Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Always Learning

"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann

I saw this quote somewhere and really liked it. I love to learn and that is definitely a good thing as I do a fair amount of teaching too. I homeschool my children, I teach private music lessons, I teach children's classes at church, I have led Bible studies and I have taught homemaking classes. Teaching is really a very good thing for me because it forces me to keep learning. 

  I hope you are willing to share with others the things you have learned and that you will always work to keep learning!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Making Time for Menu Planning

Enjoying the sun one winter morning and working on both a rug and our menu.
 Do you plan a menu?
I have found menu planning very helpful for our family for quite a few reasons:

  1. It makes cooking supper (and other meals) less stressful for me. The hardest thing for me is coming up with ideas when I am busy and tired and we are all hungry. Since I don't really enjoy stress - menu planning is wonderful!
  2. It saves us money since I try to plan our menu to use foods that we have on hand and especially what we have in abundance (squash, cabbage, green beans, fish and shredded frozen zucchini are in that category right now). The other reason it saves us money is because I have a plan I am much less likely to really wish for take-out or going out to eat.
  3. It helps us to have a larger variety of foods. Since I am writing it all down at once I can make a concentrated effort to vary the meats that I use, the carbs that I use and the veggies too. I just start rotating down through the month and stick a fish meal in every week, some beef, some chicken and so forth. 
  4. It helps me to save on energy. When I have a menu I do a better job of getting meat and veggies out to thaw in advance. That way I don't have to use energy to thaw them as well as cook them.
  5. A menu helps me to save time. When I plan ahead I can do things like fry up the hamburger for two meals one night rather than just do the meat for that night. It doesn't take any longer right then but it saves preparation time for the other night. I can also think ahead and just double up the whole meal and freeze 1/2 for the future. 
  6. A menu plan also makes things easier for the kids when it is their turn to cook. They don't like having to come up with ideas last minute either.
 I know without a doubt that I like having a menu but still there are times that I struggle to get one made. They do take some time and some creative thinking. At one point in my life I did just make up a 6 week rotating menu but then I discovered that really wasn't my style. I needed my menu to reflect the season that I was in, what we had in abundance and also I just don't like repetition that much (though Ken does - I think he might be happy with a one week rotating menu if it were all meals he liked). 

   Sometimes when I would sit down at the table to work on the menu I would tend to have a brain freeze and not be able to think of things even if I got out a bunch of cookbooks to look at.

My rug and menu in progress.
Here are some of the ways that I have found work better for me when I try to plan a menu. I thought I would share them just in case they might help you too:

  • Take the menu (I just draw a calendar out on a sheet of paper) to the meal table with you and start asking the family for ideas. Since I have my kids make some meals each week (They do 3 breakfasts and 2 suppers) they have to fill in those slots - though I do help them come up with a good plan. 
  • Find a comfortable spot and some fun mindless work to do (like making a rug or folding clothes) and bring your menu along too. While you work think about meal ideas and start writing them down.
  • Take a visit to your freezer or pantry and take a quick inventory and then go to your menu and think of meals that you can make using those ingredients. Write them down.
  • Lay the menu on the counter while cooking and use that time to think about meals. When I am working with food the menu ideas seem to flow better for me. :-) Write down your ideas.
  • While sitting at the table ready to help my kids with their schoolwork (my youngest 3 all generally work at the dining room table) bring your menu and some cookbooks and work on that when you have some done time from helping.
Those ideas seem to be working pretty well for me. One of my breakthroughs with making meals lately came when I realized that I don't have to wait until the morning of to get out food to thaw, (Thawing food has been one of the hardest habits for me to form) it works really well to look at my menu and get out the stuff to thaw for the next few days and then put it in the fridge. It can slowly thaw all while helping the fridge to stay cold with less energy usage. 

  I know many people don't like menu planning (as I have led homemakers groups I have certainly found that out) but if you find mealtime stressful or struggle with it - I really encourage you to give it a try! Some people have told me that when they menu plan it is actually more expensive and took more time but after questioning I found that they generally always tried to use new recipes and bought special  things for those recipes. If you want to save money please make your menu based on what you have - not on a bunch of new recipes.

