Monday, October 31, 2011

It Only Took Me 7 Years......

....but I finally got around to getting a studio photo session done for my family.

This is the last "professional" one we had taken:

My babies were so little......and blonde!  My youngest was 3 yrs. old - he's now 10, and I am a very bad Mom, yes?!  We've taken lots of camera shots since then and have a few nice individual shots of the kids taken for our annual yearbook, but no family portraits since this one!  =(

About two weeks ago, I received a coupon from Sears in my inbox and finally made an appointment on the spur of the moment.  I figured I wasn't going to get around for that professional shoot "on location" that I have been meaning to do (for 7 yrs.), and I should just go ahead and do something.

This weekend we "got it done", and although I'm not thrilled with the outcome, I know I won't get my husband to do this again anytime soon, so it is what it is.  I'd like to redo it with different clothes (living life in rush mode does not make for the best outcome), and leave about 10-15 lbs. of me at home.  ; )  Maybe in the spring I'll get that photo shoot I've really been wanting to do......

This shot will replace the one above on our great room wall and we also ordered several for family....even though I'm not loving it:

My top is not that shade of green in real life....why does it look that color in the picture?  I am baffled by this.....

My husband hates this shot (below) and it is dreadful of me (the worst possible angle of my face - ewww!), but in spite of that,  I kind of like it and my kids really want it ~ they love it......and the comical scene that is embedded in our minds of us getting in place for this shot makes it possibly worth buying it just for memory's sake....I haven't decided yet.

We also purchased some of this one, because the hubs and I couldn't resist it.......:

......and are contemplating this one.  All three of the kids hate it, but we like it  {I think they may have inherited the "I-hate-pics-of-myself disease" =( }:

A few more that we are not purchasing (I think)......I wish the "Sears" words weren't on them, but I "get"
 why they are.....

So.......I'm asking for feedback!  What do you think of the ones I'm still trying to decide on (because I can't decide & I need to!)?

One good thing about this photo shoot:  It has inspired me to get seriously motivated to lose those 10-15 prep. for the next one......and given me strength and determination to be strong in the indulgent, food-obsessed season we're headed into!  ; )

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tomato Basil Soup

  • I got this recipe many moons ago from Light & Tasty, a magazine put out by Taste of Home.  It's a perfect accompaniment to the last recipe I posted, Chicken Pesto Paninis.  It's yummy just the way it is, but I sometimes add some freshly pressed garlic to it, because we love our garlic and it's good for you!  I'm thinking about making it this weekend, in addition to some other goodies for one of the few football games I actually care to watch.  Go Dawgs!! =)
  • Tomato Basil Soup

  • Tomato Basil Soup Recipe
photo & recipe by: Taste of Home

  • 4 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 can (49 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth or 6 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 can (29 ounces) tomato puree
  • 5 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 can (12 ounces) fat-free evaporated milk

In a Dutch oven, cook carrots and onion in butter over medium-low heat for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
    In a blender, place 1/2 broth and the cooled vegetables; cover and process until blended. Return to the Dutch oven. Stir in the tomato puree, basil sugar, salt, pepper and remaining broth. 
    Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Gradually stir in evaporated milk; heat through (do not boil). Yield: 6 servings (2-1/4 quarts). 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I've Been Featured....and have new items! =)

I woke up this morning and discovered that I've been featured at Welcome Wednesday, hosted by Take It From Me!

What a nice surprise.....and what incentive to get me to get together a post that I've been trying to get to for 3 days! ; )  With all the Fall craft fairs rolling around, I've been busy getting some things made for them while fulfilling other orders as well.

I have some new Team Spirit purses now available!  These Team purses are some of my most consistent best sellers.....we ladies love to show some style and personality, even when it comes to football fan loyalty! ; )

For my FSU friends, family & customers:

For my local Jacksonville Jaguar fans:

And, for my Bulldog fans:

Of course, I still have the Fl. Gator version available, too...... I've sewn so many of these,  I often think my machine should know how to do it by itself by now! ; )

I've got some new baby items as well, but I'm going to save them for next week's crafty come back and visit!  I know you'll be waiting on  pins & needles to find out what they are! ; )

Interesting (not really) and random fact: "Pins & Needles" was one of the names offered up when we were brainstorming business names for me.  We liked "Sweet Diva" better.  Obviously. =)

Join in the hop, hosted by Take It From Me, and you might be chosen to be featured next!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

♪ Oh Soul, Are You Weary and Troubled....♪

Wife-ing.  Mom-ing.  Meal Planning.  Couponing.  Grocery Shopping.  Cooking.  Baking.  Cleaning.  Cleaning.  Cleaning.  Referee-ing.  Teaching.  Studying.  Learning.  Working.  Budgeting.  Paying.  Homeschooling.  Planning.  Field Tripping.  Driving.  Churching.  Taxi-ing.  Churching.  Choir-ing.  Children's, Middle School, and Adult (<--- selfishly).  Serving.  Cooking.  Baking.  Cleaning.  Cleaning.  Cleaning.  Undone household projects.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting  (Grrrrrr). Sewing.  Teaching sewing. Teaching sewing some more.  Bookkeeping. Shopping.  Hair Cutting.  Phone calling.  Emailing.  Networking.  Working.  Sweeping.  Vacuuming.  PET HAIR.  Party planning.  Cleaning.  Cleaning.  Party Attending.  Blogging.  Reading. Working more. Grooming.  Them & myself.  Cooking.  Cleaning.  Sewing.  Sewing.  Sewing.  And more sewing.

