Delightful Diversions

Facebook sometimes gets on my nerves, especially when the gremlins working behind the scenes decide to change things for no apparent reason. However, one feature I really like is the option to “save” posts. Whenever I come across a link to an article I want to read (or share) later, a funny story, a great quote, interesting research, etc., I add it to my Saved tab for future reference.

Curated Wednesdays on my blog seems like the perfect opportunity to dig into that collection and share some gems with you, such as these, presented in no particular order:


OOPS!

I just read this on a stranger’s blog: “Today, whilst I was driving, a speed camera flashed me. I was not over the speed limit, so I turned around and went past it again even slower, again it flashed me. Confused I did again, it flashed. Finding this funny, I drove past again at snail’s pace. Only later receiving four fines for no seatbelt.”


Writing Advice

Whether you’re an aspiring writer or a seasoned one, you’ll appreciate this: 
I Talked to 150 Writers and Here’s the Best Advice They Had
by Joe Fassler.


LOL

Internet lies

I nabbed this from the Mikey’s Funnies Facebook page. If you like good, clean humour, follow this page or sign up for daily emails here.


A World of Languages

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I have a thing for infographics, especially when they are beautifully designed. This one is simple but the information is truly fascinating. A couple of years ago, the South China Morning Post published this “map” of every language in the world and their respective number of native speakers by country.

Did you know there are more than seven thousand languages spoken around the world? C’est incroyable! (French is one of the four languages in my repertoire, by the way.)

 


El Arroyo

A Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin, Texas, has the funniest wayside signs! I am not sure why they chose the name El Arroyo (which means The Ditch), but they definitely know how to get attention. (I haven’t checked every single sign in the Facebook album, so if you come across anything inappropriate, I apologize.) A few of my favourites:

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Seriously Awesome!

Here’s another infographic, one that takes me back many, many, many years to the brief period in my life when I was studying Chemical Technology in college. (Yes, I was a science nerd! Surprised?)

A brilliant guy named Keith Enevoldsen designed a handy periodic table that explains, in simple terms and with colourful visuals, what each element is and what can be made  from it (or what contains it). For example, zinc is used in brass instruments (I didn’t know that!), iridium is used in spark plugs and pen tips, and titanium is found in blue sapphires. Click on the graphic below to go to the main page, where you can either interact with the period table or download PDF versions (either with images or words).

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Good and Faithful Servant

Right after this post went live, I heard about Billy Graham’s death. I’m popping back in to add a link to this interesting look back at his ministry. And here’s a lovely tribute to him by Thom S. Rainer.


Whew! All of that should keep you busy for a while. 🙂 Please let me know what your favourite item was in today’s post, and feel free to point me to more cool stuff!

Have a lovely Wednesday,

Ann-Margret

 

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Praying with Friends

When we pray with other Christians, we get closer to them and to God.

praying togetherSeveral years ago, when my friend Jill still lived in Montreal (she’s a teacher up in Fort Good Hope now—you should Google that to see how crazy far it is!), she invited me to join her when she went to visit her family back in her hometown of Kingston, Ontario, for a few days.

One afternoon, Jill and I were sitting with her mom, Mary, in the living room and the three of us decided to use our free time to pray. We each mentioned things we wanted to pray about and then we prayed together for about twenty minutes. It was a great way to make our visit more meaningful and we really felt blessed.

That evening, Jill mentioned again how happy she was that we’d prayed together. She felt it had brought the three of us closer to each other. Then Mary said something I’ll never forget: “It brought us closer without making us pile on top of each other.” I understood what she meant: We hadn’t revealed too many personal things that made us feel awkward later. I don’t know about men, but sometimes we girls tell each other everything we’re thinking or feeling—and that’s not always the wisest impulse.

Praying together with Christian friends can encourage us and help us get stronger in our faith. But we have to make sure we’re doing it to pray to God and not just to spill out everything in our hearts.

If you’re not already regularly praying with others, whether at church or privately, I would encourage you to (prayerfully) seek out at least one prayer partner that you can meet with (or pray over the phone with, as I also do) as often as works for both of you. Agree to keep the focus on bringing your requests to God, and to avoid:

  • telling God what to do, and
  • sharing details that are unnecessary or verging on gossip.

I’d love to hear about your own experiences with collective prayer. How have you been encouraged? What works (or doesn’t work)?

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:18)

Have a blessed day, and I hope to see you back here on Wednesday. 🙂

Ann-Margret

Cake Mmmmix Cookies

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Just before I started typing this post I polished off my mmmmth homemade Chocolate Fudge Sea Salt Caramel Chip cookie so pardon me if I’m a bit distracted right now. *smacking lips* Wow, these cookies don’t look that great (and I’m not the best photographer) but they’re sooooo good.

Have you tried the neat trick of making cookies using little more than boxed cake mix and a few other ingredients? I’d made a couple of varieties in the past but tonight I decided to try two new combinations. I pulled out a box of Betty Crocker Rainbow Bit SuperMoist cake mix, as well as a Chocolate Fudge mix, and then chose some toppings: tiny sprinkles for the Rainbow cookies and Chipits sea salt caramel chips for the fudge cookies.

