Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thought Inspiring Post

Today I want to share a link for a post from another blog that I go to frequently. This lady's style is super inspiring to me and her most recent post is thought provoking...to the point I think other's may like it to. So, without further ado, here it is:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Spiced Coffee at Home

No matter where you live right now it's just down-right chilly! Time for some serious warm beverage consumption...which, in my humble opinion, is the ONLY good thing about cold weather. I have told God many, many times over the years that I am a Beach Bunny and totally not a Snow Bunny. However, being one to never pass up a good cup of java no matter what the temp is outside I do have to admit it tastes better when it is used to warm the body on a cold winter's day. Like today. Like last week. Which brings me to this post and wanting to share a yummy recipe for Spiced Coffee from the current issue of "Health" magazine. We made it last week for the first time and it's a keeper! Spiced decaf in the afternoon will soon be a staple in the Richardson Household. Well, at least during the winter months, that is.

Here's how it is made:

Ingredients for the syrup:
1 c sugar
1/2 c water
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Heat sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; add spices. Simmer until sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes); remove pan from heat and cool. Once cool, the syrup can be put into a container and stored in the fridge.

To use the syrup we added 1 tbsp of the spiced syrup to a cup of coffee (have to note here that we use large coffee mugs), mixed well and added heavy cream to our personal taste. Now we like our coffee strong so if you prefer something milder (or use standard size coffee cups) you may consider cutting the tbsp of syrup in half. We also found that the syrup added enough sweetness so that additional sugar was not required. Again, everyone's taste is different, though, so experiment until you find the right combination of coffee/syrup for you. For an extra special touch the cup of coffee can also be topped off by a dollop of whipped heavy cream and then dusted with ground cinnamon. And then, the best part...ENJOY!


Friday, December 10, 2010

It Really Worked!

Anything that makes my life in the kitchen easier excites me beyond belief. Couple convenience with frugality and we have a real winner...and this post is about just that...

Before I go on, have you ever come across an idea that sounded good, the blogger claimed it works, only to discover she must have some secret knowledge that you don't after you tried it? Being skeptical and not wanting to waste my time and resources keep me from jumping right on in with every cool idea under the sun. But this one had my interest so I gave it a shot and it totally worked and is something I will be doing from now on. This idea I've peaked your interest about is making stock at home as found here:  http://www.econobusters.com/2010/09/guest-postkelly-the-culinarians-homemade-stock/

Per Kelly's instructions I faithfully saved a baggie full of 'junk' and once that baggie was full I dedicated a day for this project. I pulled out the largest pot I own and filled it:

After letting it cook and  then cool, I strained it per Kelly's instructions:


And then finished cooking it down...which I did not take photos of the finished product. Oh, and did this process make the house smell heavenly! It should come with a disclaimer: "Warning! Doing this will make you hungry!" Yeah, it smells that good while cooking!

After sitting in the fridge over night I put the stock into freezer containers in 2 cup increments (it yielded 12 cups for me) and then used them in everything from brown rice to soups and casseroles. It was such a nice variation from adding plain water and so much tastier than store-bought stock or bouillon cubes. When using the stock I simply took it directly from the freezer...no need to defrost it if you are putting the stock directly into a hot dish. If you've mixing it into a casserole to go into the oven you'll want to defrost it first then.

One of the dishes I used this homemade stock in was Chinese Spaghetti:
This simple dish was born out of the need to use a little this-and-that from the fridge one night at my house. Now, keep in mind I do not have actual measurements as this is done to my family's taste and honestly each time there's a little variation as what I have on hand varies. With that being said here's the generalities of the dish:

Ingredients:
1 box whole wheat spaghetti, cooked
Left-over turkey or chicken -chopped or shredded
Veggies to suit your family's taste
Dry mustard, ground ginger, soy sauce, corn startch
1 can chunk pineapples in juice -optional-
2 cups homemade stock

While the spaghetti is cooking -break the spaghetti up as you put it into the pot of boiling water, stir-fry whatever fresh veggies you have on hand in an electric skillet with a tiny bit of olive oil (just enough to keep the veggies from sticking to the skillet). Some options are: onions, garlic, peppers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, etc. Just use veggies to suit your family's taste. There are times when I have frozen, not fresh broccoli, so I'll throw that in. Other times I have used green beans. On occasion I'll even through in a spoon full of left over veggies directly from the fridge.
Once your veggies are tender-crisp (or well-done if that's what your family prefers) you will add the dry mustard, ground ginger, and soy sauce to your family's taste. Some people like a more robust flavor, some like just a hint. Stir well. Then add the stock and meat. Heat thoroughly.
In the meantime, drain the can of pineapples, reserving the liquid in a small bowl. Add the pineapples to the skillet. Mix well. Add cornstartch to the pineapple juice (usually heaping tablespoon is enough) and mix well then set aside for a few minutes.
By this time the spaghetti noodles should be done and drained. Before adding the noodles, add the reserved pineapple juice containing the cornstartch. Stir until the liquid in the skillet is slightly thickened. At this point add the cooked noodles and stir well, making sure the dish is heated through. Once it is, enjoy!

Now, if your family does not like pineapples (my husband does not so I omit them when he's here for supper), no worries...omit them and use some of the stock, or a little bit of water, to disolve the cornstartch in. Over-all, just play around with the ingredients until you find a winning combination for your family. There really is no right or wrong way to make this dish!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Walking Into Winter


With the Christmas season upon us our homes are in the process of being transformed into works of art in celebration of this time of year. What better way to do so than to continue to surround yourself and your family with the things you love? Today will give you, Dear Reader, a sneak peek into my home and some of the things I love...first, do you remember these boots? They held fall leaves up until a few days ago and looked like this:


With a few simple changes using some yard sale finds the boots are ready to serve a dual purpose...first as a Christmas decoration and then, with the removal of the poinsettias after Dec. 25 they're ready for the rest of the winter. Making this change was super easy and only cost a few dollars. Then it was on to decorating the rest of the house. Now honestly I have to admit I love indoor Christmas deocrations but hate to take them down at the end of the season. The house is left feeling drab and boring without them. So this year I decided to do a few things that will stay out throughout the winter. I was also on the hunt for *new* decorations this year. Something different. Something shiny and rustic all at the same time. Here's what I rustled up from the stash of things I love:



The two above photos are part of a vingette that will stay on my table top all winter:
Again, this was done using yard sale finds and things I love to look at. Plus, like the boots by the front door they serve a dual purpose...Christmas and winter decorations all wrapped up in one. (Pardon the cheesy pun. Couldn't resist myself.)

Here's a cool new idea I borrowed this year came from Martha Stewart. She used these to make candles, I just used them for funky decorations on the lanai:



Yes, these are simply spray painted seashells. And what an excuse to take a walk on the beach, right? Oh, and talk about super, duper simple to do. A few minutes and couple cans of metallic spray paint and wa-la! Done! I like them so much I added some to a hurricane and regular vase for the bathroom:


Sorry the picture quality is not so great...had these sitting on the counter when I snapped the pic. And yes, that most certainly is a stuffed flamingo wearing a Santa hat in the background. She is one of my most prized possessions!

