Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Ribbon Shelf

This a project we actually did a while ago but it has been very useful to me ever since. I have a large collection of ribbon because of my bridal floral business and they had been quite a mess.

We had a bunch of wood scraps left from putting tongue and groove in our downstairs and so I decided I would make ribbon shelves out of them. I measured and Ken cut the pieces for me (cutting wood is not my specialty) and then the kids and I had fun putting them together using both nails and wood glue.

Ken and I had already varnished the wood and so everything looked finished except the new places he had cut. I used sanded and used scratch cover on the rough edges which made it look much better.

I then nailed a piece of lacy elastic across the front to hold the ribbon in. Ken put them and the wall for me in my office. I really like my new space! (Though at this point I could really use another one!)

I think crafting supplies are some of the hardest things to keep nicely organized so I was quite happy that this worked and that we were able to do it using stuff that we had on hand.

Do you have an tips or ideas for organizing crafting stuff? What is your method?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Another reason I love homeschooling

I just had to share these little glimpses into one of our school days.
Jonathan had been reading to me (with Aaron listening in) but after a couple of chapters I said I needed to do some other things but he didn't want to quit and Aaron was quite willing to sit and listen to him.
Meanwhile I thought I had better check on how Mara's schoolwork was going as it sounded like Megan might be bothering her. I went in their room to find this.

They were sitting at Mara's desk, Megan on Mara's lap and Mara was reading all the questions out loud to Megan and then Megan would give her some silly answer and then Mara would say the right one and write it down. They were having such a good time together and Mara was being such a sweet big sister and still getting her work done.

Did I ever tell you that I am blessed?

I am so glad that Mara and Jonathan aren't getting on the bus every morning and then coming home each afternoon with piles of homework. Instead they can do their work while still cultivating lasting relationships with their family.

What are you loving about mothering right now?

Sunday, March 29, 2009


This morning at church Mathew preached a sermon based on this verse:
"Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." 2 Timothy 2:22
I really appreciated his message and his encouragement for us to to not be lackadaisical in in either fleeing or pursuing. Neither one are to be done with a half hearted effort but rather with everything we have. Now the question is: Am I doing that? Are you doing that? I guess we had better make sure.
Whenever I hear verse 22 it makes me remember the next couple of verses as well. They were ones my Dad had us memorize as children to help us to remember not to argue and quarrel. They say:
"Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach not resentful." 2 Timothy 2:23-24
What great verse those are for children.... and for all of us.

The pictures today were some that Mara took this past week. We have been enjoying a wide range of weather this past week from heavy rains (that produced much flooding in our area, we were thank-ful to be on high ground and did a lot of praying for those who weren't), snow, beautiful frost on the trees and then "warm" sunny days where we lost snow and got mud. Such is Spring and we are enjoying it.
How has God been speaking to you lately?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Playing Dress-up

One of the fun things the kids enjoy around here is playing dress up. Everybody likes it boys and girls alike.
We have a collection of odds and ends of clothes. Some that were cast offs of mine, or various hand-me-downs, some that I have sewn for that specific purpose, some that were gifts from Grandma and some that were in the dress-up-clothes when I was a child. No matter where they came from, they are enjoyed and put together in very odd combinations! :-)
Their playing dress up is also fun for me as it often provides me with a good laugh. Dress up is a quite frugal and fun activity for kids.

For more Kid Friendly Friday visit "I Blame my Mother".

Getting the most for your dollar when ordering flowers

I love flowers. I also love a good deal.

Though I would love to constantly have fresh flowers in my home and be able to send them to family and friends on a regular basis that just isn't in our budget. When I do decide to send flowers I want a good deal. This week when I was sending some flowers it reminded me of some "tricks" I learned when I was working in the flower shop.

Here are some things I recommend for getting the most for your dollar:
  • Don't wire a floral order from your local florist. Instead look online for a florist in the area that you are sending to, call them directly and order your flowers. (You will need to have a credit, or possibly debit card to do this.) There is a charge for wiring the order and also you can have direct contact with the florist rather than going through another florist.
  • Never order and FTD or Teleflora arrangement. They look nice and are well advertised but you do not get as much for your money. Teleflora and FTD have to pay for all the advertising and name recognition so they of course charge the florist for their services and the vases that come from them cost more as well.
  • Instead explain what you want. Example: Vase or Basket arrangement in such and such colors with some lilies in it. Or "I would like a Spring flower arrangement for $30 . I do recommend leaving some of the decided up to the designer as they know what they have on hand and what is freshest and will look best together. Usually when they have some freedom they will give you more for your money than if you tell them every single flower you want them to use.
  • Do expect to pay a delivery charge. This can vary a bit in the same time so you might want to ask about that before placing an order.
  • For best value choose flowers that will last well like alstroemeria, carnations and mums. I like to mix those with other favorites that might not last as long but can be pulled out when they start looking bad and still leave you with a nice arrangement.

