December 30, 2010

time in the Big Apple

Christmas break has included some serious down time for this Mama {a much appreciated gift of time from my spouse!}....

So I journeyed upstate a bit to visit my sister in the big city of New York, taking in some rest and relaxation and the sites of bustling life in a metropolitan area.  

~ cooped up for a morning in her apartment, I enjoyed the treats this gracious sibling of mine provided!

~ hot tea and good books, a great combination

~ perusing through her many cookbooks!

 ~ naturally there were many options of international food, Peruvian and Cuban were our cuisines of choice.

A relaxing set of days!


December 21, 2010

the beauty of Christmas

There are some who are cynical about this season,

pointing fingers and questioning the generosity of others :: wondering if it's temporary or if after the tinsel a giving spirit will continue.

Yes, it's true.  Some may forget and in the next 11 months choose to withhold funds, time, or focus from those in need.

I am more encouraged however by those who have chosen to participate now and for whom this is a lifestyle.  Stories of how families and individuals are reaching out have so blessed me in the last few weeks! 

Some are making commitments of finances, supporting with currency.

Others I see volunteering and stretching their time budget further.

Still others are carving out space in their hearts and homes for hospitality, renewed to give afresh in this way.

All distrubuting kindness, hope, love and encouragement to another.  And I pause to praise.  Truly this is how our Lord intended it to be?

In the rest of this week...

...and in the weeks beyond, be encouraged.  Watch for displays of giving, and rejoice!

photo credit

December 17, 2010

fun for the season :: homemade for teachers

If there's anyone who deserves some holiday cheer & appreciation, it's the many teachers, coaches, helpers, etc. who work with children throughout the year!  Hats off to these amazing individuals who pour their hearts out and somehow wrangle an often large group into learning; whether it be math, language, dance, music or another pursuit.

While we base our educational studies from home, our children are involved in various activities or classes during the week.  We decided this year to make a brown sugar body scrub as gifts, seeing that most of these teachers are women!  A quick & easy (and delicious smelling) project.

The cast of characters:

Brown Sugar Body Scrub
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup fine sea salt
1/2 to 1 ounce oil (sunflower, almond are good choices)
1/2 TBsp kaolin or white china clay (we ordered ours from Mountain Rose Herbs)
1/2 TBsp honey
2 drops of essential oil (we used lavender)

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and spoon into a jar.  Oil will settle on top, just stir before use.  To use, gently massage scrub in circular motions over body and then rinse with warm water.  Do not use on the face.  Makes 4 oz.

Our containers were bought off eBay several years ago :: just plastic 4 oz containers.  Mountain Rose carries a variety of jars and such as well as crafters on Etsy (which, if you haven't been here...grab a cup of coffee or tea and visit a while)!

A simple label with a Christmas sticker and instructions from the recipe above completed our gifts.  We then used tissue paper, some sprinkles of shredded paper and a bit of gold cord to wrap up these treats!

Simple, quick and not too difficult for even the youngest of gift givers!



December 15, 2010

easy peasy pie crust 'cookies'

True confessions are in order today.  Deep breath...inhale...exhale...okay, here we go:

I really do not enjoy baking cookies.

Yes, yes, I find the art of cooking in general to be a solace; and muffins, breads and the like are at the top of my baking list.  But cookies?  Not so much.  Only if I'm truly inspired.

With the holidays of course comes the expectation that whipping up these delectable treats takes priority on the to-do list.  There are plans next week for gingerbread cookies as this endevour succeeded last year. 

But until then, I've discovered an idea to keep my children happy (taming the Mom, when are we going to bake cookies!? question) and to keep me sane and happy as well.  Which is on the top of the priority list around here.  Want to know my secret?

Pie Crust.

To be more precise :: make 'cookies' out of pie crust.

And I'm not even talking about homemade.  Just the plain old two-per-package, rolled-up, store-bought pie crust.  I bring them to room temperature, let the kiddos unroll and break out the cookie cutters. 

I can almost hear the Hallelujah chorus being sung.  Seriously.  This idea is such a winner around here!

Easy Peasy.

After cutting out shapes, brush the 'cookies' with some melted butter.....

Sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar or plain sugar.  We used vanilla bean cane sugar (a delicious gift from upstate, thanks Grandad!)......

Bake at 425 degrees for 12-14 minutes and...

...voila!  Cookies! (sort of).

We eat these with ice cream or sherbert, but think of the possibilities!
  • top a pie crust cookie with fruit salad and drizzle with maple syrup
  • drizzle with melted white, dark or milk chocolate
  • add warm pie filling on top and add whipped cream

Yum!  Best of all, my children are satisfied until our real cookie baking session!  Yes.