While thinking about what you love to surround yourself with at home, don't be afraid to mix styles. Like I said earlier I like rustic and I like shiny. So combining the two on the front porch to complete decorating for Christmas fit the bill for me:


In years past our Christmas tree has been a palm tree on the lanai. After one too many summers worth of sun and the elements it had grown tired looking and the metal base had rusted. So to palm tree heaven it was sent and we picked up a small fake tree at a yard sale. All was going well with the *new* tree until we took it out of the box and discovered WHY it as sold super inexpensively at a yard sale. The base was gone. Lost. Never to be returned. So I looked at it leaned against the wall for a day and racked my brain. After-all I HAD to put it up since I had purchased brand-new "bulbs" to go on it and I totally was NOT going to purchase a tree this time of year and pay full price! Since necessity is the mother of invention, into my stash of loved things I went and came out with this new base:

The base is simply and old crock filled partially with sand sitting on a barstool (I sawed the legs down for this) covered by a tablecloth. Only the "bulbs" and berries came brand-new from a store, the rest, again, are yard sale finds. Yeah, I know the top of the tree is bare...maybe I'll get motivated to figure something out for it, maybe not. Sometimes I'm crazy that way. Okay, sometimes I'm lazy that way. And the table sitting next to it is kinda bare...still haven't figured that one out, either. There's always a project in progress around my home...

So as December marches faithfully forward and time seems to slip through the cracks, sometimes making for stressful days, remember to surround yourself with things as uniquely beautiful as you are. With things that just make you smile. Doing so helps to make this time of year more joyful. Really, who can stress when enjoying something beautiful while sipping hot chocolate, or herb tea, or better yet...coffee? By taking good care of yourself you are able to take better care of your family and those you love.

Friday, December 3, 2010

New Resource

Good morning y'all! Hope this finds everyone well, warm and getting along in being ready for Christmas! Around here we are warm (staying inside) and Christmas plans are coming along. Just yesterday all the indoor decorations were put up so that leaves the outside for the husband and kids to do this weekend.  A few more presents to make on my end and I'm totally done.

Before I start rambling on I want to share a resource that my friend Pam sent me. It is super cool! The entire Bible (NIV) can be found on one page here: http://www.jrsbible.info/bible.htm
Getting to a specific verse, book, or chapter couldn't be easier. Thanks, Pam, for sharing this!
Oh, this was added to the Bible resource page here on the blog.

Now to ramble...

Along with the busy-ness this time of year brings we've faced some tough mental things the past few weeks. It started with a tremendous praise report...which, of couse, is not tough mentally...my father-in-law has been healed by God! (He had lung cancer.) Right on the heals of getting this awesome report and praising God we find out my husband will need back surgery to fix a herniated disc. Disappointment at the MRI result is an understatement. God is faithful and we fully believe Jesus already bore stripes on His back for my husband's healing two thousand years ago! So we've been seeking God for answers to tough questions regarding this and some of the questions He's answered and some He is just wanting us to trust Him instead of giving clear cut answers.  My husband's first appointment with the surgeon is early February so we'll just be going from there as to when the next step takes place for him.

On top of this I personally am facing one of the hardest times as a Mom that I've faced to date. My youngest bundle of joy has decided to start to make her own way in the world by going to public high school for the rest of her 10th grade year and on through until the end. The school God has chosen for her is a charter public high school located on the campus of a local state college. This is a huge, positive step for her. Not only will she graduate with a high school diploma she will graduate with her AA. Right now she's working on finishing up the first semester here at home and is all ready to start there in January. It was a painless process over-all. The doors to this opened and we stepped effortlessly through them. With all that positive stuff said...here's the kicker...MY emotions. Before I go on I must say that homeschooling has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I thoroughly LOVE IT! Love everything about it! I strongly believe in it, especially in the young, formulative years. We've spent eleven years doing this and in this time I have taught my girls to be strong women and independant thinkers. Backing up even further...for the past twenty-one years of my life I have not made a single decision about how to spend my day/time without taking into consideration how it will effect my girls. For the past eleven of those years schooling has been first and foremost in my mind on daily activities/choices. Now abruptly that all ends. The only consideration I will now need to make is what time to drop her off at school and to make sure I'm there to pick her up. As this realization hit I have grieved over the loss of homeschooling. I have shed a few tears along the way while talking to God and asking Him "So now what do I do with myself since I still do not know what I want to be when I grow up?" I have struggled with feeling useless...though thankfully that struggle did not last long. God spoke very clearly and very quickly and straightened my attitude right on out. Though that thought tries to creep back into my mind I have to cast it out and replace it with the knowledge that I always knew this day would come...it is as it should be for kids to grow up and move on with their lives...and that God is not through with me yet and the sweetest years with Him are yet to come. So I have been working through some serious emotional ups and downs and felt I needed to receive more from God than I have had to give to anyone else...thus the reason for neglecting the blog lately. With all this behind me now I can begin to move forward again. Yeah, I'm sure there'll be some more sadness when reality sets in again as I drop my baby off at school in January...and then watch my other baby head out for her first day of college a few days later. But you know something? Seriously...all my junky feelings aside...it really is with great pride and joy that I watch my girls step out into their own lives with God. He can take so much better care of them than I ever could/can. And now, on a selfish personal note, it will be with great expectancy that I wait to see where this journey leads me next...


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tis the Season for Comfort Food


The weather is cooler, days are shorter and visions of comfort food are dancing in my head. But what's a girl to do when the family wants something warm, yummy and satifies the soul as much as the stomach when time is short? Feed the hungry crowd grilled cheese for supper. Yeah, for supper. Now if your husband is like mine I'm already losing you...hang in there for a few more minutes. The last thing my man wants to do after a long day at work is eat a sandwich. However, if that sandwich becomes a gourmet treat, then he's all in! Which brings me to grilled cheese again. Gourmet grilled cheese I should say. By taking this comfort food favorite and taking it up a notch it goes from yum to YUM! Doing so is super easy, too. Simply take two kinds of cheese and add something with them. There are many types of cheese on the market in sliced form now-a-days. Experiment until you find what your family likes best. Same with bread. Supermarket bakeries have many choices beyond boring white or wheat. Then think about what kind of add-ins your family likes. Every/any thing goes...from pepperoni to mushrooms and black olives.  Our current family favorite is chipotle cheddar, American and carmelized onions and garlic. To put the sandwich together you'll put some butter in a pan, place a slice of bread down add one slice of cheese to the top of that, put the add-in on top of the cheese, then put the second slice of cheese on top of that and finish up with the second slice of bread. I do recommend keeping the burner a bit lower than you normally would when cooking a grilled cheese and add a little more butter to the pan when it comes time to turn the sandwich over. Add a side soup and wa-la...a meal with a twist that satifies .

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jump, Sink or Swim


There comes a place in one’s life where they find they are standing at the edge of a precipice, not sure of what is below. The temptation to look back at all that has brought the journey thus far draws one to stop and retrace the footsteps of the beautiful experiences that lie behind while being thankful the ugly ones do not need to be relived. Knowing that there is no use in lingering to look back for long, one’s gaze must again focus upon that precipice and to what lies before them. Again, the unknown swoops in. Just what is at the bottom of the precipice? Should I jump? Sit on the edge and sink in despair at the unknown? Or should I embrace the sea of uncertainty and go for a swim?