What are your thoughts on menu planning? Do you have any tips to share? I would love to hear from you!

I am linking to:

The Homestead Barn Hop

The Chicken Chick

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Be a Light That Exposes Darkness

  "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of the these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord;
 walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead rather expose them; for it is disgraceful even to the speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light." 
Ephesians  5:6-13
 Are you trying to let God's light shine through you to the world around you?

 This is something that I strive for but I know at times that I struggle with being a clouded "window" for His light to go through. It is easy to get used to the unrighteousness that is around us in entertainment and so many other areas. I was thinking about this the other night when we as a family decided it would be fun to watch a movie and so looked for one on Netflix. We weeded through a lot of trash and then found one we thought would be okay. We watched it but as we went through it I had those little nagging thoughts - should we be watching this - does it glorify God that we are doing this? In hindsight,  I really wish we would have turned it off. It wasn't horribly bad - it was in the family section and I suppose most people wouldn't think twice about it but yet here and there throughout the movie there were little things that were very contrary to Bible teaching. Naturally we will run into unrighteousness in day to day living but to entertain ourselves with it is a different matter. When we do that we are not exposing it but rather enjoying it.

 God wants us to be different and set apart. He wants our lives and thoughts to be focused on what is good and pure and right and true. We want to try to please God in everything we do and say.

   Being a light doesn't require us to research and pull out all the trash and criticize all the wrong in this world but rather to be so totally different that people notice the difference.

   Let's focus on truth. Let's be lights! 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Home and Feeling Weary

We just got home tonight from a fun and full day and a half of cheering on our son Jonathan and his team at a VEX Robotics tournament. They didn't end up in first place as far as the points go or the judges' decisions but they did a good job, learned a lot and had fun.

  They figured out how to do things that I can't even truly comprehend how it works. I am so thankful for this learning opportunity for Jonathan.

  And now.... I am tired and ready for bed. I just don't sleep quite as well in a hotel as I do at home. Having a son that wanted to talk in his sleep (or kick or bed) in the same room as us wasn't so conducive to good sleep either. I wonder where he gets that talking in his sleep from?? (smile!)

 Good night! I hope you have a lovely and blessed Sunday!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Boy and His Boots

 I have a ten year old boy named Aaron who would love to be a cowboy someday. He loves animals, thinks being a rancher would be a lot of fun and would love to be able to ride a horse. He also really enjoys his cowboy boots.
 His boots that he bought with his own money. Last year he decided it would be really fun to have some boots but he already had plenty of shoes and I wasn't buying anything that we didn't need (that was my challenge for the year but it is for the most part my lifestyle anyway) and so it didn't look like he would be getting any boots from anybody so he decided to save his money and buy his own.
    He and Jonathan started a little business shoveling neighbor's walks and with that money he was able to find some second hand boots in nice condition and buy them. I think there is a certain satisfaction that comes from working for and earning what you want on your own. Gifts are lovely but so is working for something.

   Ken and I do try to care for our children's needs and we enjoy giving them some of their wants at times too but we also want to teach them to be diligent workers, to earn money on their own and use it wisely and to have some self-control and a willingness to wait sometimes. Generally getting what you want after a bit of waiting makes it all that much sweeter and sometimes you realize that you don't really want it after all. Waiting is a good thing to learn whether you are an adult or a child.

   Do you have your children earn money for some of their own needs or wants? How do you train your children in handling money?

   A side note, Aaron doesn't wear his pant legs tucked in his boots anymore (though I find it rather cute) his Dad and Grandpa convinced him that was the way that Square Dancer's wore their boots but that working cowboys wore the pants on the outside. He has no desire to be a dancer but does want to be a real cowboy so out went the pant legs.


Monday, January 20, 2014

A toothpaste making adventure

We recently ran out of homemade toothpaste at our house and so it was time to get busy and make some new stuff. I did decide it would be good to do things a little differently this time as the younger three kids really didn't like the last batch. I wanted to make some that would be kid approved.

