Monday, March 31, 2008

Rain

Last week my husband and I submitted our second offer on the house I've mentioned, and we included a detailed letter explaining the reasons for our low offer, at our realtor's suggestion. My prayer as we signed the papers was that God would make it clear one way or another. It has been difficult waiting, as I continue imagining ourselves in that house, arranging furnishings and selecting paint possibilities.

The next morning we learned that another offer had been placed on "our" house the same night, and as the other bid was higher than ours, it was accepted. Later in the day, we decided to try again by countering with our maximum price as there was a contigency that allowed for other offers within 72 hours. We learned over supper that our third and final bid had once again been rejected. Tears of disappointment streamed down my face when I heard the news. It's hard to let go of this one, but I have to trust that God has something else in store for us.

As I've grappled with the finality of the decision, God has brought two specific things to mind to give me comfort and assurance: one, Proverbs 3:5-6; and two, the lyrics to a powerful song.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Spring cleaning your car

There has been lots of focus on spring cleaning lately which is fabulous, but one area that I often overlook is my car. After receiving 2 Living Green challenges regarding auto maintenance, I made sprucing up my car an item on the to-do list. My husband, thankfully, agreed to help with these tasks! The first Living Green challenge was to check the air pressure in your tires. The second challenge was to check your car's air filter, not something I would usually even think about! Here's a quote from an article about "green-ing" your car:

"Getting regular tune-ups, maintenance, and having clean air filters will help you burn less gas, pollute less, and prevent car trouble down the line. Pump up: if every American’s tires were properly inflated we could save around 2 billion gallons of gas each year! (Check your manual for optimal pressure). Lastly, get the junk out of the trunk! All that extra weight is sapping your fuel economy."

So if you feel led as you spring clean, check the pressure in your tires and clean or replace your car's air filter. Oh, and it also doesn't hurt to clean out your glove compartment, as I learned last week! These are small things that can make a big difference!

One more thing: Amy just linked to these ideas for homemade car cleaning products--what a great idea!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Living Simply

Monica recently loaned me a book she'd enjoyed called Living Simply by Joanne Heim.

I am glad I read it, but I don't plan to add this title to my collection. While conversing with a friend who had also read the book, I agreed with some of her reactions. This friend mentioned she had looked for more of an "earthy" tone to the book: "I love the writer's ideas of family and hospitality and being intentional about all you do, but I also think living simply involves frugality, resourcefulness, and environmental responsibilty." I heartily agree with that statement. Of course we all have different definitions of simplicity, and I think my definition probably varies some from that of the author's. I'm not saying my understanding of simplicity is right and someone else's is wrong, and I don't disagree with Heim's definition as stated in the book ("a simple life is centered on people rather than things," "a simple life is focused rather than scattered"), I just feel there were elements of simple living which were absent from the book (such as those listed above).

As with Frugal Luxuries, there were sections and quotes from the book that I enjoyed. Like Monica, I appreciated Heim's references to Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables as models of simplicity. I have often wondered how Ma would have entertained a bustling toddler, especially in a one-room house!

I nodded along with this paragraph: "I wonder why the word homemaker sounds so funny to my ears in this day and age. Because when I stop to think about it, making a home is a really cool thing. In fact, the word encompasses much of what I do as a wife and mother. Our home provides my family a place of refuge and safety, a place for rest and relaxation. Our home is a setting in which we make memories and create our life together."

I appreciated the chapter on the importance of the Sabbath, and Heim's insights about how to incorporate rest on that day and set it apart as a covenant with God. "How do we take Sabbath in a world that never stops? When life moves on around us without slowing down for a rest, it's hard to imagine stepping back and resting as God desires."

Towards the end of the book, Heim acknowledges that "there's no perfect recipe for living simply. What is simple and works for my family may not work for yours. There's no one-size-fits-all simple life. The point is to choose wisely--to know what you're choosing for your family, and why." Heim of course shared what works for her family, and it's fun to read her stories and examples. I appreciate her thoughts on simplicity, even though simple living looks different for me.

Has anyone else read this book? What did you think? Any suggestions for other books on this subject? By the way, you can read Monica's review here--she loved this one and thus offers a different perspective from mine.

Exotic spices

A couple of our friends recently returned from a trip to the Middle East, and brought back spices to share with us. They look intriguing and smell wonderful, but I'm not quite sure what to do with them and welcome your suggestions.

