Saturday, February 27, 2010

Grandma's Picnic Basket

My grandmother's picnic basket isn't used for its intended purpose anymore, but fits this space perfectly as an attractive decoration.

What "goods" do you have in your "picnic basket of life" that you share with others? Are you bringing out encouragement, a kind word, patience, understanding, a listening ear? Sometime you will be in need of one or more of these. The Bible states you reap what you sow (Galations 6:7). Are you utilizing the special gifts and abilities (Romans 12:6) you have been given by your Creator or are they laying dormant?

It is important to be on guard to the negative things that try to creep in and taint and spoil our "goods" -- offense, unforgiveness, jealously, envy, being judgmental, arrogance, self-pity -- to name a few. We lose our effectiveness when we let any of these negative emotions take over. If we allow these negative emotions to take up residence in us, we risk damaging our "goods."

Also, we should try to keep our "goods" fresh, not stale. Have an open mind and do something differently once in a while. We all have varied styles and gifts, and your way may not be the only way. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2) with the word of God and keep your prayer connection with Him strong.

This post is linked on Spiritual Sundays -

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Be Ready for Tax Time

Some certified public accountants state that income tax documentation only needs to be kept for six years, while others vehemently state the paperwork should be retained indefinitely. The Internal Revenue Service has three years from the original due date of the return or the date the return is filed, whichever is later, to audit the return and assess a deficiency, if necessary. If a return reveals a substantial understatement of income (greater than 25% of the amount reported), the statute of limitations period extends to six years. However, there is no statute of limitations if a taxpayer fails to file a tax return or commits fraud.

I did a massive file purge last summer and decided to only keep the last ten years of income tax records. Sometimes in the midst of such a flurry of activity, one may get carried away. I have decided to revert to an indefinite keeper for the reason of the last sentence in the first paragraph. Once in a while, quirky things happen and it would be hard to prove a return was filed if it has been discarded. My 72 year old mother, who has copies of every income tax return she and my father have filed, will enjoy the "I told you so" on this one.

Start a tax file and begin collecting documents that pertain to your tax situation: charitable contributions, medical expenses, real estate purchases or sales, etc. My 2009 taxes are finished and I have already made a 2010 folder, so I can drop in various papers as they arrive. This year, I had all the documents together, except for one paper which took time to track down. Hopefully, next year all the necessary papers will be filed together.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Emergency Preparations

This last weekend, I talked to my friend Maria in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has a husband and three boys age 12 and younger. Maria related their recent weather woes - two feet of snow in one day and then another foot of snow. They had no electricity for several days and it was bitterly cold. Maria had a pan she put on the side of the fireplace to heat Progresso soup. They mostly ate soup and crackers. She stated they learned a lot during those days. Maria mentioned everyone should have an emergency kit consisting of candles, matches, a battery-operated radio, flashlights and extra batteries, and this kit should be easily accessible. She questioned if I had all of these items together, and I had to respond "not really." This brought back memories of being awakened at 5:00 a.m. two years ago by the cracking and falling of tree branches on the roof because of an ice storm. With no electricity, it was rather difficult stumbling and groping around in the dark to find a flashlight, which was inconveniently located in the garage. The emergency kit idea makes sense. (And don't forget a manual can opener.)

As I thought more about these situations that will once in a while occur, I realized here in Oklahoma tornado season will be arriving shortly. Now that I have a teenager who is at home at times when I am not, we discussed where he should go in our home in case of a tornado. It is a good idea to have emergency plans in advance and to discuss them with your family.

A footnote to Maria's story: She was very worried about the weight of all the snow on her roof, as the roof is borderline on needing replacement. On one of the dark days, Maria flipped the Bible open. It opened to Proverbs 31, which discusses the wife of noble character. A verse immediately jumped out to her, "When it snows, she has no fear for her household. . . " Proverbs 31:21 NIV

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Key Habit

A few years ago, I conducted a frantic, near-hysterical search for my keys, which resulted in my being late for work almost half an hour. Of course, they were inadvertently placed underneath something. After this needless stressful episode, it was time for a change. Up on the wall went a decorative hook and the keys had a designated holding place. Most people probably have enough sense to know this simple concept. Every time I come home, even if for less than an hour, the keys are placed on the hook. Thankfully, the desperate key searches are over.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Surviving Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day for some people is not pleasant. Advertisements abound strictly intended for couples. Much is made about romance on this day. Some couples feel pressured to give each other perfect gifts, due to the marketing blitz. If you are single and not in a relationship, or suffering from a broken heart, or are married, but are forgotten on this day, take heart. Look around and realize you are not a solitary figure in a boat - there are other passengers.