  I visited with a friend who was also working on making some for her family and I got an idea or so and then I started searching online for more recipes. I wanted to make something using what I already had on hand, something that would work and something the kids would like.

  My friend had mentioned using calcium in her toothpaste and that did seem like a good idea but I didn't have any on hand but when searching online I came across the idea of using egg shells in your toothpaste because they are full of calcium. 
You just need to wash them up, cook them at 400 degrees until they are nice and brittle (though I was afraid I left them in to long - as I forgot them for a while- I think in hindsight that they could have been more brittle and that would have been good) and then put them in your blender or food processor and grind them to a powder.

I have also been reading that diatomaceous earth is good for you and your teeth as well and since my parents had bought a bunch (to use on their livestock) and given me some, I had that on hand and wanted to try it. The main benefit of diatomaceous earth is it's silica of which there is a lot! That is good for teeth, hair, nails and such. When combine with calcium (in the egg shells and also in the DE to some degree), silica can work to remineralize teeth. DE also has some abrasiveness (not a lot) that helps with the cleaning of teeth and gums. Here is some more info on it.

I had also read about oak bark being good for teeth and since we had that available for free I decided to throw that in as well.  This is an astringent antiseptic and seems to be especially valuable in fighting against gingivitis but also seems to be beneficial to the teeth.

  When the kids found out I was making toothpaste they were interested (What is Mom going to make us try next!?) and when they found out that three of the ingredients were egg shells, "dirt" and bark they were a little less than thrilled. I went forward however and kept at my work even though I had a bunch of groaners watching me.

Here is what I ended up using:
5 egg shells (powdered)
1 T oak tree bark (ground up fine)
3 T. diatomaceous earth
pinch of salt (for abrasion and taste)
3 T. Truvia (this is for taste and nothing else - I was wanting to make this something the kids would like)
3 T. coconut oil (this is supposed to whiten and will also help pull impurities out of your mouth)
10 drops or so of peppermint oil (antiseptic and good smelling)
1 T. water (in hind sight I think there should have been more water as the oil hardens up quite a bit when sitting - unless you have a very warm house)

I mixed them all very thoroughly together, picking out any big chunks of bark that made their way in.
 It was ready to try. The kids were still groaning about it so I offered to do a demonstration to show that it really wasn't that bad.
 Jonathan took some pictures of the process (and I am sure you always wanted to see a picture of me brushing, didn't you! :-) ).
 Aaron, who was the most vocal at the weirdness of it and questioning the ingredients was the first to also give it a try. It was quite sweet and he decided he liked it - A lot! In fact it might just be better than frosting and he wanted to eat it. No thank- you! That is our toothpaste! Megan also thought it quite good. Mara is also using it but Jonathan hasn't yet been brave enough to give it a try.

  I do think my egg shells could have benefited from being a little more powdery but overall it works good. It did harden up more than I would have liked but it still works.

 I still have tweaking to do and still would like to try some other ideas that I have read about but I am enjoying learning more about tooth care. I am thinking that horsetail (something else that has oodles of silica in it and we have growing right here) might be a good addition too. It is so fun to be able to make something like this using ingredients that we can get right here on our own property!

  Do you ever make your own toothpaste? What do you use?

Disclaimer: I am not a dentist or a doctor and I don't claim to be. I am simply trying to find things that I think will be best for my family's health and I enjoy telling others about it too. Use my ideas at your own risk. :-)

I am linking up to:
The Homestead Barn Hop

Sunday, January 19, 2014


An old picture of Aaron and a baby goat that I found while going through old files that I like.
I am currently reading through the book of Ephesians. It is such a good book to encourage Christians in their walk with Jesus.

 Today I would like to share with you a section where Paul (inspired by God) implores Christians (of which I am a part) to live with other Christians in the way that we should.

Ephesians 4:1-6
  "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 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."

Humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance in love, diligence in unity.... all things that I need to work on. It is so easy to think of myself first, to be proud and forget about humility. I don't know about you but sometimes I just feel like pushing on, pushing others to do what I think needs to be done and meanwhile completely forgetting about gentleness. Impatience - that is something I struggle with every day. Impatient because I have to wait, impatient because others don't do things the way I think they should - just impatient. Being diligent to work towards unity - well I can struggle with that too - it is easy to think about me and what I want and fail to work towards unity and what is best for all of the body.

