Thursday, December 23, 2010

Inspirational Quote

"We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails."
-Bertha Calloway

I don't know about you but with only two more days until Christmas I am feeling a bit stressed. Thinking I will get all the stuff done on my list before now and then will only happen when pigs fly. I have decided to re-adjust my sails. Slow down and enjoy my step son who had me laughing and doubled over in Home Depot last night. Enjoy my baby who can sit up from a reclined position now all on his own. And enjoy my husband being home for some quality time. What I get done. I get done.

Merry Christmas.
Quote is courtesy of

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hope for a Family

One of our advent activities this year is to sponsor a child.
  • To impact circumstances in someone else's life.
  • To show God's love and acceptance.
  • To be an active example of compassion to my children and others.
In some cases the decision to sponsor is the easy part. The number of child sponsorship charities out there is bewildering. Its tough to know which to choose. While doing my personal research I found an amazing site that ranks charities. I know that sounds a bit weird to rank charities but seriously, we need to know where our money is going.

Click Here to Become an AIP Member and Get Your Charity Rating Guide

After some clicking and reading, I think we are going to be sponsoring through the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging.

Hope for a family

94% of the money donated goes directly to your child, not a general fund, but the exact child you sponsor.You will recieve at least 2 letter a year as well as an updated picture. CFCA suggests you also write to encourage your friend. Even trips are arranged for you to meet your child. Like other sponsor sites, it allows you to search by birth date or gender. Unlike so many others it also offers you the option to sponsor the aging or even the possibility of your donation benefiting an entire family!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Using What You Got: Re-potting Rosemary

Well it seems to be "one of those days" for me and my baby. He needs me and that is all there is to it so I am putting aside my crushing desire to get Christmas stuff done. Along with the design to clean my house until it shines and sit in a rocking chair holding my sleeping baby. I guess that isn't so bad.

I thought I would post about using what you got, which I do a lot of. There is only so much stuff my tiny house can hold and only so much money in the pocket book. At the very end of summer, a neighbor came over and gave us a bunch of raggedy plants she had been given that was going to be thrown in the trash. It consisted of two beat up Rosemary plants that were never planted and a bunch of Spanish onions.

The onions got planted and will hopefully make it to spring and the Rosemary... well they sat upside down for a week or two blown over by the wind. Then another couple in the shade and some with no water on my outdoor swing with a water proof awning. I finally decided I better do something with them just before our first really snow and brought them in.

I love terrariums and beautiful potted plants but my house is fairly low light for growing much indoors. I thought it was a long shot to re-pot the Rosemary but worth it since they were free. Here is how I did it:

Found two "vases" I liked. Found potting soil in garage. Found "grit" for chickens. Found two beat up Rosemary plants.

Place towel or newspaper down on surface to protect it from a major mess. Get your dirt ready. Get your plant ready and start filling around the plant with dirt. Pack the dirt down because there will be settling. I added a bit of water for that process to help.

Add some "grit" to the top of the dirt to make it look "pretty". Find a sunny spot, water regularly and hope the poor, beat up transplants make it.

Guess what! They have new growth already. I am so thrilled that I might plant some of my other herbs early to have for winter cooking. You can also buy (fairly cheaply) potted herbs at your grocery store and re-pot those as you wish. My local Marc's has basil, cilantro, and parsley for about $3.00 each.

How do you use what you have?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Giving: Samaritan's Purse Gift Catalog

At this point Christmas is 9 days away! Yes, 9 days. Maybe you have those last hard to give to people on your shopping list and you are completely stumped for ideas. Maybe you are like me and have an important family member who can't afford to give gifts this year and so refuses to receive them. Or maybe you are looking for some charity to donate to. An inspiration to your family to remind them to give generously to those less fortunate and as we all know those less fortunate are growing swiftly all around us.

