Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Resolutions 2012

So a dear friend of mine does a New Year's Resolution every year, but she starts it on her birthday. She makes a goal for each year of her life. I thought that was such a great idea, but I always forget to do it once it's my birthday, so I decided to kind of split the difference. And then once I made my list, I kept thinking of more things I wanted to accomplish this year. So in the spirit of New Years and in the spirit of working on being a better person next year, I am submitting my list of resolutions. These are not necessarily in any order (except #1), but my goal is to accomplish all of these before the year is up. So...here goes!

New Year's Resolutions for 2012
  1. Do a devotion EVERY DAY
  2. Organize daily schedule
  3. Take a break from Facebook one full day a week
  4. Walk every Wednesday and Friday
  5. Bake bread at least once a week
  6. Go to New Orleans
  7. Go down one dress size
  8. Meatless Mondays
  9. Speak softer to my children
  10. Be more obvious in my love for my husband
  11. Make freezer meals at the beginning of each month
  12. Go to lunch with my mom once a month
  13. Pay off a major debt
  14. Clean/organize the pantry room
  15. Clean/organize the craft room
  16. Have the youth over
  17. Have the college kids over
  18. Make a new friend (not an acquaintance, but a friend) 
  19. Stick to chore schedule 
  20. Stick to reward/consequences chart
  21. Have family worship once a week
  22. Take the kids to volunteer at a homeless shelter
  23. Visit Connie Maxwell
  24. Find a new hobby
  25. Have one sewing project a month
  26. Promote a local business on my blog once a month
  27. Get a family photo done (professionally) 
  28. Go to the dentist
  29. Have a date with the husband once a month
  30. Try a new, exotic food
  31. Have a successful garden 
  32. Read a non-fiction book 
  33. Go to bed with a clean kitchen 
  34. Recycle
What's YOUR resolution(s) this year?

**UPDATE** I have organized my resolutions into different goals: daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and miscellaneous. I then put them on a poster board, laminated it, and then hung it some place I could access it if I wanted to check my progress. This actually helps me with goal #2. I hate it at the end of each year when we forget to either stick to our goal or forget what the goal was in the first place. I wanted to make sure I really do work on being a better person this year. Here's hoping you make reachable (or seemingly reachable...see #7 or #13) goals this year and accomplish them!

Here's what I did for those of you who are visual learners:

Friday's Review: The Duchess and the Dragon

So with the New Year approaching, I've decided to change up my weekly blogging schedule just a tad. I'm not always able to do enough curriculum with Abigail during the week to really blog about it (or really anything that's super exciting. Sometimes teaching is just teaching not necessarily always fun, new things). So I decided that Fridays would be my day to review things. I will still take days review curriculum with Abigail, but I will also be reviewing books (because I read like 2 a week), local business (as stated in my New Year's Resolutions), or review music/television show/movie (ha! like I ever go to one of those!). I am starting today with reviewing a book.

I have become a regular at the local library, and my goal for last year was to read more romance books that had less sex and more real life situations where people discover how to treat each other and how to learn to, well, learn God. It doesn't always have to be Christian fiction, but just good, clean reading. And I have hit the jackpot with quite a few authors. Today's book is The Duchess and the Dragon, by Jamie Carie.

This book is set in England and in Pennsylvania during the reign of King George. It's a love story that really seems close to realistic. You have two classes of people thrown together in some pretty drastic circumstances. And just when you think "Ah! He's finally got it!" He falls short. The main character's decisions affects all of those around him, including the woman he loves. He struggles with having it all and really finding his purpose in life, while she is discovering new and exciting (and scary) things about herself.

I recommend this book. It's got a little of that historical romance fiction that so many girls love, but it's free of blatant scenes where you have to skim the pages looking for dialogue just so you can get back to the story.

Check it out and other great stories (that I'm probably going to review at some point) by Jamie Carie.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Cleaning List

At the end of last week, I had every intention to prewrite my posts for this week so you would be in awe of how I was able to keep up with my blog and make Christmas presents and clean my house and travel all over the state with a smile on my face, peace in my heart, and every hair neatly in place.

And guess what? It didn't happen. I mean, my hair is neatly in place...Stop laughing. Ok, but seriously, there is peace in my heart. This morning as I was cruising Facebook on my in-law's computer (don't get on me about spending family time on the computer. They are all watching football highlights), I saw a Christmas Cleaning Checklist in my feed. It inspired me to do a little more research for similar checklists out there. I found a few, and am really excited about it. No, really, I am. I get inspired by those who are super organized. I feel that if I am at least halfway as organized as they are, then my house will look GREAT! So I am going to include a few of what I found below. Some of them it's a little too late to begin, but others are geared for these last few days before the big day. Enjoy!

1. 2 Hour Checklist. This is from one of my favorite blogs: Money Saving Mom. This chick inspires me to be better all around. What's great about this link is that she also includes a free download checklist. PERFECT!