Too often during these times we choose to sit too long on the edge, dangling our feet as the time slips by. We waste opportunities while we are waiting to hear God’s voice telling us exactly what to do;  we waste time. Time that is once spent is gone forever. Just sitting and waiting fruitlessly while forgetting that it is by the Holy Spirit living and breathing inside of us that God leads us. He does not lead us continually by sending down orders from Heaven as if we are mindless soldiers who will not move unless each individual step is an order. He does not want a group of puppets upon which He must manipulate each individual string to make us move. It is by the peaceful, gentle drawing of the power that created the universe, living inside of us, that we move. We breathe. We think and feel. It is only by staying continually plugged into the source of this power (John 15:5) can we find our direction. We then find the strength to believe. Find the strength to move. Discover the desire to trust. Then the precipice does not appear to be scary after-all.

Once we embrace the One who knows the unknown we find we are able to get up and walk into His will. Walk securely. Walk confidently. Walk joyfully. For by moving forward are we able to live beyond the past as we are told to by Paul (Phil 3:13). Those days are finished. Complete. Never to be lived again. The only thing left are the lessons we’ve learned while they were being lived. For God’s work for us is not found there. God’s work for us is found in the present and the future. This is where we encounter a living, breathing God. This is where we encounter tasks yet to be done. This is when we discover the full power of the Holy Spirit within us. This is when we decide to stop dangling our feet and choose to jump in and swim. We make the choice to live out the destiny God has called each of us to. A destiny that only you can fulfill.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thief On The Loose!

There's no other way to say this: I've been robbed! Yes, robbed! Somebody has brazenly walked in and stole Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from me this week. Oh how I wish they'd have the decency to return them to me. I had such big ideas as I woke up Monday morning...things to do, blog postings to write. Sigh. And here I sit on Wednesday evening wondering where the time went. I guess I could blame it on the most perfect weather ever that we're having right now. I mean, seriously, who can get anything much done when the sky is the most brilliant sapphire blue while the sun shines warmly as the wind rustles through the trees? All I want to do is walk along the beach and dig my toes into the sand. Or maybe I could blame it on the Dust Fairy. Crazy old woman won't come back and get all the dust she's sprinkled all over my house so I've had to clean it up myself. Whatever the culprit is does not change the fact that the days are gone. Soon to be forgotten. Glorious sun drenched days with birds singing...ones that end with crickets chirping as the sky goes from deep blue to a glorious orange on the horizon. But as another one fades I think of all the neat things I was going to post this week and realize I had best get started....so off we go...

Christmas Countdown, Week Three:
This week is fairly simple. It involves a calendar and your favorite beverage. Yeah, that's it! Take a few minutes to look ahead at the month of December and think of the various extra activites this month holds. Having out of town company? Going out of town yourself? Office party? Church social? Family get together? Etc, etc...you get the idea. Now, get them on the calendar. Seeing it laid out will help with the planning process of getting it all pulled off without a hitch. Taking the time now to line up a house sitter or dog sitter helps insure your top pick will be availble. Or knowing which weekend will be better to host the family get together keeps your stress level down as you will be sure to not double book yourself. As you sit and relax now with your favorite beverage in hand you can look at the month ahead with less stress and actually get to look forward to all the fun times December's celebrations will hold!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thankful Leaves


I must start this post by saying I love, love, love, love, love Thanksgiving! Taking a day to devote to unashamed thankfulness to our God is to me, the best day of the entire year. Spreading that thankfulness out through an entire month is golden! Relishing in old ways to celebrate while making new ones is a never ending quest...oh, and did I mention how much I LOVE Thanksgiving?...

As our family has grown up (okay, so the girls have grown up...not so much for the dad...) many things have changed along the way. We find new ways to put an updated spin on old traditions. We enjoy new activities that we could not do when we had a toddler/younger child in the house, especially around the holidays. There is, however, one tradition we have not changed or modified over the years. A little over ten years ago we started putting up "thankful leaves" in November. At the beginning of each November a basket *appears* that contains different color paper leaves, markers/ink pens, and tape. For each day thereafter...right up to Thanksgiving day...each member of the family puts one thing they are thankful for on a leaf and we tape our leaves on a window or door, depending on where we are living that year. In our current home we have a large sliding glass door that we use. This way we get to publically see all that we are privately thankful for...making it a good way to let each other know how much we love and appreciate each other though we forget to say it all too often. We have even encouraged guests in our home to join in and add their leaves to ours while they are here. Last year I began archiving the leaves in a notebook when it was time to take them down...sure wish I had thought to do that from the beginning. Each family member has their own page... 
These are my leaves from last year.

After several years go by it will be fun to look back and see where our family has been, the changes we've been through, what our God has done in our lives. Last year was a harder year on our family, thus fewer leaves on my part on the door. This year brings more reason for us to celebrate our thankfulness to a faithful God...no telling how many leaves I'll be putting up this month!

Preparation for the thankful leaves is super easy. First I make copies on my printer with yellow, red and orange colored paper (purchased at Walmart). Here's the template I use: http://www.kidsdomain.com/holiday/canada/color/maples90.gif   Then I cut a few at a time while relaxing in front of the tv. No need to stress and wear my hand out by trying to cut them all out at once. My girls like to help cutting the leaves out, too. (Note: we also cut off the stems of the leaves.) Then I choose a basket, put the cut out leaves inside, along with tape and writing utensils, and place it close to the door we put them on and we get started:

The first leaves of this year.
Before you write this idea off because you do not have children living at home...this is not just a family activity to do with the kiddos. Last November  as I was teaching a Bible study  I made copies of these leaves and handed them out, encouraging the women to use them. One of the older members of the group said her husband really enjoyed doing this, he even had their kids and grandkids fill out leaves while at their house, and they were going to make this a new tradition for themselves. So, no matter what season of life we find ourself in we never get too old to praise our God for all He has done/is doing in our lives!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Christmas Countdown, week two

Last week we talked about gifts...hope you made your list, checked it twice and then got busy. I did and knocked out two homemade items along with purchasing a third one! This week will see the completion of several more homemade gifts. Just think about how good it is going to feel when the mad rush to complete shopping is in full swing and you are sitting home sipping hot chocolate instead of fighting the crowds!

This week let's look ahead and think food. Begin by making a list of goodies you'll want to bake. Then, list the ingredients you'll need to purchase to do so (extra flour, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.). Don't stop there, though. Think about what you'll want for your Christmas meal, too. Along with considering any special snacks your family will want or that you'll want to take to parties, church socials, etc., etc. Be sure to think about what food items you'll be making to give as gifts (cookies, breads, mixes in a jar, etc.) Include the ingredients for all these on your master ingredient list as well. Before setting your pencil aside, think about Thanksgiving...and think about what you will want to prepare for it as well. Now, compare your Thanksgiving food plan with your Christmas food plan. Any menu items overlap? Will the items freeze well? If so, plan to make a double batch at Thanksgiving, freezing the second batch to be pulled out and used at Christmas.  This can seem overwhelming when thinking of this planning as a whole so break it down into individual lists on seperate pieces of paper with only one master list of ingredients. Remember, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time! So by taking a few small bites this week you can be asured of having what you need on hand when you need it and save the frustration of running out for one ingredient.

