Homemade Christmas Ornaments II

The finished product! Acrylic paint on a well baked salt dough is a great medium for your artistic visions. After painting my dog Emmett’s footprint, I touched it up with a Sharpie. Likewise with BB8 — I drew his details in with a permanent marker.

Then I coated both ornaments with five layers of  Modge Podge.

Salt dough is a perfect medium for dog prints, baby feet, adorable hand-made things, and even lover thumb prints you see on Etsy. Go nuts, and share in the comments!

Homemade Christmas ornaments

I was determined to make a Christmas tree ornament of our dog Emmett’s paw print this year. I never did capture a paw print of my late Peanut, and that’s one thing I wish I had in some form.

Our ornaments growing up were all handmade salt dough — little works of art my mother crafted and hand painted that we hung with glee for many, many years. The dough mix is quick and simple, roughly as follows:

  • One part salt
  • Two parts flour
  • One part water (but start slow)

The dough rolls easily, is not sticky, and is easily transferred to a cookie sheet for baking. Emmie was so good with making her paw impression that I decided to use my leftover dough to try my hand at a raised ornament, too.

For the impression, I simply cut a circle in the flattened dough, bribed the dog with treats, and had her stand on the counter for a minute.

For the raised ornament, I simply used the spare circle of dough, rolled the rest by hand to make some spheres, and placed them on the background circle with drops of water.

After baking the ornaments in the convection oven, I used acrylic paint as a base layer and let them dry for 24 hours. When baking them, don’t worry about burning them or achieving an even color because you’ll paint them. Instead, bake them enough so there is no more moisture in the dough. Extreme over-baking will cause the dough to crumble, but as all things in life, moderation is key. Bake 10 minutes at a time until the ornament is hard.

Please stand by for photos of the finished ornaments!


Introspection on a hot summer night

dallas-starry-nightI just walked the dog and looking at the stars in the sky reminded me of my teenage years, when I would sit outside alone at night and write in my journal. As I remember it, I genuinely believed that I was a deep thinker. In hindsight, a 15-year-old who ponders big questions, writes hypotheses, and then does research is probably good grounds for a critical thinker, dreamer, and writer.

I wouldn’t change my undergraduate education if I could do it again — my degree in professional writing has served me well in my career — but I would probably steer my 20-something AND 30-something selves in grad school to pursue a business degree.  Instead, I got hung up on humanities as soon as the business requirements were out of the way, so I’m stuck believing in business ethics and research methodologies.

Honestly, at 43 I’m still the same dreamer I was at 13. The hot night and the summer stars brought back tons of memories of the introspection I used to do. These days I find myself thanking God for a lot of people and things that I know I don’t get around to thanking those people about.

The Great Clean-up of 2016 continues

Some efforts deserve to be documented! After a pretty successful massive purge of my clothes, I knew I’d continue the momentum. My home office became my target this week because my chiropractor suggested that a more ergonomic set up would help alleviate some chronic pain I’ve been having since 2006.

While I was addressing my desk situation with a trip to Ikea, my husband said that while I’m at it what I needed to do was get rid of the janky cabinet the printer is on.


Here is the janky cabinet, complete with piles of junk on and around it because it was too unorganized and full to put anything else inside.

Here’s my BEFORE shot of the office:



Here is the AFTER shot, which is much nicer because all the crap is now organized and in its place:




Similar to my closet clean-up, I ended up with a huge pile of old papers to be recycled. I feel great! I’m not a tidy person, but because I work from home I’m afraid that I’m even less neat or organized! Having a nice office helps morale and reduces distractions. Thinking about how happy I am in this office makes me grateful that I’m not working at a crappy start-up in a tiny cubical. Home sweet home is office sweet office!

What will be next in my year of the purge? The kitchen and my bathroom are tentative options.


The butterfly effect of cleaning

My husband and I are looking forward to buying a house in the near-ish future. We talk about all the adulty things around such a purchase, like credit scores and budgets, as much as we discuss our dream house’s features. One thought took root in my mind and refused to wither away, which was: Are you really going to move again and haul all that crap in your closet with you?

So I googled “how to clean out your closet,” and came across a blog post on bemorewithless.com. Although I’m not quite ready to commit to owning only 33 items every three months, as is the gist of the site, I did take the advice of one post about how to go about purging my crap:



I spent about six and a half hours going through all my clothes and shoes. I took the closet in three sections, and then tackled the dresser. The entire process yielded seven loads of laundry, several bags of trash, two over-filled bags of clean clothes and linens that I donated to a shelter, dozens of unmatched socks that got trashed or recycled, and one giant pile of hardly worn brand name items I’m going to sell on Swap.com.