2. Christmas Planner. This, too, has downloads. The cool thing about this site is it provides downloads for everything Christmas: Organizing Christmas cards and gifts, Stocking Stuffers, and Menu Planning.

3. Real Simple. This is the one that I was telling you about that gets you started 3 MONTHS in advance. BUT it breaks it down all the way 3, 2, and 1 day before Christmas. This is good if you just need a good reminder.

So, I think that's about it. I am most likely not going to post again until the day after Christmas. Until then, Merry, Merry Christmas everyone! May the Lord bless your family!

Photo Source (another link for Christmas Cleaning Tips):

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Not Thursday's Crafting: Homemade (or Semi-Homemade) Christmas Presents: Hot Plates and Coasters

Christmas is seriously DAYS AWAY and some of you are thinking, "Oh Lord! I forgot to get Aunt Margaret something!" I have just the thing for you. A quick trip to Lowe's or Home Depot, $10 (TOPS), and 30 minutes of your time will give you a nice set of coasters and a hot plate for that family member or friend or pastor you forgot to get something for.

I made these a few years ago after seeing them at a wedding shower (hey Nick and Mia!!) and immediately filed that in my "THAT is what I'm going to make for Christmas" folder. I made a coaster with the first initial of every person in the family and then a hot plate with the initial of their last name. This was also the year I paired it with the meat rub I shared with you last time. And I must stay 90 % of the people I gave this gift to use these on a regular basis. Seriously, who doesn't love a great gift you can literally use every day?

Things You Need

  • Small (4 x 4), unsealed tile and/or large (6 x 6) unsealed tile 
  • acrylic paint 
  • paint brushes, stamps, whatever you need to make a pretty design 
  • water proof, spray fixative or varnish 
  • Felt, cork, or rubber pieces with one sticky side (you can find this in the crafting section of Wal-mart) 
  1. Paint the tops of your tiles with whatever design, initials, etc to personalize the coaster or hot plate. Let dry (this should only take a few minutes). 
  2. Lightly spray the top of the painted tile with the spray fixative. Let dry (10-20 minutes) 
  3. Attach a felt, cork, or rubber piece to the back of the tile in each corner. This will help prevent scratching 
  4. Wrap in a pretty bow or use immediately! :) 
That is it! I kid you not, this is SO EASY!!! Again, I have no pictures because this was before I thought to take pictures of the gifts I give. BUT, I am going to attach a few links I found where people did some similar coasters. Enjoy these beautiful works of art! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Not Thursday's Crafting: Homemade (or semi-homemade) Christmas Gifts: A Few Last Minute Stuff

Okay, so I know it's not Thursday, but I wanted to try to get some other nifty homemade ideas to you before Christmas. These are also great as hostess gifts for those Christmas/New Year's Eve parties we'll be going to in the next 2 weeks. Check them out:

1. 30 Something Gifts. This has a pretty decent list of easy to make and lovely to give gifts. #1 on the list pretty much is the same recipe I used for making truffles that I gave a few years ago as gifts.

2. Last Minute Gifts. Most of these are fun things to do with the kids, including Elf on the Shelf and making Reindeer Food.

3. 100 Days of Homemade Christmas Gifts. This lady was WAY more ready for Christmas gifts than I. Check out her list and her tutorials. I'm saving some of these ideas for next year, for sure!

Less than a week, people! So if you are budgeted out and still have a few people left, check out these ideas!

Monday's Devotion: Defining True Repentance

"I will leave and return to my father and say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against God and have done wrong to you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son, but let me be like one of your servants.'" Luke 15: 18-19

Joe and I lead the youth Sunday School class at our church. When we began a few months ago, there wasn't any curriculum available, so we decided the best place to start would be with Jesus's parables, and I must tell you that God knew exactly what he was doing when He lead us to teach this. I am constantly telling the youth, "I have read these parables all my life, and yet God is still opening my eyes to so many truths." The number one lesson that we seem to talk about each week is that having a relationship with the Lord is not about coming to church, looking nice, etc, etc, but it's about the condition of your heart.

THIS WEEK'S LESSON (and last week's too) was about the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32). Joe and I felt that there was so much  to cover in this parable (my favorite, by the way), that we would take two weeks to cover. Through research (Matthew Henry and John Calvin, just to name a few), we really found so much truth for our lives in these 21 verses that I'm still floored with what God has shown me. The basic outline we were covering went as follows:

