Friday, August 29, 2008

Haven Swap show and tell!

It's so much fun putting a swap box together, and I love this part of sharing what I received and seeing all your wonderful goodies. Thanks to everyone who participated--overall, things went more smoothly this time around!

My swap partner, Leanne, put together, a lovely box for me. Here is what she sent:
Two green gingham napkins, Hallmark magazine, hot chocolate mix, Purdue t-shirt (I'm wearing it as I type this--fits perfectly, although I had to remind Leanne I married a man from Michigan!!), wall plaque ("This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it."), birdhouse dishtowel, vanilla caramel tea, cute notecards, and a Martha Stewart snowflake punch.

One of my favorite things in the box was this little sign that says "happiness is homemade"--I've had a red hook hanging in my kitchen and didn't know what to put with it, until now! Here is what I sent Leanne:

Stickers because she loves to scrapbook, mini notecards, fair trade chocolate, a twig candle, pear-shaped kitchen timer, welcome sign for her apple-themed kitchen, striped dishtowels, stoneware cream and sugar set, and a photo of a street sign with her last name (which Monica and I came across on our trip in southern Illinois!)

Now it's your turn to share--please link directly to your swap post. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Preparing a table

I really enjoyed reading your comments on last month's post about homemaking skills. In fact, I have a couple more follow-up posts brewing in my head.

For today's purposes, though, I wanted to focus on hospitality. Though that word has a wider meaning, for this post, I'm defining it as opening your home to others. I really appreciated how honest many of you were in sharing reasons why you don't have people over much: a husband (or other family member, including yourself) who does not enjoy hospitality, or wanting the house to be presentable/perfect (ha!) These are definitely valid reasons, but I'd like to encourage you to consider opening your home to others. After all, the Bible says to "offer hospitality to one another without grumbling" (I Peter 4:9) and "Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." (Romans 12:13).

To address the concerns mentioned, I know I don't expect someone's house to look spotless when I come over--do you expect that from others, whether or not you place that standard on your own home? As for someone in your family who does not enjoy hospitality, that is trickier to navigate. I wonder if anyone reading has suggestions to offer in this case?

As for my own hospitality efforts, we're having my husband's new colleagues over for brunch later this morning. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'm using the same menu from when we hosted the college president: Farmer casserole (recipe in previous link), fresh fruit, beverages, and cheese muffins (really yummy and slightly sweet). I opted for no caramel rolls this time, because mine always turn out either doughy or crunchy.

Hosting a small brunch feels manageable to me. It's just 6 people, and the menu is simple. My husband originally wanted to invite his office for lunch, but we decided a mid-morning gathering was a more casual choice. (There will obviously be a toddler running around, so casual is good!) None of his new co-workers have been in our home yet, so I'm looking forward to welcoming them.

As you continue to ponder this topic that is near to my heart, I'd like to end with the following quote from Radical Hospitality:

"The image of preparing a table, or preparing a place, is a good overall image for hospitality. In genuine hospitality we work to make our entire existence a welcoming table, a place prepared for others to be at ease, to receive from us comfort and strength."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Home improvement, part 1

It's going to take me awhile to share all of the house projects we've been working on, but I know my family especially is anxious to see some photos. These first two projects were completed in July.

Some of you commented awhile back on our cute eat-in kitchen. It was cute, but there is a separate dining room, and what we needed in our kitchen was more counter and storage space. After much deliberation, we settled on this, and I am loving it. I'm including a pic of the other side of the kitchen to show that we doubled my work space, which is awesome!

Secondly, we have no backyard and wanted to create more of a private space for our dog to roam and for Nathan to have a more contained place to play. Eric (and friends) did a great job putting up this fence! (It will be painted white at some point.) Note: Our grass looks terrible, a combination of no rain and tons of sawdust from my father-in-law's projects.
So there's the first installment of our home improvements. More to come next week.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Loose ends

I can hardly believe two weeks have passed since I really posted to my blog, but that is a testament that it was a good time for me to do so. As I mentioned, my father-in-law was here (evidence of his handiwork still to come), and Nathan and I were sick the first week. And the second week? Well, I got a job. It's not full-time, or even permanent, neither of which I desire right now, but I do feel it's an answer to prayer.

The college needed some help in the absence of a prominent employee, and I am going to step in for the next six weeks or so to assist with Homecoming. I am excited to be part of campus again even for a short time, and am glad I can help out in a time of need. A local pastor's wife will take care of Nathan on the mornings I am working (3 a week). We went to her house the other night and he did not want to leave--I know he will have a lot of fun there! It's been amazing to me how God is working out all of the details--isn't He creative in His provision?

As a result of these new goings-on, I may post a little less in the coming weeks. I am hoping to still post atleast MWF (continuing my Thursdays off) because I've realized how much I use my blog as a way to process things I'm thinking and learning about. And as I told you, I have a growing list of topics to write on.

By the way, if you have a comment or post to share about a way God has creatively provided for you recently, I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Popping in

I'm not really back, I just had to say that I am excited because I FINALLY changed my profile pic, which I have been wanting to do for over a year. Crazy how sometimes it's the simplest tasks that take the longest, isn't it?! Monica took the photo on our last night of being together, and I really like it. That expression on Nathan's face is so him.

It's a good thing I planned to take a break last week, because I would have had to anyway. Nathan and I both battled a nasty stomach flu and were pretty much down for the count. I think this is the first time we've been sick simultaneously, and it was quite challenging for us.

I will have so much to share when I return at the end of the week--or Monday, we'll see. I didn't get as many "before" pix around our house as I should have, just because I was feeling so lousy, but it will sure be fun to show you the "after" shots. My father-in-law is working wonders in our 99-year-old house!

