Thursday, December 31, 2009

Closing out the year 2009

How can it be that a month has gone by since I have posted here? I feel like I just blinked and I have gone from Thanksgiving to the threshold of a new year. I guess that is the nature of life right now for me. There is much that fills my every day, especially around the holidays. That old adage must be true: Time DOES fly when you are having fun.

So, today is the last day of the year. I am thinking back to all that has happened in 2009:

We welcomed a new son into our family in February. Samuel is a joy and definitely adds to our lives. He has been so good about sleeping through the night from an early age and taking nice long naps. Something this mom is truly grateful for!

I officially turned the big 4-0 in March. I know some people have a really hard time with that, but for me, it is just a number. In my mind I still feel young although my body has been telling me otherwise, especially through that last pregnancy.

We have gone through a very difficult process of finding a new home church. It was a really hard to decide to leave our church home because our friends there are like family. But after years of struggling with certain things, especially those that affect our children, we knew that this was something we needed to do. After the painful process of church shopping, we have found a church to settle at for at least this season of our lives. It is very large, which is not something we especially wanted, but we are spiritually challenged on a weekly basis. Our children love it. Our oldest is very excited about the high school group there. It is nice that she is finding fun Christian kids to hang out with and growing in her faith at the same time. I am still struggling a bit because there are so many ways that I am attached to our old church. We have chosen to remain active there through bible study and the liturgical dance group that my girls and I belong to. It is a difficult thing to be pulled between two churches. If it weren't for the fact that we are so emotionally attached and vested into our old church, it would be much easier to just make a clean break. As hubby puts it, what we are doing feels like tearing off a bandaid extremely slowly. On the other hand, if we didn't have children, we probably would stay at our old church and continue to work to make it better. But we do have children and we need to do what we feel is the best for them. By the time things turn around at our old church, our older children will most likely be out of the nest. We want them excited enough about church that when they are not riding in our van on Sunday morning, they still have the self-motivation to get up and go. So, we pray and we follow God's leading, even if it causes us discomfort. I am hoping that the new year will bring peace in this area of my life.

So now, I am thinking ahead to what this new year has in store for us. I generally an not a maker of new year resolutions, but I am thinking about making an exception to that this year. The thing is, I know that there are some things I would like to change and improve on, but I am not 100% sure exactly WHAT I need to resolve to do to improve them. Well, let me clarify. I don't know what I can realistically resolve to do. If this were a land of magic and fairy dust, I would resolve to never have more than one load of laundry waiting to be taken care of, my house would always be clean and organized, I would take wonderful photos, download and process them on the computer and have them all backed up. Then I would complete as least 2 or 3 scrapbook pages a week. I would find time to complete a creative sewing project each week, as well. I would read everyday to my children and have plenty of time and patience for their lessons which would be planned out ahead of time for each week and be unique and fun and creative. I would creatively cook all of our meals from scratch very frugally. I would be so economical in my shopping that I could pay all of my bills each month with money left over. Of course, I would also become self controlled and lose that weight I need to shed by eating small portions of only healthy food and exercising daily. And, and, and...

Well, since I don't live in that land where all of my dreams magically come true, I have to think in terms of reality. There aren't enough hours in a day or enough energy in my being to accomplish all that I really desire. So, how does one pick and choose what is the most important. Generally, my plan is to try and do it all and then all of it gets done not so well. So, I am still trying to decide what wisely to resolve to make things better. My comfort is that one day, I will be in paradise with my Lord and I will be able to do all that I desire to do. Until then, I guess all I can do is the best that I can do and rely on Him for the rest.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happiness

A verse borrowed:

Happiness doesn't occur by itself.
You cause it to happen or not.
How you relate to life's events
Determines your joy or your misery.
Whether your feelings are mean or kind
Your attitude to life is the key.
Don't wait to be happy until things are just right.
Don't let life's little annoyances get in the way...

You can be as happy as you decide to be.

How true this is! I am convinced that we are the sum of the choices that we make. And if you think about it, the majority of the choices that we make are not the big, life-changing ones. They are the small, seemingly insignificant ones: choosing this task or that, choosing how we respond to others, choosing how we deal with each situation. It is all these little, daily choices that really determine who we are and what type of person we are. Will your choices mark you as one who is negative and easily irritated or as one who is happy and finds joy even through the difficult times?

It takes a conscious effort, but I want to choose happiness. One way to do this is to find something to be thankful for in all situations. As a believer, I have a hope that there is so much more than just this life and its trials. So, I can always offer thanksgiving, even if it is merely being thankful that this, too, shall pass. And the times that are the toughest are usually the times that strengthen us the most.

Today is officially Thanksgiving Day and I find MUCH to be thankful for including the family that will gather around the table today and the blessing of the abundant food that will be upon it. But even if there is a dinner disaster, or the sickness that has been lurking around our house attacks, I will give thanks and CHOOSE to be happy anyway.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Priorities

I believe that I have discussed this before...priorities. Well, here I go again because this is something that I struggle with. I have a full and busy life. I always have more to do in a day than there are hours or I have energy for. That is just a fact. So, therefore, I need to prioritize my tasks. I need to make sure the most important things get done first to insure that they do get done.

When I take the time each morning to make a list and note my M.I.T.s (most important tasks), I usually feel like I accomplish more. Some days I struggle with this discipline. Even when I do get it done, I also struggle with staying on task because what I feel NEEDS to get done is not what I feel overly motivated to do. I will have the bug to clean out a closet or do a project that is low on the list of priorities. I wonder if this is just a rebellious spirit in me that is fighting my desire to be disciplined and organized.

On the other hand, when I am feeling passionate about something, I usually can get so much done, so I hate to waste that motivation. I suppose I need to bribe myself. If I can get the less desirable, yet important, tasks done first, then I can do the fun tasks.

I do believe these priorities are the key to successfully accomplishing all that I need to do. I know that God does not give me more to do than I have time for or am able to accomplish. However, I DO need to be efficient with the time and seek to do His will. Perhaps some of the things I THINK I need to do are really just part of my own agenda and not God's.

I am currently studying the book of John in Bible Study Fellowship. Last week we learned about Jesus' inner life and thoughts in regard to His relationship with His Father. The point was brought up that His mind and desires were completely taken up at every moment with doing His Father's work. This is the source of Jesus' peace, security, assurance and joy. I am thinking to myself, "I want that!" I want the security of knowing that what I am doing at every moment is the right thing. I want to know that what I am teaching my children is the right choice for who they are and what God has planned for them. To have that security, I need to be in tune with God every day all day. I need to be completely taken up with doing my Father's work. I don't think that this is an easy task. It is a challenge for this weak, undisciplined woman. But I am striving for this because isn't our goal to become more like Jesus?

So, priorities....I am handing them over to God. Lord, create my to do list for me and prioritize it according to Your Will. I am listening with pen and paper ready.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Good morning!
I am sitting here looking out my back windows which face east and watching the sunrise through this gorgeous misty fog. I am separated from my closest neighbors behind me by a 25 acre field and a majestic row of mature pine trees. Each day I am treated with seeing them silhouetted by the rising sun. It still amazes me that we lived on this property for 7 years before I ever really took notice of them. That is because where our old farmhouse was situated, they were blocked by our detached garage. Our new home is in our pasture directly in front of them. What a treat to discover them and the lovely vista they provide every morning!

Years ago, there used to be a similar row of trees on the outskirts of town. Every so often I would drive by them traveling west at sunset and loved their gorgeous silhouettes. Sadly, they were cut down in the name of progress and a gas station now stands in their place. We saw the signs that this was soon to happen and I made an attempt to get a photo of these trees at sunset, but didn't have good success. I chalked it up as a loss and treasured the memory of that beautiful sight. I suppose that is why my morning view is all the more special to me. It is as if those cut down trees have been given to me and placed right in my back yard - a little gift from God.

