Friday, July 25, 2008

All you wanted to know about January 24

A long time ago, Gail tagged me to do a meme about my birthday, January 24.


I'm supposed to list 3 events that happened on my b-day, so I picked ones that had some relevance to my life:

1862 Bucharest proclaimed the capital of Romania (my husband has traveled there twice and has a heart for this country)

1907 Robert Baden-Powell founds the Boy Scout movement (my dad used to work for the Boy Scout office, and my sister and I went to their local camp on numerous occasions!)

1984 The first Apple Macintosh goes on sale (I'm a PC user, but I find it so fascinating that I am part of the generation that grew up with computers--yet look how far they've come in the past 24 years. Hard to imagine no Internet!)


Then I'm supposed to list 2 important birthdays and one death:

1862 Edith Wharton (I don't think I've even read anything by this famed American writer, but having been an English major, I felt she deserved a nod.)

1968 Mary Lou Retton (I had to list Mary Lou--I used to be a huge gymnastics fan, and I've always admired her. I remember learning as a little girl that we shared the same birthdate and thinking that was so cool!)

Yikes--I'm going to skip the death listing. The only person I'd even heard of was a serial killer, and I don't even want to mention his name.


Thanks for the tag, Gail--I enjoyed learning more about my b-day. I would tag Abbey, but we have the same birthday, including year! (Speaking of Abbey, she just gave me a sweet award for having a "brilliante" blog---thank you!)

We're heading on the road again, so I'll look forward to checking in when we get back.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Haven swap

You may have guessed it was coming! With the two of us in the same room, the next swap was definitely on our minds.

The theme of this swap is haven. We hope this swap will encourage you to make your home a more welcoming, refreshing and inviting place. Please keep those ideas in mind when selecting items for your partner. As usual, please limit your swap contents to what can fit in a shoebox.

We’re doing things a little differently this time, so please read the following details carefully.

1. With our last swap, we had quite a few participants who did not follow through, which is very disappointing to their partners and requires more work on our part as the coordinators. As a result, we’ve decided this time to do more of a “closed” swap. In order to participate, you must either have swapped successfully with us, or you must be a regular commenter on one of our blogs (The Homespun Heart/with all that I’ve been given). We are sorry to disappoint anyone, but feel this is the best course for this round of swapping. If this swap goes more smoothly, we hope to host a more “open” swap next time.

2. Another change is that we’d like you to fill out your questionnaire as part of the sign-up. In order to sign up for this swap, please e-mail sisterswaps@hotmail.com with the following info:

name
complete mailing address
e-mail address
blog site, if you have one
Please indicate if you would be willing to ship internationally.

Also, please answer the following questions in the e-mail. The more thorough your answers, the better we can match you with someone complementary.

What does the word “haven” mean to you?
What color themes are in your home? (List specific rooms, e.g. kitchen is black and red)
Describe your dream home.
Describe your decorating style.

Sign-up entries must be complete to be included. Even if you’ve swapped with us before, please send all the above requested information.

Important dates to consider:
Sign-ups due by 8 a.m. (CST) Thursday, July 24, or when 50 people have signed up.
Partner info will be e-mailed to you by July 31.
Please send your shoebox by Wednesday, August 20!

If you have not received an e-mail from us by August 1, please check your “junk” folder.

Thanks, and happy swapping!

Homemaking skills

Homemaking skills, what they are and how we learn them, is a topic I've been thinking about for awhile. I was very intrigued when I came across this blog post via Jamie. The author asserts the value of "old fashioned" homemaking skills, explaining why they are dying out, as well as why they have made a resurgence in popularity. She also gives links to resources for those who want more information.

Here are the six skills she details, with my personal "report card" following each.

sewing--(C) Both my mom and sister are talented in this area, but I seem to have little knack or patience for it. I want to want to sew--I just don't enjoy it. I of course had home ec in junior high, and then I took sewing lessons a couple years ago (a Christmas gift from my husband, in which I was taught by a retired home ec teacher!), but I have done minimal projects since.

gardening--(B) My husband gets the credit for this one. He does the research/planning and most of the maintenance and I do the gathering and processing. We're a good team in that way.

canning--(B-) My experience is minimal. I have done this on a couple of occasions with a good friend of mine, Jody. We've made applesauce and strawberry jam (both sealed and freezer), as well as small batches of apple pie filling and spaghetti sauce. I'm always amazed by people who put up quarts of all kinds of produce to last through the winter!

