Friday, August 31, 2007

Haircuts at home

We cut hair at home. This is a pretty easy way to save a pretty sizable chunk of money every year. When I figured up some very conservative estimates for our family of 6 I came up with $330.00 that we would have to pay each year if we got our haircuts elsewhere. We would also have the cost of gas and it would take more time then doing it at home. We also wouldn't get the benefit of old hair in our compost pile or around our garden to keep animals away. I am not a professional hair cutter and so I do pretty simple haircuts (or sometimes, like pictured above, my extended family helps out.).

For all the boys we use the clippers (or "buzzer") These are not that expensive to buy and they last quite well and you can get them sharpened if they get dull. For my husband I use the 3/4 inch comb for the top of his head and the 1/2 inch comb for the sides and back.
For the boys I do 1/2 inch comb on the top and 1/4 inch on the sides and back and then I trim with a scissors above the ears, and I shave it around the bottom and on the neck.

For the girls I just have to trim their bangs regularly which works best to do with dry hair and start longer than you want and then work at evening it out. (this is a place where it is easy to get to short!) Every so often I will trim the back of the hair too, which I usually do with wet hair.

For mine we did something different. I figured that a layered cut is hair cut shorter on the layers of hair that are on top. If you have long hair and you hang your head upside down the hair from the top of your head goes the farthest down and the hair from the bottom is the shortest, etc. When my youngest sister was over the other day I had her cut my hair this way. I lay on the table with my head hanging down, as pictured, then she trimmed a couple of inches off of the end. The other pictures are the result. I think it worked pretty well. It is probably not the best haircut I have ever had but it certainly isn't the worst either. It is very fast and easy too.
If you would like more info on cutting hair here are some websites that have info:

More ways to use Zucchini!

We have still be getting a lot of zucchini from the garden and so I have been busy trying to fit it into our diets. My family doesn't prefer huge amounts at once so I try to stick little bits in often. Here are some of the things we have enjoyed lately:

  • Zucchini Nut Muffins This is a new recipe and one we are really enjoying!
    3 cups flour (I use mostly whole wheat)
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    4 eggs
    1/2 cup oil
    2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    1 cup raw sunflower seeds
    3/4 cup raisins
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients. Add eggs oil, zucchini and vanilla and beat. Fold in sunflower seeds and raisins. Put in greased or paper lined muffin tins. Bake 25 minutes. Makes 24 muffins.
  • Yummy Zucchini and Carrot Patties.
    1/2 cup flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    1 egg
    1/4 cup milk
    1 cup grated carrots
    1 cup grated zucchini
    2 tablespoons chopped onion
    Mix dry ingredients. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Place a skilled over medium heat and add a little oil. When oil is hot, spoon some batter in the pan making little patties. cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Serve warm either plain or with salsa and sour cream. We really like these and they reminded me of onion rings.
  • On Pizza We tried chopping up the zucchini small and putting it on homemade pizza. It was quite good.
  • In Quesidillas Again I chopped it small and then fried it with the onions, garlic and meat and then put that mixture and cheese in the tortilla and fried it. Nobody notice the squash.
  • In Jello This is one from my mom and not actually one that I have tried. She put zucchini in the blender and made it into a liquid and then warmed it up and used it for the liquid in jello. She used orange Jello and I guess it turned it brown (and my 15 year old sister thought it wasn't very attractive) but it tasted fine.
  • In Yeast Bread This is another one from my mom. She again liquefied it and then used it for the liquid in bread.

I hope these ideas are helpful to you!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Going camping!

In two weeks our family is going camping. We are very excited! We are going to the Jackpine Retreat, a rustic family camp that is one of the highlights of our year.

This camp is in Minnesota up near the Canadian border. I have gone since before I was one year old. I believe I have only missed two years in my life, the first time when I lived in Iowa (so about a 14 hour trip away) and 2 weeks away from delivering my first child and the 2nd time when I lived in Wichita, Kansas and was even farther away. Growing up this camp had no running water (it was hauled in), and no electricity. (So no showers and you used outhouses). We still use outhouses but there is electricity and water and one shower that everybody shares. But those are not the important things. What was and is important is the great Christian fellowship, the learning and singing around the campfire (either with bluegrass instruments or acappella), the beauty of nature that God created and just learning how tough you can be. It is a great place for kids to run and play and have fun balancing on a log or having races while manuvering an electric spool. The other day I was feeling very nostolgic about Jackpine Retreat and I found some pictures that I had and made them into a slideshow which is at the bottom of the page (I couldn't figure out how to put it in the post.)

Camping in general is a great family activity. It can be a very cheap way to vacation ( or I suppose you could buy expensive equipment, go to exotic locations and buy all pre-made food and make it expensive), as well as a great way to make your family grow closer together. Challenges faced together having a tendency to help you grow closer relationships and make memories, camping provides challanges that we don't face in day to day life (such as staying dry when it rains, or dealing with being wet if you don't stay dry, figuring out how to cook while camping, braving the cold nights, etc.

Camping is also good for homeschooling. It can really help to make kids understand what life was like a little better in the "olden days". What it is like to use and outhouse (or the woods) , having to carry your water, cooking over a fire, sleeping on the ground and many other things. One year when I was a teen we came up to the Jackpine campground in the summer (in addition to the September Jackpine Retreat) and had a old time survival camp. (There are some pictures in the slide show below) We worked at building our own shelter, starting a fire with flint and steel, foraging for food and stuff like that. It was a blast (even though we hadflies all day and mosquitoes all night and very hot weather). Camping is something that kids learn from and will remeber for their lifetime.

