Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Black Friday Sale at Vision Forum

Vision Forum is having a Black Friday sale. This is a great opportunity to get some wonderful resources for living out a vision of a godly family, good quality toys for boys and girls, and wonderful story books.

Buy two, get one free ~ be sure and take advantage of this great sale ~ AND miss out on the Black Friday crowds!

You can shop Vision Forum by clicking the banner at left. Thank you!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Prayer Alert for Noah

Please be in prayer for little Noah. They are having to pull his broviac. They think that this is possibly the culprit in the infection he is fighting, but they just don't know for sure.

Here is a link to his family's blog, where you can read straight from his Mama what's going on.

Thank you!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thrifty Thursday ~ Shampoo and Conditioner

This may seem like a silly thing to be thrifty about, but if you have a very large family (or even just very long hair) these are items that can rack up cost rather quickly.

My hair is a little longer than waist length and it is of a texture that I *have* to use conditioner on it. And, I can't use just any conditioner, because some are just not effective in keeping it from tangling. Cost doesn't really seem to be a determiner, expensive might be just as bad as el cheapo when it comes to tangling. However, even Suave can get spendy when you use it every day.

I realize some of you may not wash your hair everyday, but I need my shower! :-D It's a short period of time each day when I am alone, and I can just relax under the hot water or take time to pray uninterrupted. I have also never really been able to do much with my hair once it is dry, so I always do my "styling" (braid, bun, etc) while my hair is wet.

Okay. On to the "thrifty tip". I wish I could give credit where it is due, but it's been so long since I read this tip, that I honestly don't remember which website I got it from. However, if you have time and are so inclined, I would encourage you to look up different hair care sites, there are many of them and they have some neat hair care tips. I only use a tiny amount of shampoo. Somewhere I read that if you are getting suds (and weren't we trained that a good shampoo suds-up?) you are using too much shampoo! I also only shampoo my scalp. Once every 3 months or so I will wash the full length of my hair, but for the most part, I just wash my scalp. The length of my hair is cleaned by the shampoo as I rinse it. It truely does work! I bought a "family size" bottle of Suave shampoo the beginning of September and I am probably not even a third of a way through the bottle ~ *that's* savings!

In contrast, I only condition the length of my hair ~ not my scalp. I still use more conditioner than shampoo (there's a lot of length to my hair), but not the amount I was using before.

I believe that my hair is in better condition now than before I changed the way I washed it. There has to be less soap build-up, just because I'm not using the amount of soap I used to, and my scalp is healthier because it's not getting extra oils from the conditioner that it doesn't need.

This will even make expensive shampoos and conditioners affordable ~ if you can break the cost down over several months. And if you are already using inexpensive brands, this will break the cost down to just pennies!

Just one more place to cut a corner, but still get the job done well. ;-)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How Do You Do It All?

I was asked this question yesterday, and so, while I realize there may be some of you without children at home that read this blog, I wanted to address this question here, as I hope there are younger women reading that may be wondering this and that can be ministered to by reading here today.

With 8 children, this is a question I get every once in a while. :-) The honest answer is, I don't! In the spirit of complete transparency, this is something that I continually struggle with. While growing up, household matters didn't mean much to me. I loved my horse, and had every intention of spending my life raising and training horses, so why did I need to learn how to organize, clean, cook, etc.? Well, I have mastered cooking! And interestingly, in the smaller things, I really am pretty organized, but overall, I am not. (Still haven't totally figured out how that works, but...) So, often my house is cluttered, the floor might need to be swept, there are dishes in the sink, and there is laundry waiting to be done. However, I do have my moments, and my housekeeping skills really have improved over the years. So, I will share what I have discovered and what I am still working on.

My first encouragement is to keep a good attitude. This can be extremely difficult! It is so easy to slip into martyr mode. "I just swept that floor and now you've tracked mud in!" Try, as much as you can, to keep your focus off of yourself. Be creative in thinking of ways that your responsibilities can be made joyful and not "chores". Do them as unto the Lord ~ because that is what Scripture commands us to do ~ in *everything*. If your children are little, spend time just enjoying them ~ you do not realize how quickly this time will go. Before you know it, you'll be watching them leave, ready to start their own households. In the moment, it often seems as if time is dragging, but trust me; it's not!