  1. Begging for and Receiving Inheritance (shirking responsibilities we have been given) 
  2. Wasting money and Falling into a pit 
  3. REPENTANCE (and developing a true desire for it) 
  4. Father's Grace and Forgiveness (the coolest part of the story, in my opinion) 
  5. Older Son's Lesson (the part that was always hardest for me to read and understand) 
I'm not going to share with you all of the Sunday School lesson, but one of the things that really, really got me was the section about repentance. After we, like the younger son, completely reject our responsibilities, become selfish and wasteful, and exhaust all our resources, we tend to be at the bottom of the barrel. The job you are working is making you completely miserable, your kids are driving you crazy, you just can't get along with family members, you have no money to buy the things you want, etc, etc. If you have ever been in the pit (as I have been), you know how deep and dark that pit can be. You know how miserable life really is when you think you just can't get any lower. The younger son was seriously in the bottom of the pit...and so many of us would say he deserved it. He was living the fine life. He chose to leave it to squander his money. He deserves what he gets (how many times have we thought that about someone else?...Bin Laden, anyone?) But the greatest gift is that God does not believe that. He does not smile at the "lesson we learned".   But He is not always going to just snatch us out of that pit. He, like the Father in the parable, waits, watching, hoping we will have a desire to return (v. 20b...the greatest line in the entire parable). In order for us to never return to that pit of despair, we must recognize that we put ourselves there and have a true desire to never return. Calvin described repentance in the best way I have ever seen it. TRUE REPENTANCE means: 
  1. We have a grief of conscience. We must grieve the decisions we have made that lead us to be so far from God and the joy he gives us. 
  2. We must be dissatisfied with ourselves. At this point, we should be totally disgusted with ourselves as sinners. Just like the son in the parable, he realizes that he no longer deserves to be even called "son". 
  3. Find displeasure with our sin. I truly believe this is the hardest part. There are have been so many times that I was grieving and was completely disgusted with myself, but I did not truly find displeasure in the sin. It's kind of like when your mom asks you "are you sorry you did something wrong or are you sorry you got caught?" Sin is so tempting: being selfish, finding joy in things instead of God, sins of the flesh, pride, hating that person who just is so hateful to you. All of those, and so many more, are so easy to just say, "Yeah, I shouldn't have thought (said/did) that" and then two weeks/months/hours later we do it again. This displeasure is when you are so disgusted in it, you commit to fully put it away from you. The son, instead of hoping to come back to his father's good graces as a son again, expects to come back begging to be just a servant for his father. 
  4. We must repent and confess to those we have offended. Calvin says "humility is absolutely necessary in order to obtain forgiveness". Keeping a sin secret, I believe, is Satan's way of putting a crack in your steps of repentance. If you don't get it out there that you sinned, are sorry, and have a desire to be restored, then it will be easy to fall into that sin again. 
These steps, so clear in the parable, make it clear to me that I have done it wrong so many times, hence the familiarity I have with that pit. And that is the way Satan wants it. He wants us to forget one little step so that we are, again, far from our Father. The coolest part of the story, though, is that God doesn't say, "Well, forget her! She obviously does not want to find herself in my good graces again. He's waiting and watching for the moment we do steps 1-3 so he can RUN to us (how cool is that?!) ready to embrace us once again. 

As we near the end of one year and make resolutions for the next, examine your heart. Do you have a sin you are constantly falling back into? Do you enjoy a particular sin that you know is actually keeping you from Him? I know I have a lot of examining to do of myself. Here's to a new year and a new spirit for the Lord! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday's Crafting: Homemade (or semi-homemade) Christmas Gifts: This Year's Favorites

I haven't posted anything else this week because I have been super busy making presents. Well, let me rephrase this, I wasn't making them for the past 4 days, but I have been getting materials and ingredients to make them, making them, and then getting stuff to make them pretty. Today I should be done with the Christmas gifts, which is perfect since tomorrow we are decorating the house (more about that later). Needless to say, my house is a disaster, and I am currently in a fight with my garbage disposal (it decided to go on strike at the worst possible time). BUT I am thoroughly enjoying this year's crafts. I normally pick 1 thing (or 2 things if the one I choose is girly) to make a year (see what I've done in the past), but this year I found so many great ideas, and they weren't hard or expensive to do, that I felt I could do a few of them. It's working out great since I'm actually getting requests this year. So I'm going to share the links of what I found. I am not doing all of these, but these were the ones I was going to attempt this year. Check them out:

1. BBQ or Meat Rubs. Pastor Frank, DON'T go to this website until after Christmas. This one's for you! :) The meat rubs I made a few years ago went over really well. In the past I paired it with hotplates and coasters (to be blogged about next week, I promise). I must say, this is pretty easy to make and is really good! This website is not the one I used before, but I like it so much more because it has a good collection of all types of meat rubs that I'm sure to try in the future.

2. Minty Bath Salts. I must admit, I am a sucker for peppermint. Maybe it's because it helps cure my headaches, stomach aches, and curbs my hunger, but I love the stuff. So when I found this site, I was tempted to make it just for me, but I know some lovely ladies who would love to have it as well. And by the way, it was suggested to be paired with Peppermint Hot Chocolate (from my favorite frugal blog, Money Saving Mom). Great idea! I haven't decided if I'm going to do any pairing yet, but if I were, this would be a great idea.