What do you like about camping? Do you have any good camping tips? Or any fun memories of Jackpine Retreat?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The beauty of breastfeeding

I am in the process of weaning my last child. It is a little bittersweet. Weaning was going fairly well until I developed mastitis. I ended up going to the doctor today for an antibiotic. Anyway I have been thinking about breastfeeding and the neat things about it. I did a little research to and I thought I would share with you some of the benefits of breastfeeding.
  • It is better for the babies health. Breast milk has just the right mix for the baby's development. It has antibodies in it to help protect infants from bacteria and viruses and it helps them to fight of infection. Babies that are breastfed tend to be leaner throughout their lifetime. Babies that are breastfed tend to visit the Doctor less. They have less cases of SIDS, diabetes, high cholesterol and asthma.
  • Breast feeding is great for losing weight! Breastfeeding (without supplementing) can burn 600 calories everyday which is like 2 hours of aerobic exercise. I have loved not having to be concerned about weight at all for several years. I weigh less now than I did when I was in college.
  • Breasting feeding is a great time for relaxing. I have enjoyed having time to do a lot of reading.
  • No menstrual period for quite a while! Very nice!
  • Nursing helps to lower your risk for ovarian and breast cancer.
  • Breastfeeding is very cost efficient! I can't imagine how much money I have saved by breastfeeding 4 kids.
  • Breastfeeding saves time. No having to mix up bottles, breast milk is ready all the time. I don't have to wash bottles either, or spend time buying formula.
  • There is less trash with breastfeeding as we don't have formula cans or bags or anything like that to throw away.
  • More sleep! When my babies wake up in the night I don't have to get up and make a bottle up and sit up holding the bottle in place, I just pull my baby in bed by me and feed her.

What do you like about breastfeeding?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Remaking Clothes

One way that I clothe our family economically is by remaking clothes. We are given a lot of hand-me-downs, which are not always in the size or style that we want or need. Instead of just getting rid of them or turning them into quilts, I try to look them over and see if there is a way to turn them into something that we do need or want.
This dress at the left was given to us and fit my daughter Mara. However it was rather on the short side (I have a tall daughter) and we don't like short dresses for Mara. (She has trouble sitting and acting ladylike in long dresses, it would be quite a trial to keep covered up with a short one.) So instead of just passing it on again we revamped it. She did need another dress (we had some weddings to go to as well as for church). I found some material that I had left over from a bridesmaids dress and I added a layer on the bottom. The darker blue matched the flowers that were in the dress (that is kind of hard to tell in the picture). Mara wanted me to add some pink to it to so I added the pink strips. I wasn't totally happy with the result but she was and I was okay with it.
My other project for this summer was modest swimsuits. When we were out in Oregon for some weddings we went to the ocean which I knew wasn't going to be a private beach like we sometimes find here in Minnesota. I could have just worn shorts and a t-shirt but I thought it would be nice to have something a little easier to swim in and something Ken would like. For mine I used a pair of exercise pants that we had been given (that were pretty much out of black swimsuit material) and then a little bit of pink fabric that I had on hand. I made pretty much a sun
dress that had a high neckline and was tight under the arms. I then wore it over a bikini. It work out really well and I was happy with it. I used up pretty much every scrap of the exercise pants.
For Mara's swimsuit we took one that she already had and added a skirt to it. To make the skirt I cut a big circle out of some black fabric that I had on hand (bought for a dollar a yard, and I made a suit for my youngest son but I had leftover). The material was a polyester suit material so I figured it wouldn't soak up water that much and would dry quickly. I cut a hole in the middle of the circle to go around her waist and sewed it onto the swimsuit. Then we added the ribbon over top to cover up where I had zig-zagged the shirt on. The skirt came all the way down over her knees which was a little longer than I had planned but worked
out fine. She loved it. She had never cared for wearing shorts over her suit but the skirt she loved.
  • Some of the other ways that I like to remake clothes are:
  • ~ Turn adult pants into little kids pants. little boys pants are sometimes rather hard to come by, but often adult pants are pretty easy to get. Find a simple pattern for elastic waist pants and you can wip up a pair pretty quickly. Sometimes you can even use the hem and the sideseam from the original pair of pants.
    Just cut them up the inseam and the middle of the front and back and lay your pattern on.
  • ~I have also taken old maternity dresses of mine and turned it into dresses for my daughter. An empire waist dress (without darts) works for a full length waist for a smaller person. Just re-cut the sleeve area and the side seams and shorten the length.
  • ~ Another way to make dresses for girls is to add a skirt to a t-shirt. Find some fabric that coordinates and gather it up (or pleat it) and sew it on. A very quick way to make a dress.
  • ~A way to use old sweaters is to make mittens or hats out of them. Go here for directions for the mittens. Here are directions for some interesting hats.

I have had a lot of fun remodeling clothing. When you are doing something like that, remember not to stress over it. You are saving something from the trash anyway, if it turns out that you hate it, turn it into a rag, you didn't pay anything for it anyway.
I would love to hear your ideas for remaking clothes and if you have blogged about let me know where as I would love to look at it.
Have Fun!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Before It Is Too Late

If you have a tender message,

Or a loving word to say,

Do not wait till you forget it,

But whisper it today;

The tender word unspoken,

The letter never sent,

The long forgotten mesages,

The wealth of love unspent,

For these some hearts are breaking,

For these some loved ones wait;

So show them that you care for them

Before it is to late.

~Frank Herbert Sweet

Making Roses

When looking through some blogs last week I found some that told about making roses. As a floral designer I love almost everything related to flowers, and so they caught my attention. Fresh flowers are definitely my favorite but I was very impressed with the pictures of homemade roses that I saw. Anyhow they directed my to Martha Stewarts site where it has instructions and a video to teach you how to do it. The roses are made with coffee filters, wire, florist tape and paint. It is really not that hard. My 6 year old son made one when I did and his looks pretty good too. (sorry, I didn't get a picture of his). This is a craft that was a lot of fun and I plan on trying again. The painting is where I had the hardest time but hopefully I will get better at that. This rose I gave to a friend for her birthday, I am hoping to make enough to have a vase full of them for the winter when I don't have flowers from my garden to decorate with.

