Monday, October 31, 2011

Oh Fall, how I love thee, let me count the ways

Goodbye Summer
(this photo is borrowed from THIS website)

Hello fall
(this was taken in our front yard, of my favorite little tree that sits right in front of our house)

Man, I love fall food. Way better than summer food. Yes, I love a good cookout, grilling steaks, cold drinks and all that, but there's something about fall food. It's warm, its filling, its just plain yummy. 

I have found so many awesome fall recipes lately, I don't know when I'll have time to try them all. I will certainly try, though! Here are a few of my favorites...
(PW's Pumpkin Smoothie looks DELISH, can't wait to try this)

(PW's carrot-thyme soup, never thought of this before!)

(PW's Caveman Pops, I am trying these this week!)

(this skillet recipe looks yummy!)

(these stuffed peppers look amazing! I would substitute the sausage for ground turkey to make it a bit healthier, though) 

To celebrate Halloween, we carved a pumpkin the other night, well Ross did. This is his favorite part of Halloween and I enjoy watching him show the kids how to do it right. Its a great Halloween tradition we have and I was glad we did it, but things do not always go as planned. There was lots of whining and some time-outs in the midst of the carving, but there was fun mixed in too. And they love looking at it now that its carved and sitting out front! And I'll have to remember to tell Jude next year that he did not like the pumpkin seeds he tried to eat, and they were promptly spit out! :)

Tonight we will be Halloween parading with our small group and tons of others in a nearby neighborhood, having chili afterward and making smores with friends. The boys are excited about being pirates, saying "ARRGGHHHHH Me Maties, trick or treat!" and getting lots of candy. Hope you all have a safe, fabulous and fun Halloween! 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Christmas morning

Today's worship gathering was awesome today. When I leave a great service like today, it honestly feels like Christmas morning to me. It's sort of like opening a present. There's mystery, excitement, joy. And I feel like I have received a great gift every time I learn something new and wonderful about our great God.  

It astounds me every time. 

Speaking of Christmas morning, I was looking at Pinterest (of course), and came across a site that lists little gifts ideas for people, and I thought it might be helpful to share some of my own ideas, and maybe a few borrowed ones as well. Most of the time we have a hard time buying for other people, or we just don't have that kind of money to dish out for every single family member. So we end up doing nothing, or way too much. There are ways to make people feel loved on Christmas, and not have to spend a lot of money. Here are a few things you can do to put together sweet care packages for your family members and friends:
(you know I love bullet points)
  • knit each family a dishrag with their last name initial on it (I tried this one year and it was time consuming. It is a sweet, neat idea, and people usually love them, but unless you are a quick knitter, and I am not, or you have a lot of time, you might only want to do a few of these)
  • bake yummy homemade treats for everyone (cookies, loaves of bread, muffins, whatever. People love to eat Christmas goodies!)
  • buy and decorate dollar store frames; put a family picture in it for them, or just give it to them empty
  • $5 giftcards (Starbucks, Amazon, Tropical Smoothie, etc)
  • A favorite magazine
  • packets of flower or herb seeds for planting (not my idea, but I love it!)
  • nail polishes
  • lip glosses
  • wine stopper
  • measuring spoons or cups
  • cooking extracts (love this idea too!)
  • nice cooking spoons
  • ticket to see a movie
  • specialty coffee
  • family Christmas ornament (or you could make one if you're crafty)
  • helpful kitchen gadgets (Bed. Bath and Beyond has TONS of awesome stuff to make life in the kitchen more easy and fun)
  • homemade hot chocolate mix recipe in jars (like THIS ONE, although I've never used it, that's just an example)
I'm sure there are tons more out there. But don't think you've got to spend a ton of money on everyone this year. Get a few small things and make them personal. Make the effort to show your loved ones how much they are loved.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I am currently reading...

I will probably give this a more proper, thorough review when I am done, but I have to admit, I am loving this book so far. Its so different from what I expected. I love that! 

Friday, October 28, 2011

DtD Challenge #3 - Laundry!

I think I may have to stop reading the Crunchy Betty site. She makes me want to do crazy things like give up using shampoo, start using food to clean my face, use less chemical-filled products and stop shaving......just kidding on that last one. I don't think I will ever go that far, I happen to like hairless armpits and legs. 

But really, I do love her site for the most part. How else would I have learned about how witch hazel is good for people with acne, or how apple cider vinegar is a great toner for your face AND a great detangler for your hair? And I never knew that white vinegar is probably the best (and cheapest) cleaner there is out there, especially when you throw some baking soda on it. 

The latest thing I wanted to try was making and using my own laundry detergent. I know that sounds weird, but when I read how easy it was and how much better it was for your clothes (not to mention cheaper than commercial laundry detergent), I wanted to try it. 

There are tons of recipes out there, but you know I wanted to use CB's because, well, it was easy and the first one I saw. HERE is her link, but I will post the basic recipe also. I wish I had taken some photos of this process to show you, but honestly, I didn't think about it. Bummer.