3. Cookie Bath. This is another pairing that I think is a great idea. This includes making oatmeal cookies and then an Oatmeal Cookie Bath. I know, don't freak out. Remember, oatmeal is actually good for your skin. This was so easy to make! Seriously, you just blend the ingredients and then place in an air tight container. Most if the ingredients are stuff you should have in your house already, so this is a great gift to make for teachers or that last minute gift for someone who got you a gift that you didn't think of getting one for them (don't judge! You know it happens to you too!)

4. Peppermint Foaming Soap. Here I go again with the peppermint. You really could use any soothing scent with this recipe. This requires a few ingredients that you may not have around your house, so plan a little ahead on this one. Really it's only 3 ingredients, and if you buy those ingredients, you really should have enough to make all your friends. My hardest part was finding the foam dispenser. But once you get what you need, this is worth it!

5. Kitchen Hand Scrub. I love, love, love this! And this one is actually good for guys and gals. It's a hand scrub that removes odors from your hands that you might get while cooking. Why is that good for guys? Well, if they are fishing, or cutting up onions to go with their famous hamburgers, this will help remove that odor. I tried this out as I was making it, and really I was a so sad I didn't have enough for me, that I ran out to the store to pick up more ingredients. This one is one I may actually keep around my home year-round!

6. DIY Dishes. Okay, I'm NOT doing this link, so my friends who are into this, don't get too excited. BUT I am doing something similar. I didn't want to not include the last thing I'm making for family and friends, but this one I've been keeping a secret for a pretty long time (since last May when I found the tutorial). So I'm including something along the same lines. And by the way, these glasses in the link are selling for $12-$15 a cup. You can make a half dozen SET for that price.

Okay, that's it for this week. Keep in mind that if you STILL haven't gotten a present for your kids' teachers,  most of these will work great! It's not too late to give an original gift to the teachers that won't be another coffee cup, ornament, or "apple" jewelry.

Have a great Christmas, everyone! I will try to squeeze in another DIY before next week.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday's Curriculum: Christmas is Here, week 2

Abigail and I are continuing with the Hubbard's Cupboard's lesson on Christmas. I am continuously astounded at how much she remembers. We have to do a bit of catch up because Abigail stays with my parents Sunday night through Tuesday morning, so Tuesday afternoon-ish we have to quickly cover 3 days, and she handles it very well. I just can't believe that we are already finished with our second week of Christmas curriculum and only have 16 more days until Christmas! So here are the pictures of this week's lessons. Enjoy!

Making an angel out of our hands and feet 

Making a whispering tube...

To announce to the world that Jesus is born! 

Coloring and reviewing the birth of Jesus 

Being like the angels and singing "Glory to God!" 

Making sheep as we talk about the shepherds 

Reviewing the Nativity 

She did a GREAT job remembering 

Can't believe we've done so many already! (See last week for an explanation and an up close pic) 

Displaying (from L to R): The angel that told of John the Baptist, the angel that told of Jesus, a picture of our family, a sheep to represent the shepherds, and our Count Down Calendars. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thursday's Crafting: Homemade (or semi-homemade) Christmas Gifts: Jams and Butters

I'm continuing on giving short tutorials or reviews of homemade Christmas gifts we have done in the past. I am always looking for more things to do at home where the gifts come from the heart. This is a great way to save money and to teach children that Christmas is about developing relationships. What better way to develop a relationship than to make something personal to give that everyone will love? If you have missed what I've done so far, here are the links to the intro (where I have a list of what I've done in the past and a few links to gifts I have yet to make) and scarves and heating pads,

One of my favorite things to do every year is to go to a U-Pick farm and load up on fresh fruit. It's really quite addicting to me, so I always end up leaving with a TON more fruit than I need. So I split up what I get and begin making things to freeze or can for later use. The rest I use immediately as fresh fruit in yogurt or bake into pancakes, pies, and cobblers. A few years ago I decided that I was going to give Blueberry Jam and later give Apple Butter as our Christmas gift that year. I can tell you both were fun, but the butters are always easier to do because you just plop them in your crockpot and go! What I'm going to do below, though, is post where I got my recipes from. If you buy a bunch of those cute little, little mason jars, you can add a pretty sticker or piece of material on the top and jazz up a nice present for someone. This is easy and cost effective and people can use it immediately.

NOTE: I normally go with the recipes that call for the least amount of sugar as possible. Sugar is practically necessary to make these good, but I really love a good jam that tastes like fruit and not like the sugar. If you like a sugary jam or butter, then add as the directions call.

Blueberry Jam or Preserves

I like to use the Pick Your Own website. It is by far my favorite resource for anything U-Pick. They tell you (at least for SC) where all the farms are, what they have, and when they have it. It also provides countless tips and recipes. I have been using this site for years.

PS: If you like Blueberries, I made these this summer. It became my husband's favorite. I tried it with mixed berries, apples, and pears (which turned out great one time, and HORRIBLY another, so keep an eye on those suckers). These would be great gifts for people at work, church, or a hostess gift for this year's Christmas party.