Free e-books

Here is a place that you can go and download free e-books. You do have to sign up to use the service but it is free. They have a pretty big selection to chose from.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Some tips for grocery shopping

I have been reading a book called "House Works" by Cynthia Townley Ewer. It is about organizing and cleaning and managing your home. I enjoy books like that as they help to get me motivated. I check those sort of books out at the library (I love my library!!). Any way in it she has a great list of tips for grocery shopping which I will share with you. (The list is hers- the comments are mine)
  1. Never shop hungry. This is a very good idea as being hungry can make those expensive snack items or deli food look oh so yummy. I have to admit that I don't always manage to go at the perfect time when I am not hungry, but I try. If you are going to be out at a time when you will get hungry (and if you have kids along, who are almost always hungry) take a snack along for the way (like a banana, etc)
  2. Shop less, save more. The more often you go to the store, the more often you have the temptation to buy extra things. I like to keep extra things on hand so that I don't have to make last minute trips to the store. We also keep a running grocery list so that we will know what to buy when we do go.
  3. Shop at home first. When you are planning your menu, check what is in your cupboards and plan around that. It saves money to use what you have (which hopefully you bought on sale or got from your garden) rather than let it get old in your cupboards.
  4. Make a list, and live by it. Lists are very important for good grocery shopping. It is hard to remember everything you do or don't need otherwise. I am not always the best at the "living by it" however as I will check out clearanced items and sales.
  5. Time trips for best savings. This is something I haven't tried but she says that you can figure out which days the meat and produce managers mark down the soon-to-expire items and get up to 50% off.
  6. Be fickle and shop around. It is silly to be loyal to just one store. Check the advertisements for each store and get the best prices over all.
  7. Love those brand names? Get over it! This is something that I have never had to deal with my own prejudices on as I grew up eating store brands. It is something that amazes me how people will pay twice the price for the very same thing, it was quite likely produced at the very same place. I know once when eating canned green beans and we found a stem in them (store brand ones) my husband wondered if that was the price we paid for not buying name brand. Well shortly after we were camping with some relatives and ate some name brand green beans and I found a stem in them, so I don't think it makes much difference.
  8. Do the math on unit pricing. The biggest container isn't necessarily the best price. Figure out the the price per unit to find the best deal. Many store have that already done for you.
  9. Shop with the season. This really applies to fruits and vegetables. They are much cheaper and taste much better when you buy them in the right season.
  10. Buy in bulk. Often you can save a lot of money this way. I like to buy from co-ops and we also buy from a grain elevator. However, be sure to not buy more than you can use. If you only use half and the rest goes to waste that doesn't save you money. You might consider finding somebody to buy with you and then split it.
  11. Love those "loss leaders". These are sales that are offered at below cost just to lure people into the store. I pay close attention to these and if something is offered that we use, I go in and stock up enough to last us(hopefully) until the next time they run that sale (as long as it is an item that stores well). We have a full pantry and freezer because I get a lot when there is a good sale.
  12. Chose unprocessed. Fresh is nearly always cheaper then a convenience food. You can make a lot of cakes from scratch for the price of a few cake mixes. (The same goes for any other kind of mixes). This is even more true with soup. Making soup from scratch is an incredibly cheap way to eat but canned soup is not. Also you get the added benefit of having much healthier meals.

These ideas have all been useful to me (I have used most of them for a long time) and I hope they are to you. Check out Cynthia's Website for a lot more info on keeping your home organized. She has a lot of charts, calenders and things like that available for printing as well.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Wisdom from the book of Acts

I have been reading the book of acts aloud to the kids before we have our naps each day. On Saturday when I was reading from the 13 chapter there were a couple of verses that jumped out at me and I thought that I would share them with you.
The first one is the 19th verse:
"When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance- all of which took about 450 years."
I can guess that you're wondering, "Why in the world did that verse attract your attention?" And why it did is because of my reaction to it. When I read that verse my mind said "Hey!, wasn't it the Israelites that destroyed seven nations?" And if you read the old testament of course it was the Israelites that were doing the physical fighting but if it weren't for God they would have been so very, very badly wiped out, there would have been no Israelites to write about. It was God through them and by His miraculous power that those 7 nations were destroyed.
What it really convicted me of was my attitude of not giving God the glory and the praise for everything good that He does. So often I look back and think about all the things that "we" accomplished, and if someone compliments me I say "Thank you" and let it go at that. Who is really doing the work here? Is it me or is it God? If I truly have the Holy Spirit living and working in me, any good that I do come from God, not from me. I need to give Him all the praise and all the glory!
After spending Saturday thinking about this I was blessed to go to church on Sunday and here a good sermon by one of the younger men in the congregation and then afterwards overhear him complemented on the job he did and hear his response of "Praise God!".
The other verse that stood out in my reading was Acts 13:36 "For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay." I wonder if after my body is undergoing decay if it can be said about me "She served the purpose of God in her generation." ? God does have a purpose for each one of us. We can learn it by reading the bible and spending time in prayer. I am really going to work at serving the purpose of God and I hope that you will too.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Book Swapping

I found a couple of book swapping places that I think look interesting. There is no money involved besides shipping books. Here are the links, you can check them out.

I am curious, have any of you tried these? How well does it work? Are the books in good shape?

Seed Saving

I love flowers and have really been enjoying the ones I have this year. However now is the time to start thinking about next year. The flowers when they get done blooming (if you don't dead head them) start making seeds. It is good to dead head them early on so that the plants keep blooming but at the end of the summer I want to get some seeds. I enjoy getting the seeds and I like the fact that I won't have to buy any next year!