Clockwise, starting left top: star anise, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves. I've never even seen those first 3 in whole form, and the only time I've used whole cloves was to make pomanders as a child.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Paper or plastic?


Neither! I love the bags Mer recently sent me. The company that manufactures them has a wonderful website, where you can learn more about the harmful effects of traditional paper and plastic grocery sacks. If you're looking for an easy and inexpensive way to make a difference, this is a great place to start, and I recommend this product specifically.

It took me awhile to get in the habit of remembering to bring my cloth bags, but now when I'm done emptying them, I return them to the trunk of my car right away. That works for me! What works for others? Click here for more tips.

Hooray for waffles!

Well, as I told you yesterday, I much prefer waffles to pancakes--both eating them as well as preparing them. Since I was asked to share my waffle recipe with you, here it is:

Oatmeal waffles

1 1/2 c. flour (I use 1 c. white flour +1/2 c. wheat flour)
1 c. quick oats
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 c. milk (I use prepared powdered milk)
4 T. butter, melted
2 T. brown sugar

Mix all ingredients together and bake on preheated waffle iron. I usually spray the iron lightly with non-stick spray. Enjoy--these are so easy! I like the oats because they add fiber and make them more filling.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Eggs-periment

My husband covered farm chores for some friends who were out of town this weekend, and his tasks included collecting eggs. He brought home a few beautiful tan and light blue eggs--what a treat!

I told Eric I wanted to conduct an eggs-periment, a taste test between a farm egg and a "commercial" egg to see if he could tell the difference. I didn't use any seasonings, and I whisked each with just a hint of milk. The proof was in the color alone. I was shocked at how vibrantly yellow the farm yolk was, and it was easy to see they were not the same. Eric guessed correctly, though he admitted they tasted pretty similar. Nonetheless, it was interesting to compare them side by side.

Along with the scrambled eggs, I attempted (like Amy) to overcome one of my domestic fears: pancakes. I know, some of you are probably re-reading that sentence, and that's OK. But it's true. I always make waffles, because I lack the confidence of a pancake flipper. Last night's supper illustrated why. I did consider taking a picture of my pitiful cakes, but then thought better of it. My first outpouring of batter nearly met in the center of the griddle, and I remembered instantly why the wafflemaker is a girl's best friend. Waffles don't need much tending, and you don't have to hover trying to decide whether they've bubbled enough to give 'em a flip. Eric smirked several times throughout the meal, making jokes about the amoebic shapes I'd cooked up. But hey--they still tasted good! And the point, after all, is that I tried, right?!

If, for some strange reason, you're remotely interested in making pancakes after my little story, here's the recipe I used, a multi-generational favorite of my husband's family.

Swedish pancakes

2 eggs, beaten
2 c. milk
1 c. flour
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt

Mix together. Batter will be very runny, so runny that you will question adding another entire cup of flour. However, that will cause an even bigger mess than following these instructions, so resist the urge. Bake on preheated griddle at 400. Try this at your own risk!

Smorgasbord

*My weekend trip to the consignment store resulted in a few deals, the best of which was a pair of cute Dockers chinos for a buck! They were priced $12.95 (the consignment price) but had been moved to the bargain room because the back pocket was missing a button and there was a small ink stain near the ankle. Doesn't bother me--I'll save that $11!


*Jody's monthly scrapbribing contest is up and running, and this one involves super cute spring paper and embellishments! Just leave her a comment for your chance to enter, and please tell her I sent you.

*My discovery of free lotion earned me a link on Money Saving Mom, one of my favorite blogs--wahoo!

*On Easter Sunday, this verse we sang was particularly powerful to me:

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
lyrics by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

Monday, March 24, 2008

Crying over spoiled milk

Some friends and I were discussing a recent episode of Oprah, in which several people shared their experiences with Dumpster diving for groceries. Out of curiosity, I decided to call both of our local grocery stores (that's right, two stores--we're a small town and proud!) to find out what they do with food that is about to expire and what they do with it once it's past the stamped date. How fascinating!

Both stores said they reduce the price of meat, dairy and produce to try to get them to sell more quickly. One store said they freeze meat to prolong its sell-by date, and also mentioned that some expired canned goods can be returned to the company!

