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Category Archives: Homemaking

IMG_2227Once again I find myself searching.  Reading, learning and taking it all in.  Trying to choose the best possible fit for our lifestyle  of learning in our home.  We desire to create an environment where learning  is natural, enjoyable, and woven into our daily lives.  I have recently enjoyed learning more about the methods of Charlotte Mason.  I found a wonderful video series on you tube that goes through and explains her thoughts behind her method and most importantly, her heart.  I am finding that if I can keep developing myself as a teacher, I gain more vision and enthusiasm for teaching my children.  I hope to use this blog a bit more as well.  Hopefully to encourage you to desire a closer relationship with God, a stronger marriage, and to pursue a legacy for your children.  You can look forward to more menu postings and posts about huge freezer cooking days.  Also, a journey through our home school curricula choices, and maybe even some book reviews.

With my new-found love for anything written about Charlotte Mason, I have been devouring books written on her life as a teacher and her dreams for children.  While cooking dinner I have listened to many speakers explain methods of gentle instruction leading to a desire in children to learn more.  For them to have the ability to read wonderful literature and to fill our home with quality choices of reading, art and musical choices. That sounds lovely now, doesn’t it.  I have visions of my children siting on a hillside, with their tablet open.  Nature study at it’s best, painting a beautiful flowering field, or nesting bird.  In the “real world” of our lives, we have paint splatters, crackers on the hardwood floors, books strung across the room by toddlers,  and days that are just too cold to go outside.  But, we have the paint on the brushes, and classical music.  We have joy, we have laughter, and prayers going up for those we are painting the pictures for.   An environment where learning is natural, enjoyable and woven into our daily lives.  that I can count as a success…..for today.

047Monday morning again. The rush…rush, hurry, rush. Get up and quickly. Ready for school, no time for stopping to smell any sort of roses. Pulling through the drive of the school, a prayer said aloud over these precious children God has trusted me with. And there’re off.

Until it is time once again, to wake a sleeping baby, blushed cheeks and puckered face. Load up the van, and off we go. To bring them home again, hurry. Home with these gifts, gifts to love and pour into. But there just isn’t enough time. Homework, supper, showers and prayers. And all to quickly they are blushed cheeks and pucker faced….snuggled in for the night, sleeping away the exhaustion from the race. The race of the day. But what were we racing for. Why such a hurry?

It was this daily routine that caused us to peruse the journey of homeschooling. The very thought frightened me. I always joked that if I homeschooled all my children would know how to do I was cook, bake, clean and garden. And not to mention the fact that my wardrobe consisted of zero denim jumpers and I could not imagine lining my entire home with bookcases and pencil boxes.

but God called out strong

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

deuteronomy 6:4-9

This verse has been our “family verse”. It is a call to parents as to how they can train their children. It begins with acknowledging who God is and for us as parents to love Him with our everything. We then are commanded to keep them on our hearts and impress them on our children. This passage tells us to do life with our kids. To teach them as we go, the things that are on our hearts. To talk with them and walk together. There is no mention of running, hurry or quick-before the bell rings…..sigh. So this my friends is the main reason we chose this journey. We find daily many other Blessings along the way, but this was the main fuel to our craziness.

It was a hard decision, as we loved the teachers and staff so dearly at the public charter school our children attended. Now I could go on a rant here about how my heart breaks for these amazing folks who would love to just sit down and teach children to read and write and so on, but they feel so trapped by state regulated testing for funding…..but I won’t waste your time…..the truth is those teachers love my kids, and our family. And we still miss them dearly…..tough decision.

I still have my moments, while brewing a fresh cup of java….wondering what I have gotten myself into. I must be hot-mess crazy! And then I notice the joy, and the growth….and the cursive writing, and the sounding out of words, and the cuddling up with a good, thick book and I could go on and on. So I may still lack a jumper or two…but I do see a few more bookcases creeping in our home decor. And oh the cookies, the cookies my children will bake. Bake with me, in our kitchen. On a Tuesday morning, with a candle burning, and bed head. What joy that brings my soul.