Check out this year's Samaritan's Purse Gift Catalog. I have received this catalog in the mail for years and I have donated in the past. This year though I am finally stepping out and using it for gift giving in addition to donating. I would be honored if in lieu of gift(s) people would donate to a cause in this catalog that they know I care about so I hope others feel the same. This would be money well spent and that would perhaps leave a lasting legacy of good to my fellow men (women, children).

In addition, as I posted earlier this week regarding my WRING acronym, a gift donation was part of our families "holiday spirit" and we chose two causes that really hit close to home for 2010.

"The birth of a child should be a cause for celebration, but many women in developing countries are filled with fear as the big event approaches. Tragically, hundreds of young mothers and thousands of newborns die every day from preventable causes. With proper training and equipment, a Christian birth attendant can save countless lives and reach young families with the Good News of God’s love. A gift can provide specialized instruction, basic obstetric supplies, or even antiviral medicine to protect newborns from contracting HIV from their mothers." - Catalog Quote

This year I was pregnant and had a child! I could rest assured, having excellent care and plenty of information to learn from. Our family wanted to reach out to women who didn't have that assurance.

"Without an education, this little Sri Lankan boy was probably doomed to a life of hard labor, hunger, and hopelessness. Around the globe, Samaritan’s Purse helps thousands of children like this through a variety of education and literacy projects that bring hope to impoverished communities and offer local believers an effective means of sharing the Gospel. A gift can provide a month’s tuition or school supplies, enabling an eager student to learn of Jesus Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3, NIV)." - Catalog Quote

This year the importance of an education has also been a theme. Not only have I started to think about what I want my newborn son to learn, where I want him to learn, etc. I have had the joy of watching him discover the world via fun classes at the library and at home in play.

I can rest assured that I can teach him to read and write if there were no other educational opportunities for him (but of course there are). In addition, my step son has struggled with issues at school and watching him deal with those struggles raises the awareness as to how important an education really is to the future of an individual. So our family decided that helping a child to read and write was so very important.

Perhaps you will find the perfect gift for those you love in this catalog too.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

One of those days...

Christmas is barely a week away. I've gotten half (ok, not even half) of my shopping-slash-homemade stuff done. The boys have had two snow days this week which means the house has brief moments of neatness but mostly we are living in one big craft/play area. Laundry is on "bare necessities" mode until the gifts are done. And supper has been either the giant roasted turkey or seemingly bottomless pot of chili in the fridge. To top this off, I have a teething baby. A baby who only wants her mama. Thanks to her and her four older siblings, through teething I have learned to make supper with one hand, to recite a library of children's books by memory and how a warm bath can improve any baby mood.

But I know that soon those teeth will be in.

Soon she'll be too big for baths in the sink.

Soon no one will care that I know "goodnight moon" by heart.

There will always be sinks of dishes and baskets of laundry but my baby will soon no longer be a baby! I want to appreciate her and let her know through my actions that I love her... and her inquisitive-to-the-point-of-annoying sister and so-messy-it-hurts brothers. So I'm sure as you are reading this the girls and I are cuddled on the couch reading the same book for the billionth time... and I'm lovin' every minute!

Christmas Giving: W.R.I.N.G.

I don't know how most of you feel about gift giving at Christmas time and I am not against giving gifts but there are times where the materialism that surrounds Christmas just overwhelms me. Christmas is a historically a Christian holiday. Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, God's gift to the world. A gift that no one can surpass. Then there is the ultimate gift of Jesus giving his life for us and the wise men who traveled long and far to give expensive gifts to Jesus, the Son of God. Clearly gifts aren't a bad thing. Now whether you celebrate Christmas as a Christian holiday or a secular one you may still wish to impart more meaning to your gifts than just buying the biggest big screen TV you can or can't afford.

I have long ago, prior to the current "recession", decided to living a life more intentionally. But living intentionally can be easier said than done especially if you share your finances with other people. Growing up I distinctly remember the J.C. Penny's Wish Book arriving and fighting with my brother to look at it. I would earmark the pages with presents I was dying to receive and feeling fully justified in wanting. Most of those presents involved expensive horse related toys because everything to do with horses is expensive, toys or not, and I was horse CRAZY. I don't really recall getting many of the toys I so eagerly earmarked but I never had a terrible Christmas. My mother and father worked hard to instill the "real" reason for Christmas into my greedy little heart.

