Friday, December 23, 2011

The season of JOY!

If I had another whole uninterrupted week, I don't think I'd really be 'ready for Christmas' 
- and frankly I'm tired of being asked.  I've hardly been out of the house for over a week because of our sick Dreamer, but everywhere I've ventured, I've been met with the same question.
Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves and each other? 
I propose we start a new line of questioning polite conversation for Christmastide 
- something along the lines of,
"What is bringing you JOY this Christmas?"

You see, I'd have a long list for you there!

Joy - filling our home with the sounds of Christmas time hymns and carols
Joy -  the truth - Emmanuel - God with US! With US!
Joy - children chatting about our trip to Poppa and Grammy's house
Joy - long days of sewing and baking resulting in sweet little surprises for others
Joy - dropping off packages to dear ones and receiving warm smiles in return
Joy - the Word read and absorbed into the quiet fabric of our lives

 “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, 
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:
and they were sore afraid. 
And the angel said unto them,
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
Luke 2:8-11 KJV 


I am praying this will be a season of joy for you 
- a season of blessing!
I know there are heartaches and pressures, sorrows that seem magnified by the gaiety around us.
Even in the most difficult and strenuous times, for those who truly know Jesus Christ,
the child of promise, born to a virgin in Bethlehem so long ago,  
there can be abiding JOY!

 Merry Christmas friends!

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Welcome Company Girls!

Welcome! Will you join me for a cup of tea this morning? If you are popping over from Home Sanctuary today I'd like to give you a special welcome! I'll keep this short simply because Rachel has given you a lot of reading already with Fatigue Fighter
When I wrote out my thoughts on coping with fatigue for Rachel, I prayed that they would somehow be a blessing to some other Mom battling exhaustion. Perhaps it's you! 
I'm honored that she would use my ramblings for our Company Girls Small Thing today.  
My quiet little blog doesn't see much traffic, but Rachel is an encouragement to so many of us.
Thank you Rachel for letting God use you to be a blessing to us!

I love being a Company Girl - don't you? Checking our daily Small Thing and setting that one simple task as a goal to reach for during the day is fun and sometimes challenging. It's good to be s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d a little, isn't it?  Knowing that there are others with the same desire to make our homes a place of sanctuary and blessing for our families, and that we can work together in small steps to make that happen is such a positive motivation for me! We're in this thing together!

Please don't think that because I have my coping strategies settled that I always turn to them when I need to - I needed today's Small Thing perhaps as much as anyone!  Today I am planning to be a blessing to a friend who is sorrowing - I am hoping to bring a little beauty into her day and give her a chance to smile.  Because that's part of my plan for later, I know I have to be organized with the rest of my day and schedule a nap for this afternoon. 
That means planning and starting a simple dinner now and helping the children with their 
school work first thing so that I can do less demanding things as the day progresses. 
So, I'd better get to it!

Thank you for dropping by! Visit any time you'd like! 
I always enjoy getting to know our Company Girls!

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Always a finalist ... but never a winner?

Last week I was so wonderfully surprised to be selected as a finalist
in Family Circle/ Curel Katie Brown contest - but I didn't win! 

 Photo from Family Circle

It was one of those up, up, up and suddenly back down to earth kind of things!  I was so excited and so nervous to be interviewed by phone on Friday.  I didn't get much sleep the night before. My hands were clammy and my mouth felt like it was full of cotton. I couldn't think straight, but that didn't stop my words from spilling out! Too many words. I really hoped I was doing better with that, but apparently not - I need another lesson from my Historian who always engages his brain before speaking!  My interviewers were lovely to talk to though, and overall it was a good experience.

When I didn't get the final confirmation call late Friday afternoon, I was pretty sad because I'd been so very hopeful.  Ah, well - hopefully some other mum in a muddle will benefit from a bunch of wonderful Curel lotion and Katie Brown's expert advice and help!

I think Dreamer and I squealed these - wouldn't they be cute across a mantle?

I'll be honest, I didn't really know much about Katie Brown before the contest. Are you surprised? Don't forget, we don't have t.v. and I don't get out much!  Being a lover of dishes, I have often admired the different collections of Katie Brown home decor items at our Meijer's store. Even though her items are good quality and very reasonable I've done lots of admiring, very little buying! 

 Can't you just see this covered in the kids homemade gingerbread cookies? Yum!

Now I know that she has her own PBS  t.v. show, a blog, some fabulous idea books which include lots of home crafting ideas and some simple but yummy looking recipes.  I have borrowed them from our library for now, but I think I might like to buy them for my own bookshelf. I have also learned that she's an adoptive mom too, which of course is so close to our hearts! I really enjoyed watching some of her segments via YouTube videos - her enthusiasm is contagious and her projects and recipes are simple and inspiring. I guess you could say I am a new 'fan', and my little world has been just slightly expanded in a pleasant way.

All in all it's been a sweet little ripple of excitement in our otherwise pretty ordinary week - I was laughing with Mum on the phone that I'm 'always a finalist, never a winner', but that's not quite true!  I've now been a finalist in three contests that I purposefully entered into since September and have not won one, but over the years we've won some pretty lovely and unexpected items that I'm very thankful for.

