We had no idea what we were walking into yesterday at church. Instead of the normal sermon,  we had a few guests there talking to us from a country called Moldova. I'd never heard of it. I have heard of Romania, which is right next door. Anyway, this nice man and his father (they were living in US)  felt God tugging at his heart and pulled him to this part of the world because babies were dying, freezing to death in their beds. He told the whole story how he went back and helped the orphanage many times installing new windows and heating system, only to find out that they kicked the orphans out at 16. When he saw 18 girls sitting outside on benches with no where to go, his heart broke and he decided he had to help them. At the time, he only had room for 3 girls, but vowed to help as many as he could, when he organized a bit better. So, this guy just started building or rehabbing houses to hold these children. And yes, at 16, after spending your whole life in an orphan where no one hugged you, food was scarce, and the were sleeping 4 in a twin bed to keep from freezing to death, at 16 you still are a child, a very broken child.  One young lady that stood out was a wheelchair bound, bright girl named Stella. After organizing and coming back to get the children, he learned that Stella had passed away from HIV.

Determined to love and show Jesus to these kids, he took as many as he could hold and gave them beds- real beds, clothes, food, love, and lead them to Jesus. Now, they have 4 Stella's Houses and they are flourishing! The girls have made their own church! They invite their friends to worship!

After his speech at church, the girls got up and did a dance, then one of the told us her testimonial. Let me tell you, when I say "My heart broke for them" it literally did. I just want to go to these orphanages and take as many kids as they will allow me to! It also makes me angry a bit knowing that we will have to adopt children, but all the hoops you have to go through just to be qualified in this country, and yet, there are babies freezing to death and just ugh, it's something to pray about for sure!

It is such an inspirational story and I am so thankful that this great man and his father had enough faith to go to a foreign place and do this. It makes me look at my own life and know that I'm not doing nearly enough work like this, are you?

If you want to hear more about these girls and their story, check out
www.stellasvoice.org




Stella's Voice

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Sharing Faith is a hard one for me. Sometimes I feel like your relationship with God is such a personal thing, just about as personal as sharing your bra size. Other times, I just want to pour it all out on here for the world to see. I browse other blogs often, and some are only a sprinkle or two of faith-based posts, others it's every single post. While I am still trying to establish my voice in the blogging world, I don't want to scare anyone off by posting a lot of faith based posts. At the same time, they would read the blog to learn about me, and hear what I have to say. And my Faith in Christ is the most important thing to me in this world. SO why wouldn't I share it? The Husband has told me numerous times, that I over analyze things, but it's such a touchy subject for some, and the last thing I want to do is offend anyone.   I am a peacemaker at heart, and want to leave everyone with warm and fuzzies, so the question remains, do I share my faith on this blog? 

I'd love to hear your feedback! Leave a comment, or paragraph, or book if you'd like!
Sharing Faith

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My Nephew, Vance, is a handful to say the least. His personality is too big to be contained in such a little body! He's all over the place, playing non stop and the things he comes up with, makes you stop and say, "What? Where in the world did you get that from?" He's the type of kid where you just want to peek into his brain to see how it works. He's also the type of kid where you look at my sister and tell her you are so sorry because you know this kid will cause her to have premature gray hair. :)
 

 
 
Now, I've been watching the show Parks and Rec, and love all the quirky characters. The one that sticks out the most is John Ralphio. Isn't he a dead ringer for my nephew?  
 
 
 

 
Yep, I thought so too! I've started to call him John Ralphio, and have top secret info from my Niece that he has, in fact, referred to himself as John Ralphio a time or two.
Gotta love Nieces and Nephews!

John Ralphio... TV Character or Nephew?

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Everyone has noticed chalkboards all over the place these days right? And all of the recipes want you to buy this grouting sand or grouting powder, something that I have never needed and I certainly did not want to buy just for this project. After many more hours researching, I finally found someone stating that Plaster of Paris works just as well! At just under $5, I was comfortable with the price and certain that I could reuse the Plaster AND have good results in this project! Bam! Done deal!

This is what you will need:
- Something that will be your chalkboard
-Acrylic paint
-A mixing cup
-Plaster of Paris
-Paint brush you are willing to throw away
-Puff Paint



I used an old picture that I didn't care for anymore as my chalkboard, but you can use anything really, wood, an old serving tray, anything that paint will adhere to.


I wanted a little more personalization to mine, so I looked up a cute font, and with a Sharpie, I wrote on top of the glass. I shouldn't have to say it, but I will just in case- make sure you thoroughly clean off any dust that is on your picture. Even in the corners and even if it is a teeny bit, it will mix with the paint & be a mess!




Next, I used the Puff Paint very carefully and traced over my lettering. You may want to practice using the Puff Paint where it comes out in smooth lines. It is tricky. But if you make a mistake, quickly wipe it off with a paper towel & try again! So forgiving!




While the Puff Paint was drying, I went ahead and mixed the Acrylic paint up to the desired color. I wanted a dark gray almost black, but you literally can use any color you want- pink, blue, orange, any color!  Kind of estimate how much paint you will need to make 3-4 good coats on your chalkboard. I think I had about 1/2 cup here.