Do you have anything to add to the tips? I would be interested to hear your experience.
For more Frugal tips visit Frugal Friday.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Finer Things Friday

Just this evening I was visiting various blogs and found "The Finer Things in Life" where she hosts "Finer Things Friday". I enjoyed the premise of this carnival and thought it would be fun to join in.
One of the Finer things in our life is the friendship that we can have with Ula a 95 year old who is part of our church family.

I have known Ula since I was a baby, when my parents moved up here so that Dad could preach at the church that Ula was (and still is) a part of. During my growing up years she became like another grandmother, (mine lived hundreds of miles away) not just to me but to all the kids in church. She would have us over to her farm for camp outs and was always eager to host some party or another. She also would challange us in our Bible knowledge and encourage us to memorize. She is also a history buff and would encourage us in that way as well.

This winter Ula did finally move away from the farm to an apartment in town but she is still a big part of our lives. She is in church regularly and encourages us to visit her. She often brings candy for my kids and requires a big ear to ear smile as payment for it. They give her the cheesiest grins which always makes her laugh. She can also do a wonderful job of telling stories and knows about every one of the Bible stories.

We are so blessed to have Ula in our lives and that friendship is certainly one of the finer things in our life!

What are some of the finer things in yours?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Green and Thrifty Cleaning

Today I thought it would be fun to share some of the thrifty and green ways we clean around here. Cleaning products can be expensive and they also can be dangerous to have around. As time goes on I have been more and more weeding the chemical laden ones out of our life and are opting for more simple, inexpensive and often homemade options.

I know many advertisements would like to convince us that we need all sorts of various sprays, wipes and what not to get rid of all the bacteria in our house. But this is actually not necessary and could possibly be dangerous as when you use a bunch of antibacterial stuff you could be breeding a stronger bacteria.

Anyway, I believe it is quite possible to have a nice, clean house without all the commercial things that are supposed to be mega germ killers. Here are some of the things that we use for our Thrifty Green Cleaning:
  1. Baking Soda~ I like to use this for scrubbing my sinks, toilet and my flat topped stove. (I also use it for brushing my teeth and have used it for my hair too.) Baking soda is pretty useful stuff. It is even more fun to add a little vinegar and watch it bubble but I am not sure that helps the cleaning power. :-)
  2. Vinegar~ This is what I use for all my mopping (on laminate tile, ceramic tile, linoleum and laminate wood look), it works just fine. I have also used this mixed in water for washing windows and as an all purpose cleaning spray.
  3. I do also really like Melaleuca products. I have bought them in concentrate and then you mix them with water to use them and they last a long time! I really like the shower cleaner which works well even when we have orange from hard water.
  4. The Earth Stone was one of my recent finds which worked to help clean up the really hard water stains that we had. It is a power worker!
  5. I also like to use all cloth rags instead of paper towels. I like the way they work so much better and I can use them over and over. Also I never had to pay anything for them but have made them by cutting up old cotton t-shirts, flannel shirts, cotton socks and using old cloth diapers. I love the diapers and now I have a bunch since we are done with diapers in our household.
  6. For washing windows I like to use a squeegee which makes the job go much easier.
  7. For our carpets I bought a vacuum that has a cloth bag which I really like. Having the cloth bag makes it so I don't ever have to buy bags which saves me money. From a Green perspective it is better too as there is less new things to buy and then throw away. When I dump out my vacuum bag I am able to put it in my compost pile so nothing has to go to the dump and all the dirt from our house actually gets used again. The brand of vacuum I have is a Sanitaire, it is made for commercial jobs and so is very simple and heavy but is a work horse with very good suction.
  8. For cleaning our hard floors I use simply a broom and string mop. They don't require any sort of refills (like Swiffers) and work quite well.

This is our cleaning stuff for the most part. I do still have a few "chemical" supplies left in my house but I am working to get rid of it all. We don't have all the "clean" scents that this culture has become used too, but I don't have to worry about getting a headache while I do my cleaning either.

Another thing we do not use is any sort of spray or plug in air fresheners, which I do not think our beneficial for our health. I much prefer the smell of fresh baked bread, something baking with cinnamon and so forth.