Appreciated all your comments on my last post--thanks. This is the first time other than being out of town that I've taken an extended blogging break, but it's actually given me more things to write about. I have quite the list going in my head. =)

See you soon, friends.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Taking a little break

In my blog profile, I wrote that I'm "striving to be a better steward of what I've been given--time, finances, relationships, opportunities, abilities." I haven't written on the topic of stewardship much lately, because July was just crazy with us traveling 3000 miles in 3 weeks. Particularly after such a big month of travel, I have decided that to be a better steward of my time I need to take a step back from blogging for a couple weeks. My father-in-law is staying with us for the next 2 weeks (He's here to help us with some major house improvements--yay!), and our computer happens to be in the guest room. I do plan to continue reading blogs, but I am not planning to post for a little awhile. I'm considering this a kind of "retreat" to work on some other projects and I look forward to feeling more refreshed when I "re-join" the blogging community. Thanks, as always, for reading, and for your comments which mean so much to me!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fun times

For my last post about our vacation, I wanted to share some pix of Nathan having fun.

We visited two different cities' children museums on our trip, and I have to give props to the people who design them. So colorful and imaginative--what great places to play! Monica and I always loved the play grocery store at the children's museum in Denver, and that seemed to be our kids' favorite place to hang out, too.

We took several trips to the pool, and Nathan had fun floating on this raft and swimming with Grammie and Grandpa.

I love this photo, especially because this grandma had never met Nathan before (a downside of our family being so spread out), and they were having such a good time reading together before bedtime.

Have a wonderful weekend! (And while I'm thinking of it, my post from Wednesday has disappeared! Has that ever happened to anyone else? I did nothing to change it--it still shows up in my post files, but it no longer appears on my blog?!)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Inspiration appreciation: some special linkadoos

While Monica and her kids were at our house, we tried three ideas I had seen on other blogs, and I wanted to share with you how our "experiments" went:

We mixed up some sidewalk paint, using a recipe I saw on Wendi's blog. I mixed 1/2 c. cornstarch with 1/2 c. water, and added a few drops of food coloring. It was very easy to make, but we hadn't anticipated how messy it would be and that the kids would spill each of the 3 bowls. It didn't stain, however (clothing or the sidewalk) and it was a fun treat for my niece Rachel's 2nd birthday. Here are the kids enjoying it, and Monica posing next to her masterpiece!

I'd been wanting to try the ice cream Mer made with her kids awhile back. She encouraged me to use half and half, but I forged ahead with Nathan's whole milk. It would be interesting to compare two different versions, though. The first time we made the ice cream, the outer bag (holding sharp ice and rock salt) cut holes in the smaller bag. Having no idea, we dished it up and I took my first bite. Oh my word, it was salty! So, we pitched that batch and tried again the next night. I was still not a big fan (maybe too much vanilla for my taste?), but it was fun to try.
Finally, I had seen a link to a honey baked French toast recipe (hat tip to Linds), and I thought Monica and her girls would enjoy it. It was very yummy. I'd make it again, but I would probably make a little more of the "soaking" concoction, as it stretched pretty thin for the last two pieces of bread.

Isn't it fun to find recipes, tips and ideas from fellow bloggers? Thanks for the inspiration--keep it coming!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Because my thoughts and belongings from the trip are still jumbled, it makes sense for me to share my pictures that way, too. So here's round one!

Nathan has six cousins, three on each side (and on each coast), and time with them is precious indeed. Here are some of my favorite cousin pictures from the past two weeks:

You can tell that reading was a popular activity! I love this one of Monica with all 4 kids on our couch, and I think it's so cute that Samuel and Nathan were "reading" together.
Packed into the car to head to the children's museum with Great-aunt Joanie.

Watching a movie with Great-aunt Mary, who surprised us by flying in from Florida!
Taking a walk with Grammie--she had her hands (blessedly) full.
Monica and I only have 3 cousins total (!) and we have never been close to any of them, either locationally or relationally. Even if we live far from Nathan's cousins, I hope we will make many special memories together! (I wonder who out there reading wins the "award" for having the most cousins?!)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Having returned home

Whew. Nathan and I have driven over 3000 miles in 3 weeks, and I am tired. It has been wonderful to see family, but I am quite happy to be home now and to stay here for awhile. At this point, I have no *big* trips planned until Christmas.

Until I have a chance to sort through photos, here are some random thoughts:

*There were 324 posts in my Bloglines when I first checked in yesterday. I can't bring myself to hit "that" button, but I am skimming my way through in hopes of getting caught up. I thought about sending out a memo that says all bloggers should vacation at the same time--that way no one misses anything. =)

*Yikes! Have any of you ever been here? I was totally unprepared for the noise, crowds, and overall boisterousness of the place. Nathan was so overwhelmed he spent most of the time there in tears.

*My husband rocks. He knew I'd be tired after the drive home, as well as NINE days of being away from him, and he planned Saturday night supper and Sunday dinner. Bless that man. Who knew mashed potatoes could taste so good?! He also managed to find the *best* sweet corn around--it's called Kandy Korn and I seriously could have eaten several ears. Wish I could send you each a bundle.

*Usually when we get home from a trip, we unload everything into the living room and then I don't know where to start, looking at the mountain of bags. This time, I took just one or two items from the car at a time, unpacked them and then went back for more. It felt less overwhelming than usual, which was nice.

*While I was gone, I gained a new nephew. Can't wait to meet you, sweet Zachary!

I hope to be back with vacation pix tomorrow--see you soon! I had several new commenters while I was away and I can't wait to stop by your blogs! (And Jenny V, I'm so glad you loved the monster bar recipe!)