Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday's Cleaning: Make Your Own...Laundry Detergent (part 1)

Oh, economy, how I love how you've forced me to be resourceful. Luckily I have started a new series on how to Make Your Own...(cleaning and body products). My goal in making my own stuff is to save money, recycle (jars, bottles, milk jugs, etc), and to be green. If you have not been following my list so far, see the Make Your Own Intro. I have connected links to the products I have already made and my reviews of them. Check them out, share ideas of things I can make, and share your own reviews of the products.

Today's MYO is Laundry Detergent (the dry kind). I initially set out to make the liquid version, especially since I have been saving milk jugs specifically for this purpose. But since it requires the liquid to sit for 24 hours, and I was in desperate need of laundry detergent, I decided to give the dry detergent a shot. So I did a TON of research on recipes, and almost all of them said the same thing: Soap (such as Ivory), Washing Powder, and Borax. Since I didn't want to store hop looking for Washing Soda (that should be in the laundry section of your grocery store or Wal-Mart, but my luck, they would be out), I decided to hit up my local Ace Hardware. I LOVE that place. It was where I found canning jars for a reasonable price when all the other stores were out, where I get my keys duplicated, and where it is a kid-friendly place. When I walked in, this is the first thing I saw:

See the little open space on the top shelf? That is a print out of instructions on how to make it liquid-style (said same thing as all my research), and gave a brief explanation on all the ingredients. See how I love Ace Hardware? I was so excited to see this display that I nearly squealed with joy right there in the store.

So on to the "recipe"

Laundry Detergent (dry)

What You'll Need:

  • 1 bar of Fels Naptha soap 
  • 1/2 cup Washing Soda
  • 1/2 cup Borax 

  1. In a large bowl, grate the soap. Add the Washing Soda and Borax. Mix well. 
  2. Using a funnel, pour into a container that you can seal air-tight. I used an old salsa jar that I had cleaned, soaked in very hot water, and dried completely. 

To Use: Pour 1 Tbsp (for a Normal load) into the water then add the clothes. Wash as normal. 
For me, 1 Tbsp is about half a capful, so I wrote that on the jar with a permanent marker. 


I have used this mix for about a week, which equals about 10 loads of laundry for us (2 boys, 1 girl, and a husband...yeah, 10 loads in 1 week is pretty good). While washing, it has this great scent, but you cannot detect any scent once the clothes of dried, unless you dry on the clothes line, then the scent is only faint. 

My clothes have come out just as clean as they normally do, which was my worry. I am actually enjoying this, and it wasn't that expensive to make. I still have plenty of Borax and Washing Soda left to make more or make other cleaning products. 

Give this a shot and tell me how you like it! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Devotion: Just Keep Your Mouth Shut

"In the same way, you wives should yield to your husbands. Then, if some husbands do not obey God's teaching, they will be persuaded to believe without anyone's saying a word to them. They will be persuaded by the way their wives live. Your husbands will see the pure lives you live with your respect for God." 1 Peter 3: 1-2 (NCV)

 I can't ever seem to keep my opinions to myself. In my mind, I truly believe that what I have to say is worth everyone's full attention. Even as a child, I felt that what I had to say was of the most importance. As I matured (and am still maturing), I'm finding that the more I speak, the less people listen. "Oh, there goes Jana once again, giving her opinions." I found myself drawn to people who also liked to talk. But that talk was not always the kind that I insist my children practice: words that lift others up (Ephesians 4:29). In more ways than one, my words (and the actions that came with those words) ended up hurting people. I came to see myself as having "foot-in-mouth" disease. I just could not keep my mouth shut!

Recently I was tempted with some circumstances where I wanted to give my opinion:  a friend wanted to gossip about another friend, someone with opposing political views was being particularly annoying with posts on Facebook; someone claiming to be a Christian trashed public schools and the teachers, and the list could go on. I really, really wanted to put my own two cents in. But the Lord has plans for me to just not say anything. He pressed on my heart to keep my mouth shut. And this is a new thing for me. New ground. New territory. My whole life I didn't think twice about sharing my own opinions, but I was changing. I was maturing. The Lord was growing in me.

As I have mentioned before, when I feel God is trying to teach me a lesson, he handles me like I would one of my own students: introduce an idea, give a real life example, practice applying, and review. With this new lesson of learning how to control my tongue, God opened my eyes to the women in my life who do a great job avoiding the mama-drama, and I would hear loud and clear scripture that emphasizes the importance of controlling your words. I found myself recognizing and being drawn to women who would 1) not participate in the gossip that others desperately wanted to indulge in; 2) resist complaining about a fellow Christian; 3) walk away from someone who was trying to create more drama; and 4) always have a positive thing to say about something someone else was complaining about. Those women embrace the Proverbs 31 wife in speaking in wisdom and faithful instruction (Proverbs 31:26).

As for scripture coming in loud and clear, I love the main verse today, 1 Peter 3:1-2. This describes how a woman has the power to lead someone to Christ not with her words, but with her actions. When I heard this verse last week in church, the phrase "without anyone saying a word" seemed to echo over and over in my head. God loves it when we show his love with our actions. Too many people who call themselves Christian spew hatred. Their words actually show the condition of their hearts. Romans 14:19 says "So let's agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don't drag them down by finding fault" (The Message).

