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!




Friday, September 10, 2010

Wow the Kids in Your Life with Jello

The younger generation is accustomed to more store bought items these days than having them homemade. It always amazes them when Mom, or Grandma, can make something they previously thought could only be purchased already put together. So why not wow the kids in your life with some homemade jello and fruit cups this weekend? We all know and love those yummy little treats (especially those of us who want a little sweetie without carrying a lot of calories with it) and they are one of the easiest things to make. Enlist the kids and it's a family event! Plus, making these at home are half the price AND you get to choose the fruit/jello combo. Now for the first batch of these there will be a slightly higher cost if you do not already own the small half-cup (or cup) size plastic storage containers. At our local retailer the Glad brand is $2.88 for 8 half-cup containers. Once you have your containers all you do is fill them as little or as much as you want with fruit. (If you choose to fruit that is sliced, you will want to cut it into small pieces. Something like fruit cocktail or pineapple tidbits are ready to go right in.) *When you open your can of fruit, reserve the liquid.* Use this when adding the cold water to the jello. (Ex: if your can yields 1/2 cup liquid, add 1/2 cup cold water to it when adding it to the jello.) This just makes for a yummier jello as most fruit can be purchased canned in juice. Prepare your jello and pour it over the top. Place the cups into the fridge to set and that's it. I have found that one can of fruit and one box of jello will fill either 8 half-cup or 4 cup size containers.
This breaks down, cost-wise as follows: for store brand fruit and jello, $1.36 for 8 half-cups homemade while a four-pack of the ready made store variety is $1.68 for only 4 smaller cups. For the name brand fruit and jello, $1.86 and $2.00, respectively.
Note, these do need to stay refrigerated so if you pack them in a lunch (for school or work) you will want to be using an insulated lunch bag.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Choosing Our Battles Wisely

The following letter is from the book “His Princess: Love Letters from Your King” by Sheri Rose Shepherd. Take a few minutes to let God's words soak in. Then, let's purpose to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in our lives so we do not allow our enemy to distract us into fighting the wrong battles!

My Princess…Choose Your Battles

Every day can be a fight for something or with someone if you so choose. I want you, My princess warrior, to choose your battles wisely, and fight for the things worth fighting for. There are so many things that stand against you in the battlefield, and there are so many worthy causes. But the enemy of your soul will entice you to fight the wrong battles in order to distract you from your main mission. Remember, My beloved, your fight is not against flesh and blood, but against evil forces in the spiritual realm. When you find yourself in the midst of a war, do not be afraid. Call on Me in prayer and allow Me to deliver you. In My timing, I will give you the victory and bring justice to the afflicted. So don’t waste your time fighting the wrong battles. And never forget that the spiritual war is fought –and won- on your knees.
Love,
Your Warrior King

For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. Deut 20:4

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Welcome!

Welcome to my new adventure!
As seasons of life come and go I have found myself in one where I am content, happy, and satisfied to be a homemaker. My mind never stops which usually spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e for my patient husband. He would rather spend his days fishing while I have a need to create stuff. But not just any stuff. Useful stuff. Nothing thrills me more than taking an item, seeing it in a different way and repurposing it into something else. Most of the items I use are gathered while yard saling. Some are found on the side of the road. All come out with a new life and use. And I like to share what I've learned. Thus, the purpose of this blog. The goal here is not to have a *brag blog* where I write all about my life and family (hate those!) but instead to serve as encouragement for others to make things useful to their home, glorify God in the way we serve our families, and share tidbits of wisdom along the way. Each week there'll be three to five postings that will include tutorials, recipes, organizational ideas, frugal tips, devotionals, etc., etc. What the postings will be will depend upon what God prompts me to share. For above all else, this must serve His purposes or it is all for nothing.
So, this ends the post where I talk the most about myself and begins this new journey of blogging. May you be blessed as you take this journey with me.
~Betsy
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