Christmas.  Cookie baking, tree trimming, fancy-meal preparing, joy giving, and merry-making.  Christmas.  I do love Christmas, but I must admit…it has not always been such a joy to celebrate.  In our first few years of marriage we struggled to keep up with it all.  The parties, the traditions, and the expectations.  I had it in my mind that everything had to be just perfect, otherwise no one would have any fun.  I also felt as though I had to keep up every tradition that my family, and even other families held….even if we did not enjoy the tradition at all.

Oh, it has been a battle…..to simplify.  We are a family of purpose, and because of that we needed to celebrate with purpose, not just celebrate the way “it has always been done”.  So, with careful consideration, we have eliminated many things that just added stress and pressure to our family.  I am not going to tell you how you should celebrate, but I will give you a little insight to how we came to the conclusion of Simplicity in our Christmas celebration.

Now we have finally established some traditions that we absolutely love!

Parties-I like casual, sweet, often last minute thrown-together parties ( I find the longer they are planned the more I feel I need to prepare and fret over every detail).  I love to cook, so a delicious Portobello-Cranberry Brisket with mashed potatoes and a lovely Christmas salad are fun to prepare for Christmas Eve.  But not every party needs an elaborate spread, and if for some reason the meal does not turn out it is never worth loosing my temper over.  It is just dinner..we always have crackers, cheese and summer sausage on hand during the Holidays to quickly remedy a new recipe-gone bad!  Think about it, the last party that you were at and the host lost her cool, you wanted to run to the nearest exit…awkward…no fun!

We also have simplified the amount of parties we attend.  Just because we are invited, does not mean we should overload our family schedule.

Our family also loves to invite others to join our family for the festivities.  There have been a few years that we have invited folks who lived states away from relatives.  They are so grateful to be able to celebrate with others when they are missing those who are far away.

Gifts- We try to give 3….yup 3. Christ was given 3 by the Magi….so 3 it is for our kiddos too.  Some years this has worked out great, others we end up with more…but I love that our kids don’t expect piles and piles of loot on Christmas morning.  They usually receive one complete outfit and 2 other gifts. Their gifts are fun, well thought out and personalized just for them.  I know some may be thinking….only 3 gifts.  We have never heard a complaint though…not from our kids.

Santa- Ok, here it is!  We don’t do Santa.  I have had several thoughts over the years on why I am opposed to doing Santa for our kids.  From the whole “how do you tell your kids to believe in Santa, then tell them to believe in God…oh but later tell them Santa is not real..but God is..oh and the Easter bunny”..ugh.  To the fact that we as parents have worked hard to provide these gifts for our children, we have pinched pennies, took time to shop, and wrapped them neatly for them.  I would rather our kiddos value that we gave them a gift and not some guy in a red suit….but that’s just me 😉   ( Please note that I do not pass judgement on others who do Santa for their kiddos..I am not a “Santa-hater” I think this is a personal choice for each family to make…like whether to decorate in red and green, or silver and blue…whatever is your thing)

We make cookie dough to freeze as gifts…this is something that many people have come to expect from our family and they look forward to it come December.  I love finding new yummy kinds of cookies to try and naming them after the kiddos who love them most.  We have Levi Mac’s Cowboy Cookies, and Jaiden Leigh’s White Chocolate butterscotch Cookies just to name a couple.

We play games and watch Christmas movies all day on Christmas Day.  I do hope that our children look back on this day and have fond memories of snuggling under the blankets and watching a marathon of “The Santa Clause” movies.

One of our favorite traditions is a new one to our family.  Early on Christmas morning..I mean real early, like 6:30 early, we have a Julotta service at our church.  The entire morning is just breathtaking. From the walk over to the church in the crisp morning air, to the candlelight filling the sanctuary as we sing Silent Night….Just stunning.  I love that our focus is sparked so early in the morning to point us to the cross.  The whole reason for Christmas at all.