My 91 year old Grandmother tells a story of how during the Great Depression an orange was the Christmas gift that she received. An ORANGE. The fruit many of you have in your refrigerator right now. Now I don't know about you, but I can give my son more than an orange, even if it meant pulling out the credit card, right? But is that the lesson I want my son to learn? Is that the tradition I want him to have growing up? It certainly doesn't apply to living intentionally.

OK. So I made up the acronym WRING. Wear, Read, Indulgence, Need, Give. After a session of my family sitting down at the kitchen table to go through the Sunday paper ads and "circling" what they want and my step son mentioning how he would like a drum set, "even though they usually go used for like $600." I decided it was necessary to put some guidelines on gift giving. So we will be keeping our categories down to four types of gifts to receive.

Something to wear, practical or trendy. Something to read, a book or magazine subscription. Something to indulge ourselves (something we want), fill in the blank (within reason). And something we need, this should be something we would die without to actually fill a "need" but lets just say it will be something to make our lives better. Then there is another element. Besides giving gifts, many of which we are making, we are giving money to a charity or cause we believe in. I would love for this idea of giving of time and money to grow and the idea of needing to receive to grow smaller. Let's face it. We aren't rich but we have soooo much!!!

Now my family can stop madly "circling" the ads and get on with the meaning of Christmas. I look forward to developing other meaningful Christmas traditions as our family grows and I will keep you posted on our success along with some of the wonderful gifts that have been made.

What do you do to live intentionally during the Christmas Season? How do you keep your gift giving and gift wishing under control?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Supporting Local this Christmas

I live in a very small town. There are only three traffic lights (if you count the blinking one at the four way stop!) Our town tries to have a little bit of everything. We have one nice restaurant, one flower shop, one coffee house, one health food store... you get the point, and they are all locally owned. Buying locally means supporting neighbors and friends. It helps support your community by keeping more of your money in the economy and reduces transportation costs as well as the pollution associated with that. Not to mention there is not nearly as long check-out lines! Two years ago, I challenged myself to buy all Christmas gifts local. It was probably the most stress free and enjoyable holiday shopping I've ever had!

Essence Maker sign front

One local business that Lauren and I are HUGE fans of is Essence Maker! Tracy has been making soaps and other sweet smelling aromatherapy body care since 1998. She knows all about the chemistry and herbs that go into making her healing products. Her handmade soaps are gorgeous and her packaging is beautiful. I especially love her hand and foot salve. She will even come and set up shop at your place so all your friends can come over and try out her stuff! And if you have at least 8 friends, you earn some of her amazing stuff for free. Merry Christmas to YOU!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas morning scones

First let me say that these wonderful scones are by no means only to be enjoyed on Christmas morning... they are also super for lazy Saturday's, afternoon tea with the girls and well... right this very moment! So simple and quick, try to find a reason NOT to make 'em!

Cranberry-Orange Scones

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 1 stick butter (I used Earth Balance)
  • fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup orange juice (or milk)

  1. Preheat oven to 400*
  2. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda into a large bowl. Stir in orange peel. Add butter and rub with your fingers until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Mix in chopped cranberries*. Gradually add liquid, tossing with fork until moist clumps form.
  3. Now its time to really get your hands dirty! Turn the dough over in the bowl until it begins to bind together. Its going to be sticky, its supposed to be! Form dough into rounds just slightly smaller than the palm of your hand. Transfer rounds to a baking sheet, spacing two inches apart, because these things get big!
  4. Bake until tops of scones are golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. Let stand on baking sheet for 10 minutes.
  5. Serve scones warm or room temperature with honey butter and a hot tea!

* I add three handfuls of cranberries chopped in my Pampered Chef chopper. Don't have one? No biggie. In my pre-Pampered Chef years this recipe still succeeded when I coarsely chopped them with a big knife!

