps it was saving me from being in an accident, perhaps it was setting the timing for my path to cross with another person's.  It is not my job to ask why, it is just my job to say thank you.  Once I adopted this attitude toward my morning traffic, and allowed my heart to be cheerful, my days were much happier. 

I know this is kind of a tongue in cheek example, but the message is the important part.  Re-read the scripture that started this post.  Pay attention to the part that says a broken spirit saps a person's strength.  Does that sound like the kind of person you want to be?  Probably not.  Oh, do not get me wrong, I know plenty of people laugh at my expense, or get angry at my cheerfulness.  I will never understand that really, people getting angry at me just for being happy.  Don't they know they have the same power to be happy? 

A good friend of mine has a name for people who want to be unhappy- basement people.  It is a term she got from her mom.  Life is like a house, and some people want to sit in the basement, where it is dark, and dank, and wallow in their misery.  The thing is, these kind have people have every opportunity to climb those stairs out of their misery, and come up into the light and happiness.  They choose not to.

As for me, I choose happiness, and to have a cheerful heart.  For that, I will never apologize.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Grocery Store Epiphany

As you may remember from last week, I am on a path intended to help me lose weight and improve my overall health.  I am pleased to announce that I lost another 3.8 pounds since last Monday!  I really think this is going to work for me, because not only do I have amazing support from Hubby, my family, and my friends, I am able to eat whatever I want, I just have to face the consequences of it.  For example, tonight, I want pizza so so so bad.  And I could easily, without guilt, order pizza for our dinner.  The consequences of that would be that, first off, I would use a ton of WW points on, lets be honest here, more than one slice of pizza.  Secondly, I would feel disgusting afterward; I would be sluggish from processed carbs, and my tummy would not be happy about all that grease.  So, instead, I am making zucchini mini pizzas for dinner.  You take sliced zucchini, put a little olive oil on both sides, and broil each side for 2-4 minutes.  Then top with a little pizza sauce, 2% mozzarella, and on Hubby's I am including some mini pepperoni.  Broil again until cheese melts, but do not let it get brown.  Voila, a pizza dinner that will amount to 3 points.  3 tiny little points.  The consequence of my choice will be using less points and feeling better.  And, if I want a snack later, I will have the points left to do so (I have tons of healthy low point snacks on hand as well.)

In the grocery store today, I had a bit of an epiphany.  It is no wonder that we, as Americans, myself included, have so many weight problems.  We have, in our grocery stores, an entire aisle dedicated to potato chips.  We have another aisle dedicated to sugary sodas.  That is probably 2 or 3 times the amount of space we have dedicated to fresh fruits and vegetables.  And even foods that we think are healthy, when eaten in the gargantuan portions Americans are used to, are not healthy at all.  We go out to restaurants and think, I will be healthy, and get a salad.  Well, let's be honest here, when it is laden with fried chicken strips, cheese, french fries, and fat filled dressing, a salad is no longer a health food.

It is funny, but just two weeks into my plan to restructure my eating habits, and already, food tastes better to me.  I have been eating better than I have eaten in years.  The fact that it is summertime, and we can go to the Farmers Market for fresh produce, and cook a lot of things on our grill, well, that is really helping.  I am hoping that my new habits will be so ingrained that come those chilly autumnal days, I will long to cook squash and vegetable soup, instead of wanting steak hoagies and french fries.

As I walked around the grocery store, really thinking about the kind of relationship I had with food, versus the kind of relationship I wanted to have with food, I saw real improvements in my thinking and choices.  Foods that were staples due to their convenience were no longer in my cart.  The items in my cart were instead being chosen based on nutritional value and satiety.  And, I do not deny myself.  I know my weakness is sweets.  So, anyone looking in my cart today was going to see sweets.  But instead of Hershey bars, they were Weight Watcher candies, and instead of Ben and Jerry's, it was Skinny Cow ice cream products.

I left the store feeling energized, and for the first time in a long time, grocery shopping did not make me hungry.  I really think this is going to work for me.  At least, I really hope so.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It is official...

Well friends, you have been seeing all these crafty things I post from time to time, right?  After much encouragement from Hubby and some supportive friends, I have officially opened my own Etsy shop.

For those of you not familiar with Etsy, it is an online marketplace where people can sell handmade items, vintage items, and crafting supplies.  A lot of artistic and talented people are on Etsy.  And now, I am there too!

My shop name is A Frame of Mind, because I mostly specialize in decorated picture frames, but also will be doing custom made plaques and some wall hangings.

If you or anyone you know is in need of a unique gift, visit my shop, and if you would like something custom made, just let me know, as I am most definitely open to doing custom orders.

Here is a sampling of some of my frames:

So, stop on in, and visit the shop often, as I will constantly be adding new merchandise!  Tell all your friends to visit A Frame of Mind!