I would love to share a photo, but I am working on my laptop and I don't have any on this computer. We are having a little technical difficulty with our computers. Our old desktop is, well, old, and runs especially slow. Since up until a couple of months ago it was my photo editing computer of choice, I have quite a few photos saved on it. Our newer desktop is currently out of commission. For several months we have been getting a "hard drive failure is imminent" message when we start it up and have been making sure that nothing important is saved on it. We were just waiting for it to finally quit and replace the hard drive. Well, now the graphics card is not working right. [sigh] Both of our desktops are HPs and I have gotta say that they have had lots of little problems that we have had to repair. After the trouble we had with our first one, I swore I wouldn't ever by another, but I got talked into it by a good bargain and a persuasive hubby who was convinced that our first computer issues were just a fluke. I am not so convinced. Anyway, all that being said...it is a challenge right now for me to be able to share a photo online. I guess you will just have to deal with me yammering on and on...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I know; I know...it is ridiculous how I have neglected my blog. I am still alive and kicking, but have been finding it hard to find time to write something here. At least I am finding it hard to write something coherent. Most days I crave just a few more hours and a bit more energy so that I can get more done. My intentions are good, but I find it difficult fulfilling all of the roles I am required to play in life.

What's happening in my corner of the world:

My baby is almost 9 months old. I blinked and he went from a helpless, squishy little newborn, to a busy, boy who is crawling, pulling up, and putting anything he can get his chubby little hands on into his mouth. He, alone, could be a full time job just making sure he doesn't hurt himself at this stage. He is also the cutest little thing!

The rest are busy with lessons and learning in various degrees each day.

My oldest is now taking a rifle class ans seems to be doing well. Just a warning, I guess, that no one should mess with her.

We have officially joined a homeschool gym class this year which meets each week. The kids seem to be enjoying it.

I am now a 4-H leader! Ya' gotta do what you gotta do to keep the club alive. 4-H is such a good learning experience for the kids. I was already participating as a parent anyway. Now there are several of us moms that have stepped up to run things since our former leader has stepped down. She will be missed, but we are looking forward to keeping things going great.

We have been attending a new church. The whole experience of deciding we needed to do this, church shopping, and feeling a bit lost has been quite an experience - one we are still in the middle of. I can't even begin to tell you what it has been like and how many emotions I have gone through. To sum things up, we have attended the same church for about 10 years. Its members feel like a second family to me. Then God nudges us out of that comfort zone and into the unknown. ( I won't go into the details. That is a post and a half in itself.) It is a challenging thing to try out new churches with 6 kids that range from baby to high school. We forge into the unfamiliar and have to figure out where everyone needs to go. Thankfully, we have found a place that we think we are gonna stay at least for a season. In certain aspects, it is a bit out of our comfort zone, but it just feels right to us. I think that is all God's leading. For the time being, however, I am still involved in things at our old church; in particular bible study, book club, and the girls and I are still doing liturgical dance. because that is where my friends and my connections are. The church we are now attending on Sundays is rather large and it is going to take some time and effort to make those same personal connections there. And also, I don't want to lose those connections that I have from our old church. That is what really makes this such a difficult thing. [sigh] And that is enough about that.

Let's see...what else?

I have cleaned my house like 850 times since I last posted. Sadly, the kids have messed it up 851 times.

I have made several gifts in the past couple of months which include two custom monsters for my nephews, a nightgown for my mom, an apron and two bread bags for my sister-in-law, a stuffed rocket ship complete with 4 little aliens that ride in it for my son, and a pretty little doll with a removable skirt, blanket and carrying bag for my daughter. I have quite a few projects in mind that I need to get started on for Christmas, too. One of these days, I will be organized enough to post photos here, but I am running out of time. You can see photos that I have posted on Facebook here.

If you are interested, more recent photos can be found here, as well.

I think that's all for now.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Faith and Facebook

You have probably noticed that I have been pretty quiet here on the ol' blog. I have started a couple of blog posts, but always seem to get interrupted by something before I can finish it and get it posted. I struggle when I am busy to organize my thoughts into something coherent that I can post here. I have plenty of ideas, just not a whole lot of time to translate those ideas into something more than a jumbled mess.

I am a little better at keeping up with things on Facebook. Yes, Facebook. When I signed up for Facebook, I thought it was pretty dumb. I had several people encouraging me to try it and I thought, "Why not? I can just join, check it out and that will be the end of that. Right?" Ha! I didn't realize how this little "social network" can suck you in. As it has been said, Facebook is like stalking - only easier. I suppose that it is just plain nosiness that makes me want to keep up on all of my friends' statuses, but I really enjoy knowing what they are up to and how they are doing. It is fun to see their photos of their lives and their kids. Many of my Facebook friends are people that I had lost track of in real life. Distance and busyness have kept us apart, but on Facebook, they are a mere click away.

There is more to this, though; something beyond the nosiness. Recently, I have had several Facebook friends going through some serious health issues within their families. I have been so blessed to have the opportunity to pray for them. Many of these friends have used this venue to keep all their friends and family updated on what is going on. This saves them much time and trouble getting information out and is a very easy way to communicate at their own convenience. I really appreciate knowing how they are doing and being able to pray in very specific ways for their needs.

I came to the realization this morning that Facebook has made me a better prayer warrior. I know this sounds a bit crazy, but hear me out. Usually, I have a little list of people that I am praying for. Sometimes it is an actual written list, but more times than not, it is just a mental one. During my morning quiet time, I go down my list and say a cursory prayer for each person listed and I am done. If, by chance, they are brought to my mind during the day, I will send up a quick prayer. Now, with Facebook, I am updated on what is going on with these friends during the day and find myself praying often during the day for them. I even notice when I am missing status updates from them and pray that everything is still ok.

So, now I am thinking about Facebook as a prayer tool and making an effort to pray for all of my online friends. What if I prayed for each friend as a read their status updates in my news feed? What if every praying person did this for each of their friends? What incredible things could happen? Would we have the power to change the world? It makes you wonder.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I just read some wonderful food for thought over at A Holy Experience this morning that speaks about the ceremony of the everyday. This article struck a chord with something that I struggle with: daily routine. For some reason I really struggle with sticking to my daily routines. Something in me wants to rebel and not follow them each and everyday. I am not sure what it is. Ann at A Holy Experience discusses how God follows routine everyday. Everyday He commands the sun to rise and the tide to ebb and flow. It is as if every day is a celebration with a traditional order of events to follow making each day a special one.

To quote the article:
"Our God acts in endless ceremony to bring order to the world. And so we too, made in His image, are ceremonious beings, bringing order to chaos through ceremony.

Whenever parents create ceremonies, or a rhythmic routine, around any daily activity, we impose order on the environment, instead of on our children.

The order of service we create around bedtimes, school times, mealtimes allow ceremonies to prescribe behavior instead of each event requiring parental directive.

This atmosphere of known routine, expected ritual and, yes, celebrated ceremony, not only lessens the number of decisions that a parent must make throughout the day (the established ceremony directs, instead of the parent), but children thrive in such an environment.

Children "want things repeated and unchanged," writes G.K. Chesterton."

I know these things in my heart, but struggle to make them happen daily. I wonder why I like to change things around in our routines, daily. Is it a lack of discipline?

The article continues:

"When we reject repeated actions as monotonous and Spirit-quenching, are we simply exposing our weaknesses?

If we chose to "exult in monotony," to embrace habitual ceremony, would we be inviting the same God who instituted the observances of feasts, temple ceremonies, the service of communion, to be our strength too?

Perhaps the repetitiveness of ceremony does not stifle the Spirit, but ceremony invites us to regular meeting places, places to commune with the Spirit."


I am so weak in this area, but striving to be better. I am committing my quiet time to this in my prayer and study. This is especially important right now as I am reevaluating our school days here at home and we get back into our school year routine.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In my world...

In my world, life is still busy. Nothing new. I have had too much stuff swirling around in my head to write a sensible blog post.

Here's what's happening:

Although we school year-round, lessons definitely slow down during the summer, so I am gearing up to kick things back up a notch.

Have asked the children to think about their goals and what they desire to learn this year and am meeting with them one on one to discuss. This will help me in the direction of their schooling for the upcoming school year.