I pray the Christ will be your gift this Christmas Season…and your savior for all the days to come.

~Blessings

I have thought long and hard about this post…and I have put it off.  So sorry if this comes to your homes a little late this year, but I thought with Christmas right around the corner, and some of my dear friends ready to scream with insanity.. it was time to just bite the bullet and post it already…

Pressure…. expectations…..

We all feel them at times, whether they are said out loud, or things that we place on ourselves.

My house will never be clean enough..

My children will never be polite enough..

I will never be skinny enough..

I will never be organized enough..

smart enough, fast enough…..I could go on all day…

There are just people in our lives that we will never please.

This fall, I was at a retreat when I was given a lovely nugget of advice that has rocked my thought process.  It was as if I had never even thought I had such a choice.  The speaker simply said..

“There will always be people in your life that you will never be able to please, so what on earth are you to do?”

then she said it..

“Listen to yourself”….then accept what you have said, and move on.

“You said it..You will never please them..so stop trying, thinking that somehow you will eventually be able to change their heart toward you”

Really….I have that choice!  It was like I had never even realized that it was ok to not strive to please every whim of an expectation that was thrown my way!

I can, however change my heart.  To keep my heart focused on what matters.

God is the author of our lives.  He is the one we should be striving to please.  He orders our days.

You see, God has asked me to live out a very specific purpose.  It will not look like any other wife, mom, or friend.  So it is unfair for me or anyone else to place expectations on me to do things that God has not asked me to do.

Next time you feel those thought creepy up on you, making you want to strive for perfection in every area of your life, remember God’s calling on your life.  What has He asked you to do?  How has He asked you to do it?  And for what purpose are you to do such things?

Seek to please God….

So your house will be a home..

So your children will be children…

So your life will be evidence of God’s goodness and grace…

So it may not be perfect…and that’s perfectly fine.

Every morning I begin with a cup of coffee with The Lord.  Soon after I run through my day and jot down the tasks that are the most urgent.  I love making this list, it gives my day direction.  I even add a few silly items that will be easy to check off, it makes me feel more productive! I do, however often abandon this list at some point in my day…and I’m ok with that.  That’s kinda how I fly.  This week in particular has been especially crazy.  We just came home from a wonderful vacation in the mountains as a family, and are preparing for our Sr High Connection Tour in one week.  So the list goes on and on…laundry, packing, cleaning, cooking, more packing, more cooking, gardening…and blueberries are in season on top of it all!  This is one of  those days when I could just pace around not even knowing where to start…so where did I find myself?  In the kitchen…making blueberry jam.  If you know me, if you understand me…if you “get” me, you know that I love to cook, I love to be “busy at home” and busy in the kitchen.  So, that is where I was…..dancing around the room with little ones who had their cheeks and fists stuffed with sweet berries.   There will always be a list of things that seem “urgent”….but I will only have the opportunity to kiss those sticky little cheeks for so long.  Soon school will start back up and the kiddos will be off leaning new things, and I will be at home (hopefully canning and freezing loads of stuff from the garden).  In those sweet times of coffee with The Lord, he has shown me the top priorities for my to-do’s for each and every day.

Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Psalm 127 2-4

I have been asked by many to explain my grocery shopping strategy.  I have ignored these request simply because though it is easy in my mind to follow, it seems difficult to put into words.  So now here we are, and I will try to explain why I am often asked at the grocery store “Is that item on sale?” or “What are you going to do with all that half and half”.