2 cups finely grated Zote, *Fels Naptha (what I use), or Ivory soap
1 cup Washing Soda 
1 cup Borax

*I looked EVERYWHERE for Zote soap, but couldn't find it. I was bummed, until I went to Kroger and found Fels Naptha...Walmart has it too, and its cheaper there. It's right there in the laundry section.

You will need to read her site to get the details. She has some great tips on how to grate the soap, how much to use with each load, etc. She's very thorough, and I love that about her posts!

My opinion on the whole laundry detergent deal - I have been turned, I absolutely LOVE it. I had some hard-to-get-out stains in some clothes and this homemade detergent got it right out. I didn't have to soak the stain or Shout it out or anything. It was awesome. And it makes our clothes smell so lovely! I highly recommend this. Its frugal, its healthier, its fabulous. (Note, CB uses an alternative solution to fabric softener dryer sheets, I do not. I still use dryer sheets, I only use a half of one with every load instead of a whole one...except with towels. I use no dryer sheets with towels as it makes the towels lose their ability to dry properly.)

All these little household tips are really helpful to this mama...and I'd like to learn more so share some with me!

Up next week - watching my spending...refraining from spending on anything we don't NEED. As a whole, I think we Americans spend waaaaaay too much money, and its something I absolutely love to do. So, I'm going to try not do to any extra spending for a week, and maybe longer, depending on how that week goes. I'm a little nervous! Come back to see how it went!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


It's no secret that I love pumpkin, and since pumpkin comes from, well, pumpkins (how in the world did I figure that out?), I thought we'd study a little bit about them. They're so autumn-y and I love autumny things! So today, we learned about the life cycle of a pumpkin. On Monday we learned that red and yellow mixed together makes orange, so we painted our paper plate pumpkin orange on Monday, and today, we read a pumpkin book and did this "life-cycle" picture. I printed this out from the website Making Learning Fun, which is an great resource for crafts and homepreschool things. 

Trying to teach an almost 4 year old how to cut something out correctly is not the easiest thing ever, but, I was really proud of him for trying. Even though this isn't really how the finished product is supposed to look, they're in the right order at least...which he did need help with. (and since he discovered the bag of future halloween costumes that was given to me by a friend, he hasn't been able to part with those skeleton gloves)

I'm a bread making fool today, rolls and loaves, and I'm catching up on my Biggest Loser watching while folding laundry. I'm all about the multitasking. My house smells delish and my laundry baskets are finally empty. Life is good again. ...Except my kitchen is now a floury mess. Darn it!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Get started, and care!

These last ten pounds have been the hardest to lose. I'm on the home stretch, only 5 more to go, but it feels like I've been in the same place for 6 months...and I have. Thankfully I'm starting to see some results, but its taken awhile. I've been discouraged, I've wondered what the point of all of it the was, I've wanted to quit many times. But I'm starting to see that persevering really does pay off, and so does caring about my health.

Caring about our health is so important for everyone, but I'm mainly speaking to the wives and mamas out there. We need energy to do the things we've been called to, what ever that may be, working at our jobs, taking care of our little ones, caring for our husbands and homes. We need to be clear headed and alert, not sluggish and tired. I've seen so many women fill themselves up with junk and then wonder why they feel bad all the time, heck, I've BEEN that woman. I know it takes a lot to get off the couch and work up a sweat, but your body will thank you, and so will the other people in your life...even if they don't say it.

Some things that have helped me: (I'm all about the bullet points)

  • set small goals to reach your ultimate goal 
  • find the middle ground in eating things you love, but also incorporating healthier foods into your diet; 
  • incorporate one new vegetable into your diet every other week to broaden your pallet (I cooked eggplant for the first time last night!)
  • do a workout dvd at home (I started out doing this and it worked great)
  • buy more locally produced vegetables and meats (they tend to be way less processed and way yummier than grocery store meats and veggies)
Even making the smallest choices for the better will make a difference. Exercising, losing weight and feeling great are things you will never regret. Sitting on your bootay eating bon bons on the other hand, you might find yourself wishing you'd never done that... :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Being the church

I love this quote. I only recently learned this not too long ago myself. For many years I thought that church was the place where we went to worship, to hear the Word taught and to be with other believers. I didn't realize that we are to go out and be the church every day, as we go about our lives. Now, that makes so much more sense to me. Why should church be confined to a building? What would make that place any more special than any other place? Worship gatherings are important, but the building itself is nothing more than a building. As I think about being the church, I want to share a site that I came across recently that I really love. 

I haven't thoroughly looked at this site, but from what I've seen of it, I love it. It helps you coordinate meals to needy friends/people, and they give recipe ideas, schedule help/ideas...I think the idea is fabulous. If you need some help with getting meals to someone, consider this site. What an awesome way to be the church to someone who really needs it!

Here's the RECIPES & TIPS page.