Thank you friends, for all your support!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Unexpected Crafting

Today, we were supposed to paint the front porch.  Mother Nature had other ideas.  Hubby got about half way done, and it started to rain.  And not just sprinkle, I mean really rain.  So of course, that project was out.

I was up in our spare room talking to Hubby, when I spied this wooden H that Hubby has sitting on the bookshelf.  Knowing he would never really do much with it, I decided to take it upon myself to be creative.

The H looked like it had been stained and/or varnished, as the front had a shiny finish to it.
I decided the first thing I would do was rough it up a little and remove some of the varnished finish with some sandpaper.  I sanded it all over, but did not worry about it being completely even, as I wanted it to have a rough, aged look to it.

The next thing I did was use a small amount of turquoise colored craft paint, and a sponge brush, and painted all over the H, making sure to get all the edges.  I did not use enough paint to completely cover it, just enough to let the paint get into the roughened wood.

After the paint was dry, I used some scrapbook paper, and cut out part of the design on the paper.  I glued the pieces to the H using a thin layer of Mod Podge.  After letting it dry for a few moments, I then put a generous layer of Mod Podge over the entire H, to seal it and give it a glossy finish.

Now I have a lovely monogram to hang in our home.  Not too shabby for some unexpected crafting!

Soap Opera

When I was a little girl, my grandmother lived across the street from us, on what had been the family farm.  Not a farm for profit, a farm that provided food for the family.  I loved running around on the property, and playing in the old barn, and I always told my gram that someday, I was going to live on the farm, and raise chickens and pigs, and make my own soap.

Well, I do not live on the farm.  My parents actually inherited the property, and have been working hard to make improvements to the house and yard.  It does not even look like a farm at all anymore, except the old barn still stands.  And there are no chickens and pigs, either at their house or mine.  But the one thing I made good on was the soap.  I have made my own soap.  Specifically, laundry soap.

Nothing revolutionary here, people have been doing this for a while.  I am pretty sure the whole idea was made very popular by the Duggar family.  It really can save money, and the soap does clean your clothes beautifully.  You can make either liquid or powder.  I choose to make powder, because I find it easier to both make and use. 

I was able to find all the ingredients at a local grocery store.  The cost was about 7 dollars, and two of the ingredients have enough to make 5-6 batches of laundry soap.

You start off with a bar of Fels Natha  soap.

You unwrap it, and, using a cheese grater, you crate the bar.  Since I am making powdered soap, I simply grate it right into the Glad container that I will be storing the soap in.  Grate the entire bar, so that it is in very fine shavings.

Next, you need 1 cup of washing soda.  I use Arm and Hammer.  Please make sure you use washing soda, and NOT baking soda.  They are different chemically, and the washing soda is necessary to insure the powder is able to get out stains.
After I measure 1 cup of washing soda, I dump it into the container, on top of the grated soap.
Finally, we are ready to add the final ingredient- Borax.
Once again, 1 cup or Borax is measured out, and you dump into the container with the other ingredients.

Now, you place the lid securely on the container, and shake it up to mix.  I also used a measuring spoon to mix up the ingredients, to make sure it is fully blended.
Now, we are ready to use it!

For large or heavily spoiled loads, you will want to use 2 tablespoons, but for small or normally soiled loads, 1 tablespoon is enough. 
Add to your empty washer, then start the washer so that it fills with water.  As the water fills the washer, add your clothes.  Then you are done!

This is probably enough powder to do 40 loads of laundry, no joke.  The first time I made laundry soap was in November.  We just ran out last week.  And our clothes are always clean and fresh.  I think someone once calculated that each load costs something like 4 cents by using this home made laundry soap.  Not sure if that is accurate, but I do know that this is even cheaper than buying soap in bulk at Sam's Club.

If any of you have other recipes for soap, or have made other things like this that save money, let me know.  I love learning about these kinds of things!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Team Hubby

Sigh. I have been debating whether or not I should write this since I left the theater last night. I know I run the risk of invoking the wrath of millions of teenage girls and housewives everywhere. Let me start by saying, I do not hate Twilight. I am not anti-Twilight. I simply do not get it.

Last night, I convinced Hubby to go see Eclipse.  Midway through the movie, I had a lengthy text conversation with a friend who was having a mini crisis about wedding planning.  I was not being rude, as I was in the back, and the theater was almost empty.  Also, I was bored out of my mind.  

I really tried to like the whole Twilight phenomenon.  I really really did.  I read the first book, and it was ok, good enough to get me to read the second.  I stopped after the second one.  I just could not get into all that angst and brooding.  Then we went to saw the first movie.  Again, just not that into it, but still, we watched New Moon.  And we actually sort of liked it.  Enough that I could convince Hubby to go to a late showing of Eclipse last night.  But we both were so bored until about 20 minutes before the movie was over.