In the past, I have made apple butter, pumpkin butter, and pear butter. I really, really love all of these. They are easy to make, and make your house smell incredible. Again, if you get the small mason jars, you could really jazz these up as pretty gifts. Here's where I get my recipes:

1. Pick Your Own (Apple butter)
2. Pick Your Own (Pumpkin butter)
3. A Year of Slow Cooking (Apple OR Pear butter)

So baking is one of the easy and cheap ways to have gifts for others at Christmas. Have your kids make a cute little card to go with each. Include a homemade loaf of bread or Friendship bread. Everyone will love it and will want to share (or not) immediately! Don't forget to save some for yourself!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday's Cleaning: Room by Room series: The Kitchen, part 3

As I continue my series of deep cleaning the house room by room, I am on the last post on the kitchen. I am using tips that I learned from Melissa Ringstaff's website A Virtuous Woman. I must say that as I was trying to organize my information for today, I really had a hard time narrowing the information down. Melissa provides an incredible Bible study called "From Chaos to Calm" (that is soon to be a book) on her website that really goes into detail on how to keep house and home. I have downloads to details she gives on cleaning appliances around your kitchen properly, and how to properly clean the floors and walls of your kitchen. BUT Melissa has asked that I direct you to her site to get this information. I totally understand, especially since she is going to put all of this into a book for you. If you have not already checked out her Bible Study "From Chaos to Calm," you really, really need to. It was life changing for me. 

Today we are going to look at the Pantry and Mealtime. My pantry is a MESS, so this is a great reminder for me as I prepare to get my meals ready for next week. So I'm going to start with highlighting stuff for the pantry and then talk about how to properly clean up around mealtime. 

Pantry (Inventory Link Here) NOTE: some of the following information is my opinion (hey! It's my blog! I'm entitled to give my own opinion) 

  • Take stock of your stock: Take an inventory of what you have in your pantry (see link above). Make a list of things you are low on and things you should replace. By "replace" I mean, take a look a the nutritional value. Decide what you are willing to get rid of and replace with a healthier version. 
    • (Here goes my personal opinion I warned you about) About two weeks ago I gave in to temptation and bought a Hamburger Helper kit. The meal was delicious, but there was so much sodium, carbohydrates, and fat in the meal, it negated my hour-long workout earlier that day. As tempting as it is to have those "quick fix" meals at your hand, decide if that is really something worth having in your family. Don't get me wrong, having one or two of those meals (Hamburger Helper, a can of ravioli, or one of those meal in a can) is not that bad. You need things in there for times when you don't have the money in your budget for fresh food or when your husband is in charge of the meals or when you have the babysitter over during dinner time. There just needs to be something for that quick fix meal once in a while. Just don't make that take up your pantry. 
  • Snacks: Take inventory of the snacks you have available. I know (for serious I REALLY know) how yummy those Debbie Snacks are, but is that all you have to offer for your family to enjoy? Take a look at what you have. Do you have dried fruit? How about baked chips? Or even those incredible veggie chips they have available now. It may take some retraining on your part and your family's part on finding healthier options, but it will be worth it in the long run. 
  • Staples: Make a list of the staple items you just need to have in your pantry. Check out the sales papers and stock up when you can. For example, about once a month or so, Publix tends to have spaghetti sauce, pasta noodles, and tomatoes on sale for BOGOF. I tend to stay away from most canned veggies (there's really not that much nutritional value to them so I use either frozen or fresh), but canned tomatoes is really a must for me. I stock up on all kinds when it's on sale (diced, stewed, with green chilis, zesty, etc). They are great to add to soups, pasta dishes, or on top of a crockpot chicken. I also bake a lot. So when I go to the store, I try to buy a small bag of flour (not always all-purpose; sometimes I buy wheat or bread flour). Also, if I haven't made my own baking mix, I try to stock up on that as well (just be careful of the expiration date. If I have extras, I put it in a ziplock bag and then put in the freezer). Also, it's a good idea to have a couple of cans or boxes of low sodium broth. Those work in soups, rice, and even a little splash works great when steaming or cooking veggies. 
  • Organization: Once you have all that you need for your shelves, organize it for easy access and in order of importance. Since my pantry is open, I organize mine for safety. I keep all my ceramic storage bins (that has flour, sugar, rice, and grits) on the top shelf. I really, really don't want to have to clean up that mess. My next shelf I have all items that are in glass containers. Although my older kids can reach these items, I'm not as worried about them dumping the items on the floor. My next shelf has items that are in boxes or bags (like those packets of Tuna Sensations...yum!) My bottom shelf has all the canned items. I know that if these get pulled off the shelves, the chances of them landing painfully on someone's toes is not that high. The biggest problem I get with these being on the bottom shelf is how some little kid (Abigail) ends up stacking them. At least she isn't stacking the glass jars. :)
  • Take a look at how I organize my meals in a previous post
Mealtime Cleanup (Link found here) highlights of her tips
NOTE: Her tips here are mostly for those who do not have a dishwasher. I can tell you, though, that  when my dishwasher was broken for 4 months, these tips were GREAT! You don't appreciate things such as a dishwasher until you don't have one. 
  • Mealtime Clean Up Tools
    • GET GLOVES. I didn't at first and my hands dried out quickly. Once I got some good gloves, I was able to handle hotter water for my dishes and I looked adorable. :) 
  • Mealtime Clean Up Order
    • Pre-treat spills with stain remover. My goodness! Do this! Even if you have just a plian old table cloth or Dollar General placemats, if you pre-treat pretty quickly, you will not regret it. 
    • Stack dishes according to how you are going to wash them. NOTE: I do this even when I have a dishwasher. I have a container next to my sink that I put utensils in to soak while I load the rest of the dishes. It's the last thing I empty. This really helps loosen and remove food stuck on the spoons, forks, and knives. I also separate and organize dishes for top shelf and bottom shelf. This way I don't have to keep going back and forth. 
  • Handwashing the Dishes
    • Begin washing the least soiled dishes first, such as your drinking glasses
    • The water: replace water if it gets too soiled or lukewarm. The water should be about as hot as you can handle to kill germs (and loosen grease). The hotter the water, the more quickly your dishes air dry. 
    • Put dishes away as soon as you are done washing them. If your water was hot enough, the dishes should be dried by the time you are done. If you put the dishes away immediately, this will really help keep your kitchen clean. And, if you remember from before, it's best to begin cooking the next meal in a clean kitchen. Just clean as you go! 
    • If you have a dishwasher: make sure you do the pots and pans last. While you are washing the rest of your dishes, soak the soiled pots and pans. If I have something that can go on the stove, I will boil water in the dirty dishes while I washing the rest. This will loosen the stuck on food to make washing easier. AND if you cannot fit the dishes into the dishwasher, then handwash them. The last thing you want to do is walk into the kitchen in the morning to see a dirty dish in the sink. If you start the day with a clean sink, it really will motivate you more. 
Photo credit: http://16sparrows.typepad.com/16sparrows/2010/02/washing-dishes.html