Every day we sit down at a solid oak table that my husband won 11 years ago during a Christian radio contest for Pastor appreciation month. A dear friend in our church family entered us in that drawing so it was a complete and wonderful surprise. I look up from my place at the table at a beautiful wall clock that we won a couple of years ago without ever trying.  So, we've been unexpectedly blessed with some lovely stuff - but it's just stuff.

Our real blessings don't need to be maintained, dusted, wound or refinished. 
Our real blessing are eternal - the blessings of God in our lives. 
In those things we are very, very rich!


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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

2011 Giving Thanks Challenge - Final

I absolutely loved being a part of the 2011 Giving Thanks Challenge!
That doesn't mean I was any good at keeping up with my intention of posting a weekly synopsis, but I did add a few thanksgivings to my side bar each day and they really added up!
Best of all, I know it made a difference in my thought life
when I was tempted to worry, grumble or complain

Believe me when I say I was tempted in all of those areas,
but intentionally keeping an attitude of thankfulness really helped.

Here's the end of my list of thanks giving!

25. A fabulous Field Trip day!
26. Warm sunshine seeping into my bones
27. Unexpected ice cream - yummy!
28. Sister helping brother learn a really hard memory verse.
29. Rain and falling leaves.
30. Cozy sweaters, hot tea and my Soother Sac.
31. Friends who help in time of need.
32. Rosy cheeks from playing outside.
33. Soft tissues for a runny nose.
34. Mops, brooms, buckets and the other tools my trade.
35. Math break-through - yeah Storyteller!
36. My laundry helpers.
37. Pumpkin bread.
38. Sparkling clean windows 4 down, 27 to go.
39. Preparing our hearts for worship.
40. A Sunday afternoon nap.
41. A brisk walk with my son - 2 miles!
42. Warm breezes in November - so unexpected!
43. Praying for others who are hurting.
44. Being trusted by our new neighbors.
45. Crunch, munch, snap - fresh veggies being eaten by hungry children.
46. Caramel apple dip - yum!
47. Bach played in time - a metronome is a good investment after all
48. Family who are flexible.
49. Sewing for a friend - so fun!
50. Unexpected blessings.
51. God's timely provision - enough to share
52. New friends
53. Cranberry sauce.
54. Lumpy gravy - which I don't eat and can't make very well, but is good for a few laughs!
55. The excitement of our Storyteller in his first parade
56. Leftovers made into a steaming hot savory pot pie
57. A fun family day on the cheap - just looking at antiques
58. Seeing the heart of our Pastor during worship
59. Repentance
60. Routines
So much to be thankful for! 

I cannot believe that we are in the last hours of November 2011! 
Our sweet Dreamer said she is just getting used to writing 2011 and soon she'll be writing 2012 - it's a bit mind boggling to me that even a 14 year old is comprehending the ever more rapid passage of time.
I know I didn't have that kind of insight at her age.
For me, it is such great incentive to use the days we have, as fleeting as they seem to be, wisely.
Wasting time in ingratitude, which for me translates in worry, envy and complaining
just isn't what I want to be about! I don't have time for that!
This month long challenge has been a discipline in thankfulness that
I really hope will last throughout the coming year!

Thank you Leah from South Breeze Farm for hosting 
- you've been a blessing to many!

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2011 Giving Thanks Challenge - Week 1

It's been so much fun to have new friends joining in the 2011 Giving Thanks Challenge come for a visit this week! Your lovely comments were so encouraging to read! Thank you! I hope I'll have more energy to come visit your blogs and say hello!  I really wonder how the Challenge has affected your heart attitudes this week - because I know it has made a difference in mine

I have to admit that I've been more tempted than usual to grumble and complain this week.  It's not that it's been a bad week, or even a particularly difficult week, but the children have not been in top form and that's made a difference.  I don't like it when they don't feel well!  Though they both maintain generally cheerful spirits even when under the weather, tempers do get short at times and there's just less joyful laughter warming our home. You know, right?

Even so, I have found myself contemplating thankfulness at many moments in my week, and just realizing it's profound power to alter, not my circumstances, but my attitude towards those circumstances. Thank you Lord - what a blessing.

I've got a pretty varied list of blessings so far, so I've decided to put them in this post and clear off my sidebar for this coming week's list! 

1. Salvation because of the death, burial and resurrection of God's Son Jesus Christ.
2. The Word of God - true from the beginning! Thy Word is true from the beginning and every one of Thy righteous judgements endureth forever. Psalm 119:160
3. Family - my husband and two children who make me laugh every day!
4. The sacrifice of thanksgiving - the ability to offer praise to God.
5. Hard times, struggles, losses and the valley times we all travel through.
6. Evidence of God's faithfulness.
7. The smell of clothes dried on the line making our folding area smell fabulous.
8. The power of prunes.
9. A great cup of tea.
10. Brownies. Get thee behind me!
11. Morning sun filtered through the sweet gum tree.
12. Hot showers.
13. Clean clothes.
14. AWANA - children hiding God's Word in their hearts!
15. Morning sounds - a humming boy and cereal poured into a bowl.
16. Dreamer - tackling and conquering a very challenging Bach piece!
17. Central Heat at the flip of a switch!
18. Cool crisp sunny mornings - a scattering of leaves everywhere.
19. Saturday morning to sleep in!
20. A pretty painted closet and new shelf!
21. The Word made clear through the preaching of truth.
22. My inherited baking abilities (thanks Mum) and the joy of feeding others good things to eat.
23. Soother Sac's, warm blankets, big pillows and an understanding hubby when I 'crash' after doing too much for this poor body.
24. Clean teeth and attentive hygienist - pointing out my next battle with gum disease.