I challenge you today. If you are a Christian, don't participate in bad-mouthing others. We are to not be like the rest of the world. We are to be set apart, different. Sometimes Satan's best helpers are the ones who claim to be Christian, but their words and actions show them to be just like (or even worse, in many cases) those who claim they don't want to have anything to do with our Savior. Just keep your mouth shut and let your love for the Lord show through your actions. So many people come to a better understanding of Him when His people are loving and use words to lift others up. As I work on keeping my own mouth shut, I pray  you, too, will be encouraged to represent the Lord in ways that are uplifting.

Photo Credit 

Here's a link to another post I did about talking too much. See? God's still working on me. :} Don't Babble On

Tuesday's Food: Waffled Falafels

My husband likes falafels; I like using my waffle maker. Since it was Meatless Monday, I decided to give making falafels in my waffle maker a try! One of my favorite creative recipe websites is The Waffleizer: a website that has quite a few different recipes using your waffle maker but not necessarily making waffles. She (he?) didn't have a recipe for falafels, but said she just used a mix from a box. So off to the store I went to find said falafel mix to make a surprise meal for my hubs.

After searching 3 different grocery stores for the waffle mix, I finally decided to just make the falafels from scratch. If you normally make your falafels from scratch, then instead of frying the little balls, just form them into patties, and cook them in your waffle maker instead. If you don't make your falafels from scratch, or have never made falafels, then check out the recipe below....and then check out my review.

Homemade Falafels

What You'll Need:

  • 1 can chick peas
  • 1/3 cup parsley (I don't like parsley so much, so I did about half parsley and half oregano to make 1/3 cup) 
  • OPTIONAL: 1 medium onion, chopped (I did not do this because the hubs doesn't like onions) 
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 CUP cumin. (Yes, that says CUP)
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • Olive oil 
  1. Drain and rinse the chick peas. Dump in a large bowl or blender. Add parsley, onion, cilantro, garlic, baking powder, salt, cumin, and red pepper. Blend until it makes a thick paste. 
  2. Add the water and blend well. It will not be smooth, but close to it. 
  3. Using two spoons, form into little balls (see pic #1 below). NOTE: after cooking the first round, I ended up combining two balls to make 1 large patty. I would suggest the same if you are going to use the waffle maker. 
  4. Add a little olive oil to your waffle maker, place the balls or patties in the maker, and cook until crispy (2-3 minutes). Drain on a paper towel. 
  5. Cover the inside of pita bread with humus and add the waffled falafel (and tomatoes and cucumbers if desired). 

This went over well with half of us, and not so well with the other half. It was just a bit too spicy for Jed and me. 

As for the experience, we have made falafels before, but from a boxed mix. They turned out great, then. This time, about half of my falafels fell apart in the waffle maker. It honestly could just be the recipe and the type of waffle maker I have (Belgium waffle maker). I ended up making mine with crumbled falafels instead of a the full cooked item. It was still good (just spicy). I will make this again, but with a mix next time just to see if it turns out different. 

If you give this a shot, let me know how it worked for you! 

Pre-cooked falafel balls. Normal size for frying, but I ended up combining two to make one large patty

Final product. We also had about a Tbsp of hummus on the side to dip whatever in. YUM! 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday's Review: Local Business: Time Well Spent

As I drive up to the quaint little yellow house that is tucked neatly under beautiful oak trees just off a busy cut through road, the excitement rises as I am going to share a special lunch with my special little girl. It's just the two of us today, and I wanted to take her some place just for girls.

Time Well Spent is a little tea room that is in the heart of my little town of Summerville, SC. In the past 15 years or so, I have been to three bridal brunches and countless lunches here, and I love it. When you walk in, you are surrounded by countless beautiful treasures that make great gifts for mom, mother-in-law, little girls, brides, or a special friend. There are tea sets of every size and type, lavendar scented pillows, little figurines of fairies, aprons with pearls sewn on them, earrings, and so on. Off to the side is a large room where guests can sit if the regular dining area is full or it's where you can have private parties. This room is where all the bridal brunches have been for the ones I've been to. If you continue to walk through a small hallway, it opens up to a quaint eating area complete with a fireplace, tea sets, and mix-matched chairs and tables. If the weather is cooperating, there is also seating outside in a beautiful garden surrounded by the azaleas Summerville is known for. When you walk to the back of the house, there are two little rooms full of little surprises. One room has a small table and then vanities along the walls full of costume jewelry that reminds me of my grandmother. The other room is overflowing with dresses of all shapes, sizes, and styles. These two rooms are specially for little girls to come, play dress up, and have a little tea party with their friends.

As for lunch, Time Well Spent, they are known for their Chicken Salad. It is seriously good. Besides the Chicken Salad, they have a rotating list of quiches and salads, most coming with a side of fruit, and all have a side of a popover and homemade strawberry butter. For my daughter, they have a plate of peanut butter and chocolate sandwich, goldfish, fruit, and pink lemonade served in a tiny tea cup and tea pot. They brew their own tea right there with a variety of special teas that can be taken hot or cold.