I have a pear tree that needs to be harvested and I am trying to figure out how to preserve all that goodness.

I also have 2 crab apple trees that appear to have crab apples that are ripe and ready. I am thinking about trying to make crab apple jelly.

Trying to decide where to put another litter box in our house because we are having some issues in this area.

We've been cleaning carpets (has to do with above item). We have a monster-sized commercial carpet cleaner that does a great job, but is quite a bit of work to use. So we are trying to go room by room and do all of our carpets. This means emptying nearly EVERYTHING out of each room. This is good because it gives me a chance to go through things (toys) and only put back in the rooms what we really want and need.

There are quite a few birthdays coming up in the next couple of months and I have intentions of making quite a handmade projects for them. I need to get working on these.

Elizabeth has completed the class portion of Driver's Education and we are awaiting the driving portion to be scheduled.

My older girls have been taking archery classes through 4-H. Fun!

Samuel, at 6 months old, is hitting some milestones. He has been on his knees and rocking for about a month and it moving about quite a bit, but just this week he figured out how to get himself to a sitting position by himself and is now actually crawling slowly and deliberately forward. He is quite a curious guy and will have our work cut out keeping an eye on him, especially with this new mobility.

We are considering a new homeschool gym class.

We have units open in the apartments we manage which means fielding lots of calls and making appointments to show them. This can be a real time stealer.

The garden is flourishing. Herbs are producing well and I have been harvesting and processing these. Now the tomatoes are beginning to ripen. Love that! Soon I will have to be deciding how to preserve them.

Of course, there are the usual allergy shots and orthodontist appointments, etc.

I could probably go on and on, but I hear my household stirring and waking up, so it is time to get my shower and attend to breakfast. Just thought I would check in here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How to Learn

Even though schooling and education continues year-round in our household, as the beginning of the new school year approaches for everyone else, I start to re-evaluate where we are and set new goals. I have been looking at and praying about what is important - what are my priorities when it comes to teaching my children. One of the things on my list is to teach my children to be independent learners. What does that mean? Eventually, I want my children to be able to learn anything that they need or want to all by themselves. I want to work my way right out of my job as teacher. Lately, I have been thinking more about what steps are needed to accomplish this. How do you teach someone how to learn?

To discover how I should go about teaching my children to independently learn, I first need to look at how I, myself, go about learning something. For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed being an independent learner. When I want to know something, or how to do something, I just figure it out. I don't feel the need to necessarily take a class or ask to be tutored by someone else.
Here are the steps I generally take:

Search out all resources on the subject. I gather all of the information that I can find on the subject. I search the internet for pertinent articles, raid my local library for books on the subject, look to see if their are any classes in the area teaching this subject, and think about who I know with knowledge about this subject so that I can either pick their brain or have them direct me to more resources that they find of value.

Evaluate resources. This is the weeding out process. After, I have all the information and resources I can find, I evaluate which ones are worth my time and/or money. I most likely will not read every book on a subject cover to cover, but I will skim them to see which seem most helpful to me. I skim lots of websites, bookmarking those that are of value for future reference. I consider whether a class is worth my time and money. For myself, I have found that often I can get the same info that I would get in a class through good books that I can get from the library for free saving my time and money.

Study resources. Here is where the learning takes place. I take advantage of the best resources and study them, taking notes if necessary to learn the material and internalize it.

Use what has been learned. If you do not use it, you will lose it. You need to put whatever you have just learned to use if you want to truly know it and retain it. Especially if you are trying to learn a skill, you need to practice it. You can read how to bake bread or change the oil in a car, but until you actually DO it, you don't fully know the process. Practice makes perfect! If what you are learning is more informational. then it is important that you somehow communicate and share this information either by teaching it to someone else or writing an article about it. The process of retelling something in your own words is an important part of learning. I forces you to understand it better.

So, these are the steps that I want my children to learn and put into practice. Of course, as their teacher and their mom, I am (hopefully) an important resource for them, as well. I have life skills and knowledge in many areas that they would be learning. For me, I need to remember to restrain myself. I can play teacher and spoon feed them information, but that will be less effective than if they seek it out for themselves. Often, I look at myself as more of a facilitator of my children's learning. I guide and steer them to where they need to be, but then let them work things out and learn on their own. If they get stuck, of course I am there to give them help.

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's Monday

Yes, it is Monday morning and I am sitting here trying to gather my thoughts and plan out my week and my day. There is so much I want to get done and know that in reality, it can't all happen right now in the time that I have. I guess that goes back to the priorities that I talked about last week. I have to decide what is the most important and move that to the front of my to do list.

I always envision this to do list planning as a priority ladder. The top rung is that most important thing that I have to do right now. Each day I hang things on each rung in order of importance and as I complete the top thing, everything else moves up. Unexpected things happen and they will have to be put at the top, pushing other things down the ladder. Sadly, often things I really want to do continually get pushed down the ladder and I can never seem to get to them.

So, how does one decide what is currently at the top of the priority ladder? Because I tend to be procrastinator by nature, deadlines tend to be the deciding factor. If something has to be done this morning, it goes to the top, while the thing that needs to be done by this afternoon goes on next, and so on. Once all current deadlines are met, I have to choose what is the most important using my priorities. Often I do what sounds like the most fun at the moment, but that is probably not always the best choice. Although, when I am in the mood and motivated to do something, I can accomplish it much faster than if I am not.

Right now, as I look at today's ladder, I think I am going to have to put motivating my children to finish getting ready for the day and fixing breakfast right at the top. That would fall into the "deadline" category above. The day is getting away fast empty tummies have needs. Then I will tackle today's to do list.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sewing on the Cheap

Recently, I have rediscovered sewing. I learned to sew when I was in the 7th grade from both my mom and my home ec teacher. Although I loved the idea of creating creative and special clothing and accessories, I was not a patient sewer and got frustrated easily. Throughout the years, I just dabbled in sewing now and then. It happened either out of necessity or because I would see something that would inspire me to say, "I can make that." One thing that tempts me to sew is seeing these cute little girl's dresses for sale for big boutique prices. I see them and think that I have got to hone my sewing skills because I cannot see paying that prices for just a little bit of fabric. But if you have ever done any sewing, you know that it is not as economical as you might think. By the time you purchase a pattern, fabric and notions for an outfit, you usually have more money wrapped into it than you would just to buy something ready-made at the store.

So, why now am I newly excited about sewing? I have discovered some ways to sew for cheap which I can share with you.

First of all, one word: Wal-Mart. Not all Wal-Mart stores have a fabric department, but if you are lucky enough to have one near you, it is worth checking out. The one near me is not huge and is limited in variety, but is a great resource for reasonably priced fabric. Most cotton prints are around $4/yard and flannel is $3/yard. This definitely beats the big fabric stores unless they are having a fantastic sale. The best deals I have found at Wal-Mart are on their clearance table. They have scads of fabric for only $1.50/yard. I am not sure where this fabric comes from, but they get in numerous full bolts of all types of fabric. I always laugh when I try to figure out what some type of fabric is from the label on the bolt which declares that it is made of "100% Undetermined Fabric Content." I figure that's a small price to pay for some beautiful cheap fabric that you can buy in decent quantities. Wal-Mart also has patterns for about 1/2 price.

My next big discovery is recycling fabric. I never thought much about this idea until I got inspired by someone on etsy selling these adorable leggings for kids made from recycled sweaters. I love the idea of taking something cast off and turning it into something new and usable. I have been looking at my clothing donation pile with new eyes now. A few months ago, I discovered that I had worn a hole right through the fitted sheet that we were using on our bed. I was disappointed because I really loved those soft sheets. I got to looking at them and started seeing a whole BUNCH of usable fabric in those king sized sheets- yards and yards of it. That's when I got the idea to make a nightgown out of a bedsheet. I figured it may not be quite the color that I wanted, but it would be very soft and comfy. I found a cute pattern (at Wal-Mart 1/2 price) and just needed to find the time to sew. In the meantime, my church had a rummage sale and I found a soft vintage bedsheet with a cute little floral pattern on it that I liked even beter than my own sheets. I slapped down my 50 cents and took it home and created the nightgown I showed off in this blog post. I have been wearing it and am totally thrilled with it. It cost me a total of $8.49 for the pattern plus the sheet which is less money than I would have spent for a cheap nightgown at Wal-Mart that I wouldn't love nearly as much.