I've been reflecting, how can I go out and be the church this week. I have to admit, I'm not very good at this. Sometimes I feel like my schedule is so consumed with my own things, that I don't have time for anyone/anything else. That's just an excuse for me to be lazy about it. I believe we were meant to be a blessing to others, and I really do want to I'm going to pray and think of a way to bless someone this week. Will anyone do it with me? Will anyone go be the church and bless someone this week?

I'll end this post with a pic of Jude and I on the hayride we went on a few weekends ago. He really was happy, although he's got on his fake smile-for-a-picture face.

Love me some sun flare!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I {heart} Saturdays

I really love days like today. We didn't have any particular plans, I had a morning date with my little Jude, and I even baked a new blueberry oatmeal muffin recipe, which I tweaked myself.

The cuteness of these boys is too much to handle sometimes.

Ross even did some yard work and I was super thankful and impressed!

I'm also speaking at our women's retreat in a few weekends, and I'm not normally a public speaker, so this is proving to be more difficult than I thought. But, I'm really excited about what we're talking on, and can't wait to share some good news with some awesome ladies! If you want to hear some good news too, come check it out. Contact me for details!

Friday, October 21, 2011

DtD Challenge #2 - HAIR!

A whole new world is opening up to me. A world free of chemicals, free of commercialized product use, and better, more frugal cleaning practices. And I am loving it. Well, we haven't gone completely chemical free, but I am getting more educated about it and am slowly moving us closer to that place. 

This is a new thing for me, and the people who really know me know that I am not usually into this kind of thing. So the question becomes then, why am I doing this? 

FIRST, chemicals are bad, folks. And we ingest them at every corner. They're in our laundry detergent, our household cleaners, our shampoo, face wash, make-up, our hand soap, our deodorant, just about everything. And I really want to keep my family as healthy as possible. 

SECOND, I really want to have more wisdom in how we spend our money. If I can make our cleaning products, detergent, face wash, shampoo, etc, with the same products and do it for cheaper than buying all those products separately, then that is a big plus to me! I have to say that I will probably never buy organic things like shampoo or make-up. As much as I would love it, those things just aren't cost effective for our family, and to be honest, I don't wear make-up but twice a week anyway. 

THIRD, I am finding that I really love the way the more natural products clean, deodorize, and feel on my face/clothes/etc. The vinegar/baking soda mix cleaned the snot out of my oven the other day (there wasn't actual snot in my oven, that would be gross)... probably moreso than any degreasing oven cleaner would. And you can pretty much use it to clean anything, ANYTHING! (Oh, and its cheap--baking soda is $2something for a big box, the vinegar is $2something for a big bottle. Love!) 

FOURTH, its just fun! This journey has been fun, and I have so enjoyed discovering new homey things!

With allllllll that being said, my latest DtD challenge was to use the Castile Soap that my sweet friend let me have this past week. I must report that for the last week, I've been using it to wash my hair...with homemade coconut milk (I will post on how to do that another time). I also do a apple cider vinegar rinse after the shampoo- which sounds weird, I know. I never even knew about Castile Soap before this, so I was pretty pumped to learn about it. It is a little expensive in my opinion, but you can use it for lots of different things, which I love. Multipurpose things/cleaners rock! And I didn't have to buy this small batch to try, so I was even more pumped.

So, this is how I do it. I prepare a single serving batch before my shower, 1 tbsp Castile Soap (I learned that amount was too much, so I started doing 1/2 tbsp), and 1 tsp of homemade coconut milk. I would swish it around, gently, and set that aside. I would then make my ACV conditioner rinse (1 tbsp ACV to 1 cup water), and take that to the shower. I'd lather up with the sorta 'poo (as Crunchy Betty calls it), then rinse out really, really well. Then I'd do my ACV rinse, concentrating on the ends (since ACV is a great detangler) and leave that in while I finished showering, but I would rinse that out before I got out of the shower. 

After a week of doing this, I have to report that I don't like the way my hair feels while doing this washing regimen. It feels dingy, not very clean and not soft or shiny or any of the things I read it was supposed to feel like. Yes, I'm disappointed. And now I want to chop all my hair off because I am thinking it will be easier to clean and manage. 

HOWEVER, doing this type of hair care regimen is a science, and you have to figure out what works best for your hair. And I think I did a few things wrong. First, I think I wasn't supposed to wash every day. Our hair wasn't meant to be washed every single day. When we use commercial shampoo, our scalp freaks out, since its been stripped of all the oils it needs, and starts overproducing oil like crazy, which is why our hair feels oily 24 hours after washing. I think I might start an every other day wash and see if that helps. Also, Ross told me that it may take awhile for my hair to get used to the new way of washing, which makes sense. So I may give it a little more time before giving up on it altogether. And I am considering doing a baking soda wash for awhile too, if I don't like this. 

I'm not sure if this hair thing is truly frugal or not and I really haven't decided yet if this is something I really should care about. Some things are worth caring about, some are not. This seems to be harder instead of easier on me and my family, which isn't good, but if there is a better way to take care of ourselves, I am all for it. I am praying for wisdom and discernment, because I just don't know yet! 

Comments? Suggestions? 