I was really interested when a store manager mentioned this next example because this had just happened to me. When we were unpacking our groceries recently, I noticed a cereal box that was stamped with the previous day's date. I thought it kind of odd that they would sell a product past its date, but the manager said products that say "best by" are handled differently than those that say "expiration date." Makes sense, I just never knew that.

Both stores said they pitch dairy products and produce that are past their prime, and neither store allows employees to take anything home with them, except for what is in the regular reduced section. One manager said they have that policy so that employees won't think they can take products home if they're near expiring. Interesting! One of the workers I talked to said they used to have several people root through their Dumpster, but that the traffic has slowed down in recent years.

It makes me sad to think of all this wasted food. I'm sure other stores have other policies, such as donating food to shelters or pantries. Do you know your store's policies in this matter? Do you regularly check the reduced grocery sections? Have you/would you ever look through a (grocery) store's Dumpster?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Lead foot

This morning, I was merrily on my way to a consignment store in a town about 25 miles away. I was all by myself and relishing the time alone by singing along to a favorite CD. A few minutes from home, I passed a state trooper who was going in the opposite direction. And I knew, just knew, I'd been speeding and was going to be pulled over. Which is exactly what happened. Sigh.

I fumbled around for the proper papers, as the officer came up to my window. I was actually pretty calm about the whole thing. I knew I was guilty, and I wasn't having a this-is-the-last straw kind of day. Mostly, I was embarassed because it took a lot of rummaging around in the glove compartment to locate the current insurance and registration copies! The trooper was kind and patient about my lack of organization, saying he sees this frequently. =) I did take the time to do an on-the-spot cleaning session while he was checking my license info.

Because it was only a "minor" infraction (less than 10 over, but I'm not sure what I was clocked at), he let me off with a warning. I thanked him, pulled carefully back onto the highway, and set my cruise control for 55. He was behind me for about 8 miles, so you'd better believe I was extra cautious!

This was my first warning, though not my first time to be pulled over. In my early 20's, in the span of 3 years, I picked up all 3 of my speeding tickets--all in our county or a neighboring one! I am certainly not proud of this, and am not promoting driving too fast. I am curious, though, for those who are willing to share: Have you ever been pulled over and/or gotten a ticket?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sorrow and love

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

--Isaac Watts

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bloomin' Sister's Shoebox Swap

UPDATE: The swap filled up in less than 8 hours--wahoo! Let the fun begin!

Happy First Day of Spring (in our part of the world)! We promised we had a treat in store for you today and we are happy to announce our next Sister's Shoebox Swap!

We traditionally choose one word to get your creative juices flowing and for Spring, our theme is Bloom! Everything in the swap does not need to be flowery, but we hope this word will provide a starting place (a seed!) for garden, planting, flowers and all things Spring. Sign up starts today and will be open to the first 50 friends we receive e-mail messages from.

Please send an e-mail with your name, address, e-mail and blog address (if you have one) to sisterswaps@hotmail.com with "Bloom Swap" in the subject line. Please note that leaving a comment on this post does not sign you up for the swap.

Once you've signed up, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with a short questionnaire. These brief questions are simply a way for your partner to get to know you and your tastes to create a swap box you will enjoy! You do not have to have a blog to participate.

International swapping will be coordinated if anyone is willing to ship internationally. We will assume you prefer not to ship internationally unless you specify that you are willing to do so. After we receive all the questionnaires back, we will coordinate partners and send out e-mails to you and your partner will all the info.

If you sign up, please make sure you can follow through on your commitment. We've had several participants who have not followed through and we want to make sure everyone has a fun experience!

Swap partners will be assigned by Monday, March 31, 2008 and the swap deadline will be April 18, 2008. Happy swapping! Let the fun begin!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Iowa boy

One of his first words was "tractor"--need I say more?!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

STARTing over

A couple of months ago, I wrote about attending an organizing workshop, and I listed 3 goals I wanted to complete: 1) make a master list of favorite meals to aid my menu planning, 2) use the START method to better organize my son's clothes and 3) do a walk-through organizing assessment of our home.

I completed the first two tasks pretty quickly. The master list is just a handwritten draft, but it's now the cover page of my recipe notebook, and I've been consulting it often as I decide what's for dinner.