  We could get discouraged when thinking of the growth that we need in our lives, but let's not do that! Let's instead take it as a challenge. We need to realize that God sent His Spirit to work in us and the power He has is beyond amazing. He is willing to change our hearts and our lives when we let Him.

  • Are you a part of the one body... Christ's Church?
  • Are you filled with the one Spirit? 
  • Are you excited about the one hope?
  • Are you following the one Lord?
  • Do you believe the one faith?
  • Have you been baptized with the one baptism?
  • Are you trusting in our one God and Father?
I hope so!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fixing up a stool

    Not long ago my piano bench fell apart. It had fallen apart before and I had attempted fix it using gorilla glue. It had worked for quite a while but the glue just wasn't enough to keep it together forever and apart it went. My dad thinks he can probably fix it so it is over at his place waiting until he has some extra time.

We do a lot of piano playing around here. Not only do we like to play it but I have quite a few piano students that come here and they need something to sit on and chairs just don't work very well.

 I moved our mitten bench up temporarily but it was quite unhandy to have our hats and mittens in the living room when we needed them very regularly.

So when my brother Luke presented me with this wooden box he had made for my birthday in December I decided it would work pretty well for a stool for my piano.

It was a little short so I decided a pad on tap would take care of that problem.
 I cut a piece of foam (leftover from a foam crib mattress that was past it's prime and not needed anymore) and a piece of thick fabric that I had on hand. I was going to use a wood stapler to attach it but discovered it wasn't working. I remembered that I had some upholstery tacks on hand that I had used years ago.
 The tacks worked just fine.
The stool does too! I am happy to have something sturdy to sit on and it is comfortable too!

I love being able to use what we have! Luke's gift was very timely!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Eating outside around a campfire - In January!

  Our winter so far has been pretty packed with cold temperatures. Days that stay below zero seem more common than those that get above it and generally our days weren't going much above zero if they did at all. That is fine - we have warm clothes and a warm home and it is great for just doing cozy things inside.

  When we have a warm day however - we are getting pretty excited! Friday our temps got up around 20 degrees - we went skiing. Saturday the weather was nice too. Sunday things got even better. Going to church didn't feel cold at all! Come afternoon it actually got up to 40 degrees! It was warm.

   We have been taking down Christmas decorations and thought it would be fun to have a fire with all our dried up greenery and the birch logs we brought in. Aaron happily hauled it out and got the fire started.

  A fire was fun but wouldn't it be more fun to cook on the fire and eat outside?
 The boys talked Ken into running to the store for hot dogs and we heated up hot chocolate on the fire, roasted hot dogs and enjoyed a family supper around the fire.
 It didn't feel cold hardly at all. Such a treat for January!

Our other activity of the weekend was having my niece Jaten stay with us a couple of days. 4 year olds are pretty busy but also quite a bit of fun. Saturday evening Megan and Jaten cooked supper for us.

The making of boot cuffs, an infinity scarf and more....

 This month (and some last month) we have been working to update and revamp our wardrobes without spending a lot of money. We went through 2013 buying basically no clothing (each older child did get one item, Ken bought a few things for himself and Megan and I bought nothing) and so though we still had plenty of clothing we were ready for some updates.  We have done a little bit of shopping but mostly we are trying to use what we have and freshen it up in some new way.
The other day we decided to take this old sweater (above) and turn it into something new for Mara. It was to small for her and rather pilly so it was ready for a new life.
First step was to make some boot cuffs. We cut off the sleeves for this purpose, made them a little narrower in the section that had been by the shoulder and underarm and would be by her ankles. I then hemmed that area and they were ready to wear. So easy!