Up next week: Homemade laundry detergent! Does it work? Is it frugal? Is it easy or hard to make? I'll let you know!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The library is your friend!

Today we visited the public library for our weekly get-out-of-the-house-before-we-lose-our-minds field trip. It is truly one of our favorite places. In the children's section, there are a couple of touchscreen computers and a few fun things for the kids to do, so it provides an outlet for the kiddos to get some "play" time out (and it provides Jude the opportunity to make new friends...every.where.he.goes.) I, of course, had to take back our plethora of books that we'd had for what seemed like forever to get some new ones. I don't think I hit the allotted amount this time (20), but I think I get close on occasion. Jude got to pick out his own book this time, which we haven't done in the past simply because I just haven't ever thought about it before. But, I really feel like he likes having some ownership and choice in what we read, and I like giving him that choice (unless I don't agree with the content of the book...) 
The Cat Food Mystery (on top) is the one Jude picked out :)

I have learned over the last few years that children really learn through being read to, and most of them enjoy it. They learn, not just about what you're reading, but they learn how to develop attention span, how to follow a story and other things, which are all just as important as the content. 

Speaking of content, it does matter what you read to your kids. Some people say, it doesn't matter what you read to children, just read to them. I couldn't disagree more. I encourage you to use wisdom and discretion and look at books before you read them to your child. And the Dads need to get in on this too! I think its so important for the Dads to read as well as the Moms. And who doesn't love such a great bonding experience? Curling up on the couch or bed with a good book is a really sweet thing. Even when I have to read the same book over and over, I try to get into it every time. It really is a delight! *I must be real here and add that story time doesn't quite work out every time we try it. There are times Ezra just isn't into it and he's loud and fussy, or Jude isn't in the mood. If that's the case, we wait until its a better time. I have found that you have to be flexible with little ones!* Even if you have little babies, start reading to them. They will enjoy the sound of your voice and will probably grow up loving to read because of it! 

And use your library, peoples! Its a great, free resource for you and your kids. (you know I love that!) Ours has group story times throughout the week, fun family things to do together, movie nights, craft times for older kids, bands come and play on the lawn outside, its really fabulous. Can you tell I love my library very, very much??? :) 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Daily delights - Random-ies on today's homeschool and vinegar

I just made that word up. I liked it better than 'random thoughts', or what I almost titled this post, 'random crap.' Its one of those days. You know what I mean? Where you're trying to get back in the swing of things, but the motivation just isn't there? Since my sister and her crew left, its been hard to get caught back up. And it doesn't take much to make me want to sit around and do nothing. 

Getting back into the swing of things means starting back our "school" today. We finally got around to doing this pumpkin/counting/matching activity that I prepared weeks ago. I stole the idea from the workbook that my sister uses with her boy, and just made it myself. 

Jude had to match the number of pumpkin seeds to the actual number on the pumpkin itself. Even though he needed help with counting 7 and 8 (sometimes he skips a number), he did really well...and even finished it! His attention span is reeeeally short, so getting him to finish an activity is a challenge sometimes. 

After this, we "flew" like airplanes around the house several times, which included crashing onto the floor or couch. You know boys. They love to wrestle, so any reason to dog pile on Mommy gets 2 thumbs up from them. Then we watched a few videos online of real airplanes taking off and they loved it!

We sang some songs, read a few books and did our calendar time. I started losing him around calendar time, but I think its just because he doesn't really have much of a concept of time. He's probably thinking, what is a month? It's a hard thing to grasp. We keep at it anyway...someday he will get it.

On another note, I decided to tackle the delight of cleaning my oven. Why is cleaning your oven such a daunting task? Does anyone have an easier solution to this? I don't use the self-clean option, so that won't work. I tried it once and it smelled like the house was on fire. I couldn't breathe, the kids were coughing and the animals were freaking out. Also, another reason is because it uses way too much energy, leaving your oven on that high a temp for so long. So, I'm using vinegar and baking soda today and having to scrub like crazy. Delight, not duty? I am having to really think about this one. :) 

Some helpful ways you can use vinegar for cleaning:
  • Clean counter tops and make them smell sweet again with a cloth soaked in undiluted white distilled vinegar.
  • Clean the shelves and walls of the refrigerator with a half-and-half solution of water and white distilled vinegar.
  • Remove soap buildup and odors from the dishwasher by pouring a cup of white distilled vinegar inside the empty machine and running it through a whole cycle. Do monthly.
  • Easily clean your mini blinds by wearing pair of white cotton gloves.  Dip gloved fingers into a solution of equal parts white vinegar and warm tap water, and run your fingers across both sides of each blind.
  • Renew sponges and dishrags by placing them in just enough water to cover them. Then add 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar. Let them soak overnight.
  • Get rid of stubborn bathtub film by wiping it with white distilled vinegar and then scouring with baking soda.
  • To make the toilet bowl sparkle, pour in a cup or more of diluted white distilled vinegar and let it sit several hours or overnight. Scrub well with the toilet brush and flush.
  • Remove white water rings from wood with a solution of equal parts white distilled vinegar and vegetable oil. Rub with the grain.
You can find more HERE

Vinegar, baking soda and Borax are my new, natural cleaning methods. (they're not new, of course, but me using them is new...and I love it. No chemicals, yippee!) If there are any more out there, please educate me! :) 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Life and helpful tips

We are taking a small break from our preschooling this week because my sister and her fam were in town for the night. Its always hectic with all the kids together, but we all love being together anyway. I know the boys always enjoy playing together, even though they probably fight more than they play, like brothers. It's always a good time.