And I think that's it. Please remember to find Melissa's Bible study "From Chaos to Calm". She goes into deeper detail and has some really, really great stuff! 

Next week I will move on to the bedroom. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tuesday's Food: Crockpot Pumpkin stuff

So this past weekend, my husband had a mid-election office party oyster roast (long title, I know) at our house this past weekend. I don't eat oysters. Nope, not at all. I am the only one (and I really mean only one. The dog was digging through the shells just an hour ago) that doesn't eat them. So when we have oyster roasts at our house, I try to make something for the non-oyster eaters. Since I have my new 3-in-1 crockpot (which I really can't say enough about, btw), I decided to try to have something in each one. I tried to make it all relate, so I went with pumpkin. Hey! It's still fall and I have the right to make pumpkin stuff until New Years! So I went to my trusty resource, Stephanie O'Dea's Year of Slow Cooking website and searched for pumpkin recipes that wouldn't be hard to do and wouldn't cost me a ton of pounds later on. I went with Jamaican Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Pudding, and Pumpkin Spiced Latte.

See my 3-in-1 back there?! It's awesome! If you are a slow cooker, ask for one for Christmas! 

So I normally don't follow her recipes exactly because they tend to be fattening, and then I show you my adaptation here, but this time I followed the recipes pretty closely. So today I'm going to just give you a review of each one and let you know what I did and did not include.

Jamaican Pumpkin Soup

I don't really like spicy stuff, so I was prepared to make adjustments to this recipe, but there was not really anything that made this spicy. The name was deceiving, really. The only thing I didn't include in the soup was a red onion. I don't really like red onions. Maybe if I had added that, the taste would have been totally different. When I tried the soup, I didn't initially include the cream that you could add at the end. And I must say the soup was kind of bland. It hovered perfectly between needing either something sweeter or something savory. I wasn't impressed, and was frankly embarrassed to have served it to guests, but they didn't complain (how nice of them!). Later, though, I did end up adding the cream. And oh my! It changed the taste completely! It was creamy and yummy, and seriously filled me up. So, if you want my advice, add the cream.

Weight Watchers Point Plus: 3 pts

Pumpkin Pudding:
SO GOOD! I made this exactly like the recipe had it. And oh my! It was good! I had made some gingerbread men and had it with the pudding. So good! For reals, make this!

Weight Watchers Point Plus: 4 pts

Pumpkin Spiced Latte:
So I don't like latte. I thought I would give this a try. I had recommended this recipe to someone who likes lattes. She told me it turned out great and it would be perfect for a party atmosphere. So I tried it. And I still don't like it. No amount of cream, sugar, or extra coffee made me like it. So if lattes are your thing, try this. If not. Don't bother. :(

Weight Watchers Points Plus: 4 pts.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday's Devotion: Don't Babble On

"But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people to more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene." 2 Timothy 2:16-17a

So I'm seriously thinking of renaming Monday's Devotion to "God's Insistent Message". Each week when I sit down to write Monday's post, I reflect on what the Lord has laid on my heart all week. It always amazing to me how He allows me to be exposed to numerous circumstances in order to really get what He's trying to say. He must know my teacher's heart of "reflect, teach, review".