On the day Abigail and I decided to eat lunch there, it was raining outside, but insides was the quiet sounds of conversations punctuated with the occasional sound of tea cups being placed on plates. Abigail and I enjoyed our lunch and conversation very much and look forward to coming back soon.

If you are in the Summerville area any time soon, make sure to stop by Time Well Spent, it will truly be, well, time well spent.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday's Cleaning: Make Your Own Hand Scrub

Here I am in my new series "Make Your Own..." (cleaning and body products), and I am having a blast. I feel like I have my own little test lab right here in my house. So as I work my way down my list of products I want to attempt, I keep thinking of more things to try down the road. Again, if you see my list, and you don't see something that you want tested first, let me know, and I'll try it out (within reason).

How it works: I research a few "recipes", get the general consensus, read the comments for faults or warnings, try it out, and then give an HONEST review.

This week's Make Your Own is a DIY Hand Scrub.
I made hand scrubs for Christmas gifts this year, and that was one of the biggest hits. It's quick, easy, and inexpensive.

Homemade Hand Scrub  Not my recipe. I got it from here

What You'll Need:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (use the white sugar. I tried a batch using Turbinado sugar. Not as pretty
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • zest of 1 lemon (you can use another citrus, but I LOVE lemon, so that's what I did) 
  • 1 cup olive oil (NOTE: you can use EVOO, but the final product will turn out dark green. I used the lighter version of OO, and it turned out a pretty yellow)
  • 1/4 tsp pure lemon extract (this is optional, but I recommend it for that extra kick
  • Large bowl
  • Wooden spoon (it doesn't have to be wooden, but for some reason wooden just seems more old school, and I like old school) 
  • Mason jars 
  1. In the large bowl, mix all the ingredients. Stir with the wooden spoon until well-blended. 
  2. Spoon into mason jars. This mix makes about 2 cups worth, so if you get the little, itty bitty mason jars, you can make a few to go for each sink around your house. 
  3. How to Use: Wet hands. Add no more than a quarter size dollop of the hand scrub to your hands and rub under warm water. 
I love this stuff. Pretty much everyone who got this as a gift from me also loved it. I have one for my kitchen sink, which works GREAT for getting rid of garlic and onion smells from my hands. I keep one at my bathroom sink, which I also grab sometimes for a quick facial rub in the shower. (Be smart about this, though. Don't get it near or in your eyes). I don't use it too often for my face, though, because of the oil. I already have oily skin, but I use this scrub about once a month just for kicks and that baby soft skin on my face. My husband even likes this stuff. He came inside from working on man stuff and said the scrub worked great for getting the the gunk off his hands. Reading through reviews, I would also note that you can use really any kind of citrus. If you wanted to use EVOO, you could go with lime instead of lemon and get a really cool scrub that way too. 

So that's it. If you try it, let me know how you like it or if you have any other suggestions on what to add or take out. 

This is one of those really, really little mason jars. I keep this particular jar next to my kitchen sink, so it gets used often. See the little lemon zest in there? So pretty! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thursday's Crafting: Homemade Window Clings

As Valentine's Day came closer, I started researching creative ideas for Valentines for my kids to give their friends. I found two great things for the boys (see pics below), but I couldn't find something for Abigail that I really liked. I ran across how to make your own window clings. I thought these would be perfect for Abigail, and they were! I'm going to explain how we made these, and then give a brief review. Warning: this is not "quick" craft, but it is fun.

Homemade Window Clings

What You'll Need: 
  • Puffy Paint (in a variety of colors)
  • Parchment paper
What?! That's it?! Yes! It is!! Woohoo!

  1. Outline whatever object you want as your window cling onto the parchment paper with the puffy paint.* 
  2. Fill in the object with the puffy paint.**
  3. Follow the bottle's instruction for drying time (usually 4-6 hours) 
  4. Carefully peel the window cling from the parchment paper. The sticky side is the outside
Ta Da! Done! It's that easy for real! 

* Because the sticky side is the outside, if you have words or pictures that need to be facing a certain direction, draw it backwards. Abigail and I learned that the hard way. It was interesting explaining to the boys why "B" "D" and "Q" (for example) were backwards. 

**When you fill it in, two things: 1) Don't make it too thin. It works, but not too well, and 2) try to make the paint flat as you fill it in. 

This worked great, was a ton of fun to do with Abigail, and wasn't really a big deal in the budget either. The kids loved getting Abigail's Valentine of a butterfly window cling too! 

Jed's Valentine 

J's Valentine 

Preparing Abigail's Valentines 

The final product

We made the alphabet...notice our mistake in not making them backwards? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday's Cleaning: Make Your Own: Dishwashing Detergent

Last Wednesday I introduced a new series called "Make Your Own." With Pinterest overflowing with ideas, I thought I would take a few ideas and try them out. So for the next few weeks I will be trying out recipes for all types of cleaning and body products, letting you know if it worked, and giving a heads up on what went wrong for me. I gave a list of what I plan on attempting (here), so if you would like for me to try something out that's not on that list, please let me know.