Even though we're not officially doing any focused learning, we have been reading our Bible story every day and doing our memory verse, and Jude has it down pat. That makes me one proud mama!

On another note, I came across some helpful hints I thought I'd pass along! 
  • Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.
  • Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating.Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.
  • Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef. It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking. (and only eat local beef, I'm telling you, there is a HUGE difference in taste.)
  • Broken Glass: Use a wet cotton ball or Q-tip to pick up the small shards of glass you can't see easily.(this is especially helpful to me. I break glasses quite often around here)
  • To keep squirrels from eating your plants, sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it. (I am looking forward to starting my own garden someday, so I will definitely try this!)
  • Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don't dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out. (never knew this, interesting!)
  • Goodbye Fruit Flies: To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it 1/2' with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid; mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup an d gone forever! (oh! I am trying this asap. Fruit flies are pesky and so hard to completely get rid of!)
  • Get Rid of Ants: Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it 'home,' can't digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works and you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed! 
  • Wash your dryer filter: Apparently, dryer sheets cause a film over the mesh on the filter, and that's what burns out the heating unit. You can't SEE the film, but it's there. Apparently the waxy stuff on the dryer sheet is the stuff that builds up on your clothes and on your lint screen. This is what causes dryer units to potentially burn your house down with it! I read that the best way to keep your dryer working for a long time (and to keep your electric bill lower) is to take that filter out and wash it with hot soapy water and an old toothbrush (or other brush) at least every six months. I read that makes the life of the dryer at least twice as long! -whether this is true or not, I don't know personally, but I will try this in the next few days!)
Hope these things were helpful to you! I've got something super exciting to share on my next DtD challenge post on Friday. Come back to read and see what it is! 

Monday, October 17, 2011

I made beans, woot!

This photo looks gross, I know. And it was the only photo I took. I totally forgot to take before, during and after photos. BUT, as gross as this photo looks, what the pictures is of surely didn't taste gross. In fact, they were the best beans I'd ever had. 

I got the idea of cooking dry beans from a friend of mine. I saw them on her counter once and I was immediately intrigued. "You use dry beans, not canned?" I asked. "Yes..." she said, sounding unsure as to why I would be asking her that. "Are they hard to fix?" I asked with more enthusiasm. "Not at all," she said, sounding more at ease. Maybe she thought I thought she was crazy. However, I've only eaten from the land of canned beans, so I had no idea there was this other world of yummier beans out there.

I only just got around to cooking them last week. Boy, am I glad! Even though they are a little more high maintenance than canned beans, they are really easy to fix, and way more delicious (not to mention more healthy!) for you than canned.

Here's how you make 'em (and yes, I had to ask my mom how to make them, don't laugh at me...)
Dry Northern Beans Printable Recipe

Tomorrow I'm going to cook pinto beans! Yeah buddy! Hopefully Ross won't kick me out of bed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

Well, its no secret. I love me some pumpkin. It's the ultimate fall ingredient. Pumpkin pie, bread, cookies, brownies, even cornbread, I eat it all. I am always looking for new ways to incorporate pumpkin into new things. And while pumpkin muffins aren't a new thing, its something I've never cooked before. So, this year, my goal is to a) make a pumpkin yeast bread (instead of a quick bread), and b) to make these muffins. I got them from the Jillian Michaels website, so they should be healthy-ish. 

Pumpkin Muffin Recipe


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Frugal date night

We don't get to go on dates often. We should make it more of a priority, and is something we are working on, but with small children and living on 1 income, its hard. But its SO important to make your marriage a priority, and I am always so glad when we do.

So many people think you have to spend a lot of money when you go out for it to be fun. NOT TRUE. It's not really our fault, society has somehow ingrained this in us. Spend money, go somewhere nice, eat lots of expensive food, etc. If that were the case, we'd never go out!

I have been trying to think of creative ways for Ross and I to spend time together but not spend a ton on going out. The whole point is for us to spend time together, anyway, and we can do that for free! There are fun, free things to do where you live, you just have to do some thinking and planning.

Last night, we packed our dinner, and took it to the park. We had a lovely, peaceful dinner by the lake, and walked around the lake until it was too dark (and until we couldn't hold out on frozen custard any longer). We did spend money on dessert, but it was $8, and I consider myself a cheap date if 8 dollars is all we spend (which it was). Then we went to the mall for a little magazine browsing and ended up in the Halloween store trying on costume masks. (These were our favorites) We had a blast. We talked, bonded, and laughed, especially at the zombie baby display in the Halloween store. It was the best time I've had in awhile.  The other great part, other than spending time with the love of my life, was that we spent less than $10! 