What are your thoughts on cleaning? What are your favorite supplies? (and why?) I love to hear how you are all doing it too, even if you don't agree with all my ideas.

For more Thrifty Green Thursday posts visit Green Baby Guide.

WFMW ~ Washing windows using a squeegee

I thought I would share my favorite way to get clean, lint free and streak free windows. (But please don't expect mine to always be that way because they aren't. I have 4 young children and it seems as soon as I wash the windows they are looking out with their hands on them. But that's okay, I would far rather have my children (and visiting children) than have clean windows!)

Growing up when we would wash windows we would spray the cleaner on and then use a rag to wipe and wipe and try to get it nice and clean and attempt to not leave any lint while we were at it. (We didn't then and I still don't use paper towels, it uses so many and seems incredibly wasteful!)

When I was a teen I started working for some friends who owned a ServiceMaster company. The first job that I helped with was washing all the windows at our town's University. That was thousands of windows so we needed to be efficient.

Here is how we did it:
  1. Spray the cleaner on, but not a ton of it. You only need about 5 sprays, 1 in each corner and one in the middle.
  2. Using a wet "scratch" pad rub it around all over scrubbing off any dirty spots.
  3. Then using your squeegee (and this is the trick that really helps to make cleaning efficient ) start at the very top and pull it across to the other side (at the angle shown in the picture below), quickly wipe the blade off with your rag and do it again, continue with this until you get to the bottom. Then take your squeegee and make one pass down the side where you were pulling over too (because it is hard to pull over completely to the edge without still leaving some moisture).
  4. Then take your rag and wipe up the moisture that has drained to the bottom of your window.

That's it! It really is quick and efficient and makes me think that maybe I had better go wash windows today! :-)

Using a squeegee really works for me!

Quick note: When buying a squeegee make sure the rubber blade is pretty flexible, some of the cheap ones are basically plastic and they don't hardly work at all!

If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments. Don't forget to head over to "We are THAT family" for more "Works for me Wednesday".

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New curtains

One of my fairly recent projects was curtains for my office/guest room.
In that room we painted the walls light lavender and I decided I would like white accents. (Mostly it is just pretty crowded and hodge podge so far but I am working on that.)
The picture didn't turn out that great but I just took some simple white muslin pieces I had, pieced them together and made very simple curtains. For tie backs I used some pieces of lace that I had crocheted quite some time ago.
Then for fun I decided to put all sorts of odds and ends of clear vases on the sill. I was happy with the way it turned out. Getting things done for the house is always fun!
What projects have you been working on lately?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Eating in Minnesota and more....

Well we have now started studying about a new country each week so I decided I seriously better get busy about finishing my reporting on each of the states we studied. This post will be the final one on our own great state of MN. We are excited to start on countries but I have decided I won't be doing a post about each one of them. I will probably hit some of the exciting highlights though. We have a couple of international students that are eager to help us do some cooking (our friend Pei Lin loves cooking and baking and can easily help us learn about Malaysia but has been studying up on the foods from a lot of different countries and plans to help us out a lot0 as well as other friends from various countries.
Now on to Minnesota. If you come here some of the most notable foods you might hear about are Lutefisk and Lefse. Both come from the Scandinavians that settled here. Lefse is quite good and I did attempt to make it one morning for our breakfast (though I don't think I would ever win any Lefse making contests -which we do have in this area).

I made ours with whole wheat which is not really normal but is healthier. :-) Lefse is a flat bread quite similar to a tortilla but it has a lot of potato in it. We like it best with butter spread on it and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and then rolled up.
Here is how you can make them:
Boil 5 large, peeled potatoes. drain and mash them and add 1/3 cup cream, 3 T. butter and 1 t. salt. Beat until the mixture is fluffy. After that has cooled, add enough flour to be able to roll out thinly, like a pie crust or even thinner. Make walnut sized balls and roll them out to around 8-10 inches. You can then cook these using a heavy cast iron skillet or a grill. Oil it very lightly and then turn them quickly to prevent scorching.
Megan was enjoying her lefse. (And sorry, I'm afraid you can even see the bite in her mouth.)
And about the Lutefisk..... Sorry we didn't have any, I'm afraid it isn't our style. Actually I've only had it once and that was a long time ago but that was enough for me. I am really not that picky but Lutefisk is fish that has been treated with lye and it becomes this white gooey mass. It really isn't very attractive but many, many Minnesotans love it.
Minnesota's state muffin is the blueberry muffin. This recipe is my personal favorite.