Years ago, I got a deep desire to purge all the physical things I owned. I mentioned this to a friend, somewhat fearfully because saying it out loud (or rather via AIM) would commit me to letting go of things. She said that she had read a book weeks prior, which inspired her to purge closets, too. She said that the book warned that even when you don’t tell people what you’re doing, other people in your life will catch the cleaning-out bug, too.

I shared my purging process and the blog link on facebook, and since then two people have called me out for spreading the clean-out bug. And no, they were not grateful comments. One friend said to me, “I don’t know whether to love you or loathe you,” and the other simply said she blamed me for her purging project. (In my defense, both those ladies had a lot to purge.) Several other people have commented on our various posts about their plans to follow suit or the results of their clean-out.

This weekend my husband and I had a few friends and family members over to celebrate his birthday. He mentioned how my purging project really helped us clean the rest of the house to host people and lots of food. The things we needed out of the way were easily stashed in the closet for the day because there is now so much room in it! A deep clean really does have a butterfly effect!

December 11

My father’s father passed away today. He was my last grandparent. He was 98 years old.

Grief is so weird. My granddad is the fourth of my four grandparents to pass, so this isn’t a new experience, but I keep cycling between relief that his ailments are over, and a very deep sadness. I had such a strong affection for him. I remember telling him when I was pretty young that he was my favorite grandfather, and my mother’s mother was my favorite grandmother. (AWKWARD.)

More proof that I’ve never had and never will have a filter.

‘Tis the season for celebrating, and despite our loss my family has been blessed with so much. I’m incredibly grateful.

And puppy makes three

I haven’t published much this year because my Very Important Deep Thoughts on Life* are mostly about being a newlywed and involve another person. That person — obviously, my husband — may or may not care to have his personal business posted on my blog for the seven or so people who read it.

We have a new member in our little family. Team AJ is now tEam AJ with the addition of R.E.B. “Emmie” Baylor, a rescue from Dallas Animal Services. Before I get into how this addition came to be, let me introduce The Emmie Dog!

When I met my husband, we had the talk about pets. I’m such an animal lover that I couldn’t wrap my mind around someone’s proclaimed indifference to pets, but I saw how he treated other pets with affection. He told me about how the loss of his own pets hurt him, and I understood. My Peanut was my best friend and most reliable companion for 15 years, and losing her was devastating. Taking a plunge into an emotional relationship that is guaranteed to be relatively short-lived is a tough commitment, and this time I needed to be sure enough for the both of us.

I didn’t take adopting a dog lightly and was happy to commit to all the responsibility and care of the right one. I knew that once I got out and about and started actively looking, the right pup would come along. I went to the shelter in Petsmart on the advice of a friend. I saw lots of dogs, but on the advice of a worker, gave extra consideration to a sweetheart they called Missy. I knew this dog was The One because she was so responsive, affectionate, sweet, and clearly sharp. Any fissure of doubt I had about adopting this dog evaporated when the staff asked us to pose for the 37,000th adoption picture, and Emmitt gave me a huge kiss as the shutter clicked.

Emmie has worked hard to win over my husband, and I’m touched to say the affection is mutual. Today one of his sisters said on Facebook that he would make a great father, and I have seen proof with my own eyes. I’m so blessed by my family! Emmie is a wonderful addition to our family. I love to hear her snores when she sleeps and happy yips every time Jeff comes home. I love to hear Jeff sing to Emmie. I’m so blessed, and I couldn’t be happier.

*These Seriously Important thoughts include such vital topics as why the quadruple roll of Charmin is so much nicer than the triple roll of Cotonelle, why TCU fans seem to be total douche weasels about football yet offer nary a mention of any other Big 12 sport, wondering what dogs and babies dream about, and pondering why my sleeping habits are pretty crappy. Also, Covet.

True or False: Introvert edition

My husband busts on me a little bit about being introverted, but mostly because he, like many people, doesn’t quite understand what introversion is and isn’t. I can’t blame anybody for that, because I didn’t quite get it myself until I was in my mid-20s.

When I take personality tests, I rate right down the middle between introvert and extrovert. I suppose I’m an outgoing introvert. For people who don’t really get what “introvert” means, an “outgoing introvert” must sound like a contradiction, which is the first FALSE I can think of. Being an introvert means that I recharge my battery being alone, or being alone with one person who I’m close enough to that we can either talk or not talk and feel comfortable. I can even recharge with a group of people like my close family or very close friends. Once I had breakfast at a busy restaurant with four friends and felt utterly rejuvenated: At the time I said to my friends that being with them felt like coming home.