Side note: I've heard of other people having date nights in, where they put the kids to bed early and get some take-out, or even just cook something to eat themselves, and have a dinner in together. I like that idea also. 

Get to planning that date night that you've been needing for weeks (maybe even months???). You' (and your spouse) will be glad you did. :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Duties to Delights Challenge #1 (post edit, added picture)

For my very first DtD Challenge, I wanted to post something I've recently tried and was super excited about. I recently found the crunchiness that is the Crunchy Betty website,  and while I haven't gone 100% natural (heck, not even 50% natural), I think there is some merit to reducing the use of chemicals in your life, if you can save money in the process.

So, I started washing my face with food.

Yes, you heard me right. Food. As weird as it sounds, its really, really good for your face. It just depends on what type of food. Let me tell you how to do it.

Grab some ground beef, mix it with water into a paste, rub it all over your face and leave it to dry.

Just kidding. Don't ever do that. Unless you like the smell of meat, and like to be dry heaving while washing your face.

On the real, I've been using CB's No-Nonsense Daily Scrub for any skin type in the morning and doing a honey wash at night. (I took the Crunchy Betty Honey Challenge!) Let me say this. I love the daily scrub. Like love, love. It has seriously changed my life. If you ever want your face feeling ridiculously smooth and healthy, then you should do it too. I didn't have any almonds on hand, so I had to buy some, but all it contains is almond meal, oatmeal and water (or witch hazel for oily skin, milk for dry skin, oils for other types of skin). I cover my face and neck with that almond-oatmealy paste and let it dry. When I wash it off, my skin feels so healthy, silky smooth, and not soooo dry that its going to crack into a billion pieces. I don't even have to put moisturizer on afterward. And the ingredients are things that you probably already have in your, its a really frugal (and healthy, non-toxic, chemical-free) way to take care of your skin. That's my other favorite part.

I do like the honey wash also (especially the honey wash to take make-up off), but I love the daily scrub better. And using apple cider vinegar as a toner doesn't smell too good, but it works better than any toner I've ever used from a cosmetic store.

I am still having some breakouts, but I think its because my skin is extremely oily. I have oily, acne-prone skin. I've struggled since I was a kid. I think I'm going to try to get some witch hazel and see if that helps with my breakouts. Other than that, I am sold on this skin care regimen. And who has the money to spend on a bunch of face products that aren't good for your face anyway? So, I wash my face with this in the morning and let it dry. Then I rinse it off. Very simple. ....Except your 3 year old might laugh at you. Or call you oatmeal face. Or try to put his breakfast on his own face. Just a warning! :)

You should try it too!

Next week: A friend of mine gave me a small portion of her stash of Castile Soap, and I'm only just now hearing/learning about this soapy goodness. I'm thinking about either using it to wash my hair or make my own laundry detergent. What do you think? Either way, my goal for this next week is to use Castile soap in some way, form or fashion. Come back to see what happens!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Daily Delights on discouragement (and a pinterest plug)

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Does it happen to you? Discouragement and negativity...its like they creep in unexpectedly and all of the sudden, the wind has gone out of your sails and you don't want to do anything. I've come to a conclusion about discouragement...either you can feed it, or you can squash it.

I was feeling it last night. 

I had mopped the kitchen floor on Tuesday, a day earlier than I was supposed to (according to my chore chart, which I'll post at some point). I was feeling empowered and sort of like super woman. Never, ever had I mopped a day early. And not so far in the distant past, I probably only mopped like once a month, if it even got done at all. So, I thought yay for me! I'm on top of things today!

And then I saw the mud smudges. Not prints, but that would have made me mad also. In this case, there were mud-slide marks all over my kitchen floor, thanks to our foster dog, Luna...who, might I add, is not the brightest crayon in the box. 

I said to Ross, "what's the point of mopping ever, if the very next day it doesn't even look like I did anything???" And Ross responded with something encouraging, bless him. But all I could think of was, what's the point of doing anything around here? The laundry always gets dirty again, the dishes always need to be eaten upon and cleaned, the kids will continuously be dragging out their toys and scattering them all over the house. It seems to never end.

This is what came to mind:
"...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Hebrews 12:1-3 (emphasis done by me)

I know he's talking about the running the race of faith here, which is most important, but it also made me think about what I've been called to do in this life at this current time, taking care of my house and family. Which translates to: making sure our floors are clean, even though they will dirty all over again. Or providing clean clothes for my children to wear, even though they will need to be cleaned again, the very next week. Or even reading the same book to the boys over and over again, even though I am extremely tired of this one baseball book that Jude loves. It's certainly not an exciting job, but it really does matter. 

The picture above is my favorite picture from running my very first half-marathon a few weeks ago. During the race, there were times I wanted to quit running. There were times I wanted to just sit down and say, forget this. What's the point of this anyway? But I kept on running to the end, which felt amazing. And I was glad I finished. That's why its so important for me to keep running my race in life, to finish it, to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, so that I will not grow weary and lose heart. Isn't that encouraging? It was for me. 