Out of necessity, I skipped topics 1-4, and went straight to #5 on my list: Dishwashing Detergent. I ran out of what I had and I figured, why not start there? So I did. I searched Pinterest and the great World Wide Web in ideas for making your own dishwashing detergent. What I have below is a basic recipe. Most of what I found had the same elements, so it was pretty easy to decide. So off to Wal-Mart I went to get just the few items I needed (and luckily I will need these items again in the near future for other projects, so I'm getting my bang for my buck!). Follow the steps below:

Make Your Own Dishwashing Detergent:

Things You Need:

  • 2 cups Borax 
  • 2 cups Baking Soda
  • 4 small packets of Sugar-free lemonade (kool aid type of mix)
  • White Vinegar
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. OR (in retrospect, I wish I had done this OR), dump all the dry ingredients into a large ziplock bag. Zip it up and mix the ingredients by shaking the bag or by mushing it. Warning: because the ingredients are dry, they tend fly up. I don't recommend you breathing this mixture in, so slowly dump into the bowl or bag and step back just a little. It's a cleaning product, so use your smarts and don't breathe it in. 
  2. Pour mixture into an air tight container. LABEL the container and set out of reach of children. 
  3. TO USE: 
    1. Spoon 2 Tablespoons of the detergent into correct place in your dishwasher. 
    2. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of vinegar into the rinse aid compartment. 
    3. Wash as normal 

Yeah, those jars say "Ragu". So? I recycle!

So this worked pretty well for me. My dishes came out as clean as they normally do, and I was happy with the general results. I attached a measuring spoon to my jar with a rubber band so I would always have one there. The only problem I have had is sometimes not all the detergent would come out of the detergent compartment. BUT this happens every once in a while for me anyway. I'm going to experiment with using a little less since 2 T fills up that compartment. Otherwise, it works fine. These two jars make roughly 100 loads!! Yay! Saving money! 

**Follow Up Review** So after using this for a week, I have to add a quick review on its effectiveness. I have adjusted how much I put in my wash. I use only a 1 Tbsp instead of the recommended 2 Tbsp. BUT I have do a little pre-washing before I put my dishes in. It doesn't work great on the dishes, like the commercials where the kids put in an entire load of filthy dishes in the load and they all come out sparkly clean. But as long as I give a good little rub down of the dirty dishes before I stick them in, the detergent works just fine. 

FINALLY: I try to read through comments of other blogs that experiment with making things, and on one particular blog, a question was raised about using Borax because it can be dangerous. The author of the website wrote this: 

This is a comment found on this website: http://www.thenewhomemaker.com/dishwasherpowder regarding the toxicity of Borax.

Toxic is as toxic does." Here's exactly what Wikipedia has to say:

Boric acid, sodium borate, and sodium perborate are estimated to have a fatal dose from 0.1 to 0.5g/kg.[5] These substances are toxic to all cells, and have a slow excretion rate through the kidneys. Kidney toxicity is the greatest, with liver fatty degeneration, cerebral edema, and gastroenteritis. Boric acid solutions used as an eye wash or on abraded skin are known to be especially toxic to infants, especially after repeated use due to its slow elimination rate.

Example: a 40-lb child is 18.1 kg, which means a fatal dose of borax would be between 1.81 and 9.5 g. That means that child would have to consume about a half-teaspoon to two teaspoons of straight, non-dilute borax, assuming a kid would eat something that nasty-tasting (keeping in mind that as nasty as it is, kids are weird). Of course, you don't keep household cleaners--any household cleaners, including baking soda--where your kid could reach them, right? RIGHT? And it would take a lot less, say, bleach, to severely injure or kill a child that size with a lot greater harm to the environment in general.

If you go to PesticideInfo.org, you'll see that borax is considered neither acutely toxic nor a likely carcinogen. That website is run by the Pesticide Action Network North America, which keeps an exhaustive database of environmental toxins.

Bottom line: Borax is a problem if you repeatedly expose someone, especially small someones, *directly* to it, usually as a strong solution applied to the skin or eyes. Otherwise, washing dishes and clothes with it is not a big deal; it rinses away and doesn't compromise the environment.

Lynn Siprelle, Editor

So with that being said, just be careful. Use your best judgement. Otherwise, happy cleaning, everyone! 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday's Devotion: Being the Perfect Valentine for Your Family

"A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds..." Proverbs 31: 10-31

I sat at the kitchen table two weeks before Valentine's Day researching easy and unique Valentines for my children to make to take to their friends. I compiled a list of ones I thought would be easy enough to make and asked the boys to decide from that list. I then shopped around trying to find the items I needed to make the Valentines, scouring the discount racks, dollar stores, and using coupons at the craft store to make sure we got the biggest bang for our buck. Two days before Valentine's, I was back at that kitchen table crafting those little Valentine's, only to get a little pre-frustrated. That's right, pre-frustrated. I had worked myself up in a tizzy anticipating the children's disregard for all the hard work I put into making something different, unique, and fun for their classmates and friends.