Now that you've planned, made lists and know what extras you'll need to purchase work those items into your grocery budget over several weeks. Make sure you'll get what you need for Thanksgiving first with the over-all goal of having all your food items purchased by the end of November, if possible. Take note of what is on sale each week to help stretch your food dollars. Before you know it you'll have all you need on hand!

One of the extra items I usually purchase each year for the holidays is chicken stock. For some reason I just do not seem to use it during the year but when November hits it becomes necessary. Last month I came across a super idea on making it homemade. Frugally, too, I might add. It uses things one normally would throw away or compost. However, it is not a quick process and is best done on cooler days when you don't mind running the stove and generating a little extra warmth in the house.  Check it out here:  http://www.econobusters.com/2010/09/guest-postkelly-the-culinarians-homemade-stock/ . We have a bag in the freezer collecting our scraps and will be making the stock this week so I'll post an update after we've done this.

As you begin your process of food planning this week, break it up if you need to. Not many of us have a few hours in a row to devote to this. Make plans for goodies one day, meals the next, gifts the following one...you get the idea. The whole idea of planning ahead is to save us from being overwhelmed later on and not to overwhelm ourself with the process of planning.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Abba, Father

A few weeks ago we looked at the portrait of ourselves that is hung over the fireplace in our Father’s living room. (http://betsyrichardson.blogspot.com/2010/09/our-fathers-favorite-portrait.html) Hopefully you were able to stand and admire the picture with Him alongside you, allowing Him to point out exactly what He loves best about your portrait. Even more so, hopefully you are able to see God as your father. Father is perhaps the most endearing name our God has. Jesus’ first mention of Him is as his father (Luke 2:49). He could have referred to God by any number of names that describe His character: Creator, Master, Provider, or Healer and so on. Instead, Jesus called Him by a name that is more intimate than any other name He is known by. Later in his teachings, Jesus identifies God as father again (Matt 6:9) but this time a shift from “my father” has taken place to “our father.” In doing so Jesus gives us permission to call upon the God of the Universe as our own personal father. And oh what a father He is! He loves us dearly (John 16:27) and calls us to be His own people (Rom 1:7). His glory is timeless (John 17:5). He is holy (John 17:11) and righteous (John 17:25). He gives us peace (Rom 1:7). And best of all He has adopted us into His family (Rom 8:15)! Now, in the original Greek, “Abba” was used in Rom 8:15. This is a personal name. According to Vine’s Concise Dictionary of Bible Words, “abba is the word framed by the lips of infants and betokens unreasoning trust.” Unreasoning trust? This deep level of trust is obtainable when we know that everything is possible for our Abba, Father (Mark 14:36), that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3) and we are His great pleasure (Eph 1:5). Do allow yourself, Sweet Daughter, to trust in His unfailing love (Ps 13:5) and in the generosity of the gracious favor (Eph 1:7 AMP) of your Father, knowing you will always be the subject of His favorite portrait!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Upcycling?


Recently I heard the term "upcycling" in reference to repurposing/recycling items. Pretty neat term, huh? It gives a classy sounding name to an age old idea. As for me, I'm just not there...yet. I still refer to it as repurposing when I'm giving a new life to an item. More than just being functional it is thrilling to me to do this. My journey with repurposing started many, many, many moons ago. For the first fifteen years of our married life my husband and I had small/smaller houses. While living in them made for feelings of coziness it also meant that every single piece of furniture, etc, brought in to live with us had to have a function. There just wasn't any room to have something sitting there just because it was pretty. However, I wanted pretty things around that made the house a home...so I just began thinking outside of the box. Even though the current house we're in is the largest one to date this mentality has spilled over into the way *new* items are still brought into the family. Yes, there are shameless displays of something pretty just because I like it now that there is room for this, but moreover most pieces in our home have a function. Many times I run across items that I instantly fall in love with and know I have to adopt...like an old wooden ladder...but realize they do need new life to live comfortably with us. Sometimes it only involves a quick coat of paint to achieve new life.

Beyond the thrill of making something *new* from something *old* thinking outside of the box with items gives a home a unique style all your own. Now, if you like buying all your furniture pieces all matchy, matchy that's perfectly okay! God created all of us differently for a reason. Maybe repurposing a large piece of something just is not your style. Not everyone likes to deconstruct/reconstruct/paint, etc., etc. But who doesn't enjoy a little something totally unique? Repurposing can be in the form of just using something differently than what it was originally intended to be used for. Doing this requires no modification to the item. It just requires asking yourself the question "What else can I use this for?" So don't feel like you cannot repurpose something if you do not know how to sew, love to paint, or have the time for a day long project. Just keep an open mind while coming across items you love.

Here at "All About Home" we'll explore, as the weeks go by, the many different ways we can repurpose items to make our homes as unique as we are...from projects that take some elbow grease to quirky things that only take brain waves to make happen (not talking about bending spoons with our minds...). So, with that all being said, feel free Dear Reader to submit your photos (click on "Contact Me" in the upper left side of the homepage) to showcase your creativity for all of us to "ooh!" and "ahh!" over and  get inspired to do something similar!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Christmas Countdown, week one

Don't ask me how this happened but Christmas is now officially two months away (sixty-one days to be exact). It seems utterly impossible that a whole year has passed. I mean, really!?! We just did this whole thing like yesterday, right? Well, the impossible has happened in my world and I'm looking back at another year. And for as much as it seems an impossibility it is in fact a reality...one that I know I best start preparing for. Now if you're one of those people who thrive on last minute preparations, read no more. For the rest of you out there like me read on...

When I start thinking of Christmas the obvious first thought is gift giving. (Don't blast me for saying that. I am speaking in practical, physical terms. I know the real reason behind Christmas and firmly believe that we all should daily keep our Savior first and foremost in our minds and the motivation behind all we say and do.) This can be either the biggest thrill of our year or the biggest headache of our year. To keep it from being the latter, take a few minutes this week to write down who you want to bless this year. Then go a step further and write down some ideas by their name. Then go one step beyond that and list the items you'll need to gather for the gift you want to give.

Now as you do this keep in mind the gifts need not be grand in nature to be the blessing you want them to be. For most of us something homemade that shows the giver has put thought into pleasing the recipient really are grandest gifts of all! Basically, just consider the needs of the person/people you are gifting. Someone who has "everything" can always use something consumable. Have a family you want to gift but not sure what everyone likes? A gift basket filled with the makings of breakfast, movie night or game night are fun options. How about a college student? They're always broke and a care box full of toothpaste, soap and shampoo is more than welcome. Throw in a gas card and they'll think they've found the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow!

Once you have your list made keep your eyes open and begin gathering items. Hitting yard sales and thrift stores are two of our favorite ways to gather things we want to use to make gifts. Doing this also stretches your dollars so you can give more. Honestly, though it may sound cheesy to do so I have yet to EVER have someone ask "Did this come from a yard sale?" Most recipients have loved those unique items more than if I had bought something brand-new. Oh, and don't stop gathering once this Christmas is all set. You'll get a feel for what kinds of things you'll use so gather those items year 'round. This makes for even less stress, both on us and our wallets.