This day will be what you make of it. Appreciate all the loved ones around you and do something special for them. Life is very uncertain as we all hang by a fragile human thread. Our lives are made up of different seasons, some of the seasons seem to linger a while, but they will not always stay the same. Remember there is One who loves us with a great and enduring love and who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). One who is faithful (Psalm 57:10), unchanging, and unwavering in His love. One who binds up the heart of the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3)and who has vowed never to leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 NIV

For the Lord is good and His love endures forever. Psalm 100:5 NIV

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Just Get Rid of It!

It is essential to continually rid your home of items, especially if you are a fellow humble abode dweller. If you don't, things will overtake your living space. Purge things that are broken beyond repair, not useful, or items you no longer like (or maybe you never liked). Don't buy into the idea that you cannot get rid of something because so and so gave it to you. Edit your possessions carefully. Jesus said in Luke 12:15 "a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (NIV)

Marla Cilley, the FLYLady, states that clutter cannot be organized. She also mentions C.H.A.O.S. - can't have anyone over syndrome. I've been there -- peering through a crack in my front door and hoping that unexpected visitors would not see my messy house behind me. Of course, I could not let them in and, undoubtedly, gave a rude impression. Marla Cilley in her book Sink Reflections devotes several pages of how clutter negatively affects our lives and discusses the similarities of clutter to our homes as cholesterol is to our arteries. Her analogy includes how clutter causes stress, is invasive, decreases our joy in living, and is a result of over-indulging. There is enough negativity in the world without having it around us in our homes. Every single item in your house takes up space, no matter the size. Don't neglect sorting through small items. Find someone who can truly use your cast-offs, have a garage sale, or donate to a thrift store. Do not donate items that will not sell - stained clothes, etc. Thrift stores are always burdened with junk they have to throw away. Someone may be needing your cast-offs and will be blessed. You will find it freeing to lighten your load!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The $1.00 Desk

This small desk was found at a garage sale for $1.00. The seller really liked it, but decided to part with it due to her husband's procrastination of several years. A board needed to be replaced on the right side to stabilize it and, obviously, it needed a paint job. I felt the board would be too plain and decided to add the barley twist legs for more pizazz. Some vintage trim was added to the sides (by the drawers) and old moulding was added at the bottom of the sides (not easily visible in the photos) to cover some chips. Wood appliques from Lowe's were put on the drawer knobs and another wood applique was placed at the bottom. After the paint dried, a water based stain was applied to age the paint and give it a slightly dirty look. (The piece will become "dirtier" as more stain is applied.) I only wanted a subtle aged paint "dirty" effect. Adding trim and appliques elevates the charm element.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cook for the Freezer

A big time saver is to double what you are cooking and put it in the freezer for another time. Or, take some time on a day off and cook specifically for the freezer. The night before you want to serve your freezer food, place it in the refrigerator to defrost. It is so convenient to come home and put a dish in the oven. Then you have extra time for laundry or decluttering! Generally, freezer food should be consumed within three months. Do not freeze dishes containing potatoes. It is best to undercook pasta slightly (1-2 minutes)to prevent it from becoming mushy. I am now freezing cookie dough in small batches, formed into individual cookies, so they are ready to bake. (The dough is easier to shape if placed in the refrigerator for a little while.) The taste is better and it is less expensive than buying prepackaged cookie dough. If I freeze food in glass/plastic containers, I tear off a piece of masking tape to make a label. The masking tape comes off easily with no residue and it is cheaper than buying labels. Include the baking temperature and time on the label, so you do not have to take time to look it up when preparing the food.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Make a Freezer List

The last few months I have kept a list of the contents in my freezer (located in the garage). I keep a pad of paper stuck to the side of my refrigerator with a clip/magnet. This small idea has made such a difference, particularly when it is cold! I'm not running back and forth and, more importantly, not wasting food. It's so convenient to stand in the kitchen and know every item that is located in my garage freezer. Consistency is the key with this concept to mark off the used items and add the new ones after grocery shopping. Even if I have a box of steaks, I keep a count of how many are in the box.