Last week I stopped at two side by side garage sales on my way home and scored really big. At the first one, they were selling cute, flannel, twin-sized, snowman bedsheets. There were 3 sets of identical ones selling for $2 per set. My younger children generally do not use flat sheets. When I put them on their beds, they end up on the floor and are a nuisance. They use a fitted sheet and cover up with a comforter. So, I bought up all of these sheets and I plan to make my kids PJ's from the flat sheets to give them at Christmas (They always get Christmas PJs.) and I can give them sheets to match their PJs. How fun is that! At this same sale, I also picked up a pretty bright red fabric shower curtain for $1. It has a wonderful texture and looks to be made of cotton. That's a lot of nice fabric for a buck!

The sale next door was done by an older couple with all kinds of antiques. I really scored big finding a hand embroidered table runner and doily for just a quarter a piece. I will probably use parts of these as accents on something that I make. I also got an adorable, big, printed, vintage tablecloth for only 50 cents. The lady was apologizing because it had a stain, but I didn't care because I plan to repurpose it - probably to make a couple of cute aprons. I can see making some really cute gifts with these that will cost practically nothing but my time.

Another thing to do when trying to sew cheap is sign up for mailings from your local fabric and craft stores. Around here, we have Jo-Ann's and Hancocks. Both run really good sales and send out coupons regularly, but you have to be on their mailing list.

For inspiration and patterns, be sure to check out free resources. These certainly include the internet. It takes no more than a simple google search to find many free patterns on the internet. Also, do not forget to take advantage of your library. I have checked out many books that include patterns.

So, I hope that some of these ideas have inspired you, too, to drag out that sewing machine to create something thrifty and fun.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Priorities

Last week I was discussing schedules and how at this time of the year, when much of the rest of the world is going back to school, I can't help but feel the need to reevaluate our homeschool day. I always end up discovering that I have so many things that I want to do that they will not all fit into a realistic schedule. How can this be dealt with? It has to be about priorities.

Priorities can be tough. It is all about deciding what is the most important in my life. This can be hard because in the grand scheme of life I don't place doing laundry very high on my list of priorities. However, I do like a certain amount of peace and order in my life and I think we should all dress reasonably clean and tidy each day. So, the dreaded laundry must be done to achieve this.

I have been thinking quite a bit about what is important to me and what I feel that God wants me to focus on each day. Obviously, as a mother of six, my children are a big priority. Of course, I (along with my hubby) need to take care of their basic needs such as shelter food and clothing, but beyond that we are responsible for their character and because we homeschool, their complete education, as well. These are daunting tasks. Choosing what to teach and how to teach it is tough. Just pick up any homeschooling catalog and the multitude of educational choices is overwhelming. Each one of these choices are worthy and of value, but no one could ever use them all. So, how do you choose? The answer is priorities.

It is important to sit down and think about AND pray about what is important in your life. Do this and make a list. This will be your guide to making choices about how you spend your time, energy and resources. I have been doing this for myself. and will share later at least part of my list that I have come up with.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Daily Grind

Schedules confound me!
I really LOVE the idea of my days following a precise schedule in theory, but in practice, I just can't do it. Ugh! and it frustrates me. I know that to get all that I want to get done in a day, I have to plan for it. I can make up the best schedules ever, but then something happens and they all fall apart. Some days it is some unexpected event, or a child's meltdown, but if I was honest, I would have to say that I am the biggest detriment to my schedule. I hate being a clock watcher; it stresses me out, and I also have to much desire to be spontaneous. I will run something out to the mailbox and then get sidetracked pulling a few weeds I see in the garden.
The next thing you know the kids and I are weeding the entire garden and watering the plants and I have used up the rest of my morning. This is both a blessing and a curse. I have gotten important work done, but to do so I have neglected other important work.

I wish I was a person who found pleasure in a schedule. I know there are people like this who are even passionate about their schedule and feel such a sense of accomplishment from staying on track and crossing things off their list. Why can't that be me? I know that managing a household of eight and homeschooling my children requires the discipline of planning and scheduling to get done what needs to get done. A schedule is a required tool to maintain sanity. So why do I struggle with it so much? Is it a lack of discipline and a form of sin? Some days, I would have to say that this is so. I have made poor choices and chose to do unproductive things with my time. But, on another level, I think this is part of my genetic makeup - the way that I am built.

If I am not a structured person by nature, what am I then? I find that I get an idea in my head or the urge to accomplish something and I am very passionate about it and intensely motivated to get it done. I will tend to ignore everything else until I accomplish this task. If I were one single person who was not accountable to anyone else, this would probably work just fine. But I am not, and my struggle is to figure out how to allow for this spontaneous, random productivity in a framework of a schedule that forces me to get other things that HAVE to get done done.

Several years ago, I was a fly baby following the Fly Lady. She is a great motivator for "side-tracked home executives" like me. There are many useful tips I have learned from her. One of them was the concept of a routine instead of a schedule. A routine does not watch the clock, but is a series of things you do in order and is based on habit. You do one thing after another every day until it is a habit that does not require thought. One routine that I have established is my early morning routine. I wake up before the rest of the family, get dress and cleaned up, make my coffee or tea and have my morning quiet time in which I pray, do bible study and (attempt to ) plan out my day. I do this pretty consistently and it works fantastic for me unless I oversleep or the baby wakes up earlier than expected. I keep trying to add other little routines throughout the day, but I am struggling with being consistent with them.

Although, we homeschool year round, I find that I let the lessons get pretty laid back in the summer. As the rest of the world prepares to go back to school, I get the bug to take a fresh look at our schedule and do a little planning. So, I have been doing a lot of thinking about our family's daily schedule. There are several areas of discipline that I have let slide in both the lessons and the home maintenance so I want to build these back into our daily routines. I can make great plans, but as I look at them, I know that it is unrealistic that I will be able to enforce them or even keep up with it myself for the long term.

I have been doing a lot of praying about this and feel like God is showing me that we need a balance of both more tightly scheduled times and more loosey-goosey times that allow the freedom for spontaneity. My plan right now is to build these tight routines into the benchmarks of our day. Everyday we wake up, eat three meals, and go to bed. Exactly how we do these may vary, but they happen every day. So, I need to build routines into these activities for myself and all the children.

Hopefully, within the next week, I will have some concrete ideas that I can share. I am praying that God gives me some profound wisdom in this area.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

In a Perfect World...

In a perfect world...

I would wake up early in the morning before the rest of my household, dress, make my coffee, and have some quiet time with the Lord before I start my day. I know that isn't everyone's dream morning, but for me, I have found it is what works best and sets the tone for the rest of the day. HOWEVER...life isn't perfect and it doesn't always happen that way. But a girl can dream, right? I think it is a good thing to try to visualize the ideal scenarios so I can at least shoot for them.

Here are a few more that maybe a few of you can relate to:

In a perfect world...
there would not be enough cereal on the floor after breakfast to make an entire second meal.

In a perfect world...
my children would never watch mindless television and I would never use the TV as a babysitter when I am desperate to get something done.

In a perfect world...
I would never see an unflushed toilet or never see a used toilet that does not include toilet paper within its contents.

In a perfect world...
I would be able to see my laundry room floor.

In a perfect world...
I would not know what a lego feels like when you unexpectedly step on it in the dark.

In a perfect world...
I would also not know what oatmeal feels like squished between my toes (related: see cereal note above).

In a perfect world...
I wouldn't need to hold myself back while making this list.