What I didn't anticipate, though, was my children's fascination with the completed products. They kept running into the kitchen counting the Valentine's, and saying, "Mom! These look cool!" At first I brushed off their compliments, thinking maybe their father has prompted them to be thankful. I then realized, as they hovered over my shoulder, as I cut, glued, taped, and attached tootsie rolls, they were thankful. My children recognized the hard work I had put into making Valentine's Day special for them.

It is so easy for us mothers to not feel appreciated. We work hard to make sure they have decent clothes on (if you have boys, you know why I use the word "decent"), to fill their bellies with delicious healthy food, and to provide for them educational activities to strengthen their brains. There's so much we do that goes unnoticed. But every once in a while, your hard works get recognized and praised. If you haven't read Proverbs 31: 10-31, do it NOW. I'll wait. Do you notice how she never takes the time to wallow in self-pity? Notice how she never gets pre-frustrated? Her family rejoices in the work she does. "Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise" Proverbs 31: 28. This particular verse is mentioned near the end of the set of scripture, after listing all the things she does. She shops for the best priced supplies; she sews and knits; she brings back special treats for her household; she gets up early to make breakfast and organize her day; she makes investments; she gardens; she is eager to work and work hard; she is a good homemaker; she assists the poor; she clothes and repairs clothes of her family; she makes her own clothes (and they are beautiful!!); she sells the things she makes (she's a working mom!); and she has activities planned for her household. AFTER all of that, it is mentioned how much her family appreciates her. She does it all. She doesn't do it so she can get praise, but because she loves her family. And, really, so can you!

Your kids and husband aren't looking for you to be perfect. They aren't looking for SuperMom. But if you are working hard at doing the best you can with what you have, then you are SuperMom! The best Valentine you can give your family is to work hard; to love hard; and to love the Lord. "Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God." (v. 30). So as you are gluing conversation hearts to a red doily for your kids' teachers, remember, your family sees what you are doing. They may never say anything or they may say it years later. But what you do daily for your family is making a lasting impression by setting a good example for your daughters, setting the standard high for your sons, and giving your husband reason to look forward to coming home every day.

May God bless your Valentine's Day!

Photo Credit

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wednesday's Cleaning: Make Your Own...(Intro)

I'm starting with a new series today for cleaning. Thanks to Pinterest, inspiration from my own friends, and desperation of my own needs, I have decided to do a series called "Make Your Own". For the next couple of weeks I will be Making My Own cleaning products, all the way from dishes to windows to things for your own body. Each week I will attempt a new item, explain to you how I made it, and then write a review on how it is working so far. My goal is to help inspire you to save money on every day items around the home while still keeping it clean and functional.

Here is a short list of what I plan to make: 
  1. Hand scrub (See Post Here
  2. Laundry Detergent (See Post for Dry Detergent Here
  3. Hair Detangler (See Post Here
  4. Bath Fizzes (See Post Here
  5. Dishwasher Detergent (See Post Here
  6. Body Wash (See Post Here
  7. All-Purpose Cleaner
  8. Hand Soap
  9. Scented Room Spray (See Post Here
  10. Pesticide (Eek! This one sounds scary!) 
  11. Anti-Bacterial Spray
  12. Bug Spray (See Post Here
Added Later: 

13. Cold Remedy (See Post Here
14. Watering Can (See Post Here
15. Ant Killer Shaker (See Post Here

If you have an idea of something you want to make of your own, but are afraid to do so, let me know. Maybe I'll give it a shot and let you know how it goes. Please, please send me ideas! 

I'm really excited about this new series and look forward to sharing ideas and tips with you. 

Happy Cleaning, everyone! 

PS: If you follow me on Pinterest, I have an entire board of "Make Your Own" where my inspiration began. 

Photo Credit

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Every morning when I get up, I try to have 15-20 minutes of quiet time with the Lord. Some times I can get in a little more and some times, I'm lucky if I get 5. My oldest son tends to get up early with me and he loves to talk, and talk, and talk. I have tried to teach him that this is my personal time with God. Some times he's then quiet, but most of the time he's not. Today, though, I was blessed with one of those mornings where the environment was just right so I can get my time with the Lord.

Slightly off topic, but here's the background of what I use for quiet time:
If I have time, I have three Bible studies I follow. I normally follow one of the Bible studies offered by A Virtuous Woman (reviewed earlier). I have finished "From Chaos to Calm" and now am on one called "Spring Cleaning Challenge." It's similar to "From Chaos..." but focuses on how to have the right attitude when it comes to taking care of the home and then gives insight on better ways to get it down efficiently. The second one I follow is a new one by another website that focuses on the Proverbs 31 wife (my hero!) called Proverbs 31 Ministries. I have recently signed up for their daily devotions to be emailed to me. It normally includes scripture, a story, personal applications, and additional verses for memory and encouragement. The third one I follow is a changing one. If you follow me on Facebook, you will see most mornings I post a "31 Days of Praying for Your ______". This month I am praying for my children (in the past I have posted Praying for Your Husband and Praying for Your Pastor). I get these prayers from www.reviveourhearts.com. These are great quick reminders to pray for those I love. On good days, I can read and study all of these before my day begins. Other days I have to get a little bit here and there. Today I was able to get all 3 by 7:15! Super blessed today!