So there you have it so far - and obviously I didn't limit myself to one thanksgiving a day because I just don't think I can ever be too thankful, do you?

This verse caught my attention as something I should study this week:
Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. 
2 Corinthians 9:11
I have seen how God has enriched my week with thanksgiving to Him - how contentment and joy have replaced dissatisfaction and worry when I  focus on our blessings rather than on struggles. This week I want to look more at what God denotes as bountiful - and I'm quite sure it has nothing to do with the pile of sale flyers that lay on my kitchen table promising beauty, happiness and peace ... with purchase!

Where is God leading you in this journey of intentional thankfulness?

Are your eyes more prone to tears this week when thanksgiving washes over your soul and brings unexpected joys in quiet moments?

I pray so!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Giving Thanks - 2011 Challenge

This year I am joining Leah from South Breeze Farm and her friends in her beautiful 2011 Giving Thanks Challenge. Here's what Leah writes on her blog about the Challenge:
 "In honor of the month of November, which boasts a most wonderful holiday, I'd like to encourage all of you to join me for the 5th Annual Giving Thanks Challenge! All you have to do is post one thing you're thankful for each day somewhere on your blog. It doesn't even have to be an actual thought-out post. Just start making a list on your sidebar if you want - somewhere you can see it every day to encourage an attitude of thankfulness."
I truly believe that a heart of thanksgiving is the best cure for many of the things we struggle with daily. We recently celebrated our 39th Thanksgiving meal as a married couple - having been married on Canadian Thanksgiving set a tone of thankfulness for our marriage that has continued for twenty years! Still, it is easy to get bogged down in daily circumstances and forget the joy that a heart of thankfulness brings. I am hoping that my daily listing of thanksgiving this month with Leah and the others who join in will help keep my heart in focus!

Please watch my sidebar under Leah's beautiful 2011 Giving Thanks Challenge Button for my list of thanksgiving - once a week I will post a brief wrap up and let you know how this intentional choice for thankfulness is blessing my heart! 

I'm focusing on these 5 verses from the Psalms this week:
  1. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. Psalm 95:2
  2. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.Psalm 100:4 
  3. And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing. Psalm 107:44
  4. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD. Psalm 116:17
  5. Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God: Psalm 147:7


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Thursday, October 27, 2011

I'm not sure where to begin ...


I hope you don't mind if I ramble on for a bit! 

What an adventure we've had ... and until yesterday we couldn't get online to share the adventure with you! Our old laptop is limping along until we can get a new computer, but we are just so thankful to be back in business and able to keep in touch through e-mail, catch up and keep up with online classes, and read our favorite blogs again!  Of course I have over 600 e-mails to sort through, but I'm getting there!

So, I'll try to make this make sense for you, but it's been quite a roller coaster ride so hang on!

The last week of September I got a message on our answering machine that I was a finalist in the Johnsonville No Ordinary Burger Contest which was co-sponsored by the National Pork Board and WalMart.  I was so astonished!  Jen from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam encouraged her readers to enter for a chance to win free groceries for a year form WalMart and so I had entered a recipe months before that ended up being selected as a finalist! I was super excited about the prize!!!! Not so excited about getting on an airplane and having to cook in front of strangers ....

That call began a flurry of activity! After I stopped panicking, I decided it was a good idea just calm down and pray for direction. I didn't know if I would have the stamina to travel to the cook-off, the know-how to grill burgers on the Big Taste Grill, or the gumption to even try! I wrote to Jen and asked for her advice, and as always she was so encouraging! She calmed my fears with some good advice and shared her experiences with me, which gave me much to think about!

 I decided that though I was terrified, it was a unique opportunity and a chance for some Mother/Daughter bonding, and I felt peace about deciding to go and see what it was all about.  Our Dreamer was an enthusiastic travel companion and ready to pack her bag, but there was a lot to do to get ready! Wading through paper work and reading fine print - sending off certified affidavits and making travel arrangements!  Whew! 

Well, and then there was the little matter of

You see, my dear Historian is the grill master here - he has been from the start!  It was part of the marriage contract you know, right along with making Saturday morning pancakes (his job) and not putting flannel sheets on our bed before November 1st (I've kept my word, but it hasn't been easy!). It's been quite a happy arrangement for these many years, but we had to cross the lines a bit - I had to learn how to grill my recipe, and not just throw it together for the Historian to grill to perfection!

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, Dad and Mum came for a special visit! 

Together we celebrated Dreamer's 14th birthday!!!!!

Of course there were lots of hugs to share! 

After we came to grips with our sweet girl being 14 year old *sniff* and said a sad farewell to Poppa and Grammy, we got serious about contest preparation.

Well, I tried to get serious, but by that point our computer wasn't working and all of the research I hoped to do before we left didn't get done.  I did practice grilling my burgers though, and had our new neighbors over to taste test and critique them for me.  I made a few method changes to eliminate a soggy bun problem I was having, and gained more confidence as I practiced my recipe!

