Monday, March 28, 2011

Homestead Barn Hop

  A while back I found the blog "Homestead Revival" it is one I have enjoyed as the writer and I share many of the same interests and goals. On Mondays she a few others homesteading bloggers are hosting a Homestead Barn Hop where they encourage others to link up posts telling about their "homesteading" activities of the past week. That sounds like fun to me so I have decided to join in.

  To me the idea behind a homestead (by the way, I looked up the term in the dictionary and it simply said "Any dwelling with land and buildings where a family makes its home") is having a place where you can try to go back to the basics. I think of a homesteader as someone who tries to produce as much of their own food as possible, make much of their own things and live a simple lifestyle. I was very blessed to grow up in this way. When I was a baby my parents bought 40 acres of land where they slowly (without going into debt) built our home and outbuildings, they raised goats, poultry and other animals at times to provide meat, milk and eggs, they have large gardens to supply much of their produce and make a lot of things on their own. I very much enjoy this way of living and even though my little family hasn't done things on our own quite to that level we are doing what we can on our 1 1/2 acres.

Here are a few of the "homesteading" activities we have enjoyed this past week:

: : Making cinnamon raisin bread with wheat we ground.

 : : Making Rhubarb Crisp with Rhubarb we had harvested and froze.
 : : A Fire Making Contest.
I have been reading a book on Survival skills out loud to the kids and after reading the book on fire we decided we needed to brush up on our fire starting skills. If you are in an emergency situation starting a fire can often be very helpful for keeping you warm (this is especially important in Northern areas such as we live in), cooking food and heating water and also helping you feel more secure, safe and happy. Many people in emergency situations are not that good at starting fires, they get frantic and they don't do a good job of it often wasting the few matches they may have. Practice makes a person much more confident.

 We decided to have a race the boys against girls and I was the advisor to both teams. They were each given 5 matches and instructions to use as few as possible. The boys made a new fire pit and the girls used our existing fire pit. They had to find dry material outside in our snowy conditions to make their fire with.
 The boys ran into some troubles and their fire ended up going out every time it got started but they will try again another day.
 The girls (Mara with Megan watching) got a good fire going. We decided to cook our supper over it. I started a pot of split pea soup on it but realized I had used the wrong pot and the handles were getting ruined so I moved it indoors to finish its cooking. We did however make Indian Fry Bread over the fire.
 Ken had a meeting that night so he wasn't home for supper but the rest of us decided to eat outside around the fire. March is pretty early for a picnic here but it was sunny, we wore coats and the fire helped to keep us warm. It was quite fun.
 Here is our simple and yummy supper:
 One more food item for this week:
: : Making Waffles from wheat I ground and enjoying them with Maple Syrup.
We had run out of Maple Syrup for the year but when we went over to help my parents with the tree tapping Mom found out that I was out and sent me home some extra they had from other years. We do love our real maple syrup!
 : : Working at finishing the Quilting on my Quilt.
: : Crocheting a rag rug.

I am looking forward to sharing some of our "homesteading" activities on as many Mondays as I can. Have you been working on any "back to the basics" activities lately?

We have a winner!

The winner of the Die Cut Business Card (250 of them!) giveaway is.....From the Country Farm.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Do good to all men

 This past week I did something I had never done before. Our church had decided to take a turn at hosting the homeless in our town for a week. That entailed having the people come in the afternoon and staying until the next morning. We needed to have volunteers there (at least two) the whole time, provide meals, clean and watch for any potential problems.

  For most of the week I took the early morning shift so I got up at 4:40 am and quickly headed over to the church building to start my 5 am shift. It was pretty quiet at that time of day and I enjoyed being able to spend about an hour writing in my prayer journal and reading my Bible. I have been reading through the book of Proverbs but one of those mornings I just happened to flip to Galatians 6 and I read that as well. The words in that chapter really spoke to me.

  These verses especially:
"Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ" Galatians 6:2
"Let us not lost heart in doing good , for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." Galatians 6:9-10

 I will be very honest with you, I had a lot of different emotions about helping out the homeless this week. Before they came there was some uneasiness over the unknown, I was not familiar with homeless people and I felt a little ill at ease, Also I have struggled with the question of why they were in that situation, was it bad choices or was it something beyond their control? Is it even the right thing to do, to take care of people so completely that they might not feel the need or desire to try to take care of themselves?

