Friday, August 26, 2011

Good reads

I periodically like to share books that my children and I have enjoyed reading together. You can find previous lists here, but here are some more recent favorites:

One Monkey Too Many by Jackie French Koller
Shoes by Elizabeth Winthrop
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault
Noisy Nora by Rosemary Wells
Mini Racer by Kristy Dempsey
It's Spring! by Samantha Berger and Pamela Chanko
Flip, Flap, Fly! by Phyllis Root
One Lonely Sea Horse by Joost Elffers and Saxton Freymann (Very creative illustrations!)
That's What Friends Are For by Valeri Gorbachev
Making Friends by Fred (Mr.) Rogers
How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
Cheri Meiners' books about learning to get along with others--good stuff!

As always, I welcome your suggestions, too!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer fun

I thought it would be fun--and inspiring--to make a colorful list of potential activities to do with the kids this summer once we got home from our vacation. Here's a pic of our list:
The restaurant items were all certificates the kids earned from the library's reading program. Nice! Here are notes about the other activities:

*Colorful bubble art--Put a little food coloring in some bubble solution, and blow bubbles onto big pieces of white paper. Messier than I expected, but the kids loved it, and the paper looked so swirly and pretty that I'm going to use it as wrapping paper!

*Oobleck--probably wouldn't do this again. It was really messy to make, play with, and clean up. That's not my favorite kind of activity, especially since the kids didn't love it, either.

*Parachutes--Instead of a cork, we tied a little Lego man to the bottom. We didn't have a great launching place at our house to get the full parachute effect. But as soon as Nathan showed our toy to the neighbor boy, it was a big hit. We ended up in the neighbor's backyard, launching the parachute from the top of their balcony. Very fun!

*Pinaqua--This is the only activity we did not get to, kind of surprising with all the hot days we had. We'll try again next summer!

*Pudding in a jar--Mix 1 tablespoon of instant pudding with 1/4 cup milk in a baby food jar. Put lid on tightly and shake! This is something Monica and I did long ago when were in a Brownies troop.

*Paint popcorn--This was the inspiration, but we tweaked things a bit. I made my own evaporated milk for the edible paint. I heated together 1/2 cup milk, 1 T. butter, and 1 T. sugar. I divided the mixture into 3 bowls, which I colored pink, green and blue. Instead of getting out paint brushes, the kids just dipped each kernel into the paint, and then we added sprinkles, which was of course their favorite part. Like many activities, this took as long to set up as it did to carry out, but it provided some fun on a restless morning, and it really was a yummy snack!

A couple other special things we tried that were not on the list above:

*celery and food coloring experiment (we split our stalk at the bottom so we could see it take on two different shades)
*sidewalk chalk paint

Did you make a summer list? Have you done any of the above activities?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Food and stewardship

When I was reviewing some blog posts that have been collecting dust in my drafts folder, I came across some practical ideas worth sharing for being a good steward when it comes to our resources of food. These are courtesy of the Sleeths:
  1. Make eating meals together a priority
  2. Eat what is served
  3. Welcome others to your table
  4. Cut back on meat consumption
  5. Support farmer's markets and CSA's
  6. Grow at least some of your own food
  7. Avoid factory-farmed meat and eggs (no steroids, hormones, or inhumane practices)
  8. Don't buy fast food; use the money saved to buy more organic
  9. Drink tap water; if you buy coffee, make sure it's fair trade
  10. Give thanks
I would give us a "star" for most of the things on this list, but our main weak points would be buying bags of frozen chicken breasts, and consuming quite a few processed items like crackers, tortilla chips and granola bars. (I'm lumping these convenience foods into the fast food line item above.) And even though we have a garden ourselves, we could also make more of an effort to seek out local veggies that we do not grow.

How about you? What do you think of this list, and what are your strengths or weaknesses in this area?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I don't know about you, but when I read, I constantly edit what is written, especially when it comes to many kids' books. I often come across sentences or phrases that either don't make sense or are repetitive repetitive. =)

Consider the following example:
I had to read that second sentence more than once before it made sense to me, and even then I thought it could use some revision. I find the comma avoidance issue quite annoying. Thus, I exercise my right as a reader by condensing the material and saying "cars, trucks, buses, and trains." Take that, book!

Anyone else have this problem--I mean--skill, when it comes to reading? =)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

I have to confess that this book has been languishing in my to-read pile for more than 3 years! I snagged the book at a swap way back then, but it never made it to the top of my list. I finally decided a couple of months ago that I should either read it or give it away, so that I didn't see it every time I flipped through my stack!

Though this wasn't a book I was excited to read, it definitely was a convicting one.

I particularly connected with the chapter about worrying. Author Joanna Weaver quotes an anxiety study that says that of what we worry about, 40% of it will never happen, 30% is about the past, 12% is about criticism from others, 10% is about health, and 8% is about real problems that can be solved. As I thought about what I worry about, I realized how closely I fit those statistics.

Other quotes about worry from the book:
"God knows worry short-circuits our relationship with Him. It fixes our eyes on our situation rather than on our Savior."
"Worry doesn't prevent bad things from happening. In fact, it may prevent us from the leading the full lives God intends us to live." "Concern draws us to God. Worry pulls us from Him." Yikes!
"Fretting magnifies the problem, but prayer magnifies God."