I think I could go on and on because as I go through my day there are so many things I encounter within my home that not only are not perfect, but are just plain wrong. [sigh] But we are working on improving. As I type, the TV is off, my younger children are "cleaning" their rooms, Anna is cleaning the kitchen and the washer and dryer are doing their thing. It may not be perfection, but it is good.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Exciting News

My oldest daughter just got her Learner's Permit and is signed up for driving school! How did this happen? How did she go overnight from being a little girl in frilly dresses to a grown-up, driving teenager? I suppose for others it all seems right, but for me, I feel like I just blinked my eyes.

Now, I have full confidence in my daughter that she will be a responsible driver. I trust her. Even still, this is just one step in letting loose the reins of control. As parents, it is our job to teach our children independence and slowly nudge out of the nest on their own, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that a part of me finds this very hard. Part of me would love to keep her perpetually a little girl. Of course, a bigger part of me adores the young woman that she is becoming. I enjoy being able to hold real, thoughtful adult conversations with her and I appreciate and value her opinions and thoughts.

So, although a part of me mourns the passing of my daughter's childhood, I am excited to welcome my daughter into adulthood. This is just another step on this journey of parenthood - and what a journey it is!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Yummy Recipe to Try: Fudge Sauce

When I was a girl, still living at home with my mom and dad, one of the treats we would make is homemade fudge sauce for over ice cream. I am pretty certain that the recipe came from the side of the Hershey's Cocoa Powder can. I am fairly certain that was a pretty simple recipe with sugar, water, cocoa powder, and vanilla. The trick to getting it right was cooking it for the just the right amount of time and boy, was it yummy!

Just the other day, I stumbled upon this recipe for fudge sauce. It is a bit different, but sounds good, too. It does seem to have quite a bit more sugar, so I am sure the younger kids will like it.

Fudge Sauce

1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 T. butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups powder sugar

Cook until desired consistency.

The recipe did not elaborate on how to cook it. I suppose there would be no harm in just placing all of the ingredients into a small pot and cooking over medium to low heat. It probably should be stirred the whole time it cooks, perhaps with a whisk to keep the powdery ingredients from clumping. While you are stirring it would be easy to see when it thickens to the right consistency remembering that when the sauce is poured over ice cream it will cool and be even thicker.

If you try this let me know how it goes and if you liked it or not.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Power of Herbs


A while back, I mentioned that I was learning a bit about herbs, specifically their medicinal properties. (Herbs) Yesterday, I had a perfect opportunity to put herbs to the test. As I was taking some bread out of the oven, my finger slipped off the potholder and touched my stoneware baker. Since I had been baking at 450 degrees, it was instantly a very painful burn.


What I Did:

I immediately used some of my green boo boo salve that I had made from plantain and looked up what herbs are good for treating burns that I know I have in my yard. I went outside and picked some plantain, burdock, and mullein. I washed them and tossed the leaves in my little food chopper with a couple of cloves of garlic. After chopping everything together, I placed it in a paper towel and wrapped it up like a burrito. I held this on my finger as I went about my work. Within about a half hour, the intense pain was pretty well gone. I put some more of the plantain salve on my finger and covered it with a bandaid.


The Results:

By bedtime, the swelling was gone and I was left with a white, thick-skinned spot. I was amazed because when the burn happened, the finger immediately began to swell up and blister. I figured, from past experience, I was in for a huge painful blister that would last for several days. This morning, I am sitting here typing normally using that finger. There is a very slight amount of tenderness where the burn happened and the skin is still somewhat white. I assume that as it continues to heal, the white skin will peel off, hopefully not until new skin has taken its place underneath.


I have to say that I am impressed! I was able to effectively treat a pretty bad burn in mere minutes using stuff that was growing freely in my yard. Isn't that amazing? It is just a reminder that God is such a great provider. I am so glad that my eyes have been opened to this.


I plan to continue learning about herbs because I only see benefits to doing so. I think modern medicine is wonderful, too. Both are a gift from God. I think it is a good thing to have the knowledge to be able to treat simple problems at home and I am quickly becoming convinced that herbs are a good way to do this. With the changes in health care that seem to be on the horizon, having knowledge of medicinal herbs may prove to be even more beneficial in the near future, but only time will tell.
Photo source: By pat61nl from stock.xchange

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Be Prepared."
That statement has been pressed in front of me today.
I was reading a blog by the sister of a woman who was in an airplane crash with her husband. She mentioned that her sister had just taken on the mantra "Be Prepared" the week before the accident. How fortunate because her house was in perfect order and well stocked making it so easy to care for the couple's four children. My mother is in a similar, although thankfully less severe, situation. She fell and broke her pelvis in two places. Since she will be off her feet for quite some time, she mentioned being thankful that the house was in order before it happened.

I can't help but turn my thoughts to my own home. [sigh] It's not so in order. It is messy, unorganized and even my own family members, and often even *I* can't find things. If something were to happen to me today, how difficult would it be for my family to function? I certainly hope, I don't feel burdened by this because something tragic is going to happen in my family, but it is making me think. I am not being a good steward of my stuff or my time when I am unorganized. For example, I spend way too much time digging through my big ol' pile of clean laundry to try and find a complete outfit for each of my kids each day. Of course it also takes time to sort, fold and hang all those clothes, too, but it is probably a better way to spend my time because there is way less frustration involved.

So, what does it mean to be prepared? I am thinking about this and here are a few ideas that I have come up with that I think are important for our family household:

Minimal clutter because clutter hides what's important.

Pantry
stocked with items to make complete meals (still trying to decide how far ahead
to stock for).

Clothing in order for all family members.

Medicine
and first aid supplies stocked and organized.

Files organized enough that
someone else can easily find things.

Emergency fund set aside.

I am sure I could come up with a much longer list, but I think these are the biggies. If these things were in place and in order, we would be better prepared if something happened to either Barry or me or if something happened to make us unable to get supplies.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Good Ol' Summertime


Well, a good old summertime cold has knocked me down recently. It has backed into my sinuses and ears and made me pretty miserable for over a week now. I was persuaded to finally call the doctor and discovered that I was even running a fever over 100 degrees. I had been so busy that I hadn't even checked it. I just kept taking ibuprofen so that I could keep going. Sadly, this has been a busy week that has not afforded me the time to get sick. The older girls and I all entered projects in the county 4-H fair that were all due last weekend. Along with that we had TWO family reunions to go to which meant extra food to fix. So, now I am equipped with an antibiotic and I am praying that it does the trick and I can get back to feeling myself. I am falling desperately behind on the house cleaning and laundry due to my lack of get-up-and-go.

As a side note, the garden is finally starting to flourish. It took a little longer because I got things in the ground nearly a month late. I went out Wednesday to harvest some basil and discovered 4 beautiful, red cherry tomatoes! The were wonderful. I also discovered Japanese Beatles on my basil. They were eating, mating, laying eggs and partying all over it. There had to be over a dozen on my one small plant. I was pretty irritated because I had been out looking at these plants just the day before and there weren't any. I didn't think bugs were fond of herbs either. Guess I was wrong there. I got a tin can and put a little gasoline in it and went to hand pick them off the plant and drown them. Crazy thing is, as soon as I got close, it was as if someone yelled "COPS!" and all of them dropped and scattered. I had to go chasing them through the dirt. I think I got them all. I am a wicked foe when I am mad and I was mad at those little buggers. Ick! Yesterday, I didn't see any back on any of the plants, but I am going to check again today. Then I removed all signs of them off the plant: all the half eaten leaves and leaves with eggs or poo (I am not sure which it was). I still ended up getting several nice bunches of basil that are currently drying in the basement.

One more note...my mom took a really bad fall this week resulting in broken bones. Please pray for a speedy and relatively painless recovery for her. She is going to be off her feet for a while so my dad could use your prayers, too, because he will have to be taking care of her and all the other household chores that would normally fall to her.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bears

Just a little Friday humor...


Be sure to read the whole sign.

A friend just e-mailed me this and I suppose this made me laugh because it reminded me of this:





If you can't see this video, the link is here.
Jim Gaffigan has been getting a lot of quoting in our house of late. If you have a chance to see his King Baby show on Comedy Central, it is certainly good for some good laughs. What I really appreciate is that he is funny AND clean for the most part - a rarity in the comedy world. I love that I can comfortably watch him with my kids.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I scrapbooked!