 I still don't have all of those questions answered but I do feel that this has been a growing week for me. I had so much fun getting to know the different people that came, I no longer feel uneasy or "scared" of homeless people. I realize that for the most part they are people just like me, simply with a different background and different situations.

 I was able to learn how to love them and enjoy helping them in the ways that I could. These verses reminded me that I need to help others and that doesn't mean living there life for them but simply living my life in a way that I show them God's love.

  I am so thankful for this opportunity that God gave to me (and many others) to grow.

Friday, March 25, 2011

"New" Hotpads

 When Ken and I got married (over 12 years ago now!!) we were given oodles of hot pads. If I remember right I think I had counted 19. I gave some away as we obviously didn't need that many and then we put the rest of them to work. It was pretty obvious that they had been put to work when you looked at them. They had stains, raveled edges and had even been scorched. They looked pretty bad no matter how often I washed them.

  It was time to fix them up! I pulled out some old faded curtains (that went with the colors that I am trying to have in the main area of our house) that still had some good sections in them and decided to recover the hot pads. I had pulled out ribbon too which I thought I would use but then decided not to.

  I decided it just made good sense to recover the hot pads as the current hot pads still worked for insulating and I would rather use them again (as long as they looked a little nicer!) then throw them away. So with the old curtain fabric I cut squares/rectangles just a bit bigger then the hot pads them selves. Then I sewed them together like a pillowcase (right sides together and sew around 3 sides) and then turned it right side out and slipped the old (and clean) hot pad in it. Then I pinned the 4th side together, tucking the raw edges in. After pinning I topstiched around all 4 sides and with an X across the middle. That was all there was too it and now my hot pads look much better!
I had thought I should make a loop to hang them as that is how most hot pads are and then realized that was silly since I don't hang them anyway, I keep them in a basket on my counter. It would be easy to add a loop if you needed too.

 This project was quick and simple but also very satisfactory as it makes my kitchen look better while using up old hotpads and old curtains. I love projects like these!

Have you repurposed anything lately?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Our one room schoolhouse

 On Monday we had fun doing something a little different for schooltime. We try to do a few cleaning chores before school starts on Monday and one of them includes Aaron washing the dining room chairs and putting them in the living room so that I can mop the floor. He had done that and then decided to place them in rows like in a school room. The kids brought our Megan's Chalkboard and we playing school and then thought it would be fun to actually do their schoolwork there.

  I was pretty tired that morning as I had gotten up before 5 am to go do a shift at a homeless shelter (at our church building actually as we are taking a turn as a rotating shelter) and I also wasn't feeling that well (It was my turn to catch the bug that my kids had had the earlier) so just sitting down and "playing school" sounded all right to me.

 The boys set up the little tables and we were all set up and ready to begin.
 We start our school day with prayer, singing and memory verses and so on Monday we decided to have our singing around the piano using an old school songbook. My mom had stories of singing while her teacher played the piano in a one room schoolhouse and I remember my grandma (who was a teacher) said she learned to play the piano so that she could play in school like that as well.
We had fun pretending that we were in a one room school house. It was good training for learning to raise their hands (something my kids are pretty unfamiliar with!) and for whispering and sitting still. 

   They thought it was fun but I think they are glad that we can be a little more relaxed most days. I also am glad to be able to clean or cook or whatever while being available to help them as neccasary instead of sitting around all day.

Changing things up a bit and having fun with my kids always works for me!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Making Nests for Spring

 For the first day of Spring Aaron made us a Happy Spring sign, and I after some laying in bed and thinking (I have a bad habit of doing that in the mornings when I don't feel like getting out from under the warm covers) came up with the idea of these nests for a fun springtime dessert.
Bird's nest cookies. The leaves behind are some that sprouted from branches Mara brought in and put in water about a month ago. They are fun to have to make things look Springy inside as it is snowing outside.
 My sister Keren had given the kids the Candy Eggs (they were Reeses eggs)  and I had thought it would be fun to make some sort of "nest" for them. I then realized that our boiled (no bake) cookie recipe would work quite well. This recipe has long been a favorite of ours, it is quick and easy to make and I keep the supplies stocked in my kitchen. I think this is a fairly common recipe so probably many of you already have and use it but just in case you don't, here it is:

Boiled Cookies (That is what my Mom always called them but most people call them no bake cookies)

Combine in saucepan and cooke over med. high heat:
  • 1 cup sugar (I often use a bit less)
  • 3 T. Cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
Bring to a boil and boil for two minutes, stirring often.
Remove from heat and add:
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • 1/ cup coconut
Mix well and drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Makes about 4 dozen.
The kids loved the cookies!
 Have you been doing any Springtime projects?

