How to Build a Better Mousetrap?

Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Psalm 19:1-4

Okay, everyone knows I like to cook. And bake.  And did I mention I like to cook and bake?  And also bake and cook.  But I also like crafts…or used to.  I may have gotten a bit burned out because for a time crafting was my business – and it kind of ruined my taste for spending time making things.

Several years ago I started working in the project management field. And discovered I love it!  And that spurred me to get my master’s degree in project management. And now I work as a senior project manager with a team of really talented folks at a great company.  So my days are filled with root causes, finding the source of truth, and figuring out how to solve  myriad odd little problems that crop up during every project.  It’s wonderful!  And in many ways it fills some of my creative need. But lately I’ve been itching to play with paper, or color, or draw – just do some kind of craft!  My mama is in a nursing home battling Parkinson’s disease and I bought her some colored pencils and “adult” coloring books – to exercise her hands.  And I have to admit, so we could color together.

So the other thing that’s happened to me recently (and I’m sure it’s happened to many of you), is that I discovered this amazing website called Pinterest.  It’s filled with awesome things that people find on the internet.  There are categories for every interest.  Normally I just look at the cooking stuff, because there are so many wonderful idea. But recently I’ve been perusing the craft categories. And is it FUN!  There are so many, many talented and amazing artists out there, and I am astounded by the new ideas I see.  I used to think there were no new ideas.  Boy, was I wrong.

So late last night, after spending a wonderful few hours having dinner and socializing with my friend Sarah, I was pumped up and couldn’t sleep.  Of course I jumped on Pinterest and started looking at all the fabulous craft ideas.  I learned how to make rainbow jello, for example (and this will be perfect for a party I want to host for some of my friend’s kids).  But the thing I got the biggest kick out of was the lady who does crafts using mousetraps. She calls them Magnetic Mousetrap Clips, and she has a wonderful lesson on how to make them on her site. You can see her tutorial here: http://suzyssitcom.com/2012/02/feature-friday-magnetic-mousetrap-clips-tutorial.html. And I highly recommend you visit her website.  It’s filled with fabulous ideas.

So today I made some of my own.  Now, they’re not as pretty as hers, and I got paint all over everything, but I think I’ll get better at this.  I plan on making them as stocking stuffers (I love getting handmade things, and I don’t know if everyone feels that way, but I’m going to assume they do).  Also, she used clip art and I used stickers.  I embellished a bit with ribbons and paper.  Some of mine have their edges wrapped in ribbon and some in paper, and I backed all of them with paper.  I don’t know why, because you won’t see the back.  Also, I used dollar store moustraps.  But I think I’m going to try the brand name traps (Victor) because they have nice routered frame around the edges and I think may be slightly larger. We’ll see. I’ll post as I get better at this, but for now I’ll show you what I did in an evening. I haven’t applied Mod Podge to all of them yet, and I am also going to spray them with a shiny fixing spray when they’re finished.

The one on the left has one coat of Mod Podge.

I may have forgotten to mention I like bright colors!

Here’s the back of one of them with magnets attached.

And here’s one in use. Suzy showed them holding keys, and all sort of other things.  I also think it would be cute to nail several of them to board that’s just slightly taller than the mousetrap and put it by the door to hold various and sundry items.  The springs are strong! Snapped my fingers a few times and had them go skittering across the table more than once.  Made me wince a bit because of their intended use.  Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want any mice in my house (ewww – although we have had them occasionally); but I hate killing them!

Speaking of which, that reminds me of a “funny” story.  Our house is over 100 years old.  It’s just a little square house but it has some interesting features like a real honest to goodness root cellar with a dirt floor.  We actually had well water up until about 10 years ago when the pump died (this is about 3 miles from Minneapolis proper, mind you, it’s not like we’re in the country!).

So anyway, generally a fall tradition is to put out mouse poison (I know, I know, but if we don’t stop them it’s not good).  Some of our furnace vents are flush to the floor, so I put the poison in there – the little buggers use the ductwork as their pathways if they get in the house).  Generally I’ll see maybe one or two mice when it gets cold out.  They eat the poison and we don’t see them again.