Now to start off, I plan. I plan a menu monthly.  I try to plan meals that I know my family loves and throw in a few new recipes to try each week.  Second, I buy in bulk and freeze.  Now, I don’t mean that I buy 20lbs of chicken and throw it in my freezer as soon as I get home from the store.  I mean I buy 20lbs of chicken and when I get home (or soon after) I will portion it out and cover it in marinade, or make it into a fabulous meal and freeze it for later use.  The third thing I do is buy what is on sale in bulk.  Be careful when buying in bulk.  Look carefully at the labels and cost comparison.  I am amazed at how often I find that if I buy 3 bottles of bbq sauce instead of the 1 large bottle, I save a bundle.  I used to run from one store to another to find the best deals on items, but I found  that was more of a time waster than anything.  I  found that cutting large amounts of coupons was a waste of my time as well.  I tried the on-line program that helps you with your coupon strategy and I found that I would buy more things that I would have never bought without the coupon. I just kept thinking, “Well, I have never bought this before, but it is such a good deal..”  And, most of the coupons were for processed foods, which we try to keep to a minimum around here.  I do, however use the coupon I get at the checkout, and I just signed up for Mperks at Meijer.  That saved me 19.00 the other day!

So, today at Meijer, my cart held the following

5 boxes of cereal-I like to make cereal bars for my kiddos breakfasts

18 cans of cream of potato soup- for making 9 chicken pot pies

8 pie crusts, tops and bottoms- again for the pies ( I have crust for 1 pie at home)

8 loaves of cinnamon bread-for baked french toasts, they were on sale

3 large bottles of ketchup- for bbq chicken wings for my freezer cooking group, also on sale

fresh fruits and veggies

48 eggs

2 gallons milk

3 half gallons of half and half- for both the pot pies and french toast

You see I buy what is on sale, in bulk, to cook in bulk and stock the freezer.

I buy most of my meat from Sam’s club, off my list from menu planning.  I also check the  mark downs they will have on meat and if that is a good deal I will buy as much of the sale meat as possible.

Is any of this making sense?

So, this week I am making pot pies and baked french toast in bulk.  For dinner we will have meals that have been previously placed in the freezer,  a new recipe I chose to try this week,  and every week we have a pizza night.   I’m sure you can see how after a while, you build up a supply in the freezer and only have to cook a couple of meals a week to keep it up.

Now, every so often I go a little crazy.  I will do a full week of freezer cooking and stock the freezer full. This helps keep a good variety of meals to choose from.  I rarely ever cook only one of anything.  If I am making enchiladas, I will make at least 2 or 3 and freeze the excess. I could go on all day about this, so  if you want to know more about freezer cooking, attend one of my workshops.  It seems as though the ladies I speak to gain a lot of useful information.

I try not to buy things that are overly processed or pre-made, if I can do them myself.  It cost much less to make them at home, and then I can control the nutritional value of our meals better.

So, buy doing this “method” of grocery shopping, I am able to keep a very well stocked pantry and freezer.  For instance, if you were to take a gander in my canning/pantry room right now, you would find plenty of ingredients for bbq sauces, marinades, and other things we use often as I buy those items when they are on sale.  If you looked in my freezer, you see several meals that are completely ready to reheat and serve.  You would also find frozen veggies that we often eat, and meat that was purchased by the case ( at case pricing) or on sale and is portioned out for meals.

I hope you find this helpful…I am always amazed at the looks I get when I fill my cart with a seemingly unnecessary amount of strange items…but I assure you, there is a method to my maddness!

Pour me a fresh cup of Joe and open a window…Spring is here! Oh..the plans I have! I have kept a list of things I wanted to learn, develop or master once I was no longer working outside the home…..And here we are. It has been a long, drab, and well..rather depressing winter. When we moved in last fall we basically unpacked enough to get through Christmas. To be honest, creativity felt as though it had abandoned my soul. I had little energy and even less inspiration to be creative and crafty.
Then we unpacked the basement. Oh the loveliness that poured out of those boxes! Matt had a plan to create a little place for me to be creative. It is still a work in progress….but it is still lovely! And oh the plans I have. Gardening…sewing…gifts….uhhh.