These Bachelor buttons at left are easy to save seeds from. Just pull off the dried up flower heads and store (make sure they are very dry before you put them in something air tight). When time to plant pull it apart, each flower has oodles of seeds.

Zinnias (at left) are done the same way as the Bachelor buttons. Each flower has around 100 seeds in it. Marigolds are the same way.

The Flax (the little blue flowers) get little balls of seeds where the flower was. Let them dry thoroughly. There are quite a few seeds in each ball.
Morning glories also get balls of little black seeds. Pansies and Johny-jump-ups will do the same thing. Those will all reseed themselves for the next year as long as it doesn't freeze to hard.
I am hoping to get into saving vegetable seeds too, but haven't done much of it yet. I like the idea of being able to have my own seeds and save some money that way. "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by Carla Emery has more info on seed saving. ( a fun book in many ways)
There is also this seed saving info online.
What is your experience with seed saving?

A nice thought

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."

-William Morris

I saw this quote and I like it, now if only I could follow it. I am trying. I think keeping things simple and getting rid of clutter does help your home to run much more smoothly.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Making him smile :-)

I have been enjoying reading for the 3rd time "Created to be his helpmeet" by Debi Pearl. That is a fun to read book and a great one for motivating me to always try to be a better wife. I enjoy a good marriage and I want to keep it that way and do what I should to make it even better.
Yesterday I was feeling inspired to do something that would please Ken, so I decided to mow the lawn. Mowing the lawn in usually Ken's job but he has been very busy lately and I knew that he would appreciate some help. I wasn't able to get it all done but I did a fair amount. He noticed it as soon as he got home.
Another things I am working on the makes him happy is keeping my desk clean. He hates clutter and my desk is the one area that I really struggle with keeping clutter free. I cleaned it on Tuesday and it is still clean so far. Hopefully I can make it last!!
Some other things that I can do to make my husband smile is make him Lasagna, carrot cake or cheese cake, offer to help him with a project, play his favorite game (that he always wins) with him and laugh at his jokes.
This evening is our time to relax together as a family. I am looking forward to an evening of fun and laughter and lots of smiles!
What little things do you do to make your husband smile? :-)

"Encourage the young women to love their husbands."
Titus 2:4

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Zillions of Zucchini!

Zucchini time has come! We don't actually have "zillions" but we are getting a good crop, I am excited about getting it because we have a bunch of ways in which we love to eat it. One trick on not getting overloader with zucchini is to pick them before they reach the caveman club size. The kids might think they are pretty cool at that size but they don't taste as good. Some ways I like zucchini (or other summer squash) are:
  • In stirfrys. I like to have a little meat (cut up chicken or pork or hamburger) which I fry in a little oil. I then add chopped garlic and onions. Then you can add sliced up zucchini (young) and patty pan squash and any other vegies that suit your fancy. Season with a little soy sauce. This is good over rice.
  • Fried zucchini. Slice a young zucchini in thin circles, dip in beaten eggs, coat with cornmeal (or flour or both) and seasoning salt and then fry in a little oil. Yummy!
  • Chocolate zucchini cake. This came from my Grandma and is a favorite with my kids.
    -1 cup oil (I actually used 3/4 c applesauce and 1/4 cup of oil)
    -1 1/2 cup sugar
    -2 eggs
    -1 teaspoon vanilla
    - 1/2 cup milk
    -4 tablespoons cocoa
    -2 1/2 cups flour (I use mostly whole wheat)
    -1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    -1 teaspoon salt
    -1 teaspoon soda
    Cream the oil, sugar and eggs. Then mix in the vanilla, milk and cocoa. Then add the flour, soda, baking powder and salt and mix well. Then stir in zucchini. Spread in a 9 x 13 greased pan or 2 loaf pans. Sprinkle with one or all of brown sugar, chocolate chips, coconut and chopped nuts. Bake around 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • Zucchini Bread
  • Chopped up small and put in meatloaf, fried hamburger and things like that.

I hope you all have some zucchini to use and that you enjoy it like I do. I would love to hear how you use zucchini.

Baking Day!

Wednesday is baking day at our house. I usually make a batch of bread (3 loaves) every week and also often a dessert and a breakfast bread for Thursday. Today I made Whole wheat bread, Zucchini bread, Chocolate zucchini cake and zucchini crisp. I plan on freezing 2 loaves of the whole wheat bread, 1 of the zucchini bread, and part of the cake to use later. I like to do all of my baking for the week at once because it cuts down on the number of dirty dishes as well as the amount of time my oven is on. I was able to run the oven for only a little over an hour this morning. The way I do it is to stir up my bread fairly early in the morning and let it rise. When that is ready to go into its pans to rise again then I will stir up the next item (this morning - cake) in the same bowl( I don't wash it, I just scrape it out good), using the same measuring cups (a one cup measure for dry ingredients and a 2 cup measuring cup for the wet), after I got that in its pan and in the oven, I again used the same bowl for zucchini bread and then following that I made the crisp. I am able to get that much in my oven at one time but the bread was pretty much ready to come out when the crisp went in. We love baked goods and doing it all at once like that really saves me time and energy.
Here is my recipe for Whole Wheat Bread:

  1. 8 cups Whole Wheat flour (I fresh grind mine using a "Whisper Mill" and grain that we buy very cheaply from a grain elevator)

  2. 2-3 cups of White flour

  3. 2 tablespoons yeast (or 2 packages, I buy mine in bulk as it is a lot cheaper)

  4. 31/2 cups warm water

  5. 1/3 cup of sugar

  6. 1/4 cup oil

  7. 2 teaspoons salt

In a large bowl combine 4 cups whole wheat flour, yeast and sugar. Then add the warm water (around 120-130 degrees) and oil and mix well. Add the salt and start adding the rest of the flour a cup or 2 at a time. When it gets to hard to stir put the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough. Knead 6-8 minutes. Place in greased bowl and place a cover over it and let it rise until double. (1- 1 1/2 hours). Then punch dough down and place in 3 greased bread pans and let rise again. Bake in a 375 degree oven for around 35 minutes or until bread is done.