As for my son's clothes, I updated his clothing inventory, which has been a wonderful tool as I'm out shopping. I just consult my index cards and I know what we need and don't need in each size.
I saved the biggest job for last. In fact, I had completely forgotten about it until another organizer came to our MOPS meeting last week to talk about cleaning our closets. Well, that got me motivated again to do the assessment. I grabbed a notebook and pen, and walked through each room in our home. Anytime I saw an area (a closet or even a particular shelf) that needed attention, I wrote it down under that room's heading.

Before writing all of this down, I was feeling overwhelmed. But putting each task on paper really helped me see what needs to be done. Now that it's recorded, I don't need to keep thinking about it, and I can always add to the list as more problem areas catch my eye. I came up with 27 (!) drawers, cabinets, etc. that need sorting, and I dove right in that same morning. I clipped the lists to a clipboard, and will consult it as I have time. As we anticipate moving in a couple months, this is my version of spring cleaning.

I'm so glad I got STARTed, and I hope I keep it up! Almost half of the tasks have been completed in this first week--hooray!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Green day

Here's the menu for tonight: Monica's broccoli chicken lasagna, Irish bread, and a fabulous dessert which I posted below, topped with green M+Ms. These bars always receive rave reviews--enjoy!

M+M Dream Bars

2 c. quick oats
1 T. baking soda
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. melted butter
1/3 c. peanut butter
1 c. plain M+Ms

Combine oats, sugar, soda, flour and butter. Mix until moistened. Reserve 1 1/2 cups. Press remaining mixture into the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Combine condensed milk and peanut butter until blended, and spread over crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumbs, chocolate chips and M+Ms. Bake another 20 minutes. Cool and cut. Note: These can easily overbake, so it's best to keep checking them at the end.

An Irish blessing: May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home. May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam. May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures. May all life's passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!

A day in the life

It's been awhile since I've shared anything about our unique setting of living on a college campus, and I wanted to tell you about my Saturday. In addition to touring a couple houses, and the usual weekend tasks, here are 3 other activities from my day:

1. I was asked to participate in a panel discussion on intimacy in one of the women's dorms. Whew--that will wake you up in the morning! Is it warm in here? =)

2. My husband agreed to be involved in a local fundraiser by playing basketball with a team of other staff from the college. Doesn't sound too interesting until I tell you that all the players were riding on donkeys the whole time! I think it's even more funny since yesterday was Palm Sunday!
3. Saturday night, I served as a judge for a "pageant" in another women's hall. It was a spoof of typical pageants, with an "Arctic wear" segment instead of swimsuits, and a variety of "talents" that included a demonstration on how to floss braces (yuk!)

There you have it--a unique day in the life of someone in college ministry. I will miss being part of such a creative environment, but I'm thankful for the time we've spent here!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The big thaw

This is what it looks like outside our house--I am so grateful spring is almost here! Apparently, we recently broke a regional record for most consecutive days of snow on the ground--more than 120 days aka 4 months! I am very happy to see it melt!

Universal healthcare: continuing the conversation

When I titled my recent post a dialogue on universal healthcare, that's truly what I hoped it would be. I appreciate the opinions that were shared and have read through your comments multiple times, as I really wanted to hear what you had to say. By the way, Abbey just posted about her experience with healthcare while living in France, so check that out for another perspective.

I have already clarified that I am not advocating for or against universal healthcare, but rather trying to learn more about the issues. I do still feel that it is a stewardship matter, both at the individual level as well as national. Since healthcare costs typically comprise a substantial percentage of our monthly expenses, I wonder how can we be more wise in this area? For example, is it good stewardship as individuals to pay high amounts up-front to prevent catastrophic financial situations? On the other hand, is it better to pay less for insurance and risk facing a major medical situation?

At the national level, I want to know if/how we can abide by this principle from Acts 4:34-35: "There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time, those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and . . . distributed to anyone as he had need"? I'm not saying government-controlled healthcare is the answer, I'm just trying to make sense of caring for those in need without imposing outrageous taxes or enabling those who may take advantage of the system.

My husband and I have been a on group insurance plan for many years, but will soon be switching to a small office that merely makes a contribution to the employee's chosen plan. As we researched our options, an HSA (health savings account) appeared to be the most desirable option--until, we noticed the "maternity clause" at the end of the document. The clause, among other things, stated that if the insured became pregnant within the first year of coverage, maternity expenses would not be covered! Obviously that particular clause would not affect everyone, but we do hope God will bless us with a second child and don't want to feel pressured by insurance to wait a certain amount of time. It is unfortunate that insurance companies can get away with having so many "clauses" in their policies.