Other quotes:
"While there are many needs, God has not asked us to meet every one." Weaver, a pastor's wife, points out that often 20% of the church does 80% of the work. (I know I sure feel that way, as I get asked to bring food/serve on a regular basis.)

"Jesus tells Mary, 'You're worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.'
And what is that one thing? Listening to God!"

"Conscious repentance leads to unconscious holiness." Oswald Chambers

Another favorite chapter was when the author observed that the story of Mary and Martha is sandwiched in the Bible between the story of the Good Samaritan (work, duty, being practical) with Jesus' teaching on the Lord's Prayer (relationship, devotion). She talked about a teeter totter where we find the balance of work and worship. I know that's something I can relate to!

This was a thought-provoking book, and I'm glad I finally picked it up. Have any of you read it?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Life is like a box of chocolates . . .

. . . You never know what you're going to get! =) In the past I've shared some special gifts I've received; this time around I want to share a couple of ideas of how we've tried to bless others.

*We have some dear long-distance friends who are going through a divorce, and I wanted to send a little something to let the family know we're thinking of them. When I saw this idea, I thought it would be a creative way to encourage the mom to take her kids out for a treat.
*This is my favorite kind of (wedding) gift to give: a grouping of complementary items! The colander and cake pan were on the couple's registry, so I embellished the gift a bit by adding pasta, sauce and a brownie mix. Hopefully, the newlyweds were able to enjoy the meal right away. I received a few "pantry gifts" for my wedding, and I really appreciated them. (But I'm practical like that!)*Another standard wedding gift we've given is money to be used for a meal on the couple's honeymoon. One set of friends was going to Costa Rica for their special trip, so we even got the proper currency so they'd have some money when they arrived.

Do you have a standard gift you give for weddings or other special occasions?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer recipes

Last summer, I shared a new recipe organizing method I tried to help me make the most of the produce that's in season, particularly from our garden. It's worked really well for me, and as a result, it will be easy to share with you some of my new favorite summer recipes!Link
1. Italian chopped salad (I could seriously eat this every day for lunch during the summer--so good!)

2. Blackberry sorbet (easy peasy, and so delicious)

4. Bread salad (you have to love the name--and the taste!)

5. Quick-fix barbecued fajitas (a nice twist on the usual)

6. Gazpacho salsa (using green pepper, I can rely solely on veggies from our garden!)

And I even created a marinade, which I will share in case you want to make some delicious kabobs!

Carrie's Teriyaki Marinade

2 T. lime juice
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. honey
dash cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. ginger

I marinated chunks of chicken for about 8 hours, and then skewered them alongside green pepper and pineapple. This marinade was a delicious complement, and made the chicken very tender and tasty.

In addition to the new ideas above, don't forget these summer classics I've shared before. Yum!

If you have any fabulous recipes using green peppers, we're getting a terrific harvest, and I prefer them fresh, so I'd love some new inspiration. We've been having lots of fajitas!

*In case you're wondering about the fairly random photo at the top of this post, I took that pic almost a year at a county fair. I thought Monica would enjoy seeing all those jars lined up. Since the picture has been sitting idle for so long, I thought I'd go ahead and insert it here since jams are definitely summer food, too! Speaking of, I tried a new kind of pectin this year for my strawberry jam. Has anyone else tried Pomona's?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Loving the Little Years

A couple of weeks ago, a friend sent me a link to an article called "Motherhood is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank)." I was intrigued enough by the article that I decided to order the author's book, Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches.

I flew threw this book in less than 24 hours! It was short, compelling, and easy to read. There are many gems to be found in this brief tome, and I have found myself continuing to mull over many of them. Here are some of my favorite thoughts from the book, written by Rachel Jankovic:

*"As you deal with your children, deal with yourself always and first."

*"You cannot resist opportunities to be corrected by God, and expect them {your children} to receive correction from you."

*If the sins {your children are struggling with} have changed, it can be a sign of growth. It is not as though our children are going to emerge from their current problems into perfect holiness if only we give them enough swats. They are going to emerge from one set of problems into the next, and that is good. That is the way of the Christian walk." (!)

*When our children are fussing, the antidote for them is gratitude." (Same for parents, too, right?!)

*"Prioritize your children far and away above the other work you need to get done. They are the only part of your work that really matters."

One of the most convicting concepts of the book is to rejoice in the challenges of motherhood. As Rachel says in ending the book, "If you accept your lot, and rejoice in your toil, God will give you the kind of overwhelming joy that cannot remember the details."

In addition to the above, I thought Rachel had some good advice for teaching kids to handle their emotions--she and her husband teach their children that their feelings are like horses that they must ride and control. She also suggests helping kids learn to anticipate their emotional responses, and to offer lots of praise when you see your children overcoming emotional temptations.

I also liked what Rachel had to say about dealing with sibling squabbles, and teaching kids to remain in fellowship with one another.

This was thought-provoking book that I will likely re-read in the future. Has anyone else read it? Which of the quotes above stands out to you the most?