On another note, have you got on the Pinterest train yet? Oh, you should. It is quite entertaining...and obsessive. I have been more inspired to take more photos, to get started on those craft projects I've been putting off, and have found some really awesome things/recipes/ideas to try from there. (and if you care to follow my pins, you can click on the P button in my sidebar and go get to pinning yourself!)

Children's book review - Ten Little Caterpillars

My kids love for me to read to them, and we are avid library visitors. We use books during our preschool at home time, sometimes for learning about a specific subject, a letter or number, or just for a neat story to listen to.

My kiddos really like this book. It's not very long or wordy, has big, bright pictures and has some scientific learning possibilities also. What I like it for: identifying numbers, counting, and there's something really neat at the end. They go through different types of caterpillars and show what kind of butterfly they become. I think that's pretty darn neat for a children's book. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fitness tip from 10Fitness

Ross and I are members of 10Fitness, and one of the things I love about the gym is that they send tips to me via email. Even if its something I've heard before, I still find encouragement in hearing it. Here is the tip they sent me this week....

"One of the many benefits of regular exercise is increased and sustained energy throughout the day. 
Healthy Lifestyle Tip: Seeing Is Believing
In life and work, success begins with a goal. Before we can believe in a goal, we first must have an idea of what it looks like. “We must see it before we can believe it” is where visualization comes in, which is simply a technique for creating a mental image of a future event. When we visualize our desired outcome, we begin to "see" the possibility of achieving it. Through visualization, we catch a glimpse of what is, in the words of one writer, our "preferred future." When this happens, we are motivated and prepared to pursue our goal.
Studies show that visualization increases athletic performance by improving motivation, coordination and concentration. It also aids in relaxation and helps reduce fear and anxiety. In the words of one researcher, "Visualization helps the athlete just do it and do it with confidence, poise, and perfection."
Visualization does not guarantee success. It also does not replace hard work and practice, but when combined with diligent effort and a strong support network, it is a powerful way to achieve positive behavioral change and create the life you desire."

In my own fitness journey, I have found this to be true. Sometimes when I'm running and I get tired, I envision myself running a race, or getting to the finish line of a race, and it helps get me to the end of my run, when otherwise I might quit because I'm too tired. Or sometimes I just envision myself getting to the next mile. It really does work, folks! Try it the next time you feel yourself wanting to give up or even if you're having a hard time getting off the couch. Imagine yourself finishing that race or feeling that awesome feeling you have when you've fit into those skinny pants you've been wanting to get back in to. It really sounds silly in my opinion, like some new-agey thing, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do if you want to reach your fitness goals. 

Now get up and get moving! :) 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Daily delights

I tried a new chicken spaghetti recipe last night. I borrowed some of PW's recipe, and made the rest up on my own. I was so pumped about it since I love chicken spaghetti, and I love everything that I put in it. 

(the lighting in my kitchen is terrible) was a big fat flop. The dish was way too spicy, even for me...and spicy stuff makes this lady HAPPY. The kids barely ate any, and I think my nose started running at some point. Lesson learned: Don't put a can of rotel, green peppers, onions, AND paprika in this recipe. Cooking 101, anyone? I'll probably leave out the rotel next time. And since there was a lot of leftovers, and guess who will have to eat them all? 

Does anyone have any good chicken spaghetti recipes out there that don't call for Velveeta? Velveeta grosses me out big time.

Every day when we go outside to play, it never fails; the thing my boys choose to do is either a) dig in the dirt, or b) dig for bugs. It must be a boy thing. They're both all boy, that's for sure! I don't mind it, in fact, I encourage it. Most of the time. Some times I just don't feel like cleaning off a boy who's been rolling in the dirt. But it's just so funny that's what they choose to do every time. 

While we were outside, I was able to catch some sibling snuggling on camera. How grateful I am that these boys have each other! I hope and pray that they will grow up to be best friends, like my sister and I. Siblings will fight and make-up, can see you at your worst and your best and still love you through it. 

A quote I found on pinterest says it this way:
I couldn't agree more. I love being a part of something very wonderful. But its not perfect. The love we receive from our family is not even close to perfect, even if they try very hard to love the best they can. And while family loves you more than you deserve (most of the time), our Father God loves us even more and loves us perfectly. I can't even  begin to fully comprehend that! I see and feel it every day. This makes me very grateful for my earthly family, the one I was born into and the one I've made, but mostly for my perfect God who is abounding in lovingkindness. Being a part of God's family IS something wonderful...isn't that good news?

I think I will end today's post with the cutest baby-face ever. His Nanny calls him a "movie star!" 