Storyteller was in sausage heaven ...
'I wish we could have Johnsonville Brat Burgers every night Mama!"

So the rhythm continued with school, AWANA, church, ballet, baseball, piano and everyday life along with helping our new neighbors unpack, learning how to grill and muddling our way through the carry on luggage regulations for air travel. 

With just a smattering of nervous anxiety and a bit of worry along with 
a trifle of sheer terror thrown in for good measure. 

And lots of prayer.

Oh, and the little matter of our 

20th Wedding Anniversary
 and if that's not the craziest thing I've ever heard, I don't know what is because I am almost sure it was just a few years ago that we were dating ...

God is so good ... our journey has been so challenging, but God has been faithful, 
and we have learned to trust Him.
Our love has endured the tests of time, and it is sweeter for it! 

We didn't do a single thing to celebrate because it was time to pack up and go!

Dreamer and I got on an airplane and traveled to Bentonville Arkansas! Two planes actually - what a ride! Dreamer has decided against pursuing a career as a flight attendant, and I, well, I was just happy that the feeling to my hand was restored after each take off and landing! 
Dreamer was ghastly pale, but brave - I was so proud of her.  

I don't know what to say about the contest - it was just an amazing experience and nothing like I have ever done before!  It was amazingly well organized and they just overwhelmed us with thoughtful Johnsonville goodie bags and perfectly lovely accommodations! We met some really important business people and of course the other contestants and their travel companions. We really enjoyed our trip and we both had so much fun! My recipe didn’t win, but we were given wonderful consolation prizes.

I am the type of gal who either hides in the kitchen or holds up the wall at parties, so it was such a huge stretch for me to be up front talking about my recipe in front of strangers and cooking in front of so many cameras on the HUGE Big Taste Grill! I was terribly nervous but determined that I would just do my best and enjoy the experience – and I did! 

The hardest part of the whole experience was getting up at 5 am to start the food prep and grilling outside in the cold darkness of the WalMart headquarters parking lot in the early morning! We could hardly see what we were doing, and I could barely think for being so cold and nervous! I think I got a sun tan from the camera flashes, and I am totally not comfortable in front of a camera! I didn't burn my burgers and the judges seemed to really like my recipe, though I felt sorry for them having to taste test Brat burgers and Italian sausage burgers at 8:30 AM! They didn't seem to mind at all.

The funniest part of this is that both of our children have caught the ‘contest bug’ and want me to enter every recipe contest they find online! I am not so sure … but I do know that I’ve learned a lot and wouldn’t be quite so scared another time! As in everything, we saw God’s provision and care in giving me the courage, strength and relatively good health to travel to the contest, to participate and then to get on home! It was a blessing and quite a memorable experience for Dreamer and I!

Now we are home again and back into routine - though I sort of lost last week. We muddled through school but I think my old whiplash injury from our hit-and-run rear-ending a few years ago was aggravated by our final landing - the landing was smooth enough but the pilot had to really lay on the brakes and we all kissed the seats in front of us briefly!Ouch!

Last weekend I over did it a bit and put the whole garden to bed in one day! I was so thankful to be able to do it that I pushed too hard and by Sunday morning I almost couldn't get up the stairs at church! 
I know - crazy!

Tomorrow the guys are headed to Man Camp with the men and boys from church! 
It should be a great time, but I am afraid it will be very very cold!
Dreamer has soccer on Saturday, and I am planning on some more fall housecleaning!

It's so good to be back and back online - lots of catching up to do, but it will all get done ... eventually!

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Top 10 Sewing Tips

 I'll soon be teaching a homeschooling friend and her sweet daughters the basics of sewing in a once a month class in my home and I'm really looking forward to it.  In digging up some of my syllabus ideas for the beginning sewing classes I taught years ago, I found these tips that I've passed along to many novice sewers. 
I realized that I hadn't ever included them on my blog, 
so here they are!

1. Use good thread.  Cheap thread is just frustrating and why waste time in frustration when you can be creating something pretty?  Cheap thread 'gums' up the machine and breaks easily - avoid those cheap spools like the 'plague'. They are the ruination of so many beginning sewers!  Let's just say they are enough to make the preacher's wife swear ... if she knew the words!

2. ALWAYS pre-wash washable fabrics.  Always.  As in, without fail!  Honestly, you don't want to be working with unwashed fabrics. Think crazy shrinkage, nasty chemicals, running dyes, bugs, and the sanitation limitations of  people who toil in textile mills all over the world. Wash and dry the fabric as you would the finished item. Be sure to iron it well before you cut it out.  Don't skip this step. If it's 'dry clean only' and you plan to dry clean the finished garment get the fabric dry cleaned before you cut it out. That includes lining fabrics as well. Please don't ask me how I know that pre-dry cleaned wool coating (Melton Cloth) and non-dry cleaned Bemberg lining are a sad sad sad combination.

3. Use simple patterns and quality natural fiber fabrics to begin with.  There is nothing wrong with simple patterns with good lines.  You can tackle a designer Vogue dress with 67 pattern pieces later - simple is best to start. Classic designers do it all the time - simple patterns with luxurious fabrics and one or two eye-drawing details. Perfect!