So what did He want me to really think about this week? Talking. Incessant unnecessary talking. I tend to talk a lot. A lot, a lot. Maybe that's one of the reason why love teaching so much or why I feel the need to speak my mind on my blog or even on Facebook. But what I've been seeing a lot lately is how I need to STOP talking.

My husband is not a big fan of Facebook. He thinks it's a waste of time and only encourages arguments. He will get on like once a week (mostly to check the pictures I upload), but I'm on all the time. Well, not ON, on, but it's up and I'll check it while I'm washing the dishes or cooking dinner. What I've noticed lately as we get closer to Christmas is the seemingly increased animosity towards Christians. Maybe it's the need for non-believers to justify why they celebrate the holidays. Maybe it's the need for some believers to explain what they celebrate or don't celebrate during this season. Either way, arguments tend to erupt. And, unfortunately, nonbelievers end up looking like the good guys because you have some believers doing exactly what is expected: pushing faith on others who just said they can't stand it when faith is shoved down their throats. And honestly, who doesn't?

Being a Christian doesn't mean you dress up nicely on Sunday, sing beautifully during church, make nice to people you don't speak to during the week, and then go out and eat a nice big meal at Applebee's. It's about developing a relationship with the Lord, and then sharing that relationship with others. Jesus was all about relationships. And he scandalously developed relationships with groups of people who were hated, were disgusting, who were clearly not "church folk", and with those who try to quietly make it through this world just one day at a time.

Okay, back to Facebook and talking. There are a few pages and people that I "like" on Facebook that sometimes I feel I shouldn't because they can be offensive and down right disrespectful. I decided, though, to not "pull a Christian" and completely separate myself from them. (NOTE: I am very, very careful, though, which of their posts I allow to be in my feed. There are just some people and pages that go too far...and it's not funny). What got me thinking about Christians talking too much came up when I saw a post from a page that is written by someone who is an atheist. Here's what she posted:

Just so you know: I was not raised with any kind of religion, so I don't really believe in God. Do I think it's a possibility? Maybe. There could be something out there, but who knows? I believe in everything happens for a reason, fate, destiny. If someone is sick, I don't believe prayer is going to help. I think if they're meant to get better, they will. If they're meant to die, they will. That's just how I was raised. I'm not gonna knock anyone who does believe in God or think that prayer helps. That's your belief. It's not mine. Don't try to push your beliefs on me cuz I won't be trying to push my lack there of on you. I am a good person. I did good in school. I have never done drugs. I have never been to jail. I am raising my kids to be honest, good people. That's all that matters. If I lose "likes" because of this, so be it. I don't judge you, you shouldn't judge me. I just like to laugh and get a sick kick out of making others laugh. I think there's humor in almost everything. It's no fun to take everything so literally and personally. Just laugh. That is all.

And, as you guessed, she did lose a lot of "likes" AND a huge debate broke out in her comment section. There were times I wanted to speak up. I wanted to tell her that things do matter, and that raising her kids to be good people aren't going to get her kids closer to heaven, and so on and so on outreach pamphlet type of stuff. But the Lord laid on my heart (again) that I just need to keep my mouth shut. What kept popping in my head is how Jesus was all about relationships. Sure, if I say something is that going to prove that I love the Lord. Possibly. But is that going to make her go, "Huh. Well, in that case, let me change the way I believe"? No. It's not. I don't personally know this chick. And even if she and I were emailing each other pretty regularly (which we are not), I still don't think that there would be a good time to send her a "come to Jesus" email. Look at Jesus. Those people who believed in Him were the ones he took the time to personally love. And after he ascended, look at what the Church did. They loved others in the way that mimicked Christ. When they took the time to develop relationships with others, lives were changed. Making comments on Facebook, through a text, in an email, or really any way that is not personal is not going to change people's hearts.

And that is my lesson for this week. I have to learn to love like Jesus, to see people where they are, and to develop relationships with nonbelievers where they can see the joy I get by having a relationship with my Creator. And this is a for serious lesson I am working on. My nature is to speak out. It is to let people know (by shaking them and crying out to them) their faults. And that is not the way of the Lord. It is NOT my place. My place is to "love my neighbor" right after I really learn to "love the Lord with all my heart, and all my soul and all my strength and all my mind" (Luke 10:27). As for the lady that posted the comment above, I can only pray that the Lord sends someone in her life that will show her God's love and that the Lord will soften her heart for Him. 

Pray about your response to nonbelievers. Are you being abrasive? Are you being judgmental? Are you developing relationships with them where they can see Jesus through you? Are you speaking up when you should just keep your mouth shut? How are you reflecting Jesus with your words and actions? Are you? 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday's Curriculum: Christmas is Here!