Spaghettipie linked to an interesting article (refuting universal health care) in the comments. A thought-provoking quote from the piece, which appeared in the LA Times: "The real danger is that our national obsession with universal coverage will lead us to neglect reforms — such as enacting a standard health insurance deduction, expanding health savings accounts and deregulating insurance markets — that could truly expand coverage, improve quality and make care more affordable."

Thank you for the compelling "discussion." If you have additional thoughts or resources to share, I'd be interested to hear them.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Some observations

I think of myself as an observant person. It doesn't mean something can't slip past me, but I do have a pretty keen eye. When Mer recently challenged her readers to find a subtle change on her blog, I was determined to figure it out. She even offered a prize to the first person to guess correctly! She gave a hint in the form of a link and when I opened it, I immediately noticed she had a new URL. I know it's strange, but I often look at people's URLs, even when it's a blog I visit daily! I have no idea why I do this, but it paid off this time. Mer sent me a care package full of fun goodies, including two fabric grocery sacks (you know me well, Mer--thanks!), and even a book and DVD for my son. Woo-hoo!

To further explain my quirky observances, I will tell you that while we were dating, my husband got a big kick out of making little changes in my decor while I was out of the room to see if I would notice (which of course, I did). On certain shelves (not all of them, just certain ones like the mantle), I have arranged items and frames at precise angles that I think are the most flattering.

For example, here's the *correct* angle for this little angel:

Not quite right:


Nope, still not right:


Ah, that's better.
Anyone else have this disease--I mean--fascinating personality trait?!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Streamlining

Thank you so much to everyone who weighed in about blog subscriptions. I signed up for Bloglines at the end of last week, and am loving it so far. I shudder to think of the time I've spent clicking around to see if a blog had been updated. It's so nice to have them all in one place! I still have some kinks to work through, but I like being able to click directly to the post so I can leave a comment. I wish I'd done this sooner, but am glad I jumped on the bandwagon. Thanks again for your tips and opinions!

I also appreciate all your ideas on photo storage. I need to think some more about which options will be best for our family, but I'm thankful for the inspiration you provided!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Universal healthcare: a dialogue

UPDATED FRIDAY MORNING: I want to read all the comments a couple more times as I formulate a response--you've given me much to think about. I also want to clarify I'm not advocating for or against universal health care--just trying to learn more about the issues involved. I had never really even thought about this stuff prior to seeing the documentary and wanted to facilitate a discussion on the subject. I truly appreciate everyone that has taken the time--and shown the courage--to share their opinions on such a controversial topic. I hope to post some responses tomorrow morning.

Over the weekend, my husband and I watched a documentary on health care and insurance in the United States. It was not our typical Friday night fare, but a friend urged us to see it, so we did.

There are two sides to every story, of course, and this is a topic I know little about. But watching the film definitely made me think more about the issue. I was glad that Abbey posted on this very topic yesterday. She is an American, who lived in France for several years, and recently moved from Paris to Rome. She offers her own perspective of a health care situation she faced when returning to the States for Christmas.

I am thankful my family has health insurance, unlike 45 million Americans. But the documentary concerned me not only about potential insurance issues we ourselves might face, but also for those who are not receiving care because they can't afford it, or who are going under in debt to pay for even basic medical treatment. Here is a fascinating overview of the healthcare system in the Unites States, as well as a case for universal healthcare written by the American Medical Student Association.

A quote from the case referenced above: "At its root, the lack of health care for all in America is fundamentally a moral issue. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not have some form of universal health care (defined as a basic guarantee of health care to all of its citizens). While other countries have declared health care to be a basic right, the United States treats health care as a privilege, only available to those who can afford it. In this sense, health care in America is treated as an economic good like a TV or VCR, not as a social or public good."

I'd be really interested to hear from those of you live/have lived outside the U.S. about your thoughts on universal healthcare. I thought of the mayor's motto in the beloved Mitford books: "We take care of our own" because this seems to me to be a stewardship issue. In the conclusion of the case for UHC, the following question is posed: "Is it indeed acceptable to deny people health care based on their ability to pay?"