Next, determine what is *most* important to get done. Sit down with your beloved and see if there are one or two things that just say, "clean house" to him ~ and determine to make sure those are done everyday. Then, decide if there is something that just really pulls on you if it's undone. Does a sinkful of dirty dishes make you feel defeated? Then make sure they get done! Do you feel overwhelmed if there is more than a load or two of laundry waiting? Then make sure the laundry gets done. The reason for this is simple. If you have a newborn, or two or more little ones, you very likely are not going to get everything done. So, you want to prioritize what needs to get done for your beloved's comfort and your sanity. Remember, you want your home to be a haven for him when he gets home from work.

After you figure out what needs to get done, then determine to let your little ones help. :-O I know, it can be scary! And, it will take longer. However. Your children will not be children forever. You are training them to be adults. This doesn't mean that they never get to play, but it does mean that they learn to contribute to the household. Even a child as young as 15 months can learn to pick their toys up. As soon as they are mobile and understanding what is said to them, you should begin training. Be simple and direct and work alongside of them. Josiah is 2 1/2. If I say to him, "Pick your toys up." Nothing happens. If I say, "Si, pick up your boots. Now put them in your basket." He picks up his boots and puts them in his shoe basket. The same goes with the rest of his things. Little ones long to spend time with you and to help. Take advantage of that and train them while they are young. Initially it will take longer to complete your tasks, but in the long run, it will free you up. It's also important because sooner or later, you may find yourself out-numbered! This is not a bad thing, however, it is nigh unto impossible for one person to keep up with multiple people's clutter, especially when there is laundry, cooking, and possibly schooling to get done as well. Planning is important, because if a little person is helping you peel potatoes, it will take longer to get supper on the table. You may also have to lower your standards somewhat. Not that you shouldn't encourage them toward the best they can do ~ but a little person isn't going to sweep as thoroughly as an adult, but it will come in time.

As they get old enough, start turning some responsibilities completely over to them. When my older boys were about 8 and 9, I taught them how to do laundry. I gave them a day of the week, and they were responsible to get their own laundry done. Now, all 4 older boys take care of their own laundry. This doesn't mean that I never do their laundry, but for the most part, I don't. I still have plenty of laundry to do, mine and my Beloved's, the girls', Si and Ezra's and the household laundry; but it helps tremendously that the older 4 boys can take care of their own. Wow, reading what I just wrote, I realize it's time for Kathleen to learn to do laundy. This is something else I am discovering. I taught the older boys to help, but I haven't done a very good job with the younger ones! I had help already, so it just didn't occur to me. :-/ Now, the older boys have jobs and are in sports and are just gone: a lot. So, I am left with mess makers, but not mess cleaner-uppers. :-) So, we are working on this once more. Another laundry tidbit is to put a load in before going to bed. When you get up in the morning, switch it over to the dryer and start another load. I have a dryer which has a drop down door, so I fold clothes as I take them out of the dryer. That way, I never have baskets of clean but unfolded clothes sitting around. If the clothes in the dryer have been sitting for a while, I turn the dryer back on for a few minutes to fluff, and then fold.

Perhaps meals are what gives you fits, either because you don't like to cook or because your dealing with morning sickness or a new baby in the house. If so, then consider cooking for more than one meal at a time. If you are making a casserole, make 2 and put one in the freezer. My Grandma used to make huge batches of chili and freeze it, or it can be canned. You can make soup and freeze or can it. Our local market puts hamburger on reduced price about once a week. If I get into town on that day, I try to buy several packages. I'll bring the hamburger home and cook it all up, divide it into meal size portions and stick it in the freezer. Then it only has to be thawed and heated ~ it can be thrown into soup, a casserole, spaghetti sauce, etc. You can do the same thing with chicken. There are several different once a month cooking books out there, but you can do something similar without the book. If you can, spend a day or two canning up dry beans. They are cheaper than "canned" beans and if you home can them, you get all the convenience of store bought, but without the additives and for a fraction of the cost. Spend some time thinking about ways to make your time in the kitchen more efficient while still providing nutritious meals for your family.