And don't overlook items you've been given that you can regift. Nothing cheesy about that, either! Remember, it is all about blessing people and when that is the motivation behind the gifts you give the recipient of that blessing feels the love you are showing them!

If you're stuck and needing some ideas for homemade gifts surf the net. There are oodles of ideas out there...from the zany to the tasteful. (Okay, pun was intended.) Here are a few sites that I've come across with some cool ideas.

This first one has gifts in a mug and is perfect for someone on your list who is single or watching calories:
http://www.budget101.com/frugal/mug-cup-mixes-193/
They also have an extensive list of other gift ideas:
http://www.budget101.com/christmas-winter-solstice-yule/christmas-gift-ideas-2735.html
I must say here that I have not thoroughly been though this website but from what I have seen I have not come across any offensive material while going through their gift ideas.

As always, Martha Stewart delivers some classic ideas:
http://www.marthastewart.com/christmas
Okay, okay...Martha doesn't live at my house, either, but she does have some great ideas.

Lastly, this site offers many homemade craft/gift ideas for the various people on your list:
http://familyfun.go.com/christmas/homemade-christmas-gifts/

So now it's time for you to begin your list, check it twice and get to gathering! As for me...I'm off to do the same...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What’s Your Motivation?

When one takes a moment to reflect upon motivation we see that in and of itself it is not a bad thing. Many times it has a negative connotation with it but simply put, motivation is the inner drive that causes us to do something or act in a certain way. When we are hungry, motivation is the driving force in the decision to reach for the refrigerator handle. It drives us to get up when we stumble or fail. Behind each life-goal that is met one can find motivation as the inner driving force. We all possess this inner drive but the option is ours whether this drive remains pure or whether it becomes corrupted by greed and self-importance. Unfortunately there are times when each of us can inadvertently slip from pure motivations to corrupted ones without realizing we’ve done so, even if we are walking with the Lord. Too often we can read a scripture like Ps 37:4 (AMP), “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desire and secret petitions of your heart” and think we’ve just discovered a one-way ticket to a gold mine. It does sound good and we can begin thinking that if we just delight in Him that new Corvette will be ours in no time. However, this line of thinking misses the point and instead of delight in God it becomes greed-motivated adoration. True delight is motivated by love and is actually an inward action, as stated in Rom 7:22 (AMP), “For I endorse and delight in the Law of God in my inmost self (with my new nature)”. Ps 1:2 (AMP) echoes the delight in the law of the Lord, “But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night.” When one does delight in the Lord, in His precepts, an interesting thing happens. Many of the desires of the heart do change. The ones that remain transfixed are the ones that were never motivated by greed to start with. There may still come a day when that muscle car is parked in the garage, the home-based business that has been a life-long goal comes to fruition, or the keys to a larger home that suits the family better are finally handed over. Do remember, however, that the end result of such blessings is not merely in the fulfilling of the desires of the heart it is to glorify our Father in Heaven. He absolutely loves to lavish his children with good gifts and it is okay to ask of Him as long as the desire is motivated by love for Him and our delight is in His law. What we ask must line up with His Word and will. We must also continually ask the Holy Spirit to check the motive behind our request and convict us when we ask for the wrong reason. But what do we do when there is a request we have been making, a strong desire such as one has never felt before that we know comes from the right motivation, that seems to go unfulfilled? Either it could be that our timing is not lining up with God’s or it could be that what we ask for requires the cooperation of another person. For example, after years of praying, the desire of our heart for our loved one(s) or friend(s) to serve the Lord does not seem to be coming to fruition. The motives are pure. The love is real. What we ask lines up with the Word. It absolutely is God’s will that none shall perish (2Peter 3:9) because Jesus was sent to save the entire world (John 12:47). However, the prayers still seem to go unanswered. Ultimately what we have encountered here is the free will of another. Remember, though a person’s free will cannot be changed we can hold onto this desire and persevere in prayer until being called home to be with the Lord. If the case of an unfulfilled desire is due to the lack of proper timing, give that up to your Father. He knows. He won’t forget. And He is always right on time. Lastly, and what personally thrills me the most, is the fulfillment of desires that you have not even asked your Father for. I’m speaking of the “secret petitions.” Perhaps those are the most special times because this is when you realize that your God, the God of the universe, the Creator of all, took the time to look deep into your heart and just give you a thrill because He loves you so. And just think, it’s all because you have taken the time to delight yourself in Him and you possess pure motivation.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Making it Personal

Saying I love to watch HGTV is without a doubt an understatement. Fresh ideas, latest trends and tried and true techiques are right up my alley whenever I'm needing inspiration. There is one particular show that takes three different homes that have had the same room renovated with the same amount of money each and two experts decide which reno was the best. The experts include a HGTV host and a local realtor. They end up nitpicking the room to death. This is after the homeowner explains why they did what they did and how much they love it. While the experts critique the room the homeowners watch via video feed. Makes for an iteresting process to say the least. Last week as I watched this show I found myself growing irritated at the *experts* and their *professional opinions.* (I have to say here that one of the experts is absolutely one of my favorite designers on HGTV.) But as they went on talking about all that was *wrong* with each room it just got so annoying. They were seeing it through the eyes of what appeals to the masses while each homeowner did the reno to be lived in by them and their families. Which got me to thinking about how we ought to be decorating our homes. Our homes should be a comfortable place to live in, filled with things that we love. And, yes, we do want people to enjoy our homes when in them but while one person may think an accent wall painted in a shocking red is the worse thing that can be done to a room, another may smile each time they admire that same wall. Now let me pause here to say that when one is in the process of selling a house I firmly believe in staging a house to appeal to the masses. Otherwise, we should be adding our own personal touches without worrying about "what if" we sell one day or "what if" so-and-so, whose house is nicer than mine, doesn't like my decor. Our homes are our sanctuary from the stresses of the outside world. We do best to surround ourselves with items that make us happy. Sometimes this means thinking outside the box when doing so. So gather your inspiration from whatever places you like but in the end, make them your own. And when inspiration hits, run with it! Such happened to me two days ago. Saturday mornings are notoriously lazy in my household (unless we are hitting yard sales) so as I was enjoying my morning coffee I surfed the web, hitting some sites I do not get to enjoy very often. Now, there was a neglected wall living in my house:



This wall was a tricky one to decorate. In the summer the setting sun shines on it so putting a picture up was not an option. By not being a fan of cork boards, that idea was out. So it just sat there for months on end looking all sad and lonely. Then I came across this idea:

Photo from CountryLiving.com
This photo from Country Living got the ball rolling in my head. I have been collecting picture frames from yard sales. Why? My husband often asked. Just because I like them. Wasn't sure of what I would do with them so they also lived sad lives, lonely and neglected in the closet:


Until Saturday, when, with spray paint in hand, they became the new decor for the wall:


By placing them further apart than what the inspiration photo showed I am allowing myself room to add to the collection which serves my intinct to hunt and gather. Want to know the best part? The summer sun won't fade the paint. And, it just makes me happy to look at them.