A couple of years ago we had a bitterly cold winter. I put out the poison and checked it every few weeks, and to my enormous suprise it never got eaten.  And I mean through the whole winter I never replenished it.  I couldn’t figure it out!  So springtime comes around (early spring), and Jim, my husband, was out in the shed that’s about 30 feet from our back door.  He keeps all sorts of things in there.  He came in laughing and told me that he had left one of the dog beds in the shed.  And when he went out there, he noticed that the stuffing had been totally pulled out and he couldn’t figure out why – until he moved it and a huge family of mice ran out the door!  He looked around a bit more and discovered that he had left a bag of grass seed in the shed. Those mice had been eating the grass seed all winter and using the dog bed as their home – he had left them a warm, comfortable and safe mouse hotel with all the food they could eat.

I’m so glad I wasn’t out there when all those mice came running out – I think I would’ve fainted.  Really, I don’t mind the odd mouse now and then, but I don’t want to see bunches of them running around anywhere near my house!  Jim says every house gets a mouse now and then, but I think he’s just telling me that to make me feel better.  And frankly, I wouldn’t mind if he set up a hotel for them every year, as long as he’d be the one to chase them out in the spring!

It was really great to use a mouse trap for something other than killing a little mouse, so thanks, Suzy for this clever idea!


Time Flies When You’re Having Fun!

Jesus said, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” John 16:22

It’s been many months since I’ve even thought about blogging.  Seems like after we lost our little Keats I kind of lost my mojo! Of course, there are several other reasons as well. Lately, though, I’ve been missing this creative outlet.  I certainly haven’t stopped cooking, and last year I won a prize in a cooking contest that enabled me to buy a really good camera.  So no more excuses!

This is just going to be a catch up post, and then I’ll get back to adding recipes pictures and other fun stuff. So some of the other reasons.  First of all, I got a wonderful new job. A few years ago I completed my master’s degree.  I had gotten my bachelor’s in my early 40s when I was working at kind of a dead end job and wondering where to go.  One of my teachers had really encouraged me to go on in my education and it had been in the back of my mind fermenting away.

From there I started at a company that specialized in project management, and although that company suffered immensely during the economic crisis, they helped me in two ways.  One way (and the most important) was that I learned I love the profession of project management, which sparked my return to school, and the second was by contributing a small amount to my college fund.

While I was at my other job, I prayed two things almost every day.  One was that I would remember who I was really working for and that I  would do the very best job I could, and the other was that I would get a job at the company I now work at (if that was where I was supposed to be).  One of the reasons I wanted to work for this particular company is because they truly have a culture of being part of a community, not just in a community. So for about 6 months I applied diligently for every opening I thought might fit my skill set with no luck.  Understand, this is a very large company (a Fortune 25 company actually), so getting a foot in the door is very difficult without a referral.

One day an old friend called me and told me that she was working at this particular company (and still is) and that they had sent out a memo asking for referrals.  She asked me if I’d send her my resume, which I did the next day.

Almost right away I got a call from a person who is now one of my teammates.  He asked me if we could set up a phone interview, which we did.  You can’t imagine how excited I was about this opportunity. And you can’t imagine how disappointed I was when I called him the next day at the appointed time and he quickly excused himself, saying he had another call he had to take.  We set another time for the next day, but I was pretty puzzled.  I stayed positive though, and the next day we had a very nice conversation, which culminated in being asked to come in for a face to face with his supervisor and the division supervisor.

The night before my interview was the night we had to put Keats to sleep. So I went to the interview the next day with a heavy heart and did my best. I ended up meeting two great people and really enjoyed talking with them. After a couple more phone interviews I got a job offer for a senior project manager!  Which of course I accepted. So I feel very much like this was job I was meant to have.  I work with a great group of project managers, and recently the people I originally interviewed with shared a very funny story with me.

I had been puzzled by the fact that my first telephone interview was cut short so abruptly, but I hadn’t ever asked my teammate what had actually happened that day. Turns out that the team had googled me to get a picture of who I really was (which is a great idea!).  So I went to a school that’s in Colorado Springs, CO. And I worked for a company called Whipper Snapper Designs.  And apparently there was an *adult* store in Colorado Springs called Whipper Snapper (I did do a Google search and came up empty handed, so I’m thinking it’s closed).  But the point is that my future team sort of thought that I had owned a store like that. So they weren’t sure I’d actually fit in at the company. However, they then read some of these blog posts, and quickly came to the conclusion that it wasn’t real likely that I would own a store like that!  They just recently shared that story with me when we were on a team trip out of state.  That totally cleared things up for me and really made me giggle.