Back on topic

It's amazing when God wants to speak to you, how clearly He makes His voice. All of my Bible studies and last night's sermon from Exodus seem to be saying the same thing to me: Spiritual and Physical maintenance is important. At church, we have been going through, verse by verse, Exodus. It's been a long walk (2 years and almost 5 months), but Joe said it best last night in that it took the Israelites 40 years, so our pace has been decent. Last night's sermon focused on the importance of keeping the Sabbath, and setting it aside for God. Pastor Frank said it best, "When the rest of the world is still running that rat race, God has given us a day to put aside all that work and stress and rest in Him." Sunday isn't just about going to church, eating a big Sunday dinner, and then watching a football game, it's about refreshing our souls and minds. It's a day where we can take a deep breath, bask in His glory, and get prepared to serve Him through the following week. Sunday is our day that God gave us to get some Spiritual Maintenance. I don't even tune up my car that much! How important we are to God that he gives us a day of rest once a week!

This morning's Bible studies were all short, but all had the same idea as the Exodus study: spiritual and physical maintenance. In the "Spring Cleaning Challenge," Melissa stresses how important it is to take the time to go through my house, make a list of all the little things that could use some cleaning, and then start working on them. Through her website, my house is "guest-friendly" most of the time now. I was simply amazed at how clean my sons' room was this morning when I woke J up for school. I continued to be amazed when I walked through the house and noted that there wasn't really anything that needed some super cleaning this morning. As I was prepared to just have a "chill day", her Bible study reminded me that if I let this day go without doing some basic cleaning maintenance, it was all going creep up on me later this week, and I'll be stuck with a messy room/house. I have guests coming over for dinner tonight! Taking a look around the house gave me an opportunity to see that if I can do a little bit of this and that today, my clean house will be completely presentable for guests this evening.

This morning's Proverb's 31 study was perfect. It focused on how good athletes train in the off-season in order to be better than those who didn't when the time came. She compared that to our Spiritual selves. It's easy to be a Christian when things are going well, but not so much when we are faced with challenges (children who don't do what they were raised to do, illness, death, financial problems, etc). She stressed that if we continue to work on our spiritual maintenance in the "off-season" (times when things are going well), we will remember to put our trust in God during our "on-season". How true that is! Those tough times are so much easier to handle when we've been keeping the Lord right by our side during all the times.

And finally, today's prayer for my children was: "Courage -- 'May my children always be strong and courageous in their character and in their actions.' (Deut. 31:6)". I know this doesn't seem like a maintenance theme at first, but when this was the last one I read this morning, God made it clear that not only do I need to teach my children about God and how wonderful a relationship with Him can be, but to teach them to keep up with their own Spiritual Maintenance. I pray they will discover the joy of being with Him in the easy times and in the hard times.

So when God speaks, and you are trained to listen, it is amazing how He can provide the right words for the right person at the right times. I'm not sure if he is preparing me for some rough times ahead, but I know that if I can work on maintaining my relationship with Him, those rough times will be a blessing in the end. AND what a reminder to not "take a day off" of cleaning today, but reserve that for the Sabbath. This morning I have been blessed. I hope you will see how He has blessed you too!

Tuesday's Food: Spinach and Feta-Stuffed Calzone

Oh, Pinterest. You have done it again. In my search for Meatless Monday meals, I found a recipe for Spinach and Feta-Stuffed Focaccia. We are pretty big fans of all of those ingredients in my house, so it seemed like a winner to me. I adjusted the recipe just a tad, and I'm going to share it with you. This recipe was incredible and filling. All family members ate a huge helping. So if 3 boys and 1 picky girl like it, you should too! :)

Spinach and Feta-Stuffed Calzone
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
15 oz baby spinach
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2/3 cup golden raisins
3 Tbsp pine nuts
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground chili pepper
Homemade Pizza Dough (try this recipe and you'll never go back!)
Cooking Spray
1 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp water
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Prepare pizza dough according to directions. Place on a pizza stone or greased cookie sheet. Spread out to a large rectangle (15 x 12 inch). *You can always use refrigerated pizza dough, but you must really try the homemade stuff. It only takes a few minutes. 
  2. Preheat oven to 450. 
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute for 1 minute. Add half of the spinach and stir until the spinach wilts (about 1 minute). Add the remaining spinach; cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until spinach wilts. Remove from heat and stir in feta, raisins, nuts, lemon juice, oregano, salt, and chili pepper. 
  4. Spread spinach mixture lengthwise over half of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold the other half of the dough over the filling, pressing the edges together with a fork. Cut 5 (1 inch) diagonal slits in the top of the dough. 
  5. Combine milk and water and brush evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with Parmesan. 
  6. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. 
I had to take a quick photo of it before I forgot, so it's not the best quality, but believe me, it's yummy! 

I told the hubs that I could always add meat next time if I made it for a non-Meatless Monday meal. He said, "NO!...I mean. It's perfect just the way it is." Yup. My meat and potatoes man just said no to meat because the meal was THAT GOOD! 

For real. Try it. You will like it. No, you will LOVE it! :) 

Happy Cooking, everyone! 