4.  If you are making clothing, make a 'muslin' or trial run garment with cheap fabric first. Try it on.  Adjust the pattern. Adjust your 'muslin' until it fits.  Use your 'good fabric' and cut it according to your changes - it should fit nicely the first time, and if you can't get the 'muslin' to flatter your figure get another pattern and try again - don't waste your time and nice 'expensive' fabric on a pattern that doesn't fit right. Once you have a pattern that fits and flatters make it again in different fabrics and add or remove details for a different look. Don't re-invent the wheel.

5. You iron is your BEST sewing friend. It's true!  It is the difference between 'handmade' and 'homemade' - well pressed garments look well, so take the time to stop and press frequently and carefully. Use a press cloth for most fabrics - it prevents shine and scorching. Mine is just an old linen  napkin - nothing fancy, but it works.

6. Take a class, read a good sewing book, watch some sewing DVD and buddy up with an experienced seamstress. Than just set aside uninterrupted time and SEW!   Push yourself to gain a new skill with each project you tackle.  For example, when I was 10 years old I made every project in the 'Bishop Method of Clothing Construction' sewing book that I inherited from my Grandma W. It took me  a year but by the end I had made a lined tailored jacket and skirt for myself.  With bound buttonholes and bias trim. My Mum did not and does not sew, so I was mostly on my own, but it was so fun. I made mistakes.  The seam ripper is a tool meant to be used.

7. Learn to finish your seams professionally.  If you have a serger, great - it's a huge time saver.  If not, learn to French seam, flat fell seam or at the least employ those pinking shears! Not only does it look better inside the garment, it will extend the life of the garment as well. Take a look at how your favorite clothing is constructed and learn from their seam finishing techniques.

8.  Change your sewing machine needle with each and every project and learn to use the right needle for the fabric you are working with.  Have at least 2 'spares' of every size and type of needle on hand at all times.  They tend to break in threes - I don't know why. Remember that the larger the number, the more heavy duty the needle is.  Most woven fabrics do well with a 'sharps' or 'univsersal'  size 10 or 12  but for fine or slippery fabrics a size 8 works better, and for something heavy like canvas or duck you'd need 14 or 16.  Denim has it's own needles which are very heavy duty and durable, and knits require special needles as well.  Make sure that the needle you buy are for your machine, and if you are not sure, compare the top or shank with the needle you have. Double needles are fantastic for top stitching nice details.  Easy as pie - just fill an extra bobbin with your thread and draw both threads through the tension together until you get to the the needles, then thread them separately.

9. Keep trying on as you go - it will prevent a lot of ripping out!  Even if you muslin was 'perfect', your 'good' fabric may have a different amount of stretch or ease, and may drape differently on your body.  Make your adjustments before you do the finishing, like hemming or tip stitching - it will make your life easier. Always hang a skirt or dress on a hanger overnight before you hem it - especially skirts that are cut on the bias.  They may sag or drape more in one direction or another and make for a crazy uneven hem - which is never attractive when it is unintended!

10. Vacuum out the dust and fluff and oil your machine regularly.  It's working hard for you - so a little lube and tidy up is the very least you can do in return! Your owners manual will give you simple instructions for the regular maintenance, and you local sewing machine repair person should be able to give you some idea of how often professional cleaning is required.

 Enjoy your sewing projects more - I know how frustrating it can be to try something new and not have it go smoothly - hopefully this will help you avoid some common pitfalls! 

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

School Days

Storyteller’s Subject List
Grade 5 (age 11)

1.      Bible & AWANA T&T book #4 (he's really sweating this one - the verses are challenging)
2.      Big Bad Bible Giants (Devotional)
3.      Singapore Math- Primary Math 5a & 5b
4.      Gateway Reader – Grade 5
5.      Wordly Wise Book 5
6.      A Reason for Spelling Level E
7.      Explode the Code
8.      Creative Writing 6
9.      A Reason for Handwriting 
10.  Daily Journal assignments
11.  Exploring Education - Physical Science - Intermediate Level
12.  A Child’s Geography
13.  US. Geography
14.  50 States
15.  Drive Through American History
16.  Colonial Life in America
17.  Pioneer Life in America
18.  The Mystery of History Volume 3 – Reformation, Renaissance & The Growth of Empires
19.  Visual Latin
20.  Spanish
21.  Meet The Masters Online Art
22.  Guitar Lessons
23.  Home School Gym weekly at the YMCA, Fall Batting League, Home School Soccer, Upward Basketball

I am still working on his Read Aloud list - currently we are working our way through Ulysses.

Dreamer’s Subject List 2011- 2012
Grade 9 (age 13 - almost 14)

  1. Bible (currently continuing an Intensive Study of 1 John)
  2. Thinking Like a Christian (Developing a Christian Worldview)
  3. Grammar and Writing 9
  4. Daily Journal Assignments
  5. Excellence in Literature-Reading and Writing through the Classics-British Lit.
  6. Invitation to the Classics
  7. Wordly Wise book 10
  8. Pentime Cursive 9
  9. Latin Roots 
  10. Visual Latin
  11. Speech and Debate ( with a homeschool group)
  12. Algebra ½ (Saxon Math with DIVE CD)
  13. World Physical Geography – Runkle’s Mapping the World
  14. Exploring Education - Physical Science- Advanced Level
  15. The Mystery of History Volume 3 – Reformation, Renaissance & The Growth of Empires
  16. The Light and the Glory & Sounding Forth the Trumpet
  17. Beginning German
  18. Meet the Masters Online Art (Adult Level)
  19. Piano and Music Theory with Mrs.D. – Dreamer received 3 ‘Superior’ Piano Guild Awards this spring and is working toward a 15 piece Bach program for Spring 2012 – she practices at least 11/2 hours daily.
  20. Home School Gym at YMCA weekly, Ballet, Home School Soccer

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Monday, September 5, 2011

I'm wearing a sweater

Oh the joy! 
We are experiencing our first 'true' fall coolness and it is wonderful!