I love to have this dough on hand. I make a bunch and then stick it in the fridge until guests arrive or I just need an afternoon treat!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Keeping Up

Well its already day nine into our first advent calendar and I wanted to let you know what a HUGE success this has been in our house! I'll admit that I was pretty excited to start a new tradition but kind of nervous too. I wasn't sure if all the kids would go for it and if the excitement would ware off after they realized there were no "treats" like other advent calendars, but every morning there are still smiles and a mini contest to be the one to find that day's number first!

The first night was the most important. We dedicated a manger for baby Jesus. It is set in a place in the center of the house where we are constantly reminded of why we celebrate this season. Each time the kids do something helpful or compassionate, they are rewarded with a packing peanut to place in the manger. The idea is to fill baby Jesus' manger with packing peanuts so that by Christmas morning He has somewhere nice to sleep. It seems silly but this kids are really into it.

The second night we did a paper chain that counts down the days until Christmas. I also had the kids think of people from school to pray for and added names to the chain so each day we can also pray for someone at supper.

Since I needed 24 activities to fill the cones and I knew that some nights projects like the first two would be nearly impossible, I tried to make some less time consuming. So I printed out my list and cut it into thin strip and sat in front of my calendar. I coordinated days that were busy with small activities like "dressing in red and green" or "make eggnog" and saved "have the kids help plan and make supper" and "do santa puzzles and talk about St. Nicholas" for nights that were empty. And of course, I cheat and peek every night to see what we are going to do tomorrow. Hey, I'm the mom and I can do those things!

The one thing I am totally failing on here is the daily scripture. We are at about 50% which by anyones standards is failing. Hopefully with this blogging guilt, err.. accountability, I can bring that way up!

I think their favorite things so far were "decorating beds with Christmas lights"(Eden's are pink, of course!) and "making (gluten free) gingerbread cookies." My favorites have been "dressing fancy for supper"(and even getting the kids some sparking grape juice to make it extra fancy!) and "making and hanging paper snowflakes!" Its been an absolute blast and we still have 16 days to go! Gosh, does that mean there are only 17 days until Christmas?!? Guess that means I need to put this computer to bed and get working on my homemade gifts...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

i Heart Faces Challenge: Self Portrait

weekly challenge: self-portrait

I am not a "photographer" and I don't have a nice camera but I thought it would be fun to take a picture because I do take tons of pictures. I thought of my life as a mother and how while I am many things, "mother" is my primary function and job. I sometimes have to pause and remind myself just how much value being a mother to my son and step mother to my step son really is.

This is my favorite spot and time with my baby boy. His room. His changing pad and the mirror on the wall. So so many smiles and happy memories. It was quite a challenge getting me and him in the picture via the mirror. I was pretty pleased with this shot.

Check out the other LOVELY photographs at

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How To: Cloth Diapers

OK. This isn't Christmas or Christmas related but I want to keep good on a promise to a friend and explain how I use cloth diapers. Now Jackie is the real "Pro" at cloth diapers. She has been diapering for 10 years and for 5 children. I have only been using cloth diapers for a couple of months for my first child, but it is easy and definitely saves money.

Wade was small for a long time and we received lots of Huggies Pure and Natural disposable diapers, so until 3 and 1/2 months Wade wore disposables. He still wears disposables at night time (a generic brand) because he is such a heavy wetter, but I hope to be transferring him soon into cloth at night as well. When you look at the price of a case of disposable diapers not to mention the large amount of trash they create you can see why cloth diapers can be appealing.

Now my grandmothers and my mother used cloth diapers but their options weren't as numerous as today's. You used a cloth diaper, a safety pin, and a plastic pull up cover. Done. Honestly, as confused as I was looking at all the options out there when it comes down to it, cloth diapers is the same then as now. The covers are just fancier and sometimes the cover and the diaper are one and sometimes the cover and the diaper is separate.