December 13, 2010

fun for the season :: popcorn & cranberry garland


As usual, there’s a need for me to prioritize the many ideas I had for crafts & projects this Christmas!  Naturally, the ratio of little ones to Mama definitely determines what those projects will be.  Ahem.  Additionally this year, our geography curriculum calls for many cultural celebrations of the Christmas season.


We have lots of plans, but they are not too complicated (at least I hope not)!

Cranberry and popcorn garlands were simple enough.  I heard that day-old popcorn works better than freshly popped (which we used) as it’s a little stiffer.  We also chose dental floss as a stronger & easier to work with alternative to thread.  For younger children, a tapestry needle is bigger and more blunt…and hopefully lessens the chance of pricking fingers!


An easy project and treat for the birds!


December 10, 2010

watch for the light today


“What we are in fact celebrating is the awe-inspiring humility of God,

and no amount of familiarity with the trappings of Christmas should ever blind us

to it’s quiet but explosive significance…”

excerpt from Watch for the Light :: Readings for Advent and Christmas


Today, choose beyond the glitter of the temporary

to view the eternal.

Emmanuel, God with us,

has COME.


photo credit




December 7, 2010

give the gift of change

In this season there are many appeals for giving….

to various organizations and ministries, both local and abroad. Not wanting to overload that message, but also wanting to pause and encourage, today I offer two organizations our family participates in at this time of year. Places where we can make a difference in the daily lifestyles of others.

World Vision Gift Catalog :: from clean water to medical care, assistance for educational needs to goats, chickens and cows, World Vision's commitment is to provide for those in need.  Gifts to children in the USA or abroad, to families, individuals or communities...there are many options for any budget!

Gospel for Asia's Gift Catalog :: join with other families or church community to send a camel or water buffalo (or rabbits, lambs, etc) to a location where it would be fitting and quite helpful to own such an animal.  There are also options for sponsorship of missionaries or of individual children.


Whether locally or internationally...

...through your congregation or as a family

...consider giving a gift of change for another.

December 1, 2010

remembering Thanksgiving

The day and weekend flew by so quickly and now the season of Advent & Christmas celebrations are upon us.

But, I want to pause this all for a moment and remember….

and be grateful once again for the gathering of family (both sides visited our home last week!), for the grace of our Lord and for the freedom to mark such a day.


A full heart sings with gratitude!


November 29, 2010

the bargain shopper in me…

…is enjoying the buzz today for Cyber Monday!  Except that Amazon was running a bit slow earlier this morning (or maybe this was just our computer?). 

I think it’s safe to say I like a bargain.  Shopping for our essentials, and for some wants as well, while paying rock-bottom prices is just plain old FUN!  And keeping the extra dollars in our pocket makes me smile too. 

Nothing new, this bent towards frugality has been a part of me for as long as I can remember.  Scanning the paper for coupons, checking out grocery fliers & such was not a task my mother enjoyed, and so I simply accompanied her to the store with my envelope of ‘deals’ and we often shopped together this way. 

As now manager in my own home with many more responsibilities than groceries, the process still finds its way into my days.  I like the feeling of ‘beating the system’ (or maybe I’m simply competitive this way!).

Seasons come & go and depending on where we are in life, this hunt for a good bargain is often present or sometimes takes a back seat as it does take time.  And time is very precious to me, so it’s a balancing act.  In ‘honor’ of Cyber Monday and the pursuit of a good deal, I’ll share a few of my favorites ~


photo by renjith krishnan

:: are you using Swagbucks yet?  I discovered these virtual dollars earlier this year, and they are great!  The primary way of earning is online searching, but there are options for taking surveys, sharing referrals, etc.  I’ve only used the search feature (I type everything into the swagbucks toolbar, even if I know the website address already) and have so far earned $50 in Amazon gift certificates!  Which I promptly use on…

:: ….buying diapers on Amazon Mom’s new feature.  On this site, there are many deals for the family and FREE 2-day shipping is included for a limited time.  My diaper deals go like this ~

    • sign up for Amazon Mom & save 15%
    • save an additional 15% by using the Subscribe & Save feature (the item ordered is delivered on a regular basis, say every 2 months; unsubscribe as soon as the item is shipped with no penalty)
    • often I have another coupon code for another 15% or even 20% off. 
    • then I pay the balance using as many Swagbuck dollars as possible!

:: right now I’m in a season of coupon clipping and so I receive updates from two sites that offer online coupons to print for local stores and also many other deals ~ Saving Naturally for organic or health foods & products, and then Money Saving Mom.  Both sites are run by godly Christian women who I had the privilege of meeting and talking with last month.  I highly recommend them!