This has been a staple at our house, I hope you enjoy it too!

A timeline of History

I have been wanting to make a timeline to hang up that as we read books (my oldest on her own, or my husband or I to the kids) we could draw a picture to go with it and place it on a timeline. That way we would be able to get a picture in our minds of how everything fits together in history. We are getting ready to move our girls into a bigger room and I think the wall in there will work well for hanging up a large timeline. I found one that I liked at this site. I printed it out and now maybe I will go have it laminated at Office Max.
I also plan on hanging a world map that we have up on the wall. With that we can make note of where the places are that we are reading about.
Have any of you ever done something like this with your kids? How did it work and do you have any other ideas to suggest?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bounty from the Garden!

I love gardening, all of it: pouring over seed catalogs, starting seeds inside, planting in the lovely dirt, weeding (though believe me that doesn't mean my garden is weed free -usually far from it.), and then the most rewarding part of all- Harvesting!!
Tonight we enjoyed yummy, straight from the garden corn on the cob. We have also been enjoying lettuce, cucumbers, peas, radishes and flowers and are looking forward to much more.
Gardening is economical (if you don't count all the time put into it.) and it is the best way to have very yummy tasting food.
One of the fun things we have tried this summer is salads with nasturtiums in it. My family was a little sceptical but the kids all tried it (my husband let us have the honors). They taste fine and look very pretty in the salad.
I hope you are enjoying gardening as much as I am. What
are you eating from your garden this month?

7 tips for a more musical home

I was very blessed to be raised in a musical home. Everybody played at least one instrument and we enjoyed playing and singing together at home and with others at church and at the nursing home. It was a joy for us and I am hoping that my own little family will be a greatly blessed by music. I am going to list some of the things that I have seen in both my family growing up and as I raise my own kids now that have helped to make us have musical homes.

  • Motivation. For anybody (child or adult) to want to spend time to learn an instrument there needs to be a motivating reason to do it. Most people aren't motivated by the fact that they will be able to play to entertain themselves. For me growing up my biggest motivation was getting to play for church. I wanted to get good enough at playing the piano that I could play for the song service. When I was in my teen years I would spend an hour or so every day practicing for that purpose. We were very blessed to be a part of a congregation that encouraged everybody that was able to take turns playing. We also used our other instruments in church when we would sing bluegrass style or using a praise band. The church also had frequent singsperations/music nights where people would bring special music. Other motivation that has worked for us or others I have seen work for my students is: Playing at nursing homes, playing at the fair, desire to be a music teacher and playing in an orchestra.

  • Inspiration. If a child gets to see and be around others playing (especially playing well and in a fun style) they are much more likely to want to play as well. Family members are a great source of inspiration. Concerts are great especially when they have kids playing. We recently attended a Bluegrass festival that had families performing. My kids thought it was very cool to see other little kids up on stage.

  • Environment. If you want music than create an environment for it. Have musical instruments that your kids can play, ( most of ours they have to ask first and I usually monitor but things like the piano they can play on at any time.) Buy musical toys (not the battery powered ones but things like xylophones, drums, recorders, maracas, etc.), let them play (I have heard many parents complaining about their kids playing- the noise, the screeching etc., that doesn't help the environment. Turn of your TV noise and let them play.).

  • Appreciation. Teach music appreciation by listening to good CDs and others playing.

  • Lessons. Lessons are very helpful though not totally necessary. I don't encourage starting your kids in lessons unless they really want to however and unless you and the child are willing to spend time practicing, it is a waste of your money and everybody's time to take lessons and not practice. If you spend the time practicing, lessons can help you learn much faster than working on your own, they also help to keep you motivated.

  • Play Together. This is even fun with very little kids. As I practice my instruments, they all like to get out some too and we play together and sometimes they sing or dance. It is a great time even if they don't really know how to play. It is even more fun to play together once they do know how to play.

  • Be Organized. Playing an instrument does require practice and in our busy lives sometimes that is hard to fit in. What has worked for us has just been including it as part of our homeschooling, practice is another things that has to be crossed off of the list every day. We set the timer during practice to make sure we get a good amount of time in. Little kids cannot usually handle a long time. Start with around 10 minutes a practice session and then keep increasing your time. Another thing with being organized is making sure if you are taking lessons to actually get to them.

I hope this helps you to have a more musical home!

"Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn shout joyfully before the King, the Lord." Psalm 98:4-6

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Buying bread on a budget

I have long been a fan of day old bread stores. You can really get a lot of good food for not much money. However on Saturday I was extra impressed with the deal I found. I went into the bread store and found they had 100% whole wheat bread bagged up with 4 loaves and priced at $2.99 a bag and then I was able to use a punch card for $5 off of the purchase. I bought 16 loaves of bread for less than $7. I freeze the bread to use later as obviously we don't use 16 loaves at once. I do also bake bread weekly but we prefer boughten bread for sandwiches.
Yeah for bread stores!


I love church! That is why on a day like today when I have to stay home because of sickness, I feel rather bummed. I would much rather be with the assembly of the saints, worshiping God together, learning and encouraging one another.

God designed one church as it tells us in Ephesians 4:4-6 "There is one body and one spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." Christ is in charge of the church and the one who started it. "He is also the head of the body,the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything." Col. 1:18 You can check out how it was started in the 2nd chapter of Acts. The last verse (47) says "And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." The church is made up of people all over the world who worship God and obey what He tells them in the Holy Bible. Jesus prayed that His church would have unity in John 17:21 "That they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me."