I actually scrapbooked! It has been WAY too long since I have found the time to do this. Sadly, I have been slacking at taking photos, too, which is pretty bad since I have a fast growing baby in the house. I do, thankfully, have some photos. I just wish I had more.
The days are full beyond measure and I am constantly have to be selective with what is on my to do list because there is no way to get it ALL done. For my sanity, I cannot neglect the household management. It takes less than a day of ignoring the household chores for this place to turn into quite a sty! I have also found that I need to keep something creative in my day to keep my sanity, too. It is just so easy to say I will do that [creative thing] after the laundry is done or this clutter is dealt with. BUT, sadly, the laundry is NEVER done and there's always more clutter. Sometimes you just have to turn a blind eye if you ever want to do anything fun. I think the key is finding that place where the messes aren't overwhelming and the fun still happens.
Anyway, I took the time to go through some photos yesterday and I scrapbooked this one. Yay! It is of my baby at the zoo last week sitting on Gramp's lap. I think he is looking so old. It is amazing how much babies change in just a few short months! Speaking of the little guy, he is sitting on my lap as I type this and trying desperately to reach the keys. Gone are the days where he would sleep peacefully on my lap while I am on the computer. I suppose that is why I have found it so difficult to scrapbook. If you are interested, all the credits and details of this page can be found here at Cottage Arts.
Edited to add:
I get irritated with blogger. It always does weird, inconsistant thigs with my formatting. Today it doesn't want to leave a space between my paragraphs. Other days it will put 4 or 5. Anyway, sorry about that.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Upcycled Nightgown from a Vintage Bedsheet

Definition: Upcycling is "The practice of taking something that is disposable
and transforming it into something of greater use and value" From the book
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and
Michael Braungart.


This nightgown had a former life as a bed sheet. It as a vintage bedsheet that I picked up at my church's rummage sale for 50 cents. It is soft and smooth with no pilling - probably a high thread count. Because it has probably been washed dozens and dozens of times, I can be sure that it should hold up in good condition.

I used Simplicity 2739 pattern to create this which I picked up at Wal-Mart for a good price. I chose this pattern style because with nursing a baby, I need to have something with either buttons down the front or will pull down under my chest like this.

I used the finished edge of the sheet for my hem. That way it was already finished and had this cute accent trim.

This pattern was labeled as "easy" and although it was not hard to do it was time consuming because there was a lot of bias tape casing to sew on and feed elastic though. There is elastic on the sleeve edge, around the neck and in the back along the waist. The pattern called for purchased single-fold bias tape, but I wanted mine to match the fabric so I used a bias tape maker to create my own from my sheet fabric. Unfortunately, the only thing I had that was small enough to fit through here to feed the elastic through was a little 1/2" gold safety pin so that process was a bit time-consuming and tedious as there were many feet of elastic to deal with.


I should have probably kept track of exactly how long this took me. I spent several hours Saturday afternoon and then a couple more late Saturday night. Then I spent a couple more yesterday to finish it up. A lot of my time on Saturday was figuring out how to alter the pattern so it would fit my chest correctly. I am not real good at pattern alteration. This came out fairly well, although if I do it again, I will probably tweak the bodice size a little bit more.

All in all I am pretty pleased with this project. It was very low cost - way less than buying a nightgown from the store even with the cost of the pattern and I am sure I will use the pattern again and took me about 6 hours to complete. I also think it is cool to give new life to something unused that was probably destined for the trash. I took something unused and made it useful. I like that and I love my new nightgown. I had been wearing a very old one that had gotten awfully grungy. My new one is fresh and pretty!

Now I am looking at my Goodwill pile with new eyes. Look at all that free fabric. I am seeing little girl dresses and baby pants from my stack of clothes we no longer wear. Hopefully you will be seeing more fun projects like this in the near future.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ahhhhh...a lazy Saturday morning....
Today, I was able rise early before the rest of the family. I made a pot of cinnamon tea to sip as I snacked on homemade biscotti while I did some reading and watched a summer storm roll in. It was deliciously wonderful. Then the house arose with the storm and we watched it billow through from our front porch. Just as I was thinking I should consider fixing breakfast, the baby awoke and called out to me his hunger - a beautiful excuse for me to slip away to my quiet bedroom to read and meditate and pray with my little one cuddled to my breast in cozy comfort. There is something about a nursing baby that makes all things seem right with the world - there is such contentment in it.

So, now baby is fed and I sit here journaling this, procrastinating leaving this cozy spot. I wonder how I can keep this relaxed feeling as I go downstairs to squabbling children and television noise. [sigh] But I cannot hide away here forever (if I try, the children are sure to find me eventually). So, I venture forth into my day, praying that I can continue to find peace in the midst of the chaos of life - God's presence in the midst of daily business.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Today...


FOR TODAY Thursday, July 7, 2009...

Outside my window...
I see our newly planted Crimson King maple tree.

I am thinking...
about home organization and time management.

I am thankful for...
so much: my husband's job, our home, treasures that are growing in our yard.

From the learning rooms...
Anna is once again working on her claymation skills. Elizabeth is hard at work on a drawing for the 4-H fair. The younger set is on a break from formal lessons but have been outside in the yard discovering plants and herbs with me and reading.

From the kitchen...
I just tried a new recipe for granola bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Yum! It is sweet and cinnamon-y. I like that it includes fresh ground whole wheat and still tastes like a treat.

I am wearing...
the outfit that I wore yesterday (spit-up stains and all) because I desperately need to catch up on laundry.

I am creating...
-sweet little shorts for baby Samuel made out of an adorable John Deere print. I will have to post a photo later.
-an herbal tincture using pineapple weed from my driveway. It is supposed to be an effective bug spray. We'll see.

I am going...
to take my son for an allergy shot and probably go to Aldi's to stock up on canned and dry goods.

I am reading...
The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall, a couple of preschool Montessori books (I think one is called Teach Me to Do it Myself), and Sweet Booties with cute sewing projects for babies.

I am hoping...
to start feeling better. My sinuses are congested and causing painful headaches and my entire body has been incredibly achey. I would just love to feel well.

I am hearing...
my two year old steal my sanity with her screaming, my baby shake a toy and gurgle, my children having a discussion.

Around the house...
is messier than I would like. Hoping to fix that.

One of my favorite things...
is my baby's giggle which I get to hear a lot.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
I am hoping to get to the zoo for our Field Trip Friday. There are tentative plans for hubby to take the older 4 children on a little canoe trip on Saturday. And we are joining my BIL, SIL and family at their church this Sunday to check it out.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Here is my family as rendered by my daughter, Elizabeth. She created this for her dad for Father's day.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

"We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government... according to the Ten Commandments of God." —James Madison

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

And Happy Birthday U.S.A.! Today is a day to remember how this great nation began.
So, I feel it is necessary to post this video because it is tradition to subject my children and all of you to it. It is a good reminder of why we are celebrating this day.


(if you can't see this video, here's the direct link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvH7ySQi37E)

And just for fun, here is a great little stop motion. We love stop motion in this house and this is a great example.


(Here is the direct link to this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bmpFCwZbwM)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Mulberries!

Yesterday, I shared about my herbal discoveries in my yard. Free gifts that God has provided. Another treasure in my yard is mulberries. I went through my entire childhood never being exposed to mulberries. Probably because they are from a tree that grows like a weed and my mom was a diligent keeper of her yard. It wasn't until we bought our first house that sat across the street from a creek with a common area that I was introduced to them by my good friend and neighbor. She pointed them out on one of our many walks together with the kids. We would pick these messy purple berries to snack on and come home with stained fingers.


Since then we have moved to our rural property and I was elated to discover that we have a couple of mulberry trees growing along our creek. I usually discover that the berries have started ripening after the birds do and then it is slim picking, but this year I walked out to find the branches weighed down with TONS of ripe berries.