Now obviously, things have to get done. If you have prioritized, and still are not getting to everything, then take one day a week and make sure some of the "leftover" things are getting done as well. But remember, the housework will be there tomorrow, this moment you have a sweet little one that wants nothing more than to sit on your lap and have you read a book, or to play with you, whether it be with toy cars or having a teddy bear tea. Don't miss your child's intimate moments because there was a little dust on the piano.

If you are an older mom, whether of many or a few, please take a moment and leave a comment sharing how you have "done it all". God has given you wisdom, share with us! Thank you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Song of Solomon Devotion #8

"O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff, let me seeyour face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face lovely."Song of Solomon 2:14

Do you speak in loving ways to your husband? The Shulamite asks to see her lover’s face, to hear his voice, for they are sweet and lovely to her. Do you feel that way about your beloved? Do you speak with loving words to him? Or, do you mock him? Nag him? Tear him down verbally?

What would happen if you began to speak sweetly to your husband? If the tone of your voice is kind and loving, and your words encouraging, what impression would it make on your beloved? Would he be suspicious? Do you only speak that way when you want to manipulate him? If so, it might take a while before he realizes that you are sincere. You must persevere through his suspicion, because your own behavior has caused it. As he sees the reality of a sweet, loving wife, he will be more likely to act in a way that shows that he loves and cherishes you.

In the New Testament, we are taught that a wife is to respect her husband. “and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:33b “Likewise, wives, be submissive to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives ~ when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” I Peter 3:1-2 (emphasis mine).

The Shulamite voices her approval of her husband to her husband. She wisely understands the value of not merely stroking his ego, but of genuinely complimenting and speaking in a loving way to him. When you speak in a loving manner to your husband, it is a way of respecting him. What man would not respond well to respect and sweet words from his wife? This is something that can take some thought and foresight to do. We live in a society that continually puts men down, and we rarely if ever, in "entertainment" see wives that behave in a respectful way to their husband. And so, when we desire to live in a godly way with our husband, we find ourselves short of examples. Until we look to scripture, and if we are very blessed, some real-life examples in our lives.

"Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to thebody." Proverbs 16:24

I want my words to be sweetness and health to my beloved. I desire for my words to be gracious. It is important that as wives, you and I realize one of our top priorities is to be our husband's biggest cheerleader. Who else will he turn to when he's had a lousy day at work? Where else will he go when he's experienced a failure, or hit a 'home-run' at work, or at play? We should desire for him to come to us above all others, except, of course, the Lord. Men need to be admired, and respected, and if they don't get it from their wives, they will find it somewhere else. Possibly from their mother, or a secretary, or some other woman who finds them attractive. You want to be the one to fill his needs. This is what you were created for, this is the man you were created to help.

The Bible is full of verses that speak to the way we use our tongue. Look in a concordance, and read these verses as if they are speaking directly to your relationship with your husband. Is it convicting? More than likely. God gives us the instruction we need, we just need to look for it. Once again, I encourage you to renew your mind. And, speak with gracious, sweet words to your beloved.

Father God,
I am convicted by how often my words are not gracious or sweet to my dear husband. I ask Father, for Your forgiveness. I pray that You would enable me to harness my tongue, and to speak sweet words of truth, and life to my beloved. I pray Father, that (insert your husband's name) would feel blessed to have me as his helpmeet. Mold me Father, into the supportive, encouraging wife that he needs me to be. Amen.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Please Pray for Noah!

I have asked for prayers for baby Noah before. I come to you again, asking that you lift this precious little boy and his family before the Throne of Grace. Noah is very sick and being admitted once again to the hospital.