There are some people who will look at this wall and think it pointless to hang pictureless frames on a wall and that it is the goofiest thing they've ever seen. Others will be inspired to do the same, as I was after seeing the photo on Country Living's website. The point is that it makes ME happy. Which brings me to remind you that when it comes to your decor, make YOURSELF happy with what you have surrounding you. By doing so it makes a house a home. Your home. My home. The one place in the world that our family can retreat to. The place we are to serve God first in. The place that should bless our loved ones the most.




Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Knowing How to Trust

On Monday this week we looked at a love letter from our King which talks about courage. (If you haven't read it yet, pause here and come back after you read it.) There were some key things that stuck out in the letter that I highlighted and want us to expound upon one of them today.

Perhaps the most powerful element to the love letter is the question "Can you trust that I am strong enough to handle any situation?" Notice God is asking us "can" we trust and not "will or do" we trust in His strength. The word "can," as defined by Webster's, means to be able to, to know how to. So putting the question it into context with the definition, God is asking "Are you able to trust...? Do you know how to trust...?" Now let's take it one step further. The word "can" is a verb so this gives a new element to the question. Looking at it this way, God is asking "Are you actively able to and know how to trust that I am strong enough to handle any situation?" Really ponder this for a moment. Tough question, huh? The key here is that we must know how to trust God in order to be able to actively trust Him. Without knowing how to trust God we really cannot trust Him. To get to this place of applied knowledge in our lives we need look no further than His Word and His past activity in our lives. By spending time in His Word daily we are exposed to His promises and stories of how He took care of those who trusted Him in the past. It is only then that are we able to take Him at His word. Without knowing what He has to say we simply cannot actively trust, for we do not know what we are trusting Him to do. If we do not know that God will neither fail nor forsake us (Deut 31:6) we will not trust Him so that in times requiring courage on our part we cower instead of being courageous. If we do not know that God does not change (Heb 13:8) then we see the stories as words written on a page that do not apply to us personally. If we never take the time to stop and think of what God has done for us in our past we easily forget that He knows our future (Jer 29:11). Dear one, it is vital to our spiritual health to know these things. It's not to say that each one of us has to be a Biblical scholar. We simply must take the time to read for ourselves, asking God to open our minds to receive all He has to say to us. There will be times we need help understanding the written Word and for those times we have access to the Holy Spirit of the Living God who does understand all and is available to counsel us (John 14:16). As we grow in our knowledge of our God, so we will grow in our ability to actively trust in the strength of our God and what a sweet place of rest that is to find ourselves in by being able to stand firm while we face every situation head-on, knowing that we are empowered and protected by the One who has gone before us preparing the way!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Courage

There are times in each of our lives when we feel like we can conquer the world or feel like the world is conquering us. Either way it can leave us feeling wasted and tired. However, God reminds us that it is NOT up to us to be courageous in our own strength. We all can use the reminder (sometimes daily) that it is our God who supplies the strength we need.  So, take a few minutes, grab a cup of java (or tea) and let His words on this subject soak in. The following love letter is full of invaluable nuggets of truth for us. Then, take courage, Daughter, for you ARE a highly favored and greatly loved daughter of the King. May His words and promises not soon depart from your precious mind!

My Princess…Take Courage in Me


You need never be afraid to stand up and do what is right, My child. I will always go ahead of you and prepare the way. I rescued Daniel from the mouth of the lions and delivered David from the hands of his enemies. Can you trust that I am strong enough to handle any situation? I truly want what is best for you. Take courage and walk in My strength, not your own. Face every situation head-on –armed with the sword of the Spirit, the belt of truth, the armor of righteousness, and the shield of faith. You never need to turn your back and run –I will empower you and protect you. Just stand firm and pray, and watch your courage become contagious.

Love,

Your King and your Captain of Courage

“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid of them! The LORD your God will go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you.” Deut 31:6

Taken from “His Princess: Love Letters from Your King” by Sheri Rose Shepherd

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Apologies

Okay, I feel like I need to explain myself...and this is one of those times I'm going to get a bit personal and apologize for not posting regularly. These past three weeks have been an unusual time for me. First, I was blessed to go on an over-nighter with my husband. Just me and him. This was a real treat since he travels during the week. Then last week/weekend my daughters and I were at the most awesome women's conference I've ever been privileged to attend. And now this week I am struggling to get my bearings and my feet back on the ground after such a powerful time with God. So not only did I lose a few days each week due to the back-to-back trips this week I am trying to figure out how to come back to the real world after spending time soaking in God's presence. Really, how does one really go back to regular life after spending time away with God? To say one is different is an understatement. But go back to daily routines one must and this is something I am walking out as I type this note. So please bear with me this week. Next week the posts will begin again regularly with some new ideas that are running around in my head, waiting to be implimented. I'll *see* y'all then!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Our Father's Favorite Portrait

In his book “The Great House of God” Max Lucado takes us on a tour of God’s house based on the Lord’s Prayer. Each line of the prayer is assigned a room and the first room he takes us to is the living room, the place to go when your heart needs a father.


As women, we do not need much encouragement to imagine what this living room looks like, though surely it is different for each of us. Some imagine a masculine room with leather chairs while others think of a rustic lodge with the smell of pine in the air while for yet another it is frilly and girly. One item is common, no matter what d├ęcor you see. There is a portrait that hangs above the fireplace. This portrait is one of a father, son and the love of his life. We can only see the back of the lady as the son has her hand pressed to his lips, his eyes dancing with delight as he looks upon her. Actually this portrait captures the last scene of what has been a fantastic party. Yes, this was the party of a lifetime. Mere hours before this moment was captured, this party was beginning and the excitement was building to nearly a frenzy. A very important man, a king, had arrived with his son to choose a bride, a lady worthy to be called a princess. As the party begins there are many people in attendance. Each one is wearing their finest clothes and giving the best of what they own as gifts to please this father, this king. Desperate to be the chosen one, each dances so that their feet seem to float instead of touching the ground. Each one sings songs of adoration, louder than the next one. Everyone, however, is oblivious to the look in the father’s eyes as he and his son sit quietly, unmoved by the spectacle before them. There is one who is in attendance who is not singing or dancing and without her knowing it, the king spots her. Though she is not dancing her feet cannot remain still. She stays on the outskirts of the crowd. As the other guests dance and the crowd shifts, she catches a glimpse of the prince. Each time this happens and she sees him her breathing stops. Never has there been a more beautiful man, which only serves to make her more painfully aware of her ragged appearance. She has no fine clothing to wear and instead of rings on her fingers, she has torn nails and calluses from years of hard work. She feels out of place and is turning to leave the party when the unthinkable happens. As the crowd shifts again she catches sight of him and looks directly into his eyes. She feels as if she will faint. The king rises to his feet and commands the music to stop as she tries to get her feet to move to run away. The silence is deafening and the only sound she hears is that of her heart pounding wildly. Before she has time to realize what is happening, the father bids her to come. Her feet betray her and instead of running away, they take her closer to him, the prince. As the crowd parts she can hear the condemning whispers and comments from them. Still, she is powerless to stop. After what feels like an eternity she finds herself standing in front of the king and his son. The prince rises to his feet as his father announces to the crowd “This is the one for my son.” The prince reaches down, and as he presses his lips to her hand, he whispers, “Daddy, she’s beautiful.”