Sooner or later?

I was recently wondering why Easter is on a different date each year. Of course, it's always on a Sunday, but I still couldn't figure out why the date could fluctuate over the span of a month.

I learned the reasons yesterday while reading my MOPS newsletter!
  • Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox (March 20)
  • This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our calendar
  • This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see for the rest of our lives. The next time Easter will be on this date is 2228!
  • There are 35 possible dates for Easter, ranging from March 22 to April 25

Well, I learn something new every day!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sweet and simple flower

Since "real" flowers are a long way off from blooming around here, I made this little pretty--an adaptation of a Babygarten craft. Please read the directions carefully, as it's quite complicated:

First, I colored a popsicle stick green for the stem. Then I cut out the flower and circle pieces from craft foam. Next, I glued everything together. Ta-da! I tucked mine onto a shelf in the kitchen--a cheerful little addition to my cooking area.

Pop comments

Remember pop quizzes from your school years?! Well, "pop comments" will be a lot more fun. Occasionally, I will secretly select a post for pop comments. One random commenter on that particular post will win a small prize. I like comments + you like free stuff = win-win.

Yesterday's post was the first one chosen for pop comments, and the first winner is Wendi! She won two samples of Skin MD Natural lotion--one to keep and one to pass on to a friend.

After reviewing Gloves in a Bottle, I was sent samples of a similar product. I really like Skin MD and prefer it to Gloves in a Bottle because even though they're both unscented, it smells less medicinal. Also, a little goes a long way. This product made my hands feel very soft, which is hard to come by in a harsh Iowa winter! It's labeled as a face lotion as well, so I tried using it as such and liked how light and smooth it felt.

According to the website, the lotion has an "invisible shield" that keeps moisture-robbing irritants out while helping retain your skin's own natural moisture, resulting in skin that is better hydrated, over the long term, than what can be achieved by conventional lotions. I'm amazed that it doesn't come off when you wash your hands, which I do frequently.

I appreciate the opportunity to test this product, and I hope you enjoy it, too, Wendi! Thanks, everyone, for commenting!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Home

A couple of months ago, I made a little banner so that the word HOPE hangs prominently in my kitchen. Yesterday I changed the "p" to an "m." Home.

Change has always been difficult for me, and while I am excited about our upcoming transitions, I'm also anxious about the details. (Yes, Lord, I know You tell us to cast all our cares upon You and to be anxious for nothing but submit our requests to You--so please help me do that!) The process of searching for a new home has been difficult. Living in a small town, our options are quite limited, which in some ways can be a good thing. But there is also less selection, particularly in a certain price range. Of our four top options, two recently sold, one was just taken off the market, and the 4th (our favorite) has so far resulted in our rejected first offer. So I'm feeling sort of antsy about the whole thing. I know the Lord will provide, but it's easy to wonder how? and when?

In my recent retreat, I came across this verse from Psalms 127:1a: "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain." While we are not literally building a house, this verse reminds me--comforts me--that I need to surrender this process to Him. I need to remember this place (the world) is not my true home anyway, and also that if my family is together under one roof, we can make any structure a home.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Frugal Luxuries and other relevant thoughts

After seeing the book Frugal Luxuries by Tracey McBride recommended on several blogs, I requested it for Christmas and recently finished reading it. Though I enjoyed reading about another family's frugal journey and commitment to beauty and simplicity, I will not add this title to my list of favorites. I felt much of the information was somewhat outdated (granted the book is ten years old) and not especially creative. (On the subject of frugal luxuries, my favorite resource is Like Merchant Ships, which I feel offers both inspiration as well as practical direction. In fact, I thought of Meredith when reading in the book that "a well-set table and an artful presentation of foods is a strong indicator of resourcefulness and ingenuity.")

I did appreciate some of the material, though, and found several noteworthy quotes:

The goal of a "frugalite," McBride writes, is to "seek to enjoy the maximum comforts and freedoms that the wise use of money may bring."

"True simplicity is eliminating both material and intangible excess, and conserving time, energy, money and thoughts. It is using the resources you possess in a way that will take you toward your dreams, your goals--your desired future."