Die Cut Business Card Giveaway

Who would like to win some business cards? And not just plain old business cards either! You can make these incredibly classy and unique.
One person will get to win 250 Die Cut Business cards. These can obviously be used for Business cards (duh!) but they have lots of other possibilities too. Make them to be a label for your handmade gifts or stuff you sell. You can design them however you want (either with your own program or you can upload pictures and stuff to their site and design it there), they can be full color (You can use photos if you want!) and you can write whatever words you want to on them. There are tons of possibilities!

Here are some more details about what someone will win:

~Dimensions to choose from: 1.75” x 3.5”, 2” x 3.5”, or 2” x 2”; 2.5” Diameter (Circle)

~Shapes: Rounded Corners, Leaf, Rounded Single-Corner, Half-Circle Side, Circle

~14pt Cardstock Gloss / Matte / High Gloss (UV), or 13pt Cardstock Uncoated

~6 Business Days Turnaround; Front Only or Front and Back printing.

Would you like to try to win some?

How do you think you could use these business cards? I am thinking I am going to get some cards that have my blog address on them to share with people I meet. To enter in this giveaway please leave a comment telling what you think it would be fun to use these for. Be sure to leave your e-mail address so that I can contact you!

If you would like a second entry please like UPrinting on Facebook and then leave me another comment telling me that you did so.

This is limited to US residents 18 years old and above only. Also if you have won a giveaway from UPrinting in the last 6 months, you are not eligible to win again. The giveaway will end on March 25th.

This giveaway is sponsored by UPrinting, no monetary compensation was given and I will receive business cards for hosting. For more information about business cards, please visit UPrinting.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Spring!!

 Are you all excited about Spring's arrival? We are!!

    We love winter but we are always ready for Spring. Today was a grey day here and it was raining. I hadn't driven in rain for several months. The snow is melting and we are dreaming of gardening and all the other fun Spring activities. I won't actually be able to get into the garden for quite a while but we will starts seeds and such inside before too long.

  I thought this verse went along with my springtime thoughts as well as other things I have had on my mind.~

" He who tills his land will have plenty of food,
but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty.
A faithful man will abound with blessings,
but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.

 He who gives to the poor will never want,
but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses."
Proverbs 28:19, 20 & 27

I just find it so cool how many practical subjects God talks about in His book, the Bible. He wants us to plan ahead, work to take care of our own needs, be faithful with what we have and also look out for those around us that do not have as much. I appreciate the thoughts in this verse and I hope I can put them to practice in my life!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


My kids (family actually because Ken and I do too) love to celebrate! It doesn't matter if it is a birthday or a holiday doing something special to celebrate is always fun. With my kids at least the celebration doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive, just something that makes it out of the ordinary and special makes them very excited and happy.

  Yesterday was Saint Patrick's Day. Well we aren't Catholic or Irish and it could be a day that is very easily passed by and it really has no significance to us. But my sister Martha's birthday is on that day and ever since she was born it has been a special day for us and we have tended to wear green and pinch anybody that didn't.

 Yesterday when I got up I remembered it was Martha's birthday but didn't happen to think about the wearing of green and so I didn't. Come breakfast time Ken came up with a green shirt on and reminded us (me with a pinch!) that green was the color for the day.


In the afternoon the kids thought it would be fun to have a special supper. I already had pizza on the menu but decided I could make it into a 4 leaf clover shape and Megan thought broccoli on top would help to make it green and we also used food coloring to make the cheese a bit green as well. For supper we also ate a green salad and apple juice which was our pot of gold. We had fun having a green table which I placed our shamrock in the middle of for our centerpiece. Mara made a Chocolate cake with green mint frosting for dessert.

All of our activities were easy using things we had close at hand but yet it was special and fun.

Tomorrow is the first day of Spring so we are trying to think of fun ways to celebrate that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Bible case from an old leather coat

 We gave Aaron a Bible for Christmas (He was very excited as he had really wanted one) and ever since then he has been wanting a case and I have been meaning to make him one it just hadn't happened.