Do you recognize the lady in this portrait? You should, beloved, because she is you. Your Father loves and treasures you so much that He has hung a reminder of you in a place He where can admire the moment you came to His Son. He hung this portrait in a comfortable place that speaks of family and familiarity, a room that He readily invites you to join Him where He can love you as only He can. This room is always open to you, no matter the time of day, season of life or emotional state you find yourself in. He loves you so much that He is willing to be your Father on a moments notice. His arms are always open wide to and He longs to let you know how precious you are to Him. After all, you are the subject of His favorite portrait!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just For Me

When was the last time you did something with the intention of it being just for yourself? Something that nobody else may see, something that nobody else may even know about? As women we give of ourselves to everyone we know, whether it be at home, work, church, with friends, etc. Rarely do we give a second thought to doing a little something for someone we love with the sole purpose of bringing a smile to their faces. So why do we think the same should not apply to ourself? Too often we tend to think of it as selfish to give a little thought to ourself. This ought not be so! Begin today to make a conscience decision to do something just for yourself, with the sole purpose of putting a smile on your face. It may come in the form of brewing a cup of your favorite tea, making a fancy coffee creamer, or endulging in some dark chocolate. Maybe there is a project you've had in mind you would like to do for yourself. Get started! Whatever form it takes is different for each of us. The important thing is that we make that time for ourself and grab ahold of the mindset that it IS okay to do a little something just for me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Footsteps of Fall


Today's "how-to" is a super easy idea...one that is changable with each season so you'll be sure to get more mileage out of your footwear. (Okay, pun is intended....just couldn't help myself.) For this project, simply fill a pair of boots with play sand and insert leaves and flowers, etc., appropriate to the season. (For winter they'll hold evergreen limbs and holly berries.) Then set them on a stool by the front door and enjoy. No stool? No problem. Just set them on the floor of your porch. Do you have stairs leading up to the front porch/door? Put them on the steps. Just do whatever works best for your house. Oh, and did I mention how super easy this is? It actually took way longer to purchase the play sand and get it home than it did to put this project together. The other elements in this project all came from yard sales, making this as frugal as it is easy and cute. So next time you're out and about yard saling, or thrift shopping, keep your eyes open for boots...and when find a cute pair, think outside the box...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Cup of Ice

Recently, I observed a child of about three years of age walking along a beach with his grandmother. The day was glorious, the water cool enough to be refreshing and the humidity was still low. And there they were, slowly meandering along among the shells discovering little treasures as their journey down the beach progressed slowly. Each little wave brought squeals of delight while each perfectly selected shell caused his little eyes to shine. Grandma was in no hurry as she patiently and lovingly held this little boy’s hand. The goal was not to get far down the beach but to live in each moment with her grandson. All was going along smoothly for this pair until she let go of his hand and gave him her cup so he could take a drink. That’s when she lost him. With the cup halfway to his mouth his eyes saw the treasure of the day. ICE! Yes, ice, half-melted little pieces of nirvana floating around in water. At this moment the world around him ceased to exist. His little hand shot, as fast as it could, into the cup as it pulled out the prize and plopped it into his mouth. Water ran down his chin and dripped from his elbow as he repeated the procedure again and again. Grandma took a few steps, called him and he didn’t notice. Again, she took a few steps, called him and instead of joining her he continued reveling in his treat. Seeing he was not going with her, she walked back, and mess and all, scooped him up, kissing his little cheek while she was laughing. I absolutely could not take my eyes off the scene in front of me. Then it hit me why. This is exactly the way God desires to live with us. He wants to hold our hand as He guides us away from the big waves while allowing us to play in the little ones. He longs to show us little treasures along our path together. Other times He simply delights in observing us discover them for ourselves. When we need refreshing He has the perfect cup of water for us (see John 4:10). Unfortunately, we sometimes run ahead of Him, lag behind or take our own path completely happening upon a cup of something we have no business drinking. We do not necessarily even realize we’re doing heading in a direction without God. Each day there are many things, good things, demanding our time and attention. The times we live in right now are unsettling, to say the least. Worry has a tendency to creep in. Doubt can take over. Faith can fall through the cracks of our paths. However, Jesus tells us in Luke 18:17 (AMP): “Truly I say to you, whoever does not accept and receive and welcome the Kingdom of God like a child does shall not in any way enter it at all.” The New Living Translation reads: “I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.” What a simple solution to being in step with God daily, just having faith like a child. Let’s make a conscience decision each morning to look up at our Daddy with the wide-eyed joy of a child, choosing to trust Him in all He says and does, being faithful to get into His Word each day so we can discover the treasure He has waiting for each of us.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Away with the Boring Plastic Bag Holders/Dispensers!


For as much as they are enviromentally unfriendly, plastic grocery bags are a part of our lives. No matter how we feel about them we all end up with some. Our family tries to use the reusable shopping bags as much as possible but there are times we make an impromptu side trip to the grocery store or the material bags are just plain forgotten on a busy morning as we dash out the door. So having these plastic bags around is just a fact of life. However, we do not just throw them away once they've come to live with us. There are many uses for them but they can be unsightly to store until they are used. Yes, a holder can be bought at a retail store but they are, well, just plain boring. Run of the mill. What everyone else has. Until now! Making a unique holder/dispenser is only a few minutes away. And, you will have an original, one-of-a-kind holder/dispenser!

What you need to start with is either a toddler dress, shirt (child size) or over-alls (toddler size) with matching shirt. The size you'll use will depend upon the amount of bags you usually have on hand at any given time. Once you have selected an article of clothing, look at the bottom of what you have selected. This will determine how you will convert it to a holder/dispenser. If you choose over-alls, simply sew the legs closed, leaving the snap crotch open and hang with a shirt. (Also see above photo for an example.)


This flannel toddler shirt has the sleeves rolled up.

If a dress is more your style, you can either sew a casing and add elastic, like so:

1/2 inch elastic was used in the casing.

Or simple sew the bottom, leaving an opening in the center for dispension:


Same technique applies for a shirt:



This dress has two layers so the lining is sewn so that there is a center opening for dispension while the outer layer is untouched:


Here's another example of a fun way to transform over-alls:

A few stitches are used to hold the snap crotch closed.

Once you have the bottom sewn, simply hang it up and insert bags to begin use. It's just that easy!

*Some dresses have a large enough hem that a casing does not need to be sewn for elastic insertion. In this case, snip a few stitches, insert elastic and then sew the opening closed.

When making these the best place to hunt for the clothing you need is yard sales. The price per piece usually ranges anywhere from twenty-five cents to one dollar, making these a frugal choice. But, if you just cannot find the perfect match, style-wise, for your decor take customization a step further...sew a simple toddler sundress, putting casing and elastic along the bottom to finish it instead of a traditional hem. This way you have more control over the fabric choice(s). Buying a pattern and material while on sale keeps the cost lower if a custom sewn one is your choice. Either way you do it you end up with a super cute holder/dispenser that not only adds to your home but also makes a terrific gift idea! (Christmas is just around the corner....;))

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

Today's tip may not be earth-shattering news but by beginning to implement it in small steps it will become a normal way of looking at your time in the kitchen.