Monday, October 10, 2011

On my nightstand

(Homepreschool and Beyond by Susan Lemons)

Outside water play

Today I thought we would do some outside water play, because its been awhile and because I thought it would be fun while also teaching scientific concepts by seeing which objects float or sink. But first, we went outside and did some free play. I chased the boys around, which they loved. When Jude said he was "all done," he really wanted to try to throw this big stick over the fence. I said, "go for it!" I think it's awesome when he thinks of things or challenges he wants to do on his own. I try to encourage that as much as possible.
He never did throw that stick over the fence. It was just too big. So he gave up on the stick and found a rock, which I thought was a smart choice, at least he didn't give up altogether. He did get the rock over and we ended that game on a positive note. 
 Ezra found a stick that looked like a Moses staff. I thought that was funny and awesome. :)

Then we moved onto our water play. I just grabbed different objects from around the house and measuring cups and spoons for Ezra to play in the water with. Jude thought it was really fun to put the different objects in. I would ask him before, do you think it will sink or float? But he was throwing things in too fast for me to ask. So, I started asking after.

Did the stick float or sink? Did the ball float or sink? He loved it. He didn't quite get the float/sink concepts, but that's the point of the exercise. To introduce him to those concepts. 
They both played for about 10-15 minutes. Then Jude started throwing the water out and making mud. What is it with boys and mud? We talked about how mud is made, and I love being able to have a teaching moment in the midst of free play. 
It was fun, and he really enjoyed it, but I think he tired of it quickly because there were too many rules. He couldn't splash in the water, he couldn't throw it everywhere, etc. And Ezra kept drinking it, which was gross. So, we put the water up and played ball for awhile. I keep reading how important it is to have plenty of attention and play-time with Mom, but also time to play alone as well. 

I had hoped the water time had kept his attention longer, but I am finding that my hopes for a project are never completely fulfilled in reality. So, I'm learning to be grateful for what I get, 10-15 minutes of focused play is great for a 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 year old! And I love watching these little boys learn in their own way.

My next project is getting our calendar together to start learning the months, days and weeks of the month/year. I am doing this today and hope to start tomorrow! Woot! 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Hi, and welcome!

Hello internet world, welcome to my blog!

Do you ever find yourself tired and worn out from your "duties" as a woman, wife and/or mom? Do you think, I was not cut out for this, or that its just too darn hard? Or do you come to the end of the day and wish you were someone else, someWHERE else? 

You're not alone, friends. I have spent a lot of the last 4 years of my life thinking/feeling these very things. I had frequent thoughts that I couldn't do it all. I often wondered why God had called me to be a stay-at-home-mom. I cried...a lot. Then something changed.

I can't believe I am actually writing the welcome post to this blog. It seemed that this blog would never actually happen, but here it is! And I'm really excited to be able to share it with the world. I'm Brandie and I'm a wife, mom, an avid runner, lover of food, laundry expert (not really) and I carry tons of other titles. I have been married for five years, have two boys, Jude (3 1/2) and Ezra (1 1/2) two silly dogs and two lazy cats. I had actually blogged for 4 years until 2010, just my thoughts and family musings, but then decided there really wasn't a point in that and the idea for this blog started to form.

So what changed for me? I think it was perspective. I was viewing my responsibilities as a burden, as a nuisance. My happiness was wrapped up in my comfort. But when I started to think of my responsibilities as meaningful and purposeful (yes, even doing laundry) and a way to bless others (my family), then I started to find joy in all of it. It was really that simple.

Just to clarify, my joy is not in the things I do, not even in the circumstances my life brings. My joy is is found in Jesus alone. But as I go through this journey, the journey of finding joy in where where I am in my life, the journey of pouring out my life for my family and others, I found that I wanted to share it with others. I wanted to inspire others as I have been inspired by so many. It's not an easy journey, I'll admit that. It has already proved to be the most difficult thing thus far. And to be honest, I'll never do everything perfectly. I mess up, and quite a bit. And I don't have it all together. But I am excited to be where I am and excited to share it. Besides, everyone wants their life to make a difference, right? If I inspire at least one person, then it is worth it.

Our duties really can become delights! Want to join me on my journey and maybe start one of your own? :)

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me...and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound..." Philippians 1:21-22; 25-26

Disclaimer: All information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. Whether you try any of my methods or ideas is totally up to you. I am in no way saying you should do everything the way I do, every family is different and you should find out what's best for yours. I would, however, be delighted if you tried some new things in your own lives (whether be my ideas, your own, or someone else's), and shared it with me. 

Disclaimer and Copyright

All information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. Whether you try any of my methods or ideas is totally up to you. I am in no way saying you should do everything the way I do, every family is different and you should find out what's best for yours. I would, however, be delighted if you tried some new things in your own lives (whether be my ideas, your own, or someone else's), and shared it with me.

Also, you may use any of the content of this blog for your own personal use, but please do not take the ideas on my blog and claim them as your own. You may link back to my site with proper credit. This is much appreciated.

Helpful Sites

The Frugal Girl (frugality, repurposing, etc)

The Pioneer Woman (recipes)

MCP Actions (photography, PS/PSE actions)

Coffeeshop Blog (photography, digital design and PS freebies)

Digital Photography School (photography)