Now for that list.  There are tasks that I have dreamed of being able to do.  Ones that have been pushed aside while Matt was a full time student and I was helping him as a Custodian.  I fancy the thought of helping him with the planning, and preparing.  I also fancy the thought of getting to that list of things I would love to get to…so I must go…and get to it!

There are so many little things that can make a house feel like a home.  New friends feel like old friends.  A church feel like family.  Here are just a few things that have made us feel at home…….

The sound of children thundering through the upstairs while imagining it is another world

Our walls being painted the same color as our previous home…we had no idea how much we loved these colors

The smell of laundry coming up from the basement on a very productive day

Hooks full of handmade hooded towels disguised as exotic animals at the end of the stairs

A  new apron..enough said

A kitchen full of chatter, kids, and clatter

Friends on Sunday mornings

Friends on Wednesday nights

Sweet spots to sit and have coffee with the Lord early in the morning

A full house every Sunday night

So many people, so eager to help

Wonderful little hills for sledding all around the house

New, beautiful bedding for the girls…sweet answers to prayer

The laugh and smile of a little red-headed baby boy

A cozy snuggle with my hubby late at night

The distinct smell of the church, freshly cleaned, reminding me of our first visit here

Cookbooks nestled next to the table so I can refer to them often

The possibilities of the den…soon to be a family gathering place

Teachers who truly love and care for our children

So many things and people have made us feel so much at home here…So excited to see what is yet to come.

While chatting with friends, I find that the topics of wife, mother, and homemaker often surface.  I very much enjoy these topics, as well as these titles I hold in my own life.  I also enjoy what the Bible has to say about these rolls in our lives, which is why I am disheartened when so many women buy into the lies of this world.  The ones that tell us that what the Bible says is no longer relevent to us now.  Genisis says:

But for Adam [h] no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs [i] and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib [j] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman, [k]
for she was taken out of man.”

Another version is this:

God said, “It’s not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion.”……

I do firmly believe that my Husband has a very specific calling and that my calling is to be his “helpmate” .  I am often greeted with defensive friends who think differently, however they very strongly believe the Bible IS relevent to their husbands in Ephesians when it says:

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

How is this so?  We are not able to take pieces of the bible and stand firm on them as “Whole Truths”  and at the same time look at other passages and say they are simply not relevent to us today.  Satan feeds us lies….and it is easy to listen to when everything and everyone around us seem to go against what the Bible says.  I was made to be that loving encouragement for my husband, to help his be the very best at what God has called him to.   Now, take those negative “cave-man” thoughts out of your head for just a second!  The ones that say “well are you just going to sit around and be at your husbands beck and call?”  or “so you don’t get to do anything you want to do with your life”.  It is quite the opposite, I have the honor and joy of walking through life with my very best friend, working together with him to accomplish God’s purpose.  Our lives compliment each other in such a unique and beautiful way.

Another passage that has been on my heart lately is in Titus:     4Then they (older women) can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

another version is:

Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior.

Notice this passage talks about being ” busy at home”.  This is yet another passage that I receive so much flack on!  I love being busy at home.  Working to create that atmosphere that we as a family crave.  There is so much work to be done in the home, trust me when I haven’t been busy at home..it shows.  My systems are all out-of-order, the house is messy, the clothes are not cleaned, and food is not prepped…etc.  There is however a greater worry here.  If you are not busy at home, are you busy away from home?  Carting kids form one play-date to the next, exhausting everyone along the way?  Or if you are still home but not busy, then are you idle? Proverbs 31:27 says, “27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”  Sitting idle allows us the chance to do so many harmful things through, well boredom, not to mention the gossip that often ensues on these adventures.  So whatever the “busy” is for you, enjoy the blessing of that in your home.