Another thing that’s been on my mind is my little mama, who has struggled with Parkinson’s disease for over 20 years.  And boy, is she ever a trooper.  She’s done great with it.  The last two years, though, have been pretty rough. Now we can see the disease taking its toll and causing lots of issues.  I can see she’s not as sharp.  She doesn’t like to play games any more.  She can’t really do buttoning or zippering any more.  If she can get up out of the chair she can still walk, but she does shuffle and freeze.  It’s very hard to see someone who was so vibrant and so full of life be so limited.  But she never feels sorry for herself.  Ever. She’s funny and sweet and loving, and I HATE what this disease has done to her. And I hate that I can’t do anything to make it better.

Just recently she had to go into a nursing home after she’d been taken to the hospital for what they thought was a heart attack. Forunately, it’s a pinched nerve, but it caused her such pain!  And she’s very little, only weighs about 90 pounds. I am so sorry she has to go through this stuff, but I am extremely blessed  to have been gifted with such a wonderful mom.  She has always been my greatest supporter and confidant, helping me with wise advice and love anytime I needed her.  My mom has been strong in her faith and had a positive attitude her entire life.  As one of 14 children, she has a unique perspective on life and has always been willing to try new things.

Another thing that’s kept me busy is spending time with some of the kids from my church. I’ve never had children and wished that I had.  And guess what?  I have some to hang out with now that I adore.  We get together and do fun stuff, sometimes cooking, sometimes just hanging out, and we discovered a great place where you can paint your own ceramics and then the shop will bake them in a kiln.  Lots of fun and I’m so grateful they’re in my life.

But, I think what really got me thinking about blogging again is a recent tragedy.  One of my dearest friends lost her 30 year old son in a terrible car accident a couple of weeks ago. Her pain is so palpable, and there isn’t a way to take on the pain on her behalf – although I think any of us who love her would do that if we could. But it got me thinking about how our time is so limited and we don’t know when it will be over. It’s my hope that I can make a small difference in someone’s life through this blog. Maybe I can make them smile, or think about someone they haven’t thought of in a very long time, or just share a recipe or tip that they’ll enjoy.  So I’m going to try to start blogging more regularly and see where it takes me!

 

 

Farewell to a Faithful Friend

When God gave you to me he never said that you were mine, that I could keep you always – only borrowed for a time. Now he’s called you home, I’m sad and I shed tears. Yet, I’m glad he loaned you to me and we had these many years. Unknown

It’s been a very long time since my last post.  But as many of you know, our dear dog Keats has been struggling with some health problems, and I’ve spent a lot of time with him the past few weeks.  Last Wednesday Jim and I had to make the difficult decision to stop his suffering permanently. We had to take him to the emergency vet late in the evening, and they were so kind and gentle through the entire process – hats off to the Emergency Veterinary Service in Golden Valley.

As you can imagine, we’ve shed many tears and had many heart-rending moments, and I’m sure there are many more to come. Keats has been a part of our lives since he was 8 weeks old, and would have been 13 in just two weeks. He was such a wonderful dog – he had such a soft heart, and always wanted to comfort anyone who was sad or hurting – he seemed to have a sixth sense about people.  Whenever he had any procedure at the vet, he would lay his sweet little face against the vet’s face and give a little kiss, as if to reassure them that he understood they were trying to make him better.  Our other dog, Lou, who is a rescue dog, has some issues with being brushed and groomed.  Keats knew this, and whenever I would groom Lou, Keats would come over and stand by me, as if to make sure I was careful with Lou. He never wanted anyone to suffer.

We got Keats from the same breeder who had sold me my first purebred border collie, Jack.  Jack was actually Keats uncle – even though there were 11 years between them. Keats had a wonderful sense of humor – and he was a tattle tale!  Lou likes to counter surf, and anytime I was out of sight of the kitchen and Lou would start to get into trouble, Keats would come and find me, and worry me until I followed him upstairs so I could stop Lou from being naughty.

We are so grateful for the many wonderful years we had with this precious dog, and so many people have expressed their sadness at his passing.  We are blessed with very good friends who care deeply for us and share our grief, and that is invaluable. I know that as time passes the sharpness of the grief we feel will soften and we’ll be able to laugh and talk about Keats more normally.

This week I’ll start posting some more recipes and other fun things. In the meantime, I’m lifting a glass to my sweet little Keats!