The next morning I took Elizabeth outside with a sheet and we did some tree shaking and picking. Ripe mulberries drop very easily, so if you place a sheet on the ground under one and shake the branches, you can get lots of berries very quickly. Between two trees, we got just over 10 pounds of berries! So, then we had to decide what to do with them all. I was debating between jam, jelly and syrup. The kids wanted jam or jelly. I decided jelly would be better because mulberries have a stem that cannot be easily removed. The basic difference between jelly and jam is that jam contains the whole fruit in chunks while jelly is made from the juice of the fruit and there are no chunks. Usually, I prefer jam, but if I made jam, it would still have those stems which some people may not find appetizing.


Luckily, I am the proud owner of a food mill which I picked up at our church's rummage sale last year for a whopping 50 cents - quite a find! This made the process of getting rid of those pesky stems much easier.


Making Mulberry Jelly
First, I cleaned and sorted the mulberries. Since we harvested them with a lot of tree shaking, I also had several leaves, small twigs and unripe berries in the mix. I sorted these out by hand and gave the fruit a good washing in a colander.


Next, I slowly heated the berries in a big pot on the stove until they began releasing their juice and the juice began to boil. I kept stirring them to make sure they cook evenly. This created a berry mush that I processed through my food mill. This removed all the skins, pulp and stems, but I did discover that the mulberry seeds are small enough to pass through the holes in my food mill. Seeds don't personally bother me at all, though.


The next step is to take the juice and mix it with sugar and pectin (following the quantities listed in the instructions that came with the pectin). Cook this according to the pectin directions and place it into warm canning jars that have already been washed and sterilized (boiled). I placed all my jars rings and lids into my big canning pot and brought it all to a boil and then just left them there until I was ready to use them.


After you fill the jars, leaving just about 1/4" of space at the top, you need to make sure that you didn't spill any on the rims. I take a damp washcloth and wipe them all to make sure because I am a bit of a slob in the kitchen. This is important because if the rims are not clean, the lids may not seal properly. You don't want to go to all this trouble and then have your stuff spoil because of this little step.


Place a hot lid on each jar and screw on a ring as tight as you can by hand. The finished jars get placed in a big pot of water. It is important that the water level is at least an inch above the top of the jars.


Then bring it all to a boil, covered, for 10 minutes. This is the amount of time for jams and jellies. Other things you can (i.e. tomatoes, peaches) take much longer.


After 10 minutes remove the jars and let them sit on the counter. A jar lifter makes this job much easier. I lay out a towel on the counter to place the wet jars on to cool.


That's it! I checked the jars after they had cooled to see if all had sealed. You do this by pushing down on the top of the lid. If it is sealed the lid will be slightly depressed and will not move at all. If it is not sealed the lid will push down and make a popping sound. I had one that did not seal and I just placed it in my fridge to use first.


Now, I made a boo boo and didn't read my directions carefully enough on my liquid pectin and used half of what I should have. So, my jelly didn't completely set. This was no great loss, though, because I ended up making a DELIGHTFUL syrup. I was considering making syrup anyway. We have tried it on pancakes and waffles. Yum! I bet it would be really good on ice cream, too.


The other day, I went out to try and pick more mulberries and didn't get nearly as many. They are definitely past their prime and the birds have taken their share. I did get a small bucketful that I think will be enough to make one batch of jelly. So, this is on the agenda for today.


So, I have shared more about my mulberries than anyone probably really wants to know. Perhaps you can go out and find one of these trees. They spring up like weeds and grow fast and you can find them in the most unexpected places. Maybe you, too, can share in this little blessing from God, mulberries.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Herbs

I have been having fun with herbs lately. It all started several weeks ago when my tummy was feeling horrible. I was really craving some sort of soothing tea to drink to settle my stomach. I was just sure that there was some herbal tea that would do just the trick, but was ignorant as to what that was. So, I went to my best source for info, the internet. I remembered that the Pearl's daughter was into herbs and had a little online shop. It was easy enough to find and there was tons of great information there.



I was instantly sucked in. I did discover that chamomile is great for settling a stomach and I happened to have some chamomile tea in my pantry which did help. I also discovered so much more. For example, I have a weed growing in my yard called plantain. I would bet that most of you reading this have seen it around, too. This little weed is actually an herb that was brought to North America by European settlers. Native Americans called it "white man's foot" because its seeds were spread by feet and seemed to start showing up wherever the white man settled. This herb is a wonderful external pain reliever. (See examples of how it can be used) Using directions I found online, I made a salve out of it and we have been using it on sunburns, and cuts and scrapes. It is our green boo boo cream. Rachel thinks it is so cool to use because I let her do it herself, which is so important to a two year old. I can do this because I know everything that is in that salve and it is perfectly safe, even if she were to eat it.



Now, I am totally intrigued by the concept of herbs. As I learn more, I am discovering that there are many useful plants growing all over my property. I think it is just amazing that God has provided these helpful things all over, free for the taking. It just takes opening our eyes to SEE. I have been stepping on these weeds for years never realizing what a treasure had been placed right before me. I wonder how many other gifts from God are underfoot, but I am either too blind or ignorant to see. It makes you think.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summertime Colds

I know that there are germs 365 days of the year, but somehow it seems so wrong to have a nasty cold in the middle of summer. It is fairly miserable walking around hot and stuffed up. When there are tons of fun activities to do outside, it is not fun to have an overwhelming desire to crash into bed and sleep for a few days.

Last week, Rachel started with a nasty cough and slept TONS. There were two days where she didn't want to rouse from her nap and ended up sleeping all night for a total of 16 hours or so of sleep. Next Barry caught it, and I soon followed. NOW I understand Rachel's sleepy days. Sleep sounds so wonderful! But, as a mom with lots going on, extra sleep is a luxury that I can't afford right now. So, I plug away, focusing on what needs to get done most because I am working at a slower pace. I need to be very intentional with my choices of activity or I can find that my entire day is gone and I have nothing accomplished to show for it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A bit behind

That's how I have been feeling lately. I am bit behind in every area of my life it seems. I had a couple of big tasks on my plate a few weeks ago and didn't keep up on the cleaning and laundry. I have been trying in vain for the past couple of weeks to catch back up and get things back in order and it seems to be an impossible task. There are mountains of clean laundry in both my bedroom and laundry to fold/hang and put away. More mountains of the stuff to wash. I have piles and piles of the assorted papers that accumulate in a house. It astounds me how much paper one household can process! Of course there is just the general clutter of life: toys, books, dishes, STUFF.

Anyway, so that's where I am right now - struggling with continuing to do my daily duties along with all the work to catch up.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Indiana Beach



We took a day trip to Indiana Beach yesterday with our 4-H club. It was a perfect day and no crowds!

Our club goes every year, but we have never been able to go in previous years. I am so glad that Barry was able to get the day off work and we could make this happen. Our younger kids have never really been to an amusement park before and it was a really fun experience. Having never been to Indiana Beach, we weren't sure what to expect. Although it is not a big park compared to say Cedar Point, it has some nice big roller coasters as well has lots of smaller rides for the younger set. I spent a good chunk of my day in Kiddie Land which has a nice amount of rides for the wee ones. Another mom told me she started her kids as young as 10 month on these rides. I was, however, able sneak away with the big kids at one point to ride a few of the big rides. My favorite was the Steel Hawg which was smooth and flips you upside down.


Patrick's fave was by far the bumper cars followed closely by the antique cars. I bet he rode these about 20 times! He wasn't into the bigger rides, too much. We had to really sweet talk him to get him on the log ride and Barry said he quivered through the whole thing. Oh well, there's plenty of car rides.




Abi turned out to be more of a daredevil. She wasn't tall enough for any of the coasters, but wanted to ride just about anything she could. Her fave and Anna's as well was the Tilt-A-Whirl. Here they are high fiving during the ride.

Anna wasn't as fond of the really big rides, but instead preferred the smaller stuff. She did run around with Elizabeth and another friend for awhile riding the big rides. Elizabeth ran around with friends for a lot of the day and rode about every big ride there.

Rachel was too short and got left out of most rides except the Kiddie ones. Here she is hanging with Daddy and watching the rest of the family.