These words cause me to reflect on our current situation. The house we live in is owned by the college where my husband works, so searching for a new home is a first for us--and a big goal looming in the near future. Though we are blessed to have no other debt as we begin the home buying process, the magnitude of such a purchase can be quite daunting. When Eric and I sat down recently to re-consider our budget in light of a mortgage payment, we decided to scale back in several areas and to implement those changes now. It has been empowering to see that not only have we been able to live within the new budget, we've come in under those new numbers so far. (On a sidenote to keep you posted, we did put in an offer on the house I mentioned to you a few weeks ago, and it was rejected without even a counter. At this point, we are not sure how we will proceed.)

Another quote from the book made me think of our recent discussion of hospitality: "The house needn't be perfectly decorated or remodeled, the china need not match, and the foods do not have to be grand or expensive. All that is necessary to pleasantly enjoy the company of family and friends is to care. This affection will be made visible in thoughtfully prepared foods, presented in a warm and inviting setting."

Though I did not love the book, I certainly appreciate the subject and highlighted several thoughts and ideas for future reference. If you have read Frugal Luxuries, I would be interested to hear your opinion about it.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Your input is requested

While I was at Monica's, of course our conversation turned to blogging a couple of times. I haven't really understood the whole blog subscription thing, so that entailed part of our discussion. Monica set me up so that readers can subscribe by e-mail or feed reader, so that's cool. But what I want to know is how many of you use such a service, and what do you like about it? I'm considering signing up, especially for blogs that may not update regularly. If you subscribe to a blog, do you keep it on your visible blogroll? Which service do you use and why? That would be such helpful information! Thank you.

Also, yesterday I asked for ideas on how to organize and store photos, and would really like to receive some more inspiration. Would you be willing to share what works for you in that regard?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

There's no place like home

Warning: this post will probably be somewhat choppy as I begin processing my trip!

I am so thankful for the time I was able to spend with my dear sister and her family, though I am glad to be home again. I arrived at my house last night about ten minutes before my son's bedtime, so there wasn't much time to get reacquainted. His expression when he saw me after a 5-day absence was one of surprise and uncertainty, and I burst into tears at the sight of him. He looked older somehow, and has even learned some new words since I've been gone!

I left South Carolina wearing flip flops (changing into "real" shoes at the airport) and arrived home to (more!) falling snow. I definitely enjoyed the mild weather while it lasted! I already mentioned I don't enjoy flying, but I will say I appreciated all that reading time--I got through 6 magazines and half a book on my 4 flights (which ended up being on 4 different airlines!) And whenever I passed a mom with a baby or toddler at the airport, I sent up a little prayer on their behalf.

I laughed when my husband asked me if the trip felt like a vacation. I worked hard, harder than I usually do at home. With 2 toddlers and a new baby, there is just always something (many somethings!) that needs to be done. But spending time with Monica is refreshing, so in that way it was a vacation. We laugh a lot, have meaningful conversations, and we love tackling projects together. By the way, we came up with something fun which we'll announce on the first day of spring--so be watching for details! I look forward to catching up on all your posts in the next couple of days!

Works for You Wednesday: Organizing photos!

For my son's first year, we ordered prints on-line and put them in a traditional style photo album. The album was a gift, and it was definitely a quick and easy solution, but now that we're into his second year, I'm not sure how to store and organize photos. I would love to hear some of your ideas. One photo album per year would get pretty bulky after awhile, so I'd like something that takes up less space. I know a lot of people really like those photo books you can put together on-line, though if we go that route my husband wants to make sure we also have some actual printed photos. I don't plan to scrapbook, so I'm looking for simple ways to store and organize pictures. Thanks for sharing your ideas! (More requests can be found here.)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Springtime in Carolina

Thank you, dear friends, for your prayers for me on Friday. 5 hours on a plane + 4 hours in a car + 3 hours airport time +2 emotional goodbyes = 1 long day! But I made it safely and overall smoothly.

We've had a wonderful visit so far--chaotic at times, of course, but so good to be together. I'm also loving the warmer temps. How fun to break out the flip flops on March 1--wahoo!!

Here are some photos from our time together:

My first view of my precious nephew, Samuel--he is so snuggly!
I love my nieces to pieces!
Playing in the backyard with Emily

I'll enjoy checking back in with you when I get home--not sure that I'll have a chance to post again before I leave. Three kids under 3 makes for a busy household!! My return travel is on Tuesday, and I'd appreciate your prayers for another long day!