 There was quite a bit left to the sweater and some of it was rather pretty looking so I cut of the scalloped part at the bottom of the sweater and hemmed up the raw edge and that became an infinity scarf.
I was feeling creative and like not wasting anything so I cut the part that was left into a rather hat shape, sewed a seam and presented a hat for her to wear. It worked and didn't look to bad but she thought one area was a little funny so I sewed on it a bit more and in the process I made it to small. Here is a photo of her in it just for fun but it did actually end up in the garbage.
 We liked the boot cuffs pretty well so we grabbed the sleeves off of another old sweater (one that was wool and had shrunk) and she hemmed those up for boot cuffs too. She is hoping I will make the rest of that sweater into new mittens for her.

  Those boots she is wearing.... Well we did some work on them too.

 Do you see how big they are on her here? In the time (a couple of years now) she has had them they had stretched a little and slouched a lot and they looked rather funny on her thin legs. We were going to go boot shopping but decided to try sewing a dart down the back (they were a suede fabric boot) and see if that might remedy the situation.
I did that and it worked! How nice. I had to make a little strap shorter too but it all worked out quite well and she says they are comfortable and she is pretty happy with them again and doesn't think she needs new ones yet.

Fixing things up is pretty fun to do! Do you like to fix up, alter or repurpose clothes? I would love to hear your thoughts.
I am linking up to the Homestead Barn Hop

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Don't be taken captive

  We have many ideas presented to us each and every day through the things we read, hear and see. Many ideas come with a hidden agenda that we quite possibly will not recognize. The devil is a deceiver and it is his goal to make us believe things that are not right.

  This verse is a very important one to understand and follow:

  "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." Col. 2:8

We need to search God's word each and every day and be on our guard against false teaching.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Simple Pleasures

 Yesterday I had fun catching on camera some of the simple things that we enjoyed (and then I had trouble getting them on the blog last night for some reason - but here they are now.

  Miniature apple pies made by Mara were one of the treats. She thought they would be fun to make and though things like that seem a bit tedious to make in my mind she enjoyed it. We all enjoyed the result!

  What a fun morning snack. Warm apple pie while working on schoolwork.
 I did do some baking and we enjoyed warm fresh bread at lunch. Warm bread might be challenging to slice but you can't beat the taste.
 A rag rug just finished.
 More work on rag rugs being done. How I love using up those stained and worn out clothes! Aaron is cutting strips for me and
 Jonathan is cutting strips for his own rug that he is working on. They enjoy cutting while I read aloud to them (another of those simple pleasures that we enjoy!).

The day ended with a less simple but still fun activity.
Ken had bought us tickets to a Harlem Globe Trotter event as a Christmas surprise. We enjoyed seeing their antics and talents. IN the picture above one player is getting down after standing up on top of the hoop for a while.

I hope your week is going well! 

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Life for an Old Sweater


 I had this yellow cardigan that I had worn quite a bit but then it developed some stains on it. I decided maybe it would be fun to do something a little funky to cover up the stains.

 I had a fair amount of wool felt scraps on hand so I cut them into flower and leaf shapes and started sewing them on. It was a fun hand sewing project. I do projects like that during my prayer time and when we work on our memory work. Keeping my hands busy with simple things works well for me while I keep my mind on other things.
The sweater definitely looks different. I think it is kind of fun and cheerful. I also like that I was able to extend the life of an old sweater.

 Do you enjoy hand sewing? I would love to hear any tips or creative ideas that you have for extending the life of old clothes!

 Mara and I did some other sweater repurposing yesterday. I look forward to sharing that with you soon.

I am linking to the Homestead Barn Hop.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Have Patience

It is my desire to grow to be more patient this year. That is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and it will be a result of His work in me. One of the ways that they Holy Spirit works is through the Bible and so I decided it would be a good idea to look at some verses that talk about patience to encourage me in that area. I hope they encourage you as well!

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant" 1 Corinthians 13:4

"And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all." 1 Thessalonians 5:14
 "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!" Psalms 37:7

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" Colossians 3:12
 "As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience" Luke 8:15

"with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love," Ephesians 4:2

"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."  Romans 12:12

  I am so very grateful for God's patience with me as I make mistakes over and over again. I hope that I can learn to be like Him and be patient with others. No matter if the situation is stressful - whatever is going on- I want to be like Jesus and be patient! 


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