I read an interesting article tonight about ways to love an introvert. I agree with a lot of it and would call those points true, but first I have to pick apart what I think is false. I mean, the second sentence is complete rubbish:

Where extroverts are social creatures, introverts are most certainly not.

The author wrote a sloppy introduction to an otherwise pretty spot-on article, and if I were his editor I would have red-flagged this and asked for clarification. Saying that extroverts are social and introverts are “most certainly not” is essentially saying that introverts are anti-social. FALSE. I am most certainly social and introverted. In some situations, I feel socially awkward, mostly because these days I worry about not meeting my husband’s expectations. I genuinely enjoy getting to know people; I’m very interested in knowing more about my people. One TRUE thing about the Lifehacker article, in which the author totally contradicts his statement I’ve quoted above is:

If you label introverts as [shy or anti-social], then you obviously don’t understand them …. Most introverts love to meet people. It’s just that while extroverts enjoy small talk, introverts would rather discuss deeper issues in a more intimate setting.

Last weekend, we went to a party … actually we went to two parties in a row! At the first party, I knew exactly four people — the hostess-slash-guest of honor, her husband, my husband, and a guy I’ve met once. At one point, the three guys took off to do something manly or carry heavy things, and I was left alone at a table with a youngster. She was pretty clearly feeling awkward, and I was sitting there telling myself, “You’re the adult, start talking to this kid! Why don’t you know what to say to her? It’s your responsibility to put this girl at ease. What should you say?? Think, think, think … how do you break the ice with an 8-year-old you’ve just met?” Eventually, I had the idea to bring up the universal topic of food! That broke the ice and we were soon friends, but those few minutes have lingered in my mind. With that in mind, I think the following is mostly TRUE:

Don’t leave them hanging at a social event.

Writing this has helped me realize so much about how I need to communicate with my husband! Yay! And I happily call one last point from the article very TRUE:

Explain how you perceive the world differently …. Introverts love to listen, so why don’t you tell us all about it? We would both benefit if we learned from each other.

At the party last weekend, the husband-of-honor told me that he holds back around me because I’m an introvert. FALSE. I’m not scared of people or different personalities or extroverts. I process internally, and perhaps to some slowly, but I still want to know you.

WHAT UP 2015!?!?

I’m doing it: 2014 retrospective! Sorry so sappy, but my blog is nothing but trying to reinforce lessons I’ve learned, process life, and sort my thoughts. Meanwhile, a bit of a show I’m re- re- re- re- re-watching on Netflix struck me as a great theme for the thoughts of last year and aspirations for next! From an episode of Gilmore Girls:

Lorelai: Wait, wait. Look around for a second. Notice?
Rory: Notice what?
Lorelai: It’s not so scary anymore.
Rory: No, it’s not.

Pretty much everything I’ve ever been anxious about worth being anxious about includes that moment of realization that “this isn’t so scary anymore.”

In chronological order of things to be scared of this year:

  • I left a great job for another great job. A few months later, I was laid off.
  • I got engaged!
  • I planned a wedding! Although it wasn’t perfect, it was a blast. I have family and friends who made everything happen, and I love those folks overwhelmingly.
  • I got married!
  • I have an exciting career opportunity!

I wrote a little bit about my wedding, but that was a combination of trying to edit my disappointment while emphasizing the most positive parts. Meanwhile, our experiences and memories were a little different.

I met some fantastic people this year. People who I’ve known and loved had gone above and beyond for me. My husband is a rock star, in more ways than one. 2014 was good for us, but I am convinced 2015 will be much better!

A Timeline of Insomnia

Sometimes I can’t sleep because I can’t slow my thoughts. Sometimes I can’t sleep when I’m sick or in pain. Most of the time when I can’t sleep, it’s because I’m worried or anxious. In a short span of time — say, the last four weeks — I’ve battled insomnia because of all of the above.

A few weeks ago
7:00 a.m.
My phone’s clock got a little messed up (OK, fine, I change the clock to sometimes to get more lives in Candy Crush), and I dreamt that I had fallen asleep on the couch around 11:00 p.m., and then got up an hour later and washed up and went to bed. My husband actually woke me up around 7:00 a.m. and told me to go to bed, but I thought it was about 4 a.m. When he woke me up later to tell me he made waffles, I thought it was about 9:30. He came in again at what I thought was 10:00, and I finally got up after 30 minutes of dozing. The reality was that I actually got up at 2:00 p.m. That’s when I discovered my crazy swollen face.