 He specifically wanted a leather case. He thought it would be nice if it matched the leather wallet that Mara and I made him for Christmas. Well it just so happened there was more to the leather coat that we had used to make the wallet. So making a leather Bible case would work just fine.
 Aaron and I had fun working together for an afternoon and we came up with this. He wanted a pocket (for the papers he receives in class at church), buttons to hold it closed and a handle. Check, Check, Check!
Aaron was quite pleased with his new case and I enjoyed the fun time of working together with him as well as getting to make something useful out of something in my large stash of "stuff"!

I am linking this to "Fix it up Friday" a fun linky party that my friend Jackie hosts over at Blessings overflowing.

Saving Money on Gifts

 I have been thinking a lot about the subject of gift giving lately. I enjoy giving gifts and to be perfectly honest I enjoy getting them too. Many of my ideas about gift giving are changing however. I used to feel like all the gifts I gave should be brand new, either bought at the store or made generally using all new materials. I have changed my mind on that.

  There are several reasons my ideas are changing. I don't know where you are in this range of "what is right with gift giving" but I thought I would share some of what I have been thinking about on this subject.

  First- "Why do we give gifts?" Here are my thoughts:
  • To show someone we care about them. (often to help celebrate a special day of theirs.)
  • To help someone out- fulfil a need.
  • Another reason (but I think it is not a good reason!) could be to show off what you can afford to give or are able to make. I hope that I never give for this reason!
Did I miss something with that list? After thinking about the "why" it help me to realize that the first two reasons for giving are really not that hard to do. To show someone we care does not require the gift to be new, it just needs to be something that shows we were thinking about them, what they like and what fits them. To show someone we care a gift isn't even always necessary, a card (especially one that you have personally written a message in) can often do that just as well. To help someone out often doesn't require an expensive gift or a brand new gift either. Sometimes a need can cost a lot of money but when we thoughtfully think about each gift we give and not spend money needlessly when we don't need too then we will (at least it seems that way in our situation) be better equipped to be able to help with a need that does cost a lot.

  Another reason I have really started to rethink gift giving is when I look at our own household. I have been working at getting rid of things in our house because we simply have had too much stuff. I think this is a very common problem in our country. So in my realization that most people are probably a lot like me and really don't need a lot of new things and actually might be feeling overwhelmed with what they do have I started thinking things like this: "If I don't know specifically what a person might want or need why would I go out and spend money on something just so I can give a gift?" This has prompted me to try to be more observant of others.

    I do like to give gifts so I am trying to notice things that might really be useful to them or something they would really enjoy. If I can't really figure that out I have been working on giving more consumable type gifts. Food and such that are universally used and will not clutter up their home. Another option I have been using is to give something homemade. My idea with this is that it shows that I care and am thinking about them but these gifts are usually made using something I already have so the only cost is time. Since I am concerned about conservation this sort of gift doesn't add yet one more thing to our overcrowded country, I simply remake and use something that was already out there.

  Here are some of my ideas for economical gift giving. I would really love some feedback on these ideas! I am still struggling to always feel comfortable with all of them, some feel a little revolutionary to me but I think in so many ways they make sense. I hate the idea of wasting money or other resources but yet when giving gifts it can be a challenge to feel comfortable giving something that is used or simply out of the ordinary.

  • Shop at garage sales. Last summer in my little bit of yard saleing I was surprised at how many new or practically new things that I found. (This speaks to the over abundance of stuff we have in our country!) I started to especially look through the books that I found. Many had never had a name written in them and had no bends or tears. I picked up many of these for 25 cents each and have used them for gifts. I did also pick up some baby socks (10 pairs in a bag for 10 cents) and onesies (6 in a bag for 50 cents) that looked practically new and I brought them home and washed them. So far I used some of the socks to make a "flower" on top of a baby gift (below) and I used a onesie (along with fabric from a shirt that had been given to us) to make another baby gift.

  •  Make handmade gifts using recycled materials. Things I have done along this line are: Rugs (like above and they have been well received), bibs, hot pads, tote bags, skirts, doll clothes, doll furniture, doll houses, jewelry, toys, mittens, quilts..... The list could go on and on.
  • Give food or other consumable gifts.With this sort of gift we like to make our own. They are fun to make and you can make them look "pretty" and also making it yourself can cause it to be quite economical. Above is a soup mix we made and gave away and below is some candy. Other homemade food gifts that we have given and people have liked are: Homemade bread, Jam, Lefse, cookie mixes and cookies or bars. I have also received Homemade Vanilla and Seasoning salts both of which I really appreciated.