So I haven't done this type of post in a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG time. Honestly, I let the fact that I ran out of ink (so I couldn't print off any worksheets) keep me from formally teaching my daughter. But, alas, I bought ink (Thank you, Bounty, for approving so many of my online articles!!!) and we are up and running just in time for Christmas. So I'm basically going to post a bunch of pictures and put an explanation with each one. I'll let the pics do the talking.

Note: I use Hubbard's Cupbard and 2 Teaching Mommies for so much of what I do with my kids at home. Both of them have a TON of great resources which include Bible-based curriculum and scripture learning. If that's not that important to you, though, they still have a ton of great things to use. Last year I went through Hubbard's Cupboard's Christmas series, and there was SO MUCH to do that I really can do this with Abigail this year and next year. I did a little with the boys yesterday, and they still had fun with it, so that works for me! I am truly amazed at how much more Abigail is retaining this year compared to last year. Hopefully next year she'll understand just that much more. By the way, here's the direct link to Hubbard's Cupboard Christmas page.

So anyway, here's what we did this week:

Abigail and I made a song book for Christmas that we will be going through in the next 25 days

Their Countdown Calendars: J has math problems, Jed has sight words, and Abigail has shapes. 

Our Count down chain....

Each chain has the date, a key scripture verse, the scripture for the day, and a suggested activity. 

Day 1: Set up Nativity scene, but show that Jesus was God's gift to the world. 

They are checking out the scene discussing who is and ISN'T there. 

They went "looking" for Jesus. J found him (excuse the mess) 

Abigail unwrapped Jesus. 

Jed placed Jesus where he belongs 

They all got some pine straw to make the scene more "authentic" 

Abigail LOVES her Daddy and Daughter Bible Study each morning while I take the boys to school 

Day 2: The beginning of the Angel series for the next few days. Today was about Gabriel telling about the birth of John the Baptist 

We hung our first of many angels we will be making the next few days. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday's Crafting: Homemade (or semi-homemade) Christmas Gifts: Scarves and Heating Pads

It's December! So I'm sure that so many of you are chomping at the bit to finish your Christmas shopping, OR, if you are like me and my family, gearing up to make a slew of gifts. If you remember (I know it was a month ago, so in case you don't remember, here's the link), I mentioned before a few gifts that we have made in Christmas pasts. It makes my heart happy to see people actually using the things I have made. Two that I'm going to focus on today are the scarves and heating pads. Both were SUPER easy, and SUPER fun. I hope this helps!


Things You Need
  • Fleece (at least 6 feet x 14 inches)
  • Felt sheets (for embellishments) 
  • Thread (the match the fleece and/or felt)
  • Safety scissors
  1. If necessary, cut the fleece to make sure it is 6 feet long and 14 inches wide. 
  2. Fold the fleece in half and sew along the long side. Turn inside out. 
  3. With scissors, cut 3-inch slits about 1/2 inch apart on both ends of the scarf. 
  4. Sew a straight line across the top of the slits (Steps 3 and 4 will make tassels on the ends of the scarf).
  5. If you'd like, tie the ends of each slit (closest to the scarf) to make a little knot.
  6. At this point, the scarf is technically done. You can sew a fancy edge (like a zig-zag pattern) around the edges. The rest is just to make it fancy. 
  7. Cut out shapes to embellish the scarf out of the felt. Hand sew or use a sewing machine to sew them on. Be creative! For example, if it's for a teacher, sew on apples. For a Gamecock fan, cut out a the USC emblem or "Cocky" and attach to the scarf. The scarf looks great by itself, though, so you don't have to do this step. 
Heating Pads

Things You Need: 
  • Thick cotton material (around 20 inches x 12 inches) 
  • 4-8 cups of rice (the amount depends on how thick you want the bag)
  • scented oils (I like cinnamon or lavender) 
  • Thread to match the material
  • Mixing bowl
  • Funnel 
  • Card stock and ribbon to write and attach instructions for the user
  1. Fold the material in half with right sides touching each other. This should make a 10 x 6 square. 
  2. Sew 2 and 1/2 edges closed. (There will already be one side that is closed, obviously, but the 1/2 will be on the last side. 
  3. Turn inside out. 
  4. In a mixing bowl, mix rice with 2-3 drops of scented oils. 
  5. Put the funnel in the opening of the bag and pour the rice into the bag. Play around with how much you want. 
  6. Fold the sides of the opening in and sew shut. A great way to do this is to carefully sew all around the edges of the bag. This makes it look decorative and reinforces the edges. 
  7. On a card, type or write: "Heat in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes." You can add more if you want, but this is the only part that is necessary. 
So that's it. I tried to find pictures of what I've done in the past, but couldn't find them. If I do, I'll add later. 

Happy crafting, everyone! Remember the reason for this holiday is not about getting  things. It's about developing relationships with others and glorifying the Lord. It is not necessary to make it about presents. Passing on that type of thinking to my children is really a great joy! I hope you find joy this season! :)