Mix Well!


Once you get your color, add about a Tablespoon of Plaster of Paris to your paint, more or less depending on the amount of paint you have. My art teacher always said it's easier to add little bits at a time then try to take too much out. So use your judgment.



Looking at the picture, I decided the brownish orange frame just wouldn't do, so I mixed up a pretty blue paint & painted the frame also! Now it goes with the rest of my living room!



After painting the frame and letting it dry a bit, I started on the glass part. Be aware that the brush strokes will show up. I tried to get them as even as possible, but you can still see them.  Also, when it is still wet, it will show darker. So try to get even coats, and let dry completely in between.


Letting dry takes a while, so you can grab your hair dryer and use the cool setting also!  AND you can search out your house for whatever else can be painted while you're waiting just like I did! :) I'm working on my patience, but I'm not very good at it!


I decided on a tea light candle holder, the bottoms of wine glasses so we always know who's is who's at get togethers, and my Circle E Candle Jar which is our "Happiness Jar"- More on this later!

Have you guys ever made your own Chalk Paint? Please share your experiences below! Thanks for reading!
DIY How to make your own chalkboard

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  If you're joining me from Pinterest, welcome to The Artsy Cajun! This post may be long, but it will give you most of the info you'll need to pack efficiently and still manage to have everything you need! Don't forget to take a look around my blog for other Europe trip blog posts after you're done here!



*At the bottom of the post, I will put my Packing List so you can just print it out & use it! GO TRAVEL! See this gorgeous world God has made!*

38 days frolicking all over Europe, 17 countries, in the winter, all using ONE day pack! I would normally say backpack, but most people think of the hardcore ones that have the metal frame.  I am talking about a day pack, a little bigger than a school backpack. Yes, one pack. In theory, it was such a good idea. we did this for a number of reasons. 


  • 1. SAFETY-  I am obsessed with safety. I read so many stories about so and so who went to Europe and had their bags stolen, lost or the young kids on mopeds that would ride by and slash your straps and take off with your bag. when it comes to safety, determination is my middle name. 
  • 2. We knew we would be on a bus full of people and we were told we could only bring so many pounds of luggage. Now, I won't say names, but a select few of our group strolled up with 2-3 LARGE suitcases, like largest you can buy them. Our tour was for less than a month. :) Trust me, we heard almost daily from the bus driver that said if we were to get stopped we would get fined for being overweight.  
  • 3. We knew the American airlines were starting to charge for even one checked baggage. Having multiple layovers & possible schedule changes, we didn't want to pay every single time, so we choose to just have one pack each.


Once decided,  I began scouring the travel sites and forums looking for any tips on the best packs to get. After countless hours, I finally found the holy grail of packs- the Pac Safe Venture 35L.    This bad boy has steel meshing INSIDE the fabric, water resistant, pockets galore, steel cable reinforcing the straps,  I mean perfect! Double checking with the airlines that the pack would be carry on size, we ordered two from Amazon for about $130 each, now, they are under that, and TOTALLY worth it people, trust me. These things took a beating and we still use them today!

 Now on to our next issue, it was winter...in Europe. Not that it is necessarily a problem, but we are leaving our Hawaiian home of the past three years to go where I don't even know how cold it is because everything is in Celsius and I hate math- But COLD. Part of the tour would be outside, of course, to see all the sights. And some places were warmer than others, but you always needed layers. So the clothes would be thicker but with Husband's army packing skills, we made it happen!

 The hardest part, for me, was letting go of what I "thought" I needed as far as bathroom products go.  I am a product junkie, and I will be the first to admit it. I love new products that smell good, or lotions, or pore strips... put it this way, in moving from Hawaii to Illinois, the moving company didn't allow any liquid items to be packed up. I literally had a 10-gallon garbage bag full of bathroom products that I had to give away. P.R.O.D.U.C.T. J.U.N.K.I.E. I also had a time trying to figure out what books to read. Since we were limited in space, I put the Kindle app on my iPad and bought a bunch of books on there. This link gets you started with 2 free books, can't beat that! Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks



So, fitting everything I would possibly need one pack caused so much stress and anxiety for me. It took about 4 months for me to think about, stress about, research, find the best deals for everything, but I will tell you how I did it and made it all fit in pictures. One tip is get things that match with ANYTHING you wear. Ok, here goes.








For obvious reasons, undergarments are not pictured, 3 sets did just fine since we had travel soap and washed every night in the hotel sinks if there wasn't a laundry facility.



 In the quick access pocket went maps, schedules, tickets, anything we would need to get to right away.





























  This packing list, well, there are things to remember. We were in Europe from Jan-March, so it was freezing most of the time. I had to pack warm, but I had to remember everything would be on my back at all times. Turns out we could leave things on the bus for our outings, but if you are traveling solo, count on it being on your back.