Another yummy food to be found in Minnesota is Indian Fry bread. The one pictured above we got when attending a special community day at the University and some Natives had a booth where they were serving fry bread. (They were also dressed up and dancing some which is where the picture from the top of the post comes from.) Fry Bread is basically bread dough that has been pulled into a circle and has a hole punched in the middle and you deep fat fry it. Then it can have honey or powdered sugar put on it. It is very yummy even if not very healthy.

At that event we also got caramel apples which were appropriate for our studying of MN as the specialty at our MN State fair is all sorts of food on a stick.

Another main staple for Minnesotans is "hotdish". This is our term for casserole and you can make it pretty much however you want. Wild Rice hotdish is even more Minnesotan as wild rice is harvested around here. Here are some recipes using wild rice. Wild Rice soup is very yummy too.
While we were studying Minnesota we also enjoyed Indian Tacos (taco fixings on top of fry bread, yummy!) and MN grown corn on the cob. That sure looks good to me now!
Another night we enjoyed Swedish Meatballs with corn. They are what is also served at the Lutefisk suppers for those that don't like Lutefisk. Here is a recipe.

Now if you would really like to learn about MN I would recommend this book: "How to talk Minnesotan" by Howard Mohr. It is quite humorous but for those of us that live here or know people from here we can see the reality in it as well. There are some things I see in me like saying "that's a good deal", "that's not a bad deal" and so on and so forth. There are some things I notice in a group of us like being quite unemotional and stoic during performances or sermons. It is hard for a preached from the south to come to a state like MN where they get pretty much no visible reaction from the audience. I also laugh at some things I see in others that are typically Minnesotan (probably actually Scandinavian) like not looking someone in the eye when visiting with them (you know you both kind of stare straight ahead while standing side by side to do your visiting) and remembering an older lady that we worked for always asking us if we wanted "a little lunch" (meaning a mid day snack).
One of the big crops grown in Northern, MN is sunflowers. Mn also grows and processes a lot of wheat.
Any foods from MN that you love? Or any funny stories about MN characteristics? I always love to hear from all of you!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"I call out to the Lord. I pray to him for his favor.
I pour out my problem to him. I tell him about my trouble.
When I grow weak, you know what I'm going through."
Psalm 142:1-3a
This verse jumped out at my this week. Lately my heart has often been heavy when I know of the hard times that friends and family are going through. When I think of some friends who have recently lost their Mother/MIL and also as I visit with my "little" sister Martha who is undergoing treatment for cancer, I remember life isn't easy. However through it all we have someone who is always listening, always willing to hold us tight and love us and one who knows everything about what we are going through. Who would want to live without Him?
I would appreciate your prayers for my sister. This week she has to have a radioactive treatment and pretty much be in isolation. I am praying not only for her health, but also for good spirits and for her children as they can't be with her.
Even when things might not be easy in life, God still is bringing forth new life! And how cute it is!
We thought these two all cuddled together and keeping warm were very cute.
I am hoping that you are enjoying the benefits of a close relationship with our heavenly Father!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Life's lovely little moments

The other day I looked out the window where the older 3 kids were playing to see that they had all worn their mud boots to cross over the patch of snow and then had taken them off to go barefoot on the snowless patch. I guess Spring is here! They had taken some barbies out and where having fun playing with them in the leaves and twigs and ended up making them a tee-pee too.
Aaron happily made salad for us the other night. He did a great job. It was his idea to add carrots and I got a kick out of the big chunks in the salad. This morning I was finishing doing the flowers for a wedding and Jonathan volunteered to flip pancakes for us. He had a lot of fun doing it and made special pancakes for his younger siblings which pleased them greatly. Sometimes I can get frustrated with my kids and think we have a lot of training still to do but really we are very blessed with some wonderful children. A couple of mornings ago we were talking about birthstones and made me think of my birthstone ring which my parents got for me when I was around 6. It is silver and turquoise and I really treasured it. The kids wanted to see it and enjoyed trying it on. Megan wore it around for a while and it looked very cute on her.
Mom and Dad have baby goats again. On Friday we went out and visited and the kids had a wonderful time playing with them.