cooking from scratch--(B+) Constantly improving. Blogs have been such an inspiration to me in this area, as has the More with Less cookbook. Some of my "made from scratch" recipes can be found here.

knitting and crocheting--(F) Yikes--I definitely don't have these skills! My mother-in-law gave me knitting needles, yarn and a lesson at a local store for Christmas one year (Are you seeing a gift-giving pattern?!) and my scarf, if it can be called such, was quite pitiful. I admire other's handiwork but have little desire right now to try again.

hospitality--(A) Yay, the best for last! My husband and I really enjoy opening our home to others, so this is one skill we're frequently honing. I'm thankful to those who have taught me about gracious hospitality, mainly my mom, sister, and friend Jody.

So, what about you? What's your "report card" on these homemaking skills? How have you learned some of these skills? Are you influencing others by teaching them how to can, knit or sew? I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monster bars

I don't love the name of this recipe, but that's what they were called in the newspaper, and it was a lot shorter than writing Gooey Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars.

These are seriously delicious, and the recipe makes a ton! I put together plates of bars for 3 different families, and we still had half of them to indulge in at home. These have gotten rave reviews from the local taste testers, so I wanted to share the dish with you. As usual, this is my slightly modified version.

Monster bars

3/4 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. peanut butter
1 egg
2 sticks butter (I think I'll experiment with using a little less next time, more for fat content than anything else)
1 t. baking soda, dissolved in 1 T. water
5 c. quick oats
2+ c. chocolate chips

Melt brown sugar, butter and peanut butter together. Mix in rest of ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes on a large greased cookie sheet (with sides). Don't overbake as they will get crispy. Enjoy!

Two other random recipe notes: 1) I'd almost forgotten how much I enjoy this yummy orzo salad--another great dish for summer! 2) We tried this Indonesian Rice over the weekend--it was so good that I'm entering it into our regular rotation. We loved it!

Also, Friday was a pop comments post. My husband chose the winner (randomly, I promise--the odds were just 1 in 4!), and it happens to be Monica, who arrives tonight!! (Hooray!) Monica will receive this MOPS book. Thanks for commenting!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Setting our minds on things above

I'm a big fan of the Counting the Cost newsletter, which I've mentioned here before. In the most recent issue, this feature article really spoke to me. I contacted the author (and CtC founder) Nancy Twigg, and she graciously gave me permission to re-print her article. Enjoy!

“I’m doing the best that I can.”

If you could step inside my head and listen to all that goes on there, you’d probably hear me say this catch phrase a hundred times a day. I say it to myself quite frequently when things around my home are not as I would like them to be:
* When dirty dishes are stacked like the Tower of Babel in my kitchen sink.
* When forgotten leftovers look like a penicillin farm growing in my fridge.
* When soap scum in the shower is so thick you could almost carve your name in it.

Don’t get me wrong. As a wife and mother, I want to keep my home neat and clean for my family, yet warm and welcoming for guests. I dream of having a home that is not only well-organized and tidy, but where chores get done in a timely manner and meals are always well-balanced and nutritionally sound.

I also dream of winning an all-expense paid tour of Europe, but that probably won’t happen anytime soon either!

Between working at home, homeschooling and having neighborhood children over to play almost every day, my house never gets a break. It is a center of constant activity and movement and sometimes even chaos. I envy women whose homes are exquisitely decorated and always spotless. My home could look like something out of a magazine too -- but only if we all moved out and found somewhere else to live!

I used to beat myself up: “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I make my house look like that?” I’d get so distracted by all I should be or could be doing that I couldn’t focus on what was most important. I vacillated between walking around like a zombie overwhelmed by all that needed to be done, and running around like a turkey with my tail feathers on fire trying to get it all done.

I used to, but I don’t now. Why? Because I learned the secret of staying focused in the middle of what feels like chaos. Here it is: “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth” (Colossians 3:2, NLT). Or as another translation puts it, “Set your heart on what is in heaven…Think about what is up there, not about what is here on earth.”(Colossians 3:1-2, CEV)

God has given us mothers an awesome mission. Not to have a picture-perfect home. Not to cook meals that would wow a gourmet chef. Not to be organized to the Nth degree.

The responsibility He has entrusted to us is that of doing all we can to mold and shape our children into God-knowing, God-loving, God-serving adults. How can folding laundry and mopping floors compete with that?