"Mom, can you?", "Mom can I?", "Mom, can we?", "Jill, can you?"  "could you?", "would you?".


Ummmmm, Really???

I completely get the idea behind this little catchphrase, but admit I wonder at the person who came up with it. I don't think this person has much in common with me.  ; )  

I also think that this phrase could make some people feel very guilty for being, well.......REAL.  And NORMAL.

Am I blessed?  Without a doubt.

Beyond Measure.

Am I thankful?  Absolutely.

Every day.  

Am I stressed?  Do I sometimes feel so overwhelmed that I can't focus and I think if I don't get a break somewhere, somehow, that the men in white coats will surely come haul me away?

I've instructed my children that if this ever does actually happen, they are required by law to come and visit me.  ; )

I am BLESSED.  In more ways than my tiny little overworked and underpaid ; ) brain can even begin to fathom.  I have the three most incredible children ever created {I think yours are...sorry to burst your bubble ; ) }, I have love, I have awesomely fabulous friends, I have a roof over my head, food to eat, ♥music♥ to sing, ♥homeschooling♥, pets to pet, and work I can do from home using talents that He so graciously gave to me so that I can stay at home.

But to be honest, to be REAL.....with many wonderful blessings come stress.  There are things I do because I want to and things I do because I have to.  I haven't figured out how to let any of those things go at this season of my life, because for the most part.....they are dependent on each other.

And so I strive for balance.  And on those days when I can actually hear the men in white coats coming down the street because balance is nowhere in sight......I realize that in all the busy-ness, in all the chaos of life,  my focus has shifted from the One who gives me the strength to be all He's called me to be in this season to the things He's called me to.

I know I'm not the only one out there juggling so many balls in life right now that they're often tripping all over the ones that have fallen around them.  I know I'm not the only one who gets weary and overwhelmed........and when my eyes are focused on the things, the impossible list of tasks and responsibilities that I cannot fulfill in my own strength, I know that I forgot to give them to the One who gives me the strength in the first place.

Or, more accurately....I did give them to Him, but then I took them back.  Why do I do that?!  Sometimes I wonder why He doesn't stop accepting my apologies and just give up on me....but I'm thankful that He doesn't.

I'm thankful that He never fails to feed my hungry soul in so many ways despite the fact that I don't deserve it. When I seek Him, when I spend time in His Word and in prayer, when I keep the Main Thing the Main Thing,  I find that everything still doesn't get done every day.  The difference is.....I have peace, I have something resembling balance, and I find that all those balls on the floor and the ones still in the air don't seem so overwhelming.

And amazingly enough, He feeds my soul even when I push that time with Him right out of my schedule.  He feeds me with a song I needed to hear at just the right time, with friends who make my day with an unexpected surprise, email or text.  He feeds my soul with hugs and kisses and "You're the best mom ever" (even though I'm not)!  He sends His sustaining love to me in so many ways..............and to you, too.  

You just have to learn to see it. 

In the darkest of the darkest days, in the moments when there seems to be no end and you just have nothing left to give (you've been there, I know you have), turn to Him.  He's been there the whole time.  Lovingly waiting to give your soul what it so desperately needs, and for you to give back to Him whatever it is you keep taking out of His hands.

And unlike us, He can handle it......and begin to show us that we are, in the midst of this crazy, chaotic, stressful  life......

BLESSED.  Abundantly and indescribably so.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

♪ Oh soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's light for a look at the Saviour,
And life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, 
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, 
In the light of His Glory and Grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion -
For more than conquerors we are!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, 
Look full in His wonderful face, 
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, 
In the light of His Glory and Grace.

His Word shall not fail you - He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well;
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, 
Look full in His wonderful face, 
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, 
In the light of His Glory and Grace. ♪

Isaiah 40:28-31

New King James Version (NKJV)
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD,       The Creator of the ends of the earth,  Neither faints nor is weary.  His understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, 31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles,       They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hot Off The Presses....