Here are some of the things that I love about church:

  • We are family! I have a loving physical family but I am so thankful that in addition to that I have a much larger christian family. They each care about me and I care about them. We are there to help and serve each other. "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with he saints, and are of God's household." Ephesians 2:19
  • We praise God together! I love being able to go to church and sing and pray together and be able to tell God how much we love Him. Although we can sing and pray on our own, there is something very encouraging and inspiring about doing it as a group. (And you can't have 4 part harmony by yourself!) "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." Eph. 5:19
  • We learn together! I love to study the bible by myself but it is also very helpful to study with others. Everybody has different perspectives that lead to different insights, when we share them together we can all learn more. A neat thing about the congregation I am a part of is the fact that many different men preach and teach. There is a group of Elders as well as other well grounded christian men that take turns leading. This leads to many different insights and styles which I appreciate very much. "And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to breaking of bread and to prayer." Acts 2:42
  • We remember Christ together! Jesus died for us, he deserves to be remembered and thanked for the sacrifice He made. Every week we take communion that reminds us of the suffering He went through for us so that we could have salvation and be His Body. " And when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood: do this, as often as yo drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." 1 Corinthians 11:24-26
  • We encourage each other! That is one thing we most certainly cannot do by ourselves and something that we desperately need. There are times when everybody gets tired and maybe a little down and we need encouragement. We need to go to church so that we can encourage others and be encouraged too! "And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near." Hebrews 10:24-25
  • We are a body! Christ is our head and he has one body and we are that body. We need each other and we need to spend time together and get to know one another so that we can truly work together. Last month I cut my left thumb (my dominate hand) and cut part of the tendon so I had to wear a splint for 3 weeks that greatly restricted my mobility. Wow, did I ever miss my thumb. I could hardly write, wash dishes, button clothes, etc! It is the same way when someone that is a part of the Body of Christ is missing. We miss them terribly, we simply cannot work as well without them. "For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ , and individually members one of another." Romans 12:4-5

I love Christ's church and I hope you do too, or if you are not a part of the church I hope this will motivate you to find out about what you are missing!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Calm and Compassionate children

I recently finished reading the book "Calm and compassionate children, a handbook" by Susan Usha Dermond. It is a book that I would recommend parents reading. It had a lot of neat stuff in it that really makes you think. There are some things that I dd not agree with and would watch out for. There was some new age feeling undertones in part of it and she seemed to think as long as you prayed or had faith in something that it was all right even if it wasn't God.
Here are some of the things that she said are important for having calm and compassionate children:
  • Have routines and special traditions. Kid's thrive on routine, it helps them to stay well balance and not have to worry about what is coming next in life. Special traditions or celebrations are something that they really look forward to and remember for a long time. Special traditions do not have to be at all expensive it is just something that you put meaning too. Something that I have started since reading the book is singing to wake my kids up, I have been singing songs like "Oh what a beautiful morning", "Good morning, good morning, good morning" and "It's a happy day". It has helped us all to start the day in a better mood.
  • Spend time in Nature. Everything in nature is given to us by God and He has made it beautiful. It helps our children if they can really appreciate that gift. Something we enjoy doing is finding special, beautiful things that God has made and telling the rest of the family about it and all going to see it. She encourages you to really take the time to see and hear and smell the things in nature. Something else that has been fun for us this summer is identifying wildflowers using a handbook.
  • Reading. Reading can evoke emotions and imagination and creativity in a way that movies are unable to. Be sure to have good books that will lead your children right. Reading aloud is important for kids to gain a real love of reading.
  • Pets or special toys. This is something we are lacking in as we own no animals. She says that pets help to really teach children compassion for others. She thinks stuffies or dolls can do that in some ways too. My kids do get to be around pets at their grandparents but maybe I should get them a cat like they would like.
  • Good thinking. She labels this "High mindedness". She is talking about prayer, praise (to God and others) and just thinking the best about others and situations. You can help your children by always noticing aloud the good and beautiful things around you. She does recommend shielding young children from violent news, movies and things like that. Remember to spend time with your children "counting your many blessings" and be sure not to be an example of a complainer!
  • Good Music. She recommends using calming music if your children are ever uptight about a situation. I have yet to consciously try this but it sounds like it would work. She recommends bluegrass or band music to get your kids going and active, and she doesn't recommend rock music.
  • Outlets for Physical Energy. Kids are not made to be still all the time. They need to get out and play and really use up some energy so that they can be calm and quiet at other times. My kids love just riding bikes around the lane, building forts out in the woods and many other things that wear them out. This doesn't need to be structured in fact it is good if it is not, they just need to be able to play.
  • Concentrating on Calmness. She talks about the need to think about being calm and to work towards that goal. To have self-control something which is a fruit of the spirit and is very necessary for our day to day life but which is also lacking in many people.
  • Silence. This is one thing that I really enjoyed reading about because this has been something I have always felt was important. I have never enjoyed being in a place that has background noise going. Some people like to have the TV or radio going all the time and just visit while it is going. She really recommends limiting your time with media going. Also have a time set aside that is for being quiet. At our house we have a hour and a half rest time each day where everybody is supposed to be silent whether they are sleeping or not. It has been very helpful for our family to be able to be ready for the afternoon and evening.
  • Faith. If children don't have a faith in a God who cares for them, is watching over them and will help them to have the strength they need for each day, imagine how much harder it would be for them to be calm and compassionate when they face adversity. God is the answer to all our problems.
  • Environment. Children are precious, tender, very mold able people. We need to be sure that they are not exposed to things that will mold them in the wrong direction. That is why I chose to homeschool, strictly limit TV watching, feed them healthy and low sugar foods and keep a very close eye on who they associate with.