Today we were able to go out and tap some Maple trees. I love getting out in the woods and am looking forward to the fresh syrup too!
Inside at Mom and Dad's I thought it was cute to see all the red mud boots together. It is definitely the season for mud boots! I am not sure if I am terribly fond of the mud (especially not when trying to go and get milk at the dairy, it was so gross today!) but I do love Spring!
Thanks be to God for the variety that comes with each season and the love that he shows to each of us!
How has your life been going?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Frugal tips from Ben Franklin

I recently started reading a book called "Founding Fathers, Uncommon Heroes" By Steven W. Allen and am enjoying it very much.
The first chapter was about Benjamin Franklin and some of his thoughts on money are so good that I thought they would be fun to share.
Benjamin Franklin is well known for his short clever sayings, a couple of them are:

"A penny saved is a penny earned"

"Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."

I remember hearing those two since I was a kid and they are very good thoughts. The first one goes incredibly well with the frugal lifestyle, the remembering that every little bit counts and that when we save money (instead of blowing on something) it is just like earning money.

One that I saw for the first time in this book is:

"They way to wealth.... depends chiefly on two words, industry and frugality: that is waste neither time or money."

I think that is a very neat quote because unfortunately it seems to be sometimes forgotten in our modern world. Industry and frugality aren't always popular. (Though in the Frugal Friday circle it does seem to be! Which is fun.) However I don't think most people become wealthy through borrowing oodles of money and using it, nor from government handouts or from many other ways that are looked at as shortcuts. Working hard and being frugal are still very important ways to financial security.

Quoting from the book: "Franklin believed that the only true way to wealth was through hard work. This noble idea became the soul of the "American Dream", the idea that all men are created equal and each person has the same opportunity to achieve success."

It would certainly help our nations budgeting issues if our leaders would just grasp a hold of that idea. Making sure every American can live the American dream would not mean that you have to supply them with everything or bail them out of bad situations they get themselves in, it simply means that we don't have a caste system, we believe holding another human being in bondage is wrong and that no matter where you come from, no matter what race or religion everybody has the opportunity to work and progress. It is up to each person to whether they succeed or not.

For more frugal ideas and tons of tips visit Frugal Friday at Life as MOM.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

25 ways to use cardboard boxes

We had some fun making things with cardboard lately so I thought I would work on doing a round-up of various ways to use old boxes and cardboard. In my opinion the more stuff we can recycle ourselves the better it is for the environment and our wallet.

  1. Make a doll/barbie house. This was a huge hit at our house. It was fun to make and our children, as well as visiting children, have had fun playing with it.
  2. After you make the house, then you can use all sorts of smaller boxes to make the furniture.
  3. Make a puzzle by gluing a magazine picture, a child's piece of artwork or a photo to some cardboard and then cutting it into puzzle pieces. An exacto knife might be nice for this project.
  4. Use large pieces for mulch in your garden. Lay a piece down, spray it with water to get it nice and wet so it won't fly away and then cover with pulled up weeds, grass clippings or leaves.
  5. Gift Tags. Use lightweight cardboard that is clean on both sides.
  6. Kindling for a fire.
  7. Make some slippers. This has been a fun recent project and we did make ones that are more useful than the ones pictured above, the ones above were for a play. Check out the other post to see more information.
  8. Use small shoe boxes and the like to organize sock and underwear drawers or kitchen drawers.
  9. Use as makeshift sleds.
  10. Let your kids use them to make a "car" or a "boat"
  11. Make a playhouse for cats.
  12. Make "drawers" for a shelf. We have in our house a deep shelf with a countertop on it that I have used for a changing table for my kids. We were low on dressers so I found 4 boxes that would fit the shelves and then covered them with some extra fabric I had and used them for the drawers. I did that around 7 years ago and it has been in use ever since (currently it is a craft supply holder). I am amazed at how well the box "drawers" have held up.
  13. Make a stationary holder.
  14. All sorts of fun crafts at this site!
  15. Make a Solar Oven. (This is something I really need to try!) Here is instructions for a pizza box one, a minimum (easy to make) solar oven and a larger variety.
  16. Use cardboard to mend things. For instance in the picture below one of my picture frames had broken at the corner. I was able to cut a piece of cardboard that fit on the inside and then glue that in for durability. I mended it probably a year ago and it is doing just find.
  17. Make a cardboard chair. Here is a video with another variety of chair.
  18. Make a cardboard playhouse.
  19. How about a baby cradle?
  20. Maybe even a coffin? (personally I think this makes a lot of sense.)
  21. It works great for making doll furniture.
  22. A kids basketball hoop.
  23. Make your own games. Cards or board games. Be creative!
  24. Recycling bins/ trash cans.
  25. Picture Frames.

    Hey! I would love to hear your favorite ways for reusing cardboard. I know there are a bunch more uses out there!

For more Thrifty Green Thursday tips visit Green Baby Guide.


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