Yesterday I made a batch of Mr. Good Barley Soup (recipe HERE) and a batch of Whole Wheat dinner rolls (recipe HERE) and today I made Cheesy Potato Soup - which you know means fall is really here! 

Dreamer came into the kitchen with her sparkling blue eyes and said,
'Oh!  I LOVE soup season!'
Fall is such a special time of year and I am ready to enjoy every minute of it!
On Saturday we took down the summer mantle 'beach theme' and I didn't have the heart to ask the guys to get up in the hot hot attic to dig out the fall boxes, but we'll get to it this week. There is nothing wrong with an 'edited' mantle for a few days ... as long as you dust it!

I'll get to that later.
I'm dreaming about soup right now!

So ... in thinking about all things soup related, I thought I would share my simple Chicken Stock recipe, because I don't know about you, but the $3 carton of organic stock is getting on my nerves.  I didn't mind when it was $2 so much, but  when they INCREASE the price at the same time they DECREASE the quantity, it's time to re-think the quick and easy carton of soup stock. 
When I see them on sale I will buy for the pantry, but for now I am making my own.

It's easy - it helps keep your veggie drawer in good shape, and it is so much more economical!
So let's get to it.
Chicken Stock
(You're going to love how simple this is!)

Chicken bones & skin
celery, carrots, an onion or two, garlic, ginger
sea salt, pepper, parsley, bay leaf, oregano, turmeric (for color)
Time: 10 minutes to put together - 4 hours to simmer - overnight to cool - 
10 minutes to skim off fat and repackage for the freezer.

Tonight I oven roasted 6 large chicken breasts for meals this week and deboned them when they were cool.  I have plans for two suppers and a lunch with that chicken, and I had the oven on anyway, so it is win-win!
A rotisserie or oven roasted chicken carcass works just fine too.

I threw those bones, the skin and the juices from de-glazing the chicken pan into a 16 cup heavy duty pot.  
By de-glazing, I simply mean pouring some boiling water into the pan
and loosening all the yummy bits of stuck on chicken goodness. It's good stuff!
I cleaned out the crisper ( which my Dad says should be called the 'wilter') and tossed a limp celery heart (about 6 ribs and the leaves), 3 large rubbery carrots, one large onion and 4 cloves of garlic in the pot. 
I love the richness of ginger in my stock so I grabbed a chunk and put it in the pot too.
All the veggies were washed and then just coarsely cut up - no pealing or dicing is necessary. 

 I guess the carrots sunk - they are in there!

I filled the pot almost to the brim with water and added some fresh and dried herbs from the garden, 
but dried herbs alone work just fine too. Most of my herbs are from my bountiful garden - everything else did poorly, but the herbs flourished and I've been drying them frequently.
Tonight I used rosemary, parsley, oregano and fresh black pepper.
For every 2 cups of broth I use 1/4 tsp. sea salt - so for this batch I used 2 I'll taste it and add more as needed, but we avoid salt around here as much a possible, so adjust this to your tastes!

I don't know why, but the bay leaf is really a necessary ingredient.  I have varied the other herbs and spices according to what we had on hand, but whenever I've left out the bay leaf, 
the flavor of the stock has not been a full and rich. 
Flat and boring.
That little leaf leaves a lot of flavor behind. I put three in my big stock pot tonight.

I don't have a bay in my herb garden yet ... maybe someday I will, 
but the plants are expensive and I've heard they are tricky to grow.

My stock is simmering away and leaving a wonderful aroma in the kitchen.  In about 4 hours I will strain the stock and discard the contents then put the stock in a large bowl in the fridge to cool.  In the morning there will be a layer of fat on the top that I will remove before freezing in 2 cup portions. 

What did it cost me? I don't know, but I do expect to get 12 cups of broth - so about 3 four cup cartons (they are smaller now) worth and I am quite sure that the electricity and ingredients were way less than $10.
The onions were in good shape, but the rest of the organic veggies were a bit past their prime and might not otherwise have been used - perfect for soup stock in my opinion.

Do you make soup stock?  
What is your 'secret' ingredient?  I'd love to know!

School has started - I'm planning on publishing a list of our curriculum choices for this year soon.
We are LOVING science!  We are getting into a good routine, but I've been very tired lately, so not much else is going on! We start the regular weekly activities this week so I am praying for more energy.  Most days we drag our books out the the back patio table and enjoy the fresh air while we work, but some days have been just hot or wet for outdoor school.  I'll encourage 'school on the patio' until the colder weather requires too many hot chocolate breaks, though it might not be a problem since the new grill has a side burner ... 


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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Baseball Ice Cream Cake

Summer birthdays call for ice cream cake! 