I really did enjoy this book and recommend reading it as there is way more in there than I touched on. She has practical ideas for implementing each of the things mentioned.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Breakfasts at our house

Breakfast is an important meal at our house. It is something that we don't skip and one that helps us to get the energy we need to have a productive morning. Growing up we would always eat breakfasts together as a family (It was a time when we would often eat leftovers such as spaghetti or cold pizza). Though in my family now we don't eat supper leftovers, it still is a family meal. At this point in our life my husband doesn't open his office until 9 am (though he likes to get there earlier) and he has a short commute, even when he had to be there at 8 and drove for 20 minutes we would still eat as a family.
For breakfast Ken prefers to have some protein (meat, eggs, cheese or peanut butter) and I have always tried to have healthy and economical things to eat so that pretty much ruled out cold cereal and other pre-made breakfast items. So I make breakfasts from scratch, but as I don't like to get up at dawn and also want to do my devotions time first the things that I make need to be pretty time efficient.
Here is a list of some of the things we have for breakfast:
  • Fried or scrambled eggs and toast with peanut butter and jam. (The toast is usually from homemade bread or sometimes from bread we buy at the day old bread store.)
  • French toast (made with homemade bread)
  • Eggs and Biscuits with jam.
  • Homemade yogurt and homemade granola
  • Biscuits and gravy (usually made from hamburger leftover from tacos or something like that.)
  • Breakfast burritos ( I will often use up leftover baked potatoes, cut up, in the eggs)
  • Pancakes (my easy recipe is below) with peanut butter and syrup
  • Eggs and Homemade hash browns or fried potatoes. (The Pampered Chef chopper works great to cut up potatoes for hash browns.)
  • Muffins, cinnamon rolls and cinnamon raisin bread we will also make the day before and then warm up and eat with eggs.
  • Waffles and Danish Puff are other things we like but they take a while so we mostly have them on Saturdays or holidays.
  • Yogurt and fruit smoothies and fresh fruit or applesauce are other things that we will add to our breakfasts.

Here is the recipe for pancakes which I made this morning.

  • 1 cup flour ( I grind my wheat and use all whole wheat flour, white flour tastes fine though as well but is not as good for you or as filling.)
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup milk (I usually use dry milk-1/3 c. dry milk and 1 c. water)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Mix the dry ingredients first and then add the wet ingredients and stir just until mixed. Fry as normal (I use a cast iron skillet and I put a little oil in at first put then I don't add any more. Fry on medium/low.
This is an easy recipe to memorize as it just takes pretty much one of everything. You can double or triple it easily too. I usually make a triple batch which is almost double what our family needs and so we have leftovers on another day.

I am always on the lookout for more neat breakfast ideas so if you have one that is not listed but is pretty easy, economical and good for you, please comment and tell me about it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


"You my brothers were called to be free, but do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather serve one another in love." Gal. 5:13
This has been my kids memory verse for Wednesday night class this month. So it got me thinking about it as well. Tonight I had the opportunity to teach the teenage girl's class and so I decided to teach on the subject of serving as well. (We were asked to make a bulletin board decoration so we used our study to do that) The bible has a lot of verses that express the importance of serving, Matt 20:26-28 tells us "It is not to be this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." If we want the best than we need to be servants of others. Jesus is the great example of that.
Thinking on this subject has been very convicting for me. I know I serve some, I serve my family- my kids and my husband but yet they also serve me. I serve some at church but something I struggle with is really seeing the needs of others and serving them. So often I am just wrapped up in my own world or make excuses that I have so much to do already that I miss opportunities to serve. My goal is to truly work at being a servant of all.
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:58

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A neat website for living frugally

I found this site that has some neat articles and ideas for living simply and frugally.

Neighborhood Party

This evening we had a neighborhood party at our house. I had been wanting to have one and Ken (my husband) thought we should have it on National Night Out. We prepared by taking out invitiations first about a month ago and then we took out reminders again last week and then we also put out a sign at our driveway last night so that they could see it all day today. The kids and I had fun taking the invitations around. We got to meet quite a few people just going from door to door. We decided to grill hotdogs and hamburgers and then asked others to bring side dishes and desserts. We had a fun evening and quite a few came. I think getting to know neighbors is a really good thing and I find it neat how receptive people are to neighborhood parties. I would encourage others to try it. It is really not that much work, you can even have them bring their own lawn chairs and have a totally potluck meal. For more ideas check this out. Don't stress out and have lots of fun!!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Singing in the dark

We started a fun traditon not long ago. When I give the kids their bedtime hugs and kisses I also spend time and pray with them. One time my oldest daughter mentioned that she would like to sing prayers better. (she is my dramatic, whimsical girl). So we have started singing a song of prayer to God as well as our spoken prayer. Usaully we sing songs that were already written such as "I Love you Lord", "Thank You Lord" and "God is so good" but sometimes we sing songs that just say what we are thinking or songs like "God is so Happy" (my 3 year olds creation.) When we sing we have the lights out, there is something about singing in the dark that I love, it allows you to really focus on Who you are singing to.

Paper Dolls

My 7 year old daughter really enjoys playing with paper dolls and we discovered that there are a lot of them that are free to print available on the Internet. Here are a few that we have found.

It works best if you print them out on card stock but paper works too. A lot of these come in color but as we don't have a color printer we just print them out in black and white and then Mara gets to color them. Coloring, cutting out and then playing with them can keep a child busy for quite a while. It is a nice project for times when they need to be quiet.

My $5 Rose Bush

This spring I bought a $5 rose bush at Wal-mart. Throughout the summer so far it has had around 25 blooms on it. It has been so fun, they smell so good and are fun to cut and give away to others. I have especially enjoyed taking blossoms to my Mom as yellow roses are a favorite of hers. I an hoping it will winter over well though I am a little concerned since we are in zone 3. Even if it doesn't winter well I think I got a good deal for $5. God makes so many beautiful things!! "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." James 1:17

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Origami Quilt

This quilt I recently made for my husband's sister and her new husband. We just went out to Oregon to attend their wedding. The bag that this was in got lost for a couple of days and I was feeling rather sick about that but then it did finally show up for which I was very grateful. I did the flowers for the wedding which was a lot of fun.