  • Shop sales and shop year round. I try to keep an eye out for gifts year round. So when Legos went on sale last fall I got some for the boys for Christmas and I also got sets for their birthdays this year (which aren't until August and October). I have a little file cabinet and a box and under my bed as well where I keep gifts that I have bought ahead. When it is something expensive I will have a particular person in mind for the gift but if it is a nice gift that is really inexpensive I will get it just so I am ready for impromptu parties or need a gift quickly. I am still trying to get better at finding gifts for Ken throughout the year!
  • Make gifts using supplies you already have. Above is a ski bag that I made for Ken for Valentines day. He had wanted one and we looked at one at the ski shop and it was $60. I figured I could make one instead. I was able to use stuff that I had on hand (mostly thanks to my Grandma having me go through and take stuff from her sewing stuff) and so the bag itself cost me nothing besides my time. (It did take more time than I had figured since I made it triple layered but that is okay.)    This year I have also had fun making baby sweaters from yarn that I already had on hand. If you have crafted very long I find it is pretty easy to build up a big supply of materials (but that just might be because when people find out that I like to make things many of them offer materials that they are no longer using and I gladly say "yes!") and when you use things you have on hand, gifts can be made very economically. You just need some time.
 This is by no means a complete list but this post is getting long and I have other stuff I should be doing so I will quit talking for now! :-) I would really, really love to hear what you all think about my thoughts on gift giving. Do you think used gifts are okay? What about re-gifting? (I do that too.) Do you like homemade gifts? Please share your thoughts......

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

American Chocolate Week!

Did you know that the third week of March (which happens to be this week!) is American Chocolate Week? It is! I found that out thanks to the "Every day a Holiday" book that I got from the library.

I don't know about you but I am a typical American chocolate lover. I very much enjoy eating chocolate but I don't like to spend a lot of money in the process so we make our own chocolate treats. I thought that I could share some of our favorite chocolate recipes.

I hope you enjoy these! What is your favorite Chocolate treat to make?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fun and busy days

I'm back! Did anybody miss me? Actually I didn't go anywhere, I just didn't blog for a few days because we had a lot going on!

 This weekend we had a retreat at our church. We invited people from all over to come and we have fun hosting them in our homes. Besides getting ready for company we also all work together to prepare the meals, practice music and a skit, get the church building ready, plan kids classes and so forth. It is a busy time of year for the church family but we very much enjoy getting to spend time with Christians from other places.

The guest speaker this year was our friend Jason Corder from Louisiana (well he lives there now but he and his wife used to live in our town). We were privileged to have Jason and Michelle and their two girls stay with us and they even came early for the retreat (arriving on Tuesday- the retreat started on Friday) so we had extra time with them. That has been the tradition for many years and we always enjoy the time we have with them. Jason and Michelle were great friends from our college years (and actually I went to bible camp with both of them in Iowa as well). When they arrived on Tuesday night they brought a surprise with them. Another college friend, Rosella, who also lives in Louisiana got to come along as well and they kept her coming a secret. I was quite delighted to get to spend time with Rosella, we hadn't seen each other for about 7 years.

My friend Rosella -enjoying the snow.

God blessed us with some beautiful weather last week. We had a blast having a snowball fight and making a snowman. We don't have sticky snow that often, so we made good use of it.

The retreat went very well. We had a very nice group of people that came (including my good friend Carrie and her kids who joined us at our house, so we had a nice houseful- I love that!) and we had wonderful times of worship, fellowship and learning. Jason did a great job preaching out of the book of Acts. He focused on things that the early church did that we can do now too. About how we can be useful to God. I really enjoyed his sermons on prayer and being an encourager like Barnabas.

The Retreat ended Sunday and our company all left. The house always feels a bit empty afterwards and we feel a bit lot tired!

Games were a fun addition to the retreat during the free time.

We played games at home too.

We also put together a world puzzle. We are totally up on our geography now. :-)

I started this post yesterday but then didn't get it finished. Jonathan got sick yesterday and now the other 3 kids don't feel so great. There was sickness going around so it isn't a shock that we caught it. Thankfully Jonathan is feeling good again already today and Mara isn't too bad so we went to our Homeschool Get-together (I would have stayed home if I weren't the one leading it and unlocking the building) and the younger two got to hang out at my parents. We did have fun at our homeschool get-together- doing science experiments. I will have to blog about all the cool projects people brought later.


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