Thinking about the things of heaven means having your head in the clouds in a good way. As you think about what’s up there -- God’s plans, His will, His work in the life of your family -- you see what’s down here from a whole new perspective. Thinking about what’s happening up there gives you God’s perspective on what’s happening down here.

Having a heavenly focus is like putting on your spiritual specs. Only then can you see clearly. Only then can you tune out the less important so you can tune into that which is most important. Only then can you look around at everything that is not the way you’d like it to be and say, “Good enough is good enough.”

I still dream of having a spotless home, but I don’t obsess over it and I certainly don’t beat myself up. I am hopeful, yet realistic. Rather than judging my effectiveness as a mother on how many dishes are in my sink or the state of my refrigerator, I can look around me with my heavenly focus and ask myself:
* Did I show my child today that I love her?
* Did I show her that God loves her even more than I do?
* Did I help her see how she can share God’s love with others?

If I do those things, I can rest in knowledge that I am truly doing the best that I can do.

**Copyright Nancy Twigg, 2007. Taken from a work-in-process collection of devotions for young mothers tentatively called, "Mommy Meltdown: Time-outs for Maxed-out Moms". Nancy is the author of several books and the editor of Counting the Cost Ezine.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Michigan trip, part 2

During our stay, some of the extended family came over for a day-long mini reunion. Eric's Aunt Sue is very talented in the hostess department, and she showed me how to make this fun and refreshing party drink. The recipe is quite simple: just freeze several cartons of guava pineapple juice, let it thaw slightly, and serve in cups, along with a spear of fresh pineapple, a maraschino cherry and topped with a pretty parasol.
Here I am, pictured with Aunt Sue and Great-aunt Marion after assembling the drinks.

For our anniversary, we went out to dinner and took a trip to a beautiful pier along Lake Michigan. We had a picture taken in this exact same spot 5 years ago!


In addition to the usual boat and jetski jaunts, I tried kayaking for the first time. It was actually my idea, surprising given my fear of the water, but it was fun. I was glad Eric was with me--I don't think it would be as relaxing if I was alone.

We also got to meet up with some dear friends near Chicago on our way back--love you, M+M!

So that was our trip--it was wonderful to be with family and friends!

Works for Me Wednesday: McPlay while traveling

Some may find the subject matter of this post to be ironic because I don't eat red meat, and I usually avoid most fast food places. However, a certain well-known chain often has attached play equipment, and when traveling, that's a great reason to stop, especially if the weather is not conducive to playing outside. Plus, my husband is thrilled to order some cheap burgers from the $1 menu--a rare treat (no pun intended).

During our recent 13-hour drive, I thought "Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to look up which McD locations on our route have play areas?" Well, there is! Click here, enter your starting and ending locations, and a map pops up, giving you restaurants that are right off the interstate, and indicating which franchises have playgrounds. Yay--planning ahead=a great place to stop and play! That works for me--check out other ideas here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Michigan trip, part 1

Our time away was truly relaxing. Eric's parents own a cottage on a lake in western Michigan, and it's a wonderful family destination. Nathan's grandparents were more than eager to spend time with him, and I actually read 2 magazines and 1 1/2 books! My current reading pace is about a book a month, so it was really nice to have more time for that.



We arrived on the 4th of July, just in time to help decorate for the lake's annual patriotic boat parade!

Nathan loved riding on the boat, and helping Grandpa drive. He also had fun "too-BING" (tubing) with Dad. In the last couple weeks, Nathan's hair has lightened and it's also gotten more curly--really cute.

There were many fun activities to choose from, including jumping on the trampoline with Grandma!

More photos to come tomorrow . . .

Thursday, July 10, 2008

By the river

Well, this is a first for me. I'm blogging from a coffeeshop in a beautiful town near the lake where we've spent the week on vacation. My in-laws offered to take Nathan along to a function they were invited to, and Eric and my brother-in-law wanted to go fly fishing. That left me with . . . a free evening! I rode along with the guys, and they dropped me off at a coffeeshop that overlooks the river where they're fishing. I'm borrowing my brother-in-law's Mac--I've never used one before, but it's going fine so far. 

I have a strawberry pineapple Italian soda, and a couple hours ahead of me--I'm excited to *start* getting caught up on blogs and e-mail. (UPDATE: an hour in, live music appeared on the scene--wahoo!)

(We're having a great time and I'll post pix next week.) 

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Monday, July 7, 2008

From the archives: If I had $100 . . .