:: I’ve also recently discovered Walmart’s ALL YOU magazine which offers tons of coupons (at least $70 worth in each issue) on groceries, toiletries, etc.  I only take time to scan for the coupons, but the articles seem helpful as well.  Check it out at Walmart & if you like it, here’s a super deal on a subscription.  Using coupons & local drugstore offers, I usually buy our toiletries for next to nothing or receive them for free.

:: check out for dining out deals in your area.  Right now, they are offering up to 80% off certain gift certificates.  A few weeks ago, I bought a $25 certificate for $2.00 and enjoyed a night out sampling Indian food with friends…fun!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I should mention that all of this evolved slowly and it’s a process I enjoy.  It does take time (though I’ve figured out ways to cut down on that!), and it should be worth it in your book.  If I wasn’t clothing & feeding young children still or if for another reason this just didn’t fit life now, then it wouldn’t be a priority.

All that said, it IS a lot of fun!


November 25, 2010

thankful for Advent

A BLESSED THANKSGIVING to all who celebrate today...
this day of remembrance naturally lends to the upcoming celebration of Advent,
when we give THANKS for the coming of our Messiah, Jesus.

The season of Advent is a joyous occassion for the family! Advent is a time of anticipation, of longing and of waiting for the birth of the Messiah, Christ who came to earth for us. Celebrated the weeks leading up to Christmas Day, Advent this year officially begins on Sunday, November 28th.

An Advent calendar is a special way to mark this passing of time and can be a practical tool to teach little ones (and big ones!) about the Christmas story and the true 'reason for the season'. This calendar usually counts down the 24 days before December 25th, but can be adjusted by a day to begin December 1st if wanted.

Last year I chose a simple method to celebrate our family traditions, and to prioritize the many ideas of how to influence our children with the meaning of Christmas ~ a calendar of envelopes! Each morning from December 1st, at our devotional time we opened one envelope that first focused on giving or sharing, and then sometimes on an activity or craft to be completed that day. I opted for mostly quick & easy ideas and other days had more time or effort required. Practical and fun, this idea is easy to duplicate.....

For complete instructions & ideas, hop on over to Frugal Granola....Michele has graciously allowed me to share in her Simple Living series.  Join me? 


November 23, 2010

to lighten your day

Full of holiday preparing or rushing?

Need a smile for the day, before taking off full speed?

Look no further than a few pics from our laundry room; where my husband thought that a little boy would enjoy hanging out.

DSC_0064 DSC_0054


Rest assured that he was never in any danger of falling out.

At least I don’t think so.  I learned of the event while downloading pictures from the camera.

So, are you smiling yet? 



November 18, 2010

cultural celebrations :: a visitor from Germany

Our geography curriculum continues to be such an adventure as we make our way through Europe!  Famous people and places, interesting facts & information, excellent literature to read….I am pleased with this choice.  Winter Promise’s Children Around the World delivers big time.  While the curriculum provides for a weekly celebration of each country studied, we choose the ones of interest and which fit our schedule.

So when our study of Germany perfectly coincided with a long-awaited visit from my uncle, who has lived in this country over 20 years, the children and I were ecstatic!  We practiced Guten Tags, thought through a few question to ask, and thoroughly enjoyed our time.  I wasn’t about to attempt serving German food to a live person from the country, so simple conversation & American fare was the agenda for the evening!


Too busy wrapped up in conversation to tackle pictures of any food…. 

Several days later however, we did whip up a quick recipe for Blitzkuchen, a German spice cake.  SO simple, very light in comparison to American coffee cakes and now declared to be our favorite ‘tea cake’.  Yes, of course I’ll leave the recipe!


German Blitzkuchen 

1/2 stick butter

1 egg

2/3 cup milk

1-1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

pinch of salt

In a bowl, beat the butter, egg and milk together.  Sift all the other ingredients together into the bowl and beat until smooth.  Pour into an 8” square greased pan.  On the top, drop bits of butter and sprinkle with a little more sugar and cinnamon.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.


And then, what’s a study on Germany without some sausage and pretzels, right!?


November 16, 2010

thanksgiving book bag for the family

For the little ones in your home or life ~

Give Thanks to the Lord :: told from the viewpoint of a young member of the family celebrating joys of all kinds

Thank You for Thanksgiving :: the fun rhyming text is great, also a wonderful way to tie together the holiday with the approach of Advent as the book emphasizes being grateful for the gift of Christ.

The Thanksgiving Bowl :: fun for preschoolers as well ~ travel throughout the year with this ‘lost’ bowl of grandma’s and see where it lands in the end!

Mary’s First Thanksgiving :: an inspirational story of gratefulness from a young Pilgrim girl’s talks with her father.