Devotion: Waiting on True Love

"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart." Proverbs 3:3

I had the pleasure of two young ladies come to me recently expressing their joy and frustrations with finding love. I was instantly whisked away to a time when my heart was innocent and got broken often. I remember the joys and frustrations that came with learning how to love and how to make the right decisions when it came to the gentlemen in my life. As these two young ladies squealed over these new beaus, shed a tear over the uncertainty of the future, and got frustrated with not knowing what the guy's true intentions were, my goal was to steer them in a way that would help them make good decisions (certainly better decisions I made during my foolish days) and encourage them to develop solid, Godly relationships.

As I thought about more ways to encourage the girls, God reminded me of two sets of verses He provided for me when I was younger. I remembering clinging to these verses as I struggled through relationships, knowing that God has a plan for me, and that the perfect man was making his way to me. The first verse was the one mentioned above, Proverbs 3:3. I actually wrote this down often in effort to memorize it and remember its truth as I dated guy after guy. The second set of scripture came from Song of Song 3:1-5:

"All night long on my bed 
I looked for the one my heart loves; 
I looked for him but did not find him. 
I will get up now and go about the city, 
through its streets and squares; 
I will search for the one my heart loves. 
So I looked for him but did not find him. 
The watchmen found me
as they made their rounds in the city. 
'Have you seen the one my heart loves?'
Scarcely had I passed them 
when I found the one my heart loves. 
I held him and would not let him go
till I had brought him to my mother's house, 
to the room of the one who conceived me. 
Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field: 
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires.

Oh those verses. I remember the first time the Lord brought them to me. I remember how well those verses seem to fit my situation, expressed my same desires, and gave me peace about my future love. I don't know how it works for guys, but I know that we women tend to act just like the woman in these verses. We are constantly trying to find the one our hearts love. We are willing to search, and search, and search. We push ourselves to the limit trying to find that perfect person. And if you have found "the one your heart loves", as I have, you know that it just happens. My heart knew almost immediately Joe was the one my soul had been searching for. Those last few verses (which I wrote in bold), resonated with me. "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." If I had met Joe any earlier or any later, our relationship would not have been the same. God had a perfect timing for both of us. We needed our past experiences of dating lemons and dating decent people to develop us into the perfect mate for each other. 

One other piece of advice I gave these girls, and one that I pass on to you, is to make a list of attributes. When I was 15, I was on a youth retreat, where the topic of finding a future mate came up. The leaders had us do an activity that stuck with me for a very, very long time. Take a note card. Prayerfully write down attributes of what you want in a future husband (or wife for you dudes reading this). Be honest. Try to stay away from physical attributes, such as hair color. Your tastes may change, or you may cut off a potentially great guy just because he has blond hair instead of red. Just for example sake, here are some of the things I put on my card: "Must have a plan for the future; Must like children; Likes to cook; Has a good relationship with his mother; my daddy likes him." My list had about 20 "must haves", and I thought for sure no guy would ever live up to my standards. Every time I felt a relationship was getting close, I would evaluate my list. If the guy didn't fit the list, I broke it off. I know that sounds harsh (and at times it felt harsh to tell a guy, "sorry, you just don't fit  my list"), but it paid off. The "one my heart loves" fit all of the attributes I had. ALL of them. AND he even had a few other great qualities that I didn't realize I wanted in a future husband until I met him. I kept that list in my Bible next to Proverbs 3:3, reminding myself that I needed to remember what was important. 

So as Valentine's Day approaches, evaluate your relationships. First, is God your first love? If not, you are truly going to have a hard time finding someone perfect for you. Only GOD can be perfect for you. Once you have that relationship established, you will see how clearly God is setting your path before you. Second, are you dating someone or trying to date someone right now? Make a list. Does he fit it? If he doesn't, don't try to make him fit it. If he does, remember to treat him with respect and treat yourself with respect. Too many women try too hard and end up compromising their dignity. Third, are you taking a break from dating or just can't seem to find anyone right now? If so, don't get frustrated. Everything in this world has a time of rest. Think of it like a beautiful rose bush. It doesn't die every winter; it just rests. And when spring comes around, or when the time is right, it blossoms into such a thing of beauty. Find joy in your days of rest. You would be amazed at how your love finds you when you least expect it. Do not arouse or awaken love until is so desires

May you find joy in the Lord and true love that brings your heart such happiness! 

Photo Credit 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday's Review: New Year's Resolution progress (Jan)

So I was going to review each week how I've been doing on my New Year's Resolutions, but that got a little overwhelming, and there were some weeks I just didn't do so hot. But I still wanted to track my progress for my own sake and for accountability. And if you are inspired to continue working on your NYR, then I've done my job! :)

So here's the list. Beside most will be my comments about this month. Thanks to those have been encouraging!