Here is the link to their blog, so you can read what Noah's Mama has to say.

Thank you!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Recipe Share Friday ~ Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe comes from a book called, The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook by Christopher Kimball. I changed it slightly when I made them, but they disappear quickly, so my changes must be good!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/2 c rolled oats
2 sticks butter, softened but still firm
3/4 c granulated sugar
3/4 c packed brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp baking powder
12 ounces chocolate chips *
4 ounces grated semisweet chocolate *
1 1/2 c chopped pecans or walnuts *
(* These three ingredients I left out! In their stead I added 1 c milk chocolate mini MM's and about 3/4 c caramel chips)

1. Heat oven to 350*. Place oats in a blender or food processor and blend until very fine. (I blended until it was basically flour consistency).
2. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and both sugars until light, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat 20 seconds after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat for another 15 seconds to blend.
3. Whick together the flour, processed oats, baking powder, and salt. With a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon, blend the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. (This will be difficult since the batter is very stiff.) [I blended the dry ingredients into the butter mixture with my mixer, not by hand.] Add the chocolate chips, grated chocolate, and nuts. (The easiest method of grating chocolate is to use a heavy-duty food processor, fitted with the metal blade.)
4. Form dough into balls about 2 inches in diapmeter and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. (The parchment paper is optional). [I just dropped the dough by spoonfuls. I also chose not to use parchment and it was fine.] Bake 14 to 15 minutes on the middle rack or until the bottoms are lightly browned. The cookies should still feel a bit soft at this point. (They will not spread very much and will look undercooked. Do not over-cook or they will become hard and dry when they cool.) They will harden as they cool. Removed from oven and let cookies cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to cooling racks. Cool at least 30 minutes before serving. (Good luck with that last one! HA!! ;-) )

Makes 30 - 36 large cookies.

I got about 40 cookies and they were medium-ish sized. Those didn't make it through the evening.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thrifty Thursday ~ Cloth Diapers

I've been looking for more ways to be frugal in my desire to be a good steward of the money my Beloved earns. Right now we have two in diapers. Have you bought diapers lately? They are expensive! A tour of cloth diaper sites educates one rather quickly that cloth diapers are not a very inexpensive option either. When we very first did cloth diapers 8 years ago, I think we bought either 18 or 24 diapers and we figured they would pay for themselves in about 4 months. They were one size snap diapers and I loved them. However, when our next baby was born, they were starting to get thread bare and I couldn't find the same diapers anymore. We ended up going back to disposable. Now, cloth diapers are apparently "chic" ~ at least according to their prices!

I love the snaps, but they do not fit every baby well ~ they are only so adjustable. I greatly dislike Aplix, finding that even those with fold-over tabs still end up getting stuck together in the wash. I have thought about making diapers in the past, however I don't have a snap setter, and I didn't really want to spend the time and effort on diapers that are going to be outgrown rather quickly.

One day, about a month ago, I was blog surfing, and came across a pinnable, one size pocket diaper. The Rita's Rump Pocket Diaper was just what I was looking for! So far, I have made 20 of these diapers. I bought flannel sheets at the thrift store. One full size flat sheet will make 10 diapers. I was able to get 4 diapers out of a twin size sheet. The cost for my 20 diapers was about $6. For the doublers, I am using micro fiber towels bought in the automotive department at WalMart. They come in packs of 8 for $5. And for the covers I am just using the old fashioned Gerber pull on pants. I also have some Dappi covers, and will probably get more, I just haven't ordered any yet. We've only been using them for about a week, but they are working out quite well. I bought a couple more sheets the other day and would like to make at least 10 more diapers (remember, I am diapering 2!)