 

 

The Art of Sending Greeting Cards

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch. Garrison Keillor

In the 1990s I started rubber stamping.  And I loved it so much that eventually it became a business – first I started a sales rep company and worked for many vendors, then one of my vendors hired me to work for them.  I taught classes, did demonstrations, even wrote a book. I look back on that time of my life with great fondness, but I learned a very valuable lesson – sometimes turning something you love into a business makes you lose your love for your hobby. For a long time I had no interest in making cards or anything related to that activity.  I’ve slowly been getting back into the swing of things and even had a wonderful time teaching a group of kids to make a waterfall card. To see their eyes light up when they successfully created a card that moves was pretty thrilling! Here are a few examples of some cards I made during my “other” life:

These darling images were drawn by Shelly Comiskey, who is first and foremost an incredible clay artist (check out her Facebook page – Simply Shelly Designs).  Her rubber stamp designs are sold exlusively by Whipper Snapper Designs – and they are all darling.

At any rate, lately I’ve been thinking about sending out greeting cards. I still don’t have a really strong desire to make my own (although that may happen again someday!). I have been sending e-cards – particularly from Jacqui Lawson (jacquilawson.com), who does charming and delightful moving interactive e-cards; as well as an astounding advent calendar that perfectly captures the wonder of Christmas.  But I still miss sending out a card that someone can hold.  There’s the excitement of getting a piece of mail that isn’t an ad or a bill, and knowing that someone made the effort to pick out, purchase and send a card. But cards are expensive, and I don’t know about you, but I rarely have a stamp in the house anymore.

Along comes my sweet friend Pam – Pam is a distributor for a company called Send Out Cards.  Now I have to admit that Pam has told me about this company several times and although I was interested, I never made the effort to really check into it.  That is, until last Saturday.  Pam and her daughter came over to spend the day with me to learn how to make candy.  And did we make candy! Fudge and caramels and layered peppermint bark and homemade Butterfinger candy bars and meringue nuts and homemade hot chocolate! Whew. But more to come on that later (with pictures and instructions!).  Late on Saturday when we were all in a happy, sugar-induced haze, Pam and I started looking at Send Out Cards online.  And I have to tell you, I’m hooked. 

This is such a wonderful concept.  For a basic fold-over 5″ x 7″card just like you find at the store (Send Out Cards calls this a two panel card), you’ll spend under $1.00 including postage.  I signed up for the “pay as you go” package, which cost me $15.00.  For my $15.00, I received 20 points and $5.00 in my expense account. The expense account is used for postage (as well as gifts if you choose to send one).  Each basic two panel card costs 2 points.  You also have the option to send a postcard, 4 panel card or a “big” card which is 8.2″ x 11.5″.  There are literally thousands of cards to choose from, in every type of theme and category – funny, faith, love, holidays, you name it. You can add your own pictures to your cards and any message you like, with a nice selection of fonts.  The program is very intuitive and easy to work with – I had so much fun I sent out 4 cards on Saturday.  Once you have created your card, you simply put in the address of the recipient, and send it.  Send Out Cards prints it, puts it in an envelope (unless it’s a post card), stamps it, and mails it within just a few hours. I’ve added a link to my blogroll for Send Out Cards.

So now I’m off to send a few more cards.  Can’t wait to to hear the reactions from my friends and family! And, I think this is going to make Christmas much easier.

Home for Life

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. Matthew 10:29

Last month it was my turn to host our monthly meeting of Girls Games and Giving.  As usual, a great time was had by all. I made one of my favorite soups – Greek Lemon Chicken Soup. I’m going to make another batch this month and I’ll post the recipe and how-to pictures then.  But I just wanted to post a quick note about the charity I chose.  To refresh, this group is open to anyone who wants to join, and it’s for ladies only.  Every month a different person hosts the party, and provides food and games.  Every member brings $10 to the party.  During the evening, the hostess reveals which charity she has chosen for the donations collected that night.  We have collected over $2300 in a little over two years. And had a blast doing it.

The organization I chose is called Home for Life, and we raised $100 for them. I encourage you to go to their Website at homeforlife.org and read through it – but I caution you, have some tissues handy.  It’s an amazing organization.  They take in animals that truly have no other options.  These are animals that may have behavioral issues, health problems (some quite severe and ongoing), or may just be elderly.  In any case, these are all animals that would be considered unadoptable for some reason.

As an animal lover and dog owner, it breaks my heart to know that there are animals out there that I can’t help.  But Home for Life is doing just that. They have a state of the art facility where animals live in townhouses and are grouped together according to personality traits and what is best for them. 

Read the stories.  Look at the pictures. And if you can, send them a donation. They are doing a remarkable job. And as I watch my dear old boy Keats coming to the end of his life, I am so grateful for places like Home for Life who will take in even elderly dogs and help them live the remainder of their lives with dignity, love, and fun.