When talking with a  dear friend of mine recently on this very topic her words were” I am more and more convinced that Satan wins a victory every time He convinces one of us to believe the lies of the world. We are surrounded by people with the view that our worth comes from what we do, not who we are and most definitely not who we are in Christ. I often get the eye roll, either openly or internally,  from people when I share my conviction that my husband was made for what he is doing and I was made for him. How archaic, right? But no! God’s design for us and for our families has not changed and I am convinced that we become ineffective (and Satan wins!) when we lose sight of that to which God has called us and for which He has made us!!! Some say it is easy for me to say because I have a good husband, a good marriage, etc.  No! I say we are blessed because of our obedience. I say we fight, as you said, for marriage and family (where Satan targets most often), and we trust that God knows better than the world and Satan, the prince of this world and the father of lies, what is best for us. God’s word is for us today . It is! It is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.”

I had to quote her because I cannot agree with her more..nor could I word it better.I often receive that very same reaction, “It is easy for you to do because you have a great husband and a great marriage”  I cannot agree with my friend enough, we are blessed by our willingness to obey God in his calling to us.  I am not willing to conform to this world and it’s expectations of me, I will strive to conform to Christ and His expectations.

So, what if the world is wrong and the Bible is right…..now there’s a thought…..

My decorating style would probably be defined as, well eclectic.  I love to mix old treasures with new favorites.  I like colors that remind me of a brisk walk in the woods in the fall, or a trip to the orchard.  I love rustic finishes, and scrolling details. This may seem cozy to us at times, but we love to mix things up a bit. By far though, we love change!  We love to re-arrange a room and make it feel new by using the many treasured items we have already in our home.  At times I will clear all decor out of a room and gather it on the dining room table, and re-disperse it throughout the room.  At other times I will clear a room completely and “shop” through the rest of the house to find different things to fill it with.  Most recently, I have become frustrated with the breakfast nook.  From the day we first saw this home, we had a vision for this room, and when I looked around in it, I saw a..well a storage room.  Beautiful chocolate brown walls, the amazing funky floral print curtains I made two years ago, and a vintage step-stool that was left to us by the previous owners.  The stool I had painted a wonderful burnt orange, and at the same time I had painted a vintage metal cart the same.  Those were the items that filled this space on a permanent lease.  I would often set up a folding table to assist in holiday preparations,  freezer cooking, or jam making.  It just was in a funk!  Then I received a wonderful antique trunk, wood with scroll-pressed metal sides.  It  is beautiful, and completely my style, however it served no real purpose in the nook.  So recently I cleared the nook, and created a plan.  I repurposed my great-grandmother’s hope chest as a bench, that serves as great storage for all of my large bulk cooking necessities.  We then oiled up a pedestal table and chairs that were given to us by some dear friends about a year ago.  Perfect!  That was the vision we had for this space so long ago….a pedistal table with a bench on one side and 2 chairs on the other.  I found a vibrant painting that we got in Dowagiac and hung that above the bench and paired it with another coffee house painting on another wall that we have had for a few years.  In one corner sits the vintage metal cart, in the other corner is the vintage step-stool, they balance the room out so well, and bring in a bit of well-needed character.  In the cubbies above the table I placed my vintage mixing bowl and stock pot.  Then, I went “shopping”  in the dining room.  I found some great old canisters, a fluted metal vase, a sweet metal lantern, and a funky red with white polk-a-dot chick.  Then into the living room for more finds.  For the center of the table, an antique wooden tray, a fun piece of fabric and a ceramic rabbit for spring.  All in all, the total cost of our new breakfast nook……nothing!  Just a fresh new look at stuff we have had around the house.  This is truly my favorite way to re-decorate!  A dear friend of mine once advised me to “get rid of anything you don’t really like, and only keep the items you truly love” .  That was the greatest thought, now all of my things go so nicely together, no matter which room they are in, because they are all things that I treasure.   I have stopped keeping things out of guilt, or being afraid the person who gave it to me will want to see where I use it!  Now, to find a place for that treasured trunk that I pulled out of the nook…..