Here is Si in one of the diapers. He weighs about 30 lbs at 2 1/2. Isn't he cute? :-) This diaper has 2 towels folded into thirds in the pocket. I have found that 1 towel just isn't enough lining. Josiah has only worn the cloth once so far. I still have disposables in his size, so we're finishing those before we switch over to cloth. But, he did model for me, and got to wear this one to bed. It must have felt nice, because this morning when I changed him, he wanted cloth (after spending the night in disposable). For wipes, I bought the inexpensive washcloths that come in packs of 18 for about $4. I just have them folded at the changing table, and if needed, we just take them to the bathroom, get them wet and clean up baby. This is sooo much nicer than wipes! They are warm, and they clean so much better!

And here's Ezra. Isn't he adorable?? :-) Six months old now, he weighs 20 lbs. He's been liking his cloth diapers. Oh, I forgot to mention, these pin together with just one pin. Which is really nice. Ezra is a challenge to get changed ~ once you get his diaper off, his toes go into his mouth, and it's difficult to get his feet out of his hands and get the clean diaper on!

One sewing forum I'm on even suggested that these diapers would make a great addition to a young lady's hope chest. I thought that was a marvelous idea.

They went together very quickly. The curves are sweeping enough that I was able to cut them out with my rotary cutter, and was able to cut 2 diapers at a time ~ I did cut out 4 diapers once, but that was really a bit much for the cutter! I then sewed them assembly line style, so I was doing all the zigzagging at once, then all the top stitching at once, etc. The other thing I really love about them is that I was able to get plaid sheets, so they look *so* boyish!

Anyway, if you're looking for an easy way to save money, and you've got a baby or two in diapers, this is it. Have fun sewing!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thrifty Thursday ~ Food Stores

One of the things a godly wife does, is to provide food for her family. She may garden, forage, hunt, butcher animals she's raised, or go to a grocery store. I believe that also includes putting up stores of food. We have a pantry that is built into our home, and I have added to it by re-purposing bookshelves to use for food storage.
I enjoy canning. I love walking into my pantry and seeing the shelves lined with food ~ cans that have been bought at a good price, and jars that my labor has provided.

This year, with Ezra being born in May by c-section, we didn't have a garden, and in August, when it was time to be canning, I either didn't have time to stop and buy vegetables to can, or there wasn't money to do so. However, we have been getting food from some friends. They are set up as a receiver in a second harvest kind of deal. We are blessed to be one of the families they call when the food comes. It truely has been a blessing! One week, there was an abundance of green beans ~ I was able to put up 25 quarts of beans for free.

The following week we received a case of baby carrots ~ into jars those went, and I have 33 pints of canned carrots in my pantry ~ for nothing more than my labor. I have also been able to make jam from some of the fruit we have received. I am so thankful that God has provided food for our family through the winter! It brings a feeling of comfort and security ~ we live 10 miles from the closest grocery store, and in the winter, we can't always get out, so knowing that there is food in the freezer (or will be soon, with hunting season!), and food in the pantry makes me less anxious about snow and/or ice. What a blessing to know that if things are tight, we will still eat fairly well.

I still have some stocking up to do, and do try to add to my pantry stock a little each paycheck. That way, it never takes a large sum of money to stock up. With now 5 hunters in the family, there should be several deer in our freezer within the month, and we're going halves with my folks on a pig ~ which is good, because Levi eats a *lot* of bacon!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Part of the Uniform

One of the lovely items that we have the priviledge of wearing as Keepers at Home is the apron. Aprons come in all shapes and sizes, but my favorites are the ones that cover my torso as well as my skirt. I have one that belonged to my great-grandmother, and I love to wear it. She was a beautiful, smart, creative, talented lady and I like to think that putting on her apron helps get my creative juices flowing!

I particularly like aprons that harken back to a gentler, slower time. Jennie Chancey over at Sense and Sensibility Patterns has created a beautiful Edwardian apron pattern. It is a lovely, ladylike pattern that will cover your clothes well. While this is not a "new" pattern, what is new is that it, along with several other Sense and Sensibility patterns are now available in e-format. That means that you can take advantage of having a whim to sew and getting your pattern within minutes!
If you are interested in checking out the new e-patterns and/or Jennie's paper patterns, you can Click here to view more details or click on the link in the sidebar.