Originally posted on May 29, 2007

My husband and I have been listening to Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University CD's in the car on our last few road trips. Last night on our way home from a weekend of visiting family in Chicago, we listened to the last lesson, "The Great Misunderstanding." Ramsey makes many great points, emphasizing that to be truly effective managers of our money, we have to have an open hand. It's a paradox, at least to the world, he says, that we gain more by giving away.

Ramsey ended the lesson by sharing a story about his daughter when she was in kindergarten. The teacher had asked each student to draw a picture of what they would do if given 100 dollars. (Ramsey reminded us that 100 dollars is like ten million to a 5 year-old.) The students' responses were compiled in a little booklet, and each kid brought a copy home. As the Ramseys flipped through the book, many children indicated that they wanted a swimming pool, a fancy car or a dollhouse. They were expecting a similar wish list item from their daughter, and were stunned when they turned to the page with her name on it. "If I had a hundred dollars," she said, "I would give it to the poor people."

My husband and I have been praying that our son (and any other children God blesses us with) would always be aware of the needs of others, and that they would be willing to share all that they've been given.

I would be interested to hear if/what you learned about financial stewardship as a kid, and if you have kids, how you are teaching (or plan to teach) them about this important issue.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

See ya later

We've been trying to teach Nathan to say "see ya later," without much success! =)

We'll be on vacation over the next week. I have a couple posts ready to go (yay, Blogger, for this new feature!), but I probably won't be able to check e-mail/blogs, much, if at all. I look forward to catching up with you in a couple weeks.

Blessings to all of you, and happy 4th of July to my fellow Americans!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Concerts: yea or nay?

I recently had the opportunity to hear MercyMe perform live--outside. Some of you may recall that this song has been very meaningful to me, and I know it has been for others of you as well. It was a great experience to hear this song in such a setting, and interestingly, a few minutes later, there was a light shower of (what else?) rain--after a full day of sunshine. Listening to this song on CD/radio is powerful, but it was even more significant hearing it live and in person. (And, even better, this experience was free--the concert was outside, and we could hear it from our yard!)

In my single days, I attended quite a few concerts. I saw quite a few contemporary Christian artists when in junior high and high school--some I most remember are Newsboys, DC Talk (live at Red Rocks, oh, yeah!), Jars of Clay, Amy Grant and Twila Paris. In college I saw one of my then-favorite bands, Counting Crows, perform live in both Minneapolis and Paris. And of course I've enjoyed many cool concerts in being part of *our* campus.

We all have areas where we tend to splurge, and it's so interesting to see how my spending habits have changed (evolved?!) since being married. I hardly ever pay to go to concerts anymore. Eric thinks that, for the most part, concerts are not a good investment, and I guess have been somewhat influenced by that. He is more likely to spend his fun money on his hobbies of fishing and hunting. (My fun money usually goes towards craft supplies or a massage.)

So, what about you? Are you a concert person, or do you prefer to put your entertainment money towards something else?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Gleaning

I recently purchased this book (oops--just updated as I forgot the link earlier!) for 50 cents at a local thrift store. Like Frugal Luxuries, I found much of the information to be outdated, but I did appreciate the chapters on "Getting the most for your food dollar" and "Nutrition powers the family." Here are a couple tidbits I gleaned from those sections:

To make your own instant compost: put table scraps in a blender, add a pinch of yeast, fill with water and liquefy. Anyone tried this? I thought that was an interesting method.

To increase nutrients in cake, bread and cookie recipes, add 1 T. soy flour, 1 T. nonfat dry milk powder, 1 T. wheat germ and fill the rest of the cup with flour. I almost always use at least partial wheat flour and sometimes add wheat germ or ground flax seed to various recipes, but hadn't thought of adding soy flour. How do you increase the nutrients in baked goods?

A little recipe I got from the book that I'd like to try soon: peanut butter candy. Mix 1 c. crunchy peanut butter with 1 c. honey. Slowly add 1 1/2. dry milk. Shape into balls and roll in coconut. Chill. Sounds yummy!

The book also talked about making homemade bread exclusively, rather than buying it. When I do make homemade bread, it's usually to accompany the entree at dinner, instead of the main attraction. If you have a bread recipe (non bread machine, and preferably wheat) that you use for sandwiches, I'd love a copy of the recipe.

Another thing this book reminded me of is the many ways you can use a food dehydrator. I thought I might try making some kind of fruit leather as a snack for our upcoming travels, and wondered if anyone has a good recipe to share?

I love hearing your ideas--thanks for sharing your input!