You can find lots of recipes for cake mix cookies online (Pinterest is a great resource) but this is the basic idea:

1 box of any cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup melted butter
toppings of your choice (which you can either mix in or add on top)

Mix these up, scoop them into balls (I should have rolled the fudge ones a bit to get the cookies rounder and less lumpy, like the sprinkles ones) and put them in the oven (at 350) for 7 to 10 minutes (keep an eye on them so they don’t overbake).

They will seem really soft and cakey when you first take them out, but don’t worry about that. They will firm up (hence my caution to not overbake).

I like the Rainbow Bit cookies as they are sweet and a bit on the chewy side (not as cakey as you might expect) but the fudge with sea salt caramel chips steals the show. The texture is something between a brownie and a cookie and the chips add a delightfully subtle kick of salt. Neither cookie would win a dessert competition, but for how easily and quickly you can whip up batch or two, they’re pretty yummy!

Speaking of brownies, for Valentine’s Day I baked a pan of brownies and then used a cookie cutter to make these cuties. 🙂

What are you baking this weekend? If you use the cake mix idea, please let me know what combinations you try! I know I’ll be making more of these and would love to hear what works and what doesn’t.

By the way, my original plan for today’s post was to show you a really fun art project I’m working on—”paintings” for the big empty wall over my living room sofa—but I am not quite finished yet and I want to try to get really good photos to show you. Be sure to come back next Saturday to see what it’s all about, because it’s an affordable and simple idea any of you can steal.

Oh man, I think I had too many cookies… It might be time for peppermint tea. 🙂

Have an amazing and blessed weekend!

Ann-Margret

P.S. I had a broken link on my previous post. Sorry! If you wanted to read this article I wrote, here is the proper link: WHAT IS COURAGE: SELF-CONFIDENCE OR GOD-CONFIDENCE?

You Are Loved.

Valentine’s Day. Whew, what a loaded phrase. Every year, by the time February 14 rolls around, we’re up to *here* with the hearts and roses, the pink and red, the quotes and songs… Well, some people are, anyway, and it’s not just despondent singles dreading another dateless evening on a night they know countless couples are cozying up to each other.

Even those of us who are either okay with being single or don’t begrudge couples their romantic evening, and even many unsingle* people, can recognize that much of what is touted as love and romance on February 14 is mostly big bucks for retailers… or a desperate attempt for people to score points with their significant other.

* Doesn’t it make more sense that married people are “unsingle” than that single people are “unmarried” (unless they’re divorced)? Just a thought. 🙂

Whatever your stance on Valentine’s Day, here are some goodies I collected for you to enjoy that (hopefully) you haven’t already seen a dozen times.

Love Songs

These are not romantic ballads. These are songs to remind you that, single or married, you are loved by your Creator.

You Are Loved by Stars Go Dim

Lavish by Big Daddy Weave and Francesca Batticelli

Inspiring Reads

For singles: 5 Ways to Be a Happy Single on Valentine’s Day, by my friend Jackie M. Johnson (I have a major crush on her website design, by the way!)

For marrieds: 3 Incredible Pieces of Marriage Advice I’ve Never Forgotten, by my friend Joshua Rogers (Joshua attended a workshop I taught a few years ago but I ended up becoming a fan of his writing.)

Completely unrelated to Valentine’s Day: My latest guest post on the Bible Engager’s Blog hosted by the American Bible Society – What Is Courage: Self-Confidence or God-Confidence?

Fun for Everyone

Men’s Brain vs. Women’s Brain with Mark Gungor – This cracks me up, mainly because it’s so true!

And, finally, two little reminders I created that you are welcome to share. 🙂 (Click on the images to enlarge them.)

kraft singles    Heart Wave

Whatever you’re doing today (I’m going to be having supper at my sister’s home with our parents, her kids and a family friend), I pray you will know that your value and loved-ness have little to do with your relationship status.

Jesus loves you, you should know,
For the Bible tells you so… ❤ 

See you here again on Saturday! I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been working on. 🙂

Ann-Margret 

Love and Pain

Much-Afraid shrank back. “I am afraid,” she said. “I have been told that if you really love someone you give that loved one the power to hurt and pain you in a way nothing else can.”

“That is true,” agreed the Shepherd. “To love does mean to put yourself into the power of the loved one and to become very vulnerable to pain… But it is so happy to love… It is happy to love even if you are not loved in return. There is pain too, certainly, but Love does not think that very significant.”

hinds-feet-on-high-places-coverAbout a dozen years ago, I read Hind’s Feet on High Places, the story of Much-Afraid and her spiritual journey through difficult places with her two companions, Sorrow and Suffering. Much-Afraid overcomes her tormenting fear and eventually reaches the High Places, where she receives a new name and is transformed by her loving Shepherd.