If anyone else's family is like mine, they love hot breakfasts. Really, who doesn't love pancakes? Muffins? Banana Nut Bread? Nothing thrills my crew more than waking up to something in the oven. Nothing thrills me less than getting up in the morning and cooking. Hello, mornings were made for coffee and that is the only part of being in the kitchen early in the day that makes me happy. So what's a mom to do? Many years ago I found that if I plan ahead and make a double, triple, or quadrouple batch of pancakes, muffins, etc., and then freeze them it keeps both my family and myself happy. Now this does take up a bit of time to do this and I have found, for me, it is best to designate some time in an afternoon to this activity.  However, the reward of having the family's favorite homemade pancakes, etc., in the freezer plus the time saver each morning is so worth the time it takes to make a larger amount. We just pop the frozen pancakes or muffins in the microwave until thawed and warmed.

Another breakfast food I have found that freezes well is cooked bacon. We buy it in bulk and I usually pull out the electric skillet and fry several pounds while making pancakes on the griddle. When a recipe calls for crumpled bacon I simple grab a few pieces and break them up while still frozen and throw them in. It tastes the same as fresh cooked with thawed.

This technique of cooking and freezing for later use also spills over into other foods for us as well. Rare is the time I brown just a single pound of ground beef, make a single meatloaf or only enough meatballs for one meal. Why waste the time and energy to only cook a small amount? **Something to keep in mind when freezing cooked meat is that it is okay to thaw fresh meat, cook it and then refreeze it but you never, ever want to thaw cooked meat and then refreeze it. Once a cooked meat has been frozen and thawed it all needs to be consumed.**

Also rare is the time I only make a single casserole. Most casseroles are assembled with already cooked ingredients. So when making them I will make two or three, only put one in the oven then pop the other(s) in the freezer for later use. They get wrapped snug and tight and labeled. This has saved us from hitting a resturaunt many days when a snafu has happened and there was nothing for supper. We simply place a frozen casserole in the oven, then turn the oven on, letting the casserole thaw and then get all warm and bubbly. In the past I've also planned ahead when there is an upcoming day/time that I know it will be more convenient to just pop in the oven.

The process of cooking to freeze does take a little planning, but once you get the hang of it it will just happen naturally and the benefits far outweigh the effort that goes into it. Remember, just a little planning goes a long way!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

CHOICES

Choices. We make them every day, every moment we are awake. Some choices are easy, some are tough but no matter which way one looks at it, a choice always has to be made. The question is: by whose standard do you base your choice upon? There are times we are faced with a choice that we do not have a set precedent for. Other times we have a history, even if it is not our own, to guide our decision. One of the wisest choices we can make is to learn from the past, as Paul writes in 1 Cor 10:11 (NLT), “All these events happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us, who live at the time when this age is drawing to a close.” One of the events spoken of by Paul can be found in Num 21:5-6. To put it in a nutshell, the people were grumbling about God’s provision because, basically, they were tired of the manna. It does not take much of an imagination to think they had to be grateful and joyful when it first fell from Heaven but somewhere along the way their attitude changed. Could it be that envy crept in? Envy can, and often does, creep in silently, unannounced. In its most basic form, envy is a heart condition and when left unchecked, moves to become a thought process that then produces incorrect actions. Simply defined, envy is a desire for some advantage or possession belonging to another. Envy can manifest itself in different degrees and even a little envy is harmful. Therefore, we must be careful to guard our hearts and minds against the smallest, most seemingly harmless thoughts. Who has ever compared their life to another’s? Who has ever compared their family to another family? So why do we find it easier to think our lives would be better if we were more like someone else, forgetting along the way that it is God who sends provision for each day? His grace is sufficient for us but still we tend to that it is only a part time offer, forgetting to focus on the power of God that works best through our weakness. 2 Cor 12:9 (Amplified) tells us: “But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you, sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in your weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!” We do well to remember, like Paul, that we do not need to rely on our own strength and power for any situation we find ourselves in. Neither do we get to passively envy those who seemingly have fewer struggles than we do. God’s grace helps us bear the troubles. Each one of us will find ourselves in a day of turmoil, but instead of making the choice to look around, let’s choose to look to our God and remember His promise to us in Romans 8:28 (Amplified), “We are assured and know that with God being a partner in their labor, all things work together and are fitting into a plan for good to and for those who love God and are called according to His design an purpose.” By holding onto God’s Word, we can choose freedom from a life filled with envy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Clothespin Bag Tutorial

Bag made with a girl's shirt with open arms.
While doing the most mundane of daily tasks we should not be stuck using products that are merely utilitarian in nature. They should make us feel good about using them, even though we may not feel good about doing our chores. Case in point, clothespin bags. These are super easy to make and so cute they make you smile. Trust me. You will.
For this tutorial there will not be step-by-step pictures as I think the instructions are easy enough to follow without them.
Start with a button up toddler shirt. (The size shirt depends upon the size of your family. For a larger family, use a larger shirt. Just two of you? Use a smaller one.) Hitting local yard sales is the best way to acquire these unless you have a toddler who's outgrown some clothes.
First, button the shirt up and sew it together up to the third or fourth button from the top. This step depends upon the size of the shirt you choose. Do what works best.
Then, turn the shirt inside out and sew the bottom together. If the bottom of the shirt is straight just sew it together. If not, use a ruler to draw a straight line and sew along the line then trim the extra off.
You may then choose to sew the arms shut, or not, it is up to you. I have done bags both ways, arms shut or arms open. Either way just depends upon the shirt you use.


This is how a finished bag looks inside out.
For the sewing, I do recommend using a serger, if you have one. Otherwise, sew along the bottom a few times for a stronger seam and then finish the raw edges with a zig-zag stitch upon trimming the excess shirt off. 
Turn the shirt right side out, insert a hanger and fill with clothespins!
Completed bag from a boy's toddler shirt.

Now, should girlie looking things be more you, just use a girl's shirt OR a toddler dress. Dresses that button up the back are ideal but those with a large enough neck will work, too. Or use a cute overall style dress. 

Back view of a bag made from a dress.


Front view of the same bag, though the flash shows this view
with the true color of the dress.

With a little creativity, the sky is the limit with these. Should you find a long sleeve shirt that you love? Cut the sleeves off. Pajama set that is way too cute? Sew the top and bottoms together then sew the legs closed. You get the idea.

Now you may be saying to yourself "What a good idea, IF only I hung laundry outside." Well, let's think outside of the box again. One could be used for sock storage for a toddler/child. My mother uses the one I made for her to store the little bits of ribbon she accumlates from completed projects. They'd make great little overnight bags for Grandma's house. Hang one in the kitchen to hold dishclothes, or in the bathroom to hold washclothes. The list could go on and on. Basically, these bags can have as many different uses as you have need...AND they also make great, unique gifts. (Think Christmas)

Once you have completed your own bag, I'd love to hear from you...and do share a photo, please!




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