2:00 p.m.
After I showered, I tried to eat the waffle my husband made for breakfast. Eating was incredibly painful. My face was crazy swollen. I had no idea what was going on. I finally palpated the swollen area, and immediately I whispered and gestured to my husband that I had to see a doctor. I’d lost my voice several days earlier, so communication was painful, in more than one way. He called around to try for an appointment, and finally I suggested a clinic around the corner from us by way of handing him my iPhone with the clinic’s info pulled up. He called, and they were ready for us and less expensive than the triage clinic he’d called.

5:20 p.m.
The doc at the clinic suggested that I fill my prescriptions at a Target pharmacy because the most expensive meds were heavily discounted there. The first Target was closing 7 minutes after we arrived, but the pharmacist called around for us. My husband got us to the next Target in minutes, and I had three prescriptions in hand — plus a chai latte — by 5:20.

6:30 p.m.
At this point, I hadn’t really eaten all day and had tons of drugs to take. My pain was awful, I was scared by the diagnosis and sad and miserable. Keep in mind, I could not speak — my throat was so swollen that the doctor ordered me to not even whisper for a week. My husband picked up some tomato basil soup for me from our favorite Italian restaurant (he’s not a total saint; he got himself a giant thing of lasagna, too!). I took my first round of meds and naively settled down with my soup.

I took one sip of soup and burst into tears. The doctor told me I had a peritonsillar abscess, which meant nothing to me. But attempting to swallow a savory soup with lots of pepper and flavor and acid with a raw abscess felt like I was stabbed in the ear with a downward trajectory to the throat. It’s just an area that can’t be soothed. The reality of my condition began to settle on me.

I tried to eat a couple of things, but everything hurt. I was bawling in pain, made worse by the fact that crying made my throat and sinuses hurt even more. Messy, horrible pain. My husband made me some mashed potatoes, which I could swallow enough of to get some food in my stomach with all the medications. I knew that I had to eat enough to take the meds. I also knew that I had to take the meds to feel well enough to eat.

10:00 p.m.
I went to bed, but an hour later I got up and took some cough medicine. Although it helped with the cough, it didn’t help me sleep. The next three hours I mostly spent obsessing about my situation.

I went to bed again, but spent the next hour making mental notes of which med did what to make sure I always have the optimal combination in my system. I slept for about 10 minutes, but I woke up coughing.

At this point, I couldn’t keep my mind off of three things, which kept me awake: The searing pain of that little rib muscle that is only used to cough on my left side that was overused over the last week, the painful swelling in the right side of my face and neck — meaning that sleeping on either side was uncomfortable — and the ever-present song stuck in my head when I wake up. The song changes, but the fact that I always wake up with a song playing in my head does not.

The next three hours went something like this:

Dun dun dun dun, dun dun dundundundun fight you bruins bold,
Go Bears!
Dun dun something something green and gold,
Go Bears!
Dun dun da dun Is the second verse different from the first?
Go Bears!
Are the rhymes the same, or is
Go Bears!
It just the one verse over and over?
Da da da dun, dun dun dun dun dundun dun dun DUN!

(Here is how it actually goes:)

Yes, I woke up with my school’s fight song stuck in my head. With my alma mater on my brain, then I started composing responses to some of the nastier comments I read on Facebook about the whole Big 12 conference getting shut out of the college football playoffs. I saw a lot more vitriol than I care to consume, and part of me wanted to log on the next morning and come out swinging. So, in my mind, I retaliated in the same fashion that I replay a heated discussion or uncomfortable confrontation in my mind and get to say all the things I wish I would have said.

First on my mental list was to shut down the fan-bashing. With pointless, ill-conceived, and clearly an uneducated comment, an acquaintance of mine from high school took to Facebook to accuse the fans of the Big 12 for the conference’s “comical” out-of-conference games.

Thanks for the note, buddy! I never would have thought of that on my own. P.S. You watch too much ESPN.

Thanks for the note, buddy! I never would have thought of that on my own. P.S. You watch too much ESPN.

Because it’s us, the fans, who made the rule that disallows a conference championship, which then led to being force-fed a season-long “one true champion” campaign, only to have feckless conference leadership refuse to back any one team and present co-champions?! The fans are frustrated, and I’ve seen otherwise lovely people get nasty for all the world to see because of it. If I were the least bit confrontational, I’d share with this individual — who clearly watches too much ESPN and knows too little of the Big 12 fans and its conference rules — a more educated perspective, but I’m passive aggressive and take to my own blog, which no one will ever see. At least I can hopefully sleep better feeling vindicated to actually write it down instead of only obsessing about it instead of sleeping.