I was blessed to inherit some covers and so influencing the system I used. I received 6 medium sized covers and liners of the gDiaper brand. Now gDiapers could be one of the more expensive cloth diapering systems if you buy their gCloth and gRefills. Don't worry about any of that. Here is how I diaper:

Infant size Chinese Prefold cloth diaper, gDiaper liner, gDiaper cover
1. Rather than spend the money on the gDiaper brand items (other than the covers and liners) I used eBay and purchased 24 Chinese Prefold Diapers. Total cost was $30.00 (shipping was free). I do think that I will purchase 24 more around Christmas/New Years, but I have already seen my return on investment.
2. I received as a hand-me-down (I LOVE hand-me-downs) 6 medium covers & some well worn liners which saw me through until Wade turned 5 months old (he got big quick!). I purchased a bundle from gDiapers of 6 large covers and 6 liners for a total of around $80.00 including shipping.
3. I then purchase 6 addition liners on sale at a price of $14.99 for a total of $20.00 with shipping. That gave me 12 new liners and 6 old ones, several of which I ended up throwing out because they were so worn they had holes.

Once you are get comfortable at diapering you will need more cloth diapers and liners than covers. But getting used to diapering I needed to wash my covers more. I really don't go through covers very quickly at this point at all and liners don't need to be changed at every diaper change unless they are soiled or stinky.

Chinese Prefold folded into "thirds" and cover with liner snapped in.
Wash your prefolds a bunch before using because they shrink and make sure you buy infant size! The prefolds are still large for the liners but it ends up working out well for "padding up front" where Wade needs it.

Side view of how I fold over the extra diaper in the front
Diaper ready to put on baby
Last but not least what to do with dirty diapers...

I use a simple bag system but will probably be moving them to a trash can with lid in the future. The wet diapers simply get put into the bag. The soiled diapers are rinsed off in the toilet and then put in the bag. When I am running low on diapers I dump all the dirty diapers in my washer. Add some organic laundry soap and turn on the hot water wash cycle. I do add an extra rinse but to this type of laundry ONLY. This is also the only laundry I wash with hot or even warm water. Then line dry the liners and covers and if you have time the cloth diapers.

You have a happy baby and clean diapers ready to go again!

Heifer International : Give a Goat..or a chicken...

Eden going to collect eggs this past summer

Being a farmer (I use that term loosely) raising animals are part of our daily family chores. My kids know where our hamburgers and eggs come from on a first hand basis. I realize that in the United State our way of life seems uncommon but in most parts of the world its the way to ensure provisions for your family. This is why I love the giving through Heifer International. The whole idea behind Heifer is similar to the biblical story of how it is better to teach a man to fish so he can feed himself for a lifetime rather than just giving him a fish that will provide him with a single meal. Heifer International gives families a source food, such as livestock or seeds, rather than short-term relief. Families are educated on the care of their animals or seeds and then encouraged to pay it forward to another family when their animals or seeds reproduce. In this way, a single donation to a family can drastically effect an entire community. Wow! Shopping is fun at Heifer International, with so many options and levels of giving. You can "buy" a goat ($120) or a share of a goat ($10). A flock of ducks is only $20! I could easily see a business forgoing exchanging gifts in the workplace and instead buying the gift of an ark (15 pairs of animals sent all over the world to change lives!)

Goat Donation

After all, sometimes all a child needs to be healthy and happy.... is a goat!

ending hunger, caring for the earth

And its not just a Christmas thing either. You can volunteer, visit, learn, and even do fundraising though Heifer International!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ten Thousand Villages

I have been shopping online for Christmas gifts for years. But not just gifts to fill a need but gifts to support a cause and make a difference.
This company guarantees its artisans a fair price for labor and supplies, a long term relationship between itself and the artisan, and that their products are environmentally responsible using local and/or recycled materials. Those are not easy promises to keep while keeping products marketable and prices affordable. But they are and they do! Underneath each item is the craft group responsible for its creation. Its great to see a face for the people you are supporting.

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