.....or, more accurately, still warm from being pressed! ; )

As soon as I posted pictures of my newest tote, I started getting inquiries and requests for customized orders.  Talk about getting an instant reward for my efforts! ; )

I've got to give a shout-out to those Fl Gator fans ~ they keep this Sweet Diva busy with customized orders in their desire to show their team pride in style! ; )

A customized version for A Univ. of Fl. student.  I think she's a music major.....and her ♥sweet♥ mama is getting started on her Christmas shopping!  After Christmas, this student will be able to to show off her love of music, her love of ♥Christ♥, and her loyalty to her school team ~ all at the same time!  

My super ♥sweet♥ daughter helped me decide on the Gator-colored fabrics.....she earned a cookie for her efforts.  Gotta love child labor! ; )

A sweet ♥ friend ♥ from church also placed an order for her own birthday gift (she shops like I do!).... =)

Nearly identical to the original, but slightly modified.....

She chose the phrase "His Song is Salvation" and wanted her name embroidered on the band, which I made slightly wider so that her name wouldn't have to be teensy-tiny! =)

Customization is a very fun thing.....these are ready for delivery & I've got to serve up some lunch to these homeschool students of mine before getting them started on their next assignment....and getting myself started on my next assignment!

Happy Tuesday! =)

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And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ~ Colossians 3:17

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And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ~ Colossians 3:17

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Linking up with:

PhotobucketGet Your Craft On Tuesday
handmade projects

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chicken Pesto Grilled Sandwiches / Paninis

A while back, I entered a recipe contest {I used to have time to do that sort of thing ; ) }, and this was my contribution based on a specific list of ingredients.  Super yummilicious served with a bowl of  homemade Tomato Basil Soup ( <----- check back next week)!

I make these on a large electric T-Fal griddle so that I can make the whole family's meal at once. Instructions are given based on cooking in this manner, but these could easily be made on a grill or Panini grill as well. The pesto recipe is a little thicker than I normally make it to prevent the oil inthe pesto from saturating the bread before the sandwich is done. Cook and prep time include time for making pesto and marinade, but do not include the time needed to marinate the chicken, so plan ahead! You'll be glad you did! :)

 **We really like this sandwich, but not the Nutritional Facts! If you would like to lighten it up a bit, instuctions are at the bottom of the could also omit the chicken and do all veggies if you want (but the chicken is delish).

Chicken Pesto Grilled Sandwiches/Paninis-Original & Lighter

Chicken Pesto Grilled Sandwiches/Paninis-Original & Lighter. Photo by Sweet Diva


2 1/2 cups spinach leaves, fresh
1 cup asiago cheese, grated
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 garlic cloves, large, peeled and cut in half
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Chicken Marinade:

1/4 cup pesto sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt, opt.
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 lb skinless chicken breast halves, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch s thick strips

Other Ingredients:

2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, julienne cut (or roasted red peppers)
1/2 cup water1/4 cup olive oil, divided
6 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 loaf Italian bread10 ounces gouda cheese, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter, divided


For pesto, combine first six ingredients in a food processor.
Process until finely chopped; gradually pour in olive oil and process until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.For chicken marinade, combine all marinade ingredients (using 1/4 cup of the pesto you just made and reserving remaining pesto for later use).

Place marinade and chicken in a bowl or zip-top plastic bag. Make sure chicken is thoroughly covered; refrigerate 6-8 hours.  Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade.

In a nonstick skillet, cook chicken in 2 Tablespoons oil over med-high heat, about 5 - 7 minutes. Remove chicken and divide into 6 equal portions; set aside.  Drain tomatoes.   In same skillet that you cooked the chicken in, saute mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes in remaining 2 tablespoons oil  until mushrooms are tender and liquid is absorbed; divide into 6 equal portions; set aside.

Separate thinly sliced Gouda into 6 equal portions.  Cut 12 slices, 1/2" thick, from Italian bread loaf.For each sandwich, do the following:. On one slice of bread, layer chicken strips, mushroon/tomato mixture, and then Gouda slices. Place remaining bread slice, pesto side down on top of cheese. Spread approximately 1 teaspoon butter on top bread slice.  Place, buttered side down, on preheated griddle or grill.  With a spatula, press down on the sandwich - just to kind of "smoosh" it together, and while it is cooking, spread approximately 1 teaspoon butter on top slice of bread. Grill approximately 5 minutes, flip and grill approximately 3-5 minutes more or until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown and crispy.Repeat for remaining sandwiches.

***Lighter version***.

For pesto sauce, substitute 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth for the olive oil and omit the salt (if using low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, you may not want to omit the salt) and reduce pine nuts to 1/3 cup or omit altogether (if you want to go even lighter).Proceed with recipe as instructed.Reduce Gouda to 6-8 ounces (depending on your preference for cheesiness), thinly slice and proceed with recipe instructions.Omit the butter that is spread on top of the bread before grilling and instead use a lighter spread - I use Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread w/ Flax, or I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray (No fat or calories in this one).Depending on which and how many of the suggested changes you make, you could cut the fat and calories significantly and still have a tasty panini. :).