The next day
5:30 a.m.
More medicine, and then I checked my Twitter feed to distract myself from anxiety about the swelling in my throat that was beginning to impede my ability to breathe and swallow. I read the Our Daily Bears blog and checked the Baylor subreddit, too, because both are usually pretty chill, but I saw I accidentally read one TCU fan’s comment about how “unlikable” Baylor fans are for “storming the field after every win as if they didn’t expect to win.”

In these quiet morning hours, I mentally composed another confrontational message (again, I’m too non-confrontational to say these thoughts to the offender, but just passive aggressive enough to immortalize them for my own jollies on my blog). In calmer moments, I wonder: Shouldn’t other fans accept school traditions they don’t get? I mean, Texas A&M (with all due respect to my niece and many alumni friends) still observes 100 percent of their anti-University of Texas traditions, despite the fact that they will never play UT in any sport ever again. No one cranks about that except me giving my niece some fair natured teasing!

For the record, bitter old horney frog: We’re not “storming the field” like we didn’t expect to win, we’re observing our traditions. We begin the game with students on the field. We end the game with students and fans on the field. In my day, we went onto the field to pray with Coach Teaff and the football team after the teams play their school songs. Then the Golden Wave Band plays the Tennessee Waltz, which is really beautiful to hear on the field.

Before any other cranky horn frogs can bitch about us “storming the field” to hear an irrelevant song, let’s review some more facts. Baylor University was chartered by the Republic of Texas, those very folks who were grateful to and benefited from the volunteer army from the great state of Tennessee. We get to play the damn Tennessee Waltz to honor the volunteer army the same way we play the national anthem, so shut it. C’mon down to the field and give it a listen, because you will agree that it’s beautiful to hear.

Also, why so mean and bitter, horny toad?! The Baylor-TCU rivalry is long-standing, and to my mind, friendly. We invented homecoming for y’all, after all. Granted, traditions are SO MUCH MORE FUN to observe when you win. But you know that, too, horny frogs! You’re just as marginalized as Baylor is as small church school. Baylor and TCU have a lot in common, now more than ever. Let’s be friends and build the Big 12 up instead of tearing each other down.

Two rounds of meds in, the day is easier. My symptoms are reduced, but the pain is not. I sleep. I’m a slave to my next round of meds.

Twenty-five hours later
I’m more confident about what I can eat. Eventually, I sleep sitting up. Laying down is too uncomfortable.

I tried to sleep on a pillow, but it was too painful.

Eighteen hours later
The swelling has significantly reduced. The antibiotics are awful, but the peritonsillar abscess is definitely reduced. The Baylor fight song is finally gone from my mind, and I’m able to focus somewhat on other things.

I nap.

Later, I sleep again upright on the couch.

Three days without significant sleep. I don’t recommend it. From now on, I’m going to the doctor sooner instead of waiting because meds help. Sleep is crucial, and I’m grateful for the help that allowed all my healing sleep.

Twelve days of Christmas
Despite my illness, I dragged myself to stores to buy gifts for my husband. I wrapped them over several days. I had stocking stuffers, but honestly I was too sleep deprived and sick-tired for an all-out Christmas.

Once I felt better, I baked with the idea of distributing baked good to our families. Too bad I had no energy to pack or ship my precious baked goods to Jeff’s family. I didn’t factor that energy need into my plan to shower my husband’s family with lovingly made treats.

I was lucky that my family decided to celebrate our Christmas in the new year. I was super happy that my first married Christmas would be at home, alone, with my husband. His cousin’s family welcomed us on Christmas Eve, and sharing the evening with their whole family was wonderful before we attended a gorgeous candlelight service at church. We are incredibly blessed!

Happy new year
My husband had insomnia recently. I talked to him about anything happy I could think of until he finally drifted off. He’s a much better sleeper than I am, so it seems odd that he needed my help!

Although I’ve had a great deal of anxiety about getting laid off and getting married, this new year signified something in my mind, like I should have resolved all my own unanswered questions and single-handedly created a family budget, complete with joint accounts and easy-to-use envelopes that would make Dave Ramsey weep with joy. Instead I’m still struggling with some questions I’ve asked myself and trying to figure out how to be married financially. A couple of nights ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about these topics, and therefore didn’t sleep until about 5 a.m.

Being that tired definitely affects my work, so I’ve set some new goals for myself about sleep. If I’m feeling anxious at 11:00 p.m., that’s a sign that I’ll be wound up at 1:00 a.m., which means sleeplessness or fitful sleep until morning. If I have any resolutions this year, it’s about addressing sleep. Without good sleep, I can’t be productive. Without being productive, I cannot bear myself.