All in all, it was a great day. We got home at 9:30pm and crashed into bed happy and exhausted.

I have a whole album loaded up at Facebook you can see more here:
Indiana Beach 2009

Monday, June 01, 2009

Update

No, I have not forgotten that I have a blog. I've had a lot on my plate the past few weeks and just haven't found the time to update here.

Samuel is nearly 4 months old. The time is just flying by. He gets more personality every day.



Although we had frost on the ground through mid May, it has finally reached "sprinkler weather" and the kids have gotten to enjoy running through the sprinkler and the kiddie pool in the back yard. Abi LOVES it!



Samuel has officially mastered rolling over. Here is one of his first rolls captured on film (well, memory card). Now, often I go to get him up from his nap and find him on his tummy. He gets pretty proud of himself when he does it, too, getting a great big grin.

I have to show off my fun new project here. I made those cute little shoes for him. It was so much fun, I think I may whip up a few more pairs.



And here is just one more shot that I couldn't resist sharing. My little moo cow - isn't he cute?


It is late and I should really be in bed, so I'm signing off for now...

Friday, May 22, 2009

American Idol

In a shocking upset, underdog, Kris Allen, became this year's American Idol. Much speculation has taken place as to why. His co-finalist, Adam Lambert, is a stellar performer with a great voice and even greater showmanship. Kris, however, just quietly, but passionately sings his songs. And he won. After seeing this video posted of him on You Tube singing to God with his voice aimed toward heaven, it makes me think. Perhaps, God's hand has been on Kris Allen through this. Very cool!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Roses are Red...



Violets are blue.
I'm still alive;
How about you?

Although things have been pretty quiet here in blogland, it has been quite the opposite in real life. I am finding that in adding an 8th member to our household, my days are incredibly full and I really need to plan out my days and be disciplined to follow a schedule/routine or my days slip away and nothing has been accomplished.

This year I was too cheap to buy the refill planner pages for my Franklin Covey planner and decided to put my scrapbook supplies to good use and create my own. I downloaded the "Daily Docket" page from the Simple Mom blog and have been using this for my daily pages. It isn't a perfect fit for me, but I wasn't quite sure what I wanted in a daily page and thought I would use this for a while until I figured it out. One thing a I do really like about it is that it has a "Things to Do" list with 10 spaces as well as "Today's M.I.T.s" (MITs = Most Important Tasks) with 3 spaces. I have a master to-do list that is a mile long, but these daily lists force me to prioritize what is the most important to complete. I don't always complete my list, and I carry this over to the next day's list. This has helped me be much more productive in my day.

Ok, so you may be wondering about this photo I posted here of the marker covering the arm of my couch. It doesn't really fit into this topic of daily productivity - or does it? Yesterday, I walked into my kitchen/family room to discover my lovely 2 year old daughter with a 5 color highlighter marker drawing on my couch. To say I was upset would be an understatement. She got in BIG trouble and has been banned from anything that writes for the time being. Thankfully, the Bissell carpet pretreatment spray took this all off. I was so relieved. Anyway, I share this because interruptions like this happen continually every day. Today it was the numerous potty training messes I dealt with today. It is always something. That's why it is so important to have that daily docket, so once the current drama has been dealt with, I can refocus on what I need to be doing.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. I'm still around, but struggling with my day to day routine and getting it all done. I have been oversleeping (at least for me) and not getting up until 7 or 7:30 which just seems to throw my whole day off. I feel like I am behind all day long then.

On a good note, though, things are going well. I have got the little guy on somewhat of a daily schedule/routine that is fairly consistent. Knowing when and how long he should nap each day is incredibly helpful. He is also sleeping really well at night (Knock on wood...) once I get him to sleep.

Also, it is beginning to look and feel like Spring which means that I can send the kids outside to burn off some excess energy. Wonderful!

I also want to share a link with you today that I have recently discovered. It is called the Daily Audio Bible. At this site, you can listen to a portion of the bible being read each day. It follows a plan to read through the entire bible in a year. The man who does the reading, Brian, has a wonderful mellow voice and I have really been enjoying having him read to me each day. His nine year old daughter, China, reads a kids version of this, too. Very cool. Check it out.

Monday, March 23, 2009

25 years ago today...

On this day 25 years ago...I had my first official date.

This boy from my church had called and asked me out and I said, "yes." After I hung up the phone and came into the family room where my parents were, the questions began.



"Who was that?"
"What did he want?"
"A date?!?"
"I'm not sure we can let you do that."


It had never occurred to me that they wouldn't let me date. I suppose the whole thing was a surprise to them since I really had not shown a huge interest in the opposite sex. I can still remember their discussion. My mom pointed out to my dad that this was a nice boy from church. My dad simply stated that there ARE no "nice boys." I do think the fact that they had known the boy and his family for years at church helped and they relented and decided to let me go.



So, the next Friday, I came home from school and spent the entire afternoon deliberating over the clothes in my closet. I was clueless as to what to wear. I can still remember the outfit I finally chose: jeans, a pink and blue striped polo and a white cardigan. In retrospect, it was pretty bad.



I anxiously waited for my date to arrive. When he finally did, I was surprised to discover that he had a friend with him who was going to drive. I suppose that he was even more nervous than I was and brought his buddy along for moral support.



I don't recall all of the details of that night, but it did include a lot of driving around aimlessly trying to figure out what to do. I believe we ended up eating at Pizza Hut and walking the mall. The whole evening had an overall tone of awkwardness! It is probably a miracle that there was actually a second date after that one. But there was. Although things may have been a bit rocky at first, I continued to date this boy all through high school. We went to our proms and school dances together. We hung out and went to movies. We grew into adulthood together.



If it had not been for that awkward date 25 years ago that took place on the day after my 15th birthday, I wouldn't be the wife and mother I am today, I wouldn't be the same person because I ended up marrying that nervous boy. He is now my husband, father of our six children, and best friend.




Happy Anniversary, Barry!

It's been a fun time - let's shoot for at least 25 more!

Scrapbook Page: Barry and I at my Junior Prom. Credits can be found here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Yes, today is St. Patrick's Day. We like to celebrate the day in our house for several reasons.
1. We have a bit o' Irish heritage.
2. We have a son named Patrick.
3. It is the perfect time to discuss the characteristic of God being One yet three persons.

As to #1, my maternal grandfather, Earl Patrick, was Irish. That brings us to #2. A bit of family trivia - my grandpa's middle name was Patrick (and everyone called him Pat). My mother's name is Patricia. MY name is Patricia (although everyone calls me Trish). We decided to name our firstborn son Patrick because we like the name and wanted to carry on the tradition. Now, the tricky thing on St. Patrick's Day is explaining to my son that although he is named Patrick, he "ain't no saint."

Now, if I am going to discuss #3, I have to share with you one of my big pet peeves lately. The significance of the shamrock/clover on St. Patrick's day comes from the fact that the original Patrick, who was a missionary in Ireland, used it the help explain the Holy Trinity - the fact that although there is one God, he is three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is NOT because the leprechauns like to dance amongst the clover and finding the four-leaf variety is lucky. So it really bugs me when I see St. Patrick's day decor with the four-leaf clovers. [sigh] I suppose I shouldn't be surprised when the holiday has become merely a time for celebrating the leprechauns and drinking green beer to excess.

Now, it wouldn't be right to talk about St. Patrick's day without sharing this video. This is a short from the VeggieTales video, "Sumo of the Opera." It is a "flannel board" story to teach the history of the man and the holiday. We think it is adorable and funny so therefore, it is tradition to watch this every year.



Another tradition that I have been trying to do is to have Corned Beef and Cabbage. Growing up we never did this. It think it has something to do with the fact that my mom bought a really nice corned beef to cook one year and the spices were so strong and repugnant that it stunk up the whole house. So, she never made another. Now, me, I buy the cheapest corned beef that I can find and our family loves it. We may try to make some Irish Soda bread this year to go with it.

Whatever you do to celebrate this day (even if it is just watching the above video), make it a great one!