I love the passage I quoted above because it highlights the struggle we all have with love—whether it’s love toward family members, someone of the opposite sex or even God. We want to love but, at times, we grow afraid of loving. We’ve learned how painful it can be and it seems safer not to love. So we hold back, we build walls, we stop taking risks. I’ve been there.

No one shows us better than Jesus Himself how absolutely painful the results of pure, unconditional love can be. His love for us cost Him His life, His dignity, His glory. He was not only rejected but He was also brutally, and undeservingly, beaten and crucified.

At the same time, no one shows us better than He does how much joy there is to be gained by loving unconditionally. Hebrews 12:2 says:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

To Jesus, the pain and shame He suffered was nothing compared to the joy of giving the gift of forgiveness and salvation to His loved ones.

Sometimes we have relationships with people—our children, our spouse, a sibling, a friend—where the love seems unfairly one-sided. We might be tempted to give up on the other person. But I believe God can give us His pure and unselfish love for each other.

In our relationship with God, we obviously don’t worry about being rejected or unloved, but we might be afraid of the things God will ask us to do or give up. We might be tempted to keep some distance between ourselves and God so that He doesn’t call on us.

Yes, loving may be painful at times. But we don’t need to be afraid because “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

Ann-Margret ♥

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Imagine That!

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For today’s creative activity, I want to encourage you to use your imagination. One of the biggest challenges for artists, writers, composers and others who need to create on a regular basis is coming up with something original. As it says in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “there is nothing new under the sun.” In my experience, sometimes it’s the pressure to be brilliant—and now—that blocks us. In fact, the prospect of coming up with a new creative activity each week for my blog’s Creative Saturdays is making me nervous. I think one of the problems is that too few of us take the time to daydream and let our imaginations wander. We’re not bored enough, as this article from Imagination Matters points out.

We need to allow ourselves time to be bored in order to enhance our creative thinking—and break the habit of instantly turning to an electronic device when we are not sure what to do. – Corrie Jones

So here are three simple activities to stretch your imagination muscles a bit. Do one or do them all, but allow yourself to take a bit of time to relax your brain and see where it goes. Please share your results with me!

1. Eyeball benders

When I was a kid, I loved those games in magazines where you were given a close-up of an everyday object and you had to guess what it was. In this activity, I’m not going to ask you to identify the object. I want you to imagine what else it could be. For example, the first image could be an aerial shot of the tops of bulbous trees in a dense forest in the land of Fally Flower. (Silly? Yes… but definitely different from the original image, which is the centre of a daisy.)

Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

What do you see here?

 

2. Wordplay

Puns, palindromes, Spoonerisms, silly rhymes. . . I can’t get enough of them!

This week I’ve been watching Find It, Fix It, Flog It on Netflix, a British show about two guys who salvage junk and upcycle odd items to sell and make a profit for the original owners. The show’s narrator often uses catchy phrases such as “gold out of old” and “trash into cash.” Those would make great book titles or names for thrift shops!

Can you come up with similar fun phrases to describe creative projects, such as “rags into bags” or “owl towels”? The rhyme may give you ideas for your next craft. (Hmm… “candles with handles”? Ha!)

3. Pros and Cons

Sometimes it’s useful to exercise your imagination even if the final result is not a finished project; it just gets you into the habit of thinking about things in new ways, which is a big part of what creativity is all about.

For this activity, I’d like you to make a typical two-column list of the benefits vs. the disadvantages of one or more of these scenarios (get as detailed as you like!) This activity would be especially fun to do with kids.

a. Living in a gingerbread house

b. Being able to fly

c. Having Albert Einstein as your son

d. Having four arms

e. Your OWN imaginary scenario!

Please remember to come back and tell me if you’ve tried any of these activities, or let me know in the comments how you get your imagination and creativity going.

Happy Saturday!

Ann-Margret

Choose Your Own Adventure

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When I was a kid, I loved those books that let you decide what you would do from one situation to the next. You’d flip back and forth in the book, to whatever page you had to go to, never knowing how your story would end until the very last moment. And then you could start over, choosing different answers and experiencing a whole new tale. So much fun! (Aww, man, now I want to buy myself a CYOA book. Maybe I should add a few to my wishlist.) 😉

I’m not sure why there aren’t more of these online, or maybe I haven’t dug around enough, but the Internet would make it so easy to create CYOA stories and games. In fact, 10 years ago, my friend Julie did just that and I was delighted to stumble across it in my files the other day. (Yes, I played!) It’s not a long tale, but it’s charming and creative so I want to share it for you to enjoy it, too.

Check it out here. (But don’t forget to then come back here, please.) 🙂

Now, this isn’t exactly a choose-your-own-adventure but…

If you’d like to help me find more great resources to share on my blog, click here.

If you’d rather enter an archive of 6,000 kids’ books that can be read online, click here.

If you’d like to get more inspiration from me than just what I post on my blog, click here (and then click the “Like Page” button, of course.) 😉

I hope you have a lovely, adventurous day!

Ann-Margret

 

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