This quilt was a lot of fun to make. I used all scrap material- either from old (but still strong ) clothes, fabric leftover from sewing projects or scraps that had been given to me. For the back I used a sheet that had been given to me. I did use a filler that I had bought. I love making scrap quilts. It is so fun to make something beautiful out of something that wouldn't be worth anything otherwise.

This was my first time to try a quilt using fabric folding. I found that pattern in "Fantastic Fabric Folding" by Rebecca Wat. It is a very cool quilt book. Here are directions for this flower quilt square.

A fun website

A friend told me about Fun Play Dates which is a website thathas lots of fun craft and food ideas for kids. It is great resource for kids classes or parties.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

12 Tips for Living Productively

  1. Start each day with Prayer. It works best for me if I get up before my kids and have my quiet time with God. If I miss this time my day never seems to go quite as well. When I am praying I almost always pray asking God to help me to use my time wisely and to know best how to use my day.

  2. Have a nap time. Nap time is for all of the kids (ages 7-1) and me. Nobody is required to sleep but they are required to be quiet on their beds. They are allowed to read or look at books. I read to them before naps and then I read myself while laying down and breast feeding my baby for about 1/2 hour and then I usually nap for 20-30 minutes. I set an alarm clock to make sure I wake up (because if I don't I can over sleep which causes me to feel drowsy afterwards.) Nap time makes me far more energetic and the kids far less crabby.
  3. Have kids help. My kids are ages 7-1 and so aren't yet able to run the house on their own but they are able to do a surprisingly lot of work. They have jobs that they are expected to do each day and then they also help me with other chores or projects. Something I do that helps to my kids to be more eager to work is to have a pep talk at the breakfast table. I will outline all the things we want to get done that day and then the reason we want to get it all done (examples: to surprise daddy with an extra clean house, to get ready for company, to get ready for a trip, etc.). If the kids know the reason to work hard they do it much better.
  4. Multitask. I love doing this, I feel so productive when I can get two or three different things done at once. Here are some examples of how I multitask: I clean the bathroom and watch little kids in their bath, I read while I breast feed, I knit and crochet while I visit with company, read or ride in the car, I listen to music that I am trying to learn while doing other things, I wash dishes or sweep or fold clothes while talking on the phone, I help my daughter with spelling words or other similar schoolwork while working in the kitchen or folding clothes and I get my exercise by running up and down the stairs during my daily chores or gardening energetically. I also like to get my washer, dishwasher, dryer and oven all going early in the day and then it really feels like I am getting a lot done at once.
  5. Have an easy care look. I do not spend very much time on my appearance. I have never worn makeup and am very thankful that I have never felt like I needed to. I can only imagine how much time and money that I have saved by making that choice. I also have chosen to have an easy hairstyle that I don't have to blow dry, curl or straighten. I have found it very helpful to have an easy look, but I would also council that you make sure to look in a way that pleases your husband.
  6. Have a routine or schedule. We have a daily routine that we follow when we are home. Kids thrive on routine and so do I, we get through days much easier if we know what we are doing. I also find having a schedule written out helps me to accomplish more. I don't spend time trying to decide what to do because I already have it written out. I also make lists of unique tasks that need to be done. Crossing stuff off of lists is a motivator for me.
  7. Plan a menu. This is nice because then I can shop ahead of time (I do my main shopping only every two weeks though I will go to the store to catch a good sale) also I don't have to spend time every day wondering what we are going to eat and I can pull the meat out ahead of time to thaw or do other things that need to be done ahead of time. I like a menu but I am not a slave to it, there are things that will come up and will change things, but I still appreciate having the menu for most of the time.
  8. Cook simply. For the most part I don't have time to cook 7 course meals or even to cook things that put me in the kitchen for an hour. I will make more elaborate things for special occasions but for most days I spend about 20 minutes on breakfast, eat leftovers for lunch and spend about 1/2 hour (or less) on supper. (not counting cooking time).
  9. Have kids get things for themselves. This is something I have especially done with getting drinks of water. We have cups on a low shelf so that even the 3 year old can reach and we have a water dispenser on the fridge. (We also have a place they can set their water glasses so they can reuse them all day). We also are training them to be independent in many other areas.
  10. I do laundry just twice a week. It helps me to be able to devote Monday and Thursday to doing laundry and then not to worry about it on other days. (A note or caution though; I have heard that it is better for your septic system if you spread out your water usage.) Other ways that I save time on laundry is by sending things that need ironing through the dryer and pulling them out while hot and hanging them up. I do very little ironing that way but we don't walk around all wrinkled. (My husband wears dress clothes every day so that is a big thing for us.) Another way to save time is by re wearing clothes. Especially with pants and skirts and sweaters, they are often not visibly dirty so we wear them another day. This saves on laundry time. Even sometimes something that is visibly dirty that I used for gardening or painting I will save for the next day if I am going to do the same thing again. We also only wash towels once a week.
  11. No TV. We do have a TV in our house but neither I or the kids turn it on. Henceforth we don't waste time sitting in front of it. My husband watches it some in the evenings but generally not very much as he is busy working around the house or spending time with us.
  12. I am not an entertainer. I have 4 young happy children but I do not spend my day entertaining them. They work with me or play around me or play with and entertain each other. They don't expect me to be the entertainer. I do read to them (and now my oldest will read to the younger ones) and I visit with them a lot while I work. We do also do fun stuff together like take walks, go to the library, ride bikes or get wet, etc.

These are some methods that have worked very well for me to be able to be productive each day. I hope that some ideas might work for you as well. I would love to hear ways that you save time or are able to get more done each day.


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