  So when purchasing things, get as light weight and as small as possible. Also, remember 


  • at the airport, you have to have all toiletries or liquids in a see-through/Ziploc 1 quart sized bag, and they cannot be over 3 oz. each.
  •  As for shoes, wear ones that can slip on and off if at all possible. This will help you get through customs so you're not running through random airports with a 30-pound pack punching you in the back, trust me ;)


Packing List:
1 Heavy Jacket
1 Light Jacket, I used a fleece one from old navy.
1 pair of hiking boots- Do your feet a favor and break them in for months beforehand.
1 pair of dressy boots
1 Day Pack, I used Pac Safe Venture 35L
1 large mesh laundry bag
1 Cross Body Purse, I used Vera of course :)
Camera plus extra SD cards
Camera battery Charger
European power adapter
Ipad & Ipad case
1 Master lock plus key- When you stay at hotels or hostels, they normally have a lockable wardrobe, and I suggest either locking it away or taking it with you EVERYTIME you leave your room.
2 t-shirts
1 long sleeve t-shirt
2 pair thermals, top & bottom
3 sets undergarments, including socks
1 set pajamas
1 pair of slippers
1 pashmina, Black, matches anything
neck gaiter
beanie hat
1 dressy shirt
2 pair pants
1 shimmy/shammy towel (find these in the camping section of big box stores)
1 toiletries bag (came with towel above)
1 small shower poof
small bottle of lotion
small nail clippers
Vicks vapor rub
Moleskin- This stuff saves your feet after miles of touring cities. You will need it!
1 small bottle of perfume
smash proof 3 oz. bottle of body wash
smash proof 3 oz. bottle of shampoo & conditioner combo
Carmex or another lip balm
small comb
2 hair ties, 4 bobby pins- super careful with these because we all know how bobbies disappear into thin air.
hard case for the soap bar
small bottle of face lotion with SPF
toothbrush & toothpaste
Travel laundry soap sheets (super cool)
Eyeliner, I used non-waterproof kind. Just so I could smudge it, it will double as eye shadow.
deodorant
ink pen 
travel journal
Benadryl- Make sure to leave all medications in blister packs- otherwise, you might have explaining to do!
Aspirin
Band-Aids
travel packs of Neosporin
Compass
floss
Baby wipes- Get the flushable kind. These are awesome for freshening up after hours on a bus or plane!

That's all! Remember above all else, have fun! Take too many pictures and don't be afraid to talk to the locals! Money can't buy happiness, but it buys travel, which makes me pretty darn happy!



Touring Europe for 38 days using ONE day pack... here's how

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I am a nail polish junkie. I'll be the first to admit it. It's a lifelong obsession. That being said, I've used up countless bottles and have learned what works best for me, OPI.  Although, being $8 a bottle puts a damper on things.  So, every once in a while I cheat. Meaning I buy other brands, less expensive brands just so I can have many different choices in color.  As my husband reminds me, it's all reds and pinks, but none the less- choices! Of course, I always regret it after the next day and the mani has already chipped.

Which brings me to the question- quantity vs quality?


Quantity vs Quality

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Fishing- gross, dirty, stinky, smelly... But totally relaxing. As a child, my Grandfather would take us fishing on the Atchafalaya River (across the street and over the levee). It was okay, always super hot and humid, but I hardly ever picked up the fishing pole. I would get bored and distracted watching the barges slowly pass by, or scour the river bank for a magical treasure chest that I'd somehow convinced myself would wash up eventually. Needless to say, never found that chest, but I did carry the memories with me over the years, which were just as precious.
  Fast forward to our apartment search a month ago. Having some sort of nature within walking distance was a must for me.  A few trees in the parking lot doesn't cut it for this girl. I need to see nothing commercial, or parking lots, just nature as far as I can see.  When we found this apartment complex, I think I'd hit the jackpot. McDowell Grove Forest Preserve, 515 acres of picnicking areas, 7 miles of trails, kayaking and fishing 1/2 mile from my door. HEAVENNNNN!!!! I was sold. Now, fast forward another month. With family things going on, Chris's weird work schedule, and unpacking/ setting up home, we didn't have the opportunity go explore this piece of Heaven...until this past Sunday. We packed up a bag filled with first aid supplies, fishing tackle, and water bottles, grabbed our fishing poles, lunch and off we went! They have a nice parking lot when you first drive in, so we parked and grabbed a picnic table. After a very peaceful lunch, we set off. The trail winds around for about a mile before you reach the bigger lake. The trail wasn't terrible, pretty forest areas, graveled so no mud, and only a handful of bikers whizzing past you. We found our spot on the lake and fished for about 2 hours. It was so nice!!! Very relaxing, and the fish were extremely plentiful. Pretty much seconds after I cast, I would get a bite! McDowell grove is catch and release so we let them all go, but it was nice just to look over at your husband, who is enjoying this just as much if not more than you are, and take it all in. Making new memories that are just as precious as the old ones, that is  what life is all about! We will definitely support the preserve and enjoy it every chance we get!

http://www.dupageforest.com/Conservation/Forest_Preserves/McDowell_Grove.aspx 



Fishing tales

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