I guess I can see the appeal for some women, but for me personally, I just do not get it.  I will never be Team Edward OR Team Jacob.  Because I am Team Hubby.  My Hubby may not sparkle (thank God) and his clothes do not explode off of his body (most of the time) but he is everything that I could ever need or want in to way of love, romance, tenderness, and sex appeal.

Women swoon over Edward, and his pain filled love of Bella.  But Hubby, he is what makes me swoon.  He loves me and supports my choices, and encourages me to grow as a person.  He makes me laugh, he teaches me new things, and he loves me just as I am.  Also, his initial attraction to me had nothing to do with him wanting to suck my blood and kill me, so, bonus points for that.

So all this talk about lions and lambs, well, I am not going to criticize it, or make fun of it.  To each his, or her, own.  What ever makes you happy, I say, enjoy it.

But I could care less whether the lion fell in love with the lamb.  I am more interested in the political nerd falling in love with the book geek.

I am TEAM HUBBY.  All the way.

team hubby

Glitter Graphics

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad

Today is my Mommy and Daddy's wedding anniversary.  Since I do not live in the same area as them, and would not be able to go visit them for their anniversary, I decided Hubby and I would make up a little anniversary gift care package and send it to them.  The theme was Date Night: Dinner and a Movie.

This is the note I put in the box:
"Date night: Inside this box, you will find everything needed for a romantic dinner and a movie date night.  The only thing missing is you.  So cook up this healthy meal, including dessert, then dim the lights and enjoy the movie.  Happy Anniversary!  Have fun on your date!  Love, Tiffany and Stephen".

Then the box contained the following items with little notes:
"Whole grain pasta for your dinner!  Healthy and delicious enough to make you say Mama Mia!"

I wrapped the sauce up to make sure it did not get broken.  "Every pasta dish should be accompanies with a rich sauce.  So let's get SAUCY".

"After a healthy dinner, you deserve a little dessert.  Only 2 points!"

The movies Valentine's Day and Did You Hear About the Morgans. "A romantic comedy double feature.  Dim the lights, snuggle up, and smooch during the mushy parts".

"Can't have a movie date without popcorn!  This is a healthy, low point version too!"

"Movie Candy! (to munch and share)"

Dark chocolate Hershey kisses.  "Every good date...needs a few kisses".

When they got the package in the mail, they called me to let me know how much they loved it.  It was fun to put together, and I loved doing something a little different for them!  I hope they spend tonight having their date, and knowing how grateful I am that they are my parents!

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Present for Hubby

Today, my friend J and I were out shopping at an evil craft store which induces me to buy things no matter how hard I resist, otherwise know and Michaels.  I was certain I would not buy anything, but then I remembered they had pictures that would look great in our bathroom when we redo it, and it was all downhill from there.

Suddenly, J spies this little wooden squiggle dog intended for kids to paint.  It was, of course, a dachshund.  I immediately decided to buy it and paint it to look like Dexter, for Hubby to take to work and sit on his desk to make him think of our puppy.

So, I brought it home, and I painted it.  I tried to be as realistic as possible, to the point where the wooden dog has a dappled left ear and a solid right ear, just like Dex.  Here was the end result:

I am pretty proud of how it turned out.  I showed it to Dexter, and he was confused.  He tried to carry it around in his mouth, until I finally told him it was to look at, not to touch...
Don't worry buddy, we are not trying to replace you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It Made My Day- Whiteboard

When Hubby and I first moved in, we got a white board to hang in the kitchen.  That way, we could jot down important reminders, grocery lists, and notes for each other in a place where both could easily see it.  It is hard to miss the white board, because of the way our kitchen is designed.  Over the months, we have gotten into the habit of leaving little drawings and things for each other on it, just to be silly.  But lately, because we are usually home at the same time, and almost always in the same room, the white board has been blank, with the exception of Dex's heartworm pill reminder.

This morning, I slept in.  I was up late reading and writing last night, so in some ways I am not surprised.  I woke up momentarily to kiss Hubby goodbye (I think I did, I was pretty groggy, may have been a dream) then went back to sleep for 2 more hours.  I must have needed it, because I woke up feeling great, and surprisingly not hungry at all.  So I came down, fed the dog, took a bath, puttered around, and before you know it, 2 hours had passed and I never ate or drank a thing, so I never went into the kitchen.  Even though I was not hungry, I decided it was probably a good idea to eat something, to keep my energy up, so I decided to eat something light.  I get into the kitchen, glance at the white board, and this is what I saw:
Just a simple I love you.  That is all it really takes.

I love you too Hubby.  It made my day.