We've often made an ice cream cake for Storyteller because he loves it and it's so
much better than baking a cake when it's so very hot!
So cool and refreshing!

I made the same style cake two years ago for our baseball crazy boy but made it in a much larger
bowl since we had the family here to help us celebrate.
I also got a bit fancy with some colored whipped cream - you can see it HERE.

So, would you like the directions to make your own half baseball ice cream cake?
Baseball Ice Cream Cake
one (or more) carton of good quality ice cream - your choice of flavor (he chose vanilla bean)
sundae sauce (he chose homemade caramel)
candy and or nuts (he chose chopped Rolos)
whipping cream
1 piece of pull apart red licorice or shoe string licorice

a bowl lined with several layers of plastic wrap
a sharp knife
cake plate
icing spatula
waxed paper

There is no need to soften the ice cream if you are making this on a hot day - even with A/C it will soften very quickly when sliced unless your freezer is crazy cold.
Take the ice cream out of the cartons in one piece - I usually cut the carton open. 
Slice the ice cream in 2" thick slices with a sharp knife. 
Lay one slice in your plastic wrap lined bowl and using your hands or a large spoon, push the ice cream into the contours of the bowl. Cut more ice cream to line the sides of the bowl.
Layer a small amount of sundae sauce and candy or nuts
with alternate layers of ice cream slices until the bowl is full.  Work very quickly!!!
Finish with an ice cream layer.  
Really pack it in well and then cover tightly with more plastic wrap and 
freeze for at least 4-6 hours.

Prepare the lacing by separating the licorice and laying them out on waxed paper. Cut three strings into 1/2" pieces and place on longer strings to form laces.  I like to push them down a bit so that they stick and don't fall off when I transfer them to the cake.

When the cake is frozen, whip the cream with a little superfine sugar until stiff. Line the cake plate with strips of waxed paper around the edges and un-mold the ice cream mound unto the plate. Peel of the plastic wrap and 'ice' with whip cream.  If you have lots of whip cream and want to color some to pipe on that's fun too!
It's best to have a helper to transfer the licorice lacing unto the cake, but it cane be done singlehandedly if you're adept. Return the cake to the freezer until it is time to serve.

We used good quality ice cream that was on sale, Rolos that were on sale B1G1 and whipping cream that was on too. The licorice was not on sale, but we only used one strip. I made the caramel sundae sauce, but I should have just bought a jar because it was so hot and my first two batches didn't turn out. One batch curdled and the other got way too thick so we'll use it for apple dip.
This cake cost about $6 to make and would serve 8 generously.

We've tried lots of other flavor combinations and they were all good.
 Some favorite simple combinations :

*vanilla ice cream*chocolate ice cream* hot fudge sauce* crushed Oreos*
 *strawberry ice cream*strawberry sauce*shaved chocolate*crushed vanilla wafer cookies*
*vanilla ice cream*hot fudge sauce* Spanish peanuts*
*chocolate ice cream*peanut butter cups*peanuts*chocolate sauce*

What do you like in your Ice Cream Cake?

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Happy Birthday 

Today our Storyteller is eleven years old. 
I'm not sure where the time went, but it is quite possible that we were so busy
keeping him out of trouble that we missed a few days here and there!
What a blessing it is to see him maturing and growing up to be a godly young man.

It's so relaxing to be able to trust him to play on his own in the backyard, or to take him somewhere and not have to worry so much about him wandering off or endangering his life. 

 {we've waited a long time for these sweet days}

He is learning to control his wild impulses and make better decisions,
and he's finding that the consequences of not doing so are often  painful.

Yesterday the Historian took him to Game Stop to spend his hard earned money on a Wii Game!
Can you guess what game he chose? 
MLB 2K11
Of course.
Worth every penny of his 'garbage duty' days for Mr. Neighbour.
He played a game with Daddy first thing this morning before he let for work.
In his baseball p.j.'s of course!
He seems to think that because it's far too hot to play outside, and because it's his birthday
he gets 'unlimited screen time' today, but that's not the case!

He started the day with a short stack of chocolate chip pancakes
- not as good as Daddy's but they passed.

My brain was in a fog last night as I tried to come up with some character traits 
to go along with the letters for 'birthday'.
Sister thought 'T' should stand for something quite true but uncomplimentary, so we left it!

After breakfast he got dressed in a t-shirt I made him recently and some shorts 
- and then went right back to Wii! 
What a boy!
I'm not sure what we're doing with the rest of the day.
Trying to keep cool, keep hydrated and have a little fun.
I'm so thankful he asked for an ice cream cake for his birthday 
- so easy to make and perfect for such a hot day!

Storyteller just came to sit beside me to see what I'm up to on the computer!
I think it's time to roll up our sleeves and get working on that ice cream cake! Yum!

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Gardening by moonlight

It's 10:30 PM and I'm just in from the garden. My dream is that some evening my sweet Historian and I will be just coming in together about now after an evening on the back patio just talking and enjoying each others company.  Maybe with a ice cold lemonade and some soft music.
Kinda like a date.   
I have fond memories of dates with my Historian ...

Tonight was not that night.  
I was not out admiring my night garden.  
I was gardening at night.  
And the moonlight?  Well, that's a bit of a stretch since there wasn't much moonlight at all.