For the family or older children ~

An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving :: the March sisters live on!  Great family read-aloud or for older children.

The Legend of Squanto :: a Focus on the Family radio theatre CD that is excellent!  A story of triumph over tragedy that offers more of the Thanksgiving story.  We’re on our third year of listening to this audio!

Three Young Pilgrims :: just fine for younger children as well, this book details with lots of illustrations & beautiful map work the journey of Pilgrim children

Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember :: a family keepsake and wonderful gift idea!  Historical, detailing the quest of the Pilgrims and other facts.  Pages in the back to record your family’s gratefulness through the years and a CD of instrumental music make this book one to own, excellent!


November 11, 2010

reality check and over-the-top birthday fun

First, the not-so-good news ::

Thanksgiving is in two weeks, I’m hosting extended family, and there is little to no planning done for this event (except that I have managed to earn two free turkeys at local grocery stores).  Serving them frozen would not be a good idea, you think?  The fact that my family plans to visit is causing the children’s excitement to rapidly rise to record levels.  whew.

But their Mama needs a serious reality check and will be breaking out some plans this weekend!  I think I can, I think I can…

On to better news!  Yesterday, we celebrated my birthday :: so refreshing with the request for “just a little quiet” honored in grand ways.  My family gifted me with an outing for the afternoon to be pampered, then to shop alone, and then dinner with simply my husband and I.  Truly over-the-top and leaving me feeling grateful and quite full; the children were so thrilled for me (or maybe they were just happy for a day off school? :) and participated fully in this surprise of a gift.  Saying thank you doesn’t seem enough…

And on my return, cards and gifts were opened and the day closed. 

I am blessed; not only yesterday…everyday.


:: an older couple in our church blesses me with these hand-delivered, homemade oatmeal lace cookies (dipped into chocolate) every year; I am slightly embarrassed to admit that because I’m a wee reluctant to share these treats, they have begun including different cookies for the rest of the family.  I do give out small bites here and there…


:: a large box filled with deliciousness from Stonewall Kitchen arrived at our doorstep!  These goodies the whole family will enjoy! :)


:: and I wasted no time in spending birthday money gifts on fresh crafting supplies I’ve been eyeing for a while.  My rather large collection of scrapbooking and paper crafting supplies is the result of about 13 yrs of birthdays (with a few Christmases thrown in as well).  The children and I spent our free time today trying out the various new ‘toys’!


I record this all here so that my heart will remember….

so that I will always count myself filled to the brim with blessings!


November 9, 2010

in the book bag

Being a lover of books and all things wordy, even I do believe that my 'book bag' so to speak is rather full these days.  The challenge is to read one book at a time, rather than my current method of placing nearly all of them in various corners of our home (or of the car) for when I have just a minute to read.  Hmmm...must think on this.  It's helpful that I read quickly, but these will take me into the new year!

For now, let me introduce the current book bag (minus the crafting books. ahem.) ::

Holy Habits: A Woman's Guide to Intentional Living
~ the women of our church are reading through this; the author's focus is on examining the nature of God through His various names which informs how we are to live intentionally.  Simplistic, practical and yet profound in its reminders!

Grace Is For Sinners
~ After meeting this author recently, her journey of redemption peaked my interest (and I wanted to support a self-published author).  This one just came in and only a few chapters have been read, so much more to go!  Serena has a website of the same title with more of her story.

Don't Waste Your Life
~ all of this talk of living intentionally caused me to download the free audio version of this title (only available for November).  When I can recover my iPod from my children's hands, then I'll get to listening.  I appreciate all things John Piper!

The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting toward God
~ oh, it just seems interesting!  On its way from Amazon....not much to report just yet.

Treasuring God in Our Traditions
~ did I mention I like the Pipers?  John's wife, Noel, writes so eloquently on the need to infuse our yearly celebrations with the presence of God at work so that the next generation may know Him.  So. So. Good.  A free download of the book is available at the Piper's website.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
~ this one hasn't been released yet!  The author, who I also had the pleasure of meeting, generously gifted an e-version to conference attendees...woohoo!  Refreshing, challenging and full of over-the-top encouragement :: words for the soul.

Tell Your Time (not pictured)
~ the e-book is transformative!  Seriously.  I'm a fairly organized person who has read a few time management books in the past...yet, there was much to glean from this quick read of a book (it's only 30 pages).  The author, yes...I again had the opportunity to meet her, deals with the internal before the external when considering how we spend our time.  She asks questions such as 'what do you want to be remembered for?  what kind of person would you like to be?' as part of the process.  This time management approach deals with who you are (or desire to be) before attempting to even look at how to plot your time.  I cannot recommend this highly enough, it's excellent!

Oh, good reads in store!
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