Do you garden at night?
Perhaps I'm the only crazy night time gardener.  I hope not though, because it's kind of fun!

In fact there are some distinct advantages to gardening at night.
I'll list them for you just for fun:

  1. The best reason for night gardening is that you get a 'buy' from weeding! Seriously - it's not light enough to really see if it is true weed or just some self seeding darlin' that needs to be transplanted.  Since I don't want to yank out the good guys, I don't even try to weed at night.  Now isn't that the best definition of  garden bliss?  I think so!
  2. It's quiet.  No phone ringing or children running in and out the back door.  No dodging stray baseballs or tripping over toys. No distractions. The children are in bed, the toys are put away and the the garden is your own.
  3. It's cooler - the sun is down and the cool evening air is usually clear and fresh. I like to end my evening gardening with a cool shower, fresh 'dried on the line' p.j.'s and a big glass of water. Oh, and lots of lotion for my thirsty skin.
  4. It's just 'get it done' gardening. I had a whole flat of annuals that I bought on clearance last week to fill in spots here and there.  In the daytime I would carefully dig those holes, fill them with compost, gently loosen those roots, firm in the flowers, water, mulch and move on to the next empty spot.  At night I skip a few steps and just get those plants planted already! Everything seems to thrive, so it's great!
  5. I dream about my garden.  Spending time in the garden just before bed is relaxing and often I dream pleasant garden dreams when I finally get to bed.
  6. Surprise!  Does everyone love surprises in the garden?  I sure do.  Unless they are of the reptilian variety. Since you can't really see what you've done in your night gardening madness, the morning light reveals all.  Most of the time it's just a joy to see everything in place and putting down roots.  It's like having little garden helpers doing all the hard work for you!
  7. Moonflowers bloom only at night.  They make my heart sing with their sweet spicy scent and dinner plate sized blooms.  I don't get up early enough to see them fade as the morning light hits, so gardening at night means I get to see rare beauty.  They should be blooming in the next week or so, so I'll have to find some more clearance flowers to 'tuck in' one evening after the kids are in bed!

Of course, it's not all rosy out there in the night - gardening until long past sunset.  
There are some  small disadvantages too.  
For the sake of fairness, I feel I'd better list them:

  1. It's really hard to see at night.  In the dark. Unless there is a big bright moon. My Historian once offered to buy me a head lamp for night time gardening, but then I think he felt he'd just be enabling my strange unusual behavior.  He didn't get me one. When we put lights around the pergola on the back patio, he thought we'd have nice evening get togethers and illumine the garden.  I knew all along that the plan was to garden at night.
  2. The weeds are still there in the morning.  No gardening helpers remove them over night. Sorry about that.
  3. It's quiet - which means no power tools.  Probably a good thing since I am terrible at hedge trimming in daylight, so night trimming is seriously not a good plan.  If say, you trip on the hose and knock over a ladder or something, it will sound 100 times louder in the stillness of the night.  Who put that hose there anyway?
  4. You may have some unhappy surprises in the morning -  you may have to move a few plants into their 'happy place' because it was too dark to read the tiny print on the plant labels and you put a 'part shade' annual in full sun and a 'sunny' annual in full shade. It can happen.  I blame the dark, but really I should probably take my new reading glasses out to the garden with me. Those labels are tiny!
  5. You can't take pictures very well, and often you forget to dig out your garden journal and make note of what was planted where, which means if you had great success, you  have no notes to help you repeat it.  Or if you have great failure, you might just repeat that because of the lack of note taking. Garden journals are great, but only if you use them.
  6. Mosquitoes.
  7. Mosquitoes.
  8. Mosquitoes.
 Tonight I had so much fun with an old chair, some hardware cloth, sphagnum moss, apple green spray paint, compost and a few clearance flowers. When I was in a garden center a few weeks ago I saw a bright chair filled with flowers that made my heart sing!  
I know flower chairs are nothing new, but it was so pretty - it inspired me.
It was $239.00.
 So, I got to thinking. 
I had an old chair that we took out of a 'large garbage collection' pile a few summers ago.  We enjoyed a wee bit of a fairy garden in a big green pot on it for two summers and then the middle piece of the seat simply fell out.  This weekend I  filled in the hole with hardware cloth and tonight I spray painted the chair very quickly and imperfectly, lined it with moss and compost and filled it with flowers. 
The $1 ivy is the same apple green and the lime nicotiana is perfect!  
I can't wait to see it in the light of day!
I will take a picture for you!

I hope your garden is bringing you as much joy as my garden is bringing me!

I'll report in later on the veggies, but there is not much to tell.  The whole garden is getting too much shade from a sweet gum tree that grew like crazy last summer and fall.  We either need to move the whole garden or trim the tree and hope for the best.  

Let me know if you try night gardening!  
I'd love to hear that I'm not the only one!

The greatest advantage of night gardening - it's a chance to wander through the garden with a heart full of praise and give thanks to God who is the One who bestows such beauty and joy in our crazy mixed up fallen world. I think of Adam and Eve walking with God in that first perfect garden in the cool of the day and enjoying sweet friendship in such a pure and unhindered way.  That I can come to God through Jesus Christ despite my sin nature is just an unforgettable blessing. 

Blessings friends,

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