New Year's Resolutions 2012

  1. Do a devotion EVERY DAY I'm doing pretty well at this. I don't hit every day, but pretty close.
  2. Organize daily schedule 
  3. Take a break from Facebook one full day a week I've only missed one week, and I remembered halfway through the day that I was supposed to take it off. 
  4. Walk every Wednesday and Friday If I haven't walked, I've exercised some other way. 
  5. Bake bread at least once a week I am AMAZED! I have done at least 1 per week, but averaging 3 per week! 
  6. Go to New Orleans Tax return is going to pay for this!! Yay! 
  7. Go down one dress size Well, I haven't gone UP a size! That's good, right? 
  8. Meatless Mondays. Done! Success! See picture below for one example. 
  9. Speak softer to my children I don't know why this has been so hard, but about every other day, I see this on my NYR board, and I am reminded to see them as precious treasures. 
  10. Be more obvious in my love for my husband This is also hard when you are stuck in a pattern. I have to constantly look for new ways to show him my love. 
  11. Make freezer meals at the beginning of each month I am NOT going to blame my husband for this one, but every time I start, it's just not going to be in the budget. So hopefully February will be better! 
  12. Go to lunch with my mom once a month We went to McAlisters! (There's the link to the place) 
  13. Pay off a major debt Discussions on which debt to pay off are in negotiations. 
  14. Clean/organize the pantry room Almost done! 
  15. Clean/organize the craft room
  16. Have the youth over End of February, Taco Party!! 
  17. Have the college kids over Pizza Night was FUN! 
  18. Make a new friend (not an acquaintance, but a friend) I've got a few new acquaintances that I'm working towards being friends. So exciting! 
  19. Stick to chore schedule Eh, did a decent job here. Some weeks were better than others. 
  20. Stick to reward/consequences chart Ditto above
  21. Have family worship once a week Fail. Epic fail. We have taken steps to do it tonight, though! 
  22. Take the kids to volunteer at a homeless shelter
  23. Visit Connie Maxwell
  24. Find a new hobby I'm thinking I may learn sign language or some other language and teach it to my daughter. Is that a hobby? 
  25. Have one sewing project a month I made me a dress! Check it out here
  26. Promote a local business on my blog once a month Ever So Sweet. Check it out here
  27. Get a family photo done (professionally) 
  28. Go to the dentist
  29. Have a date with the husband once a month He took it upon himself to surprise me with this! We went to Charleston Beer Works for dinner and then Starbucks for dessert! 
  30. Try a new, exotic food
  31. Have a successful garden Eh, sort of? I have gotten quite a bit of collards this winter and am preparing for my spring crops this week! 
  32. Read a non-fiction book 
  33. Go to bed with a clean kitchen Almost every night this happens! It's refreshing to wake up to a clean kitchen! 
  34. Recycle Done! So exciting to see the recycle bin get so full and the trash bin barely filled! 
So how are yall doing with your NYR? Have you been successful? Have you given up? Don't! You still have 11 months to reach your goal! Remember you are a work in progress! I hope that my monthly progress check will inspire you to also work on your NYR! 

Below are some pics from things from my list this past month. Enjoy! 

Homemade Sandwich Bread

Cooking Jana Banana Bread with my daughter

Painted this with some friends. Maybe this could be my hobby this year? 

My Walking Buddies

Meatless Monday: Spinach and Feta Stuffed Calzone in homemade pizza dough 

Homemade Hamburger Buns for Sloppy Joe's 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thursday's Crafting: Making a Maxi Dress out of a Sheet

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to have a sewing project per month. Some months I make more than one thing, other months I just don't have the time. I want to sew more, but not always just clothes. So my challenge this year is to find one thing to sew per month, and it doesn't always have to be clothes.

But this month I chose to make a dress for myself. I get a daily email from All Free Sewing that highlights different sewing projects. One those projects just recently was on dresses, and they had a link to Running With Scissors with a tutorial on how to make a maxi dress out of a sheet. I was so excited! At the end of the summer last year I had started making myself dresses since my daughter's closet was pretty full. So when I ran into this cute little dress, I was super excited!

Basically, I got the idea from Running With Scissors, but since she didn't have the steps I needed to make the dress, I kind of looked at what she did and adjusted. So I made a quick stop at the local Goodwill, grabbed a pretty sheet (and a pillowcase to make a daughter a matching pillowcase dress!) and a long slip. Since the sheet was a little light in color and fabric, I wanted to make sure I had a slip on underneath that would keep the dress modest. I got home, washed the fabrics, and got to cutting and sewing!

Basic steps (sorry, no pictures beyond the final shot):

Maxi Dress Out of a Sheet NOTE: I did make some mistakes on this dress, so read through my steps first before you begin. The mistakes weren't deal breakers, the dress looks fine. I would just do it differently next time. 

1. Measure the length around the top of your bust (A), the spot respectfully below your bust (B), the length between (A) and (B), which will be (C), and the length from top to bottom (D).

2. Measure sheet for length of dress (D) and decide whether to cut or fold and sew. I had a good 3 feet of length on the bottom of my sheet, so instead of cutting and then having to make a straight hem, I folded the bottom of the sheet up under the dress and sewed it, making sure that the dress still fit measurement (D). I just did one long running stitch. NOTE: Step 2 and 3, follow the directions on Running with Scissors. I made it hard on myself trying to do something different. 

3. Stretch the slip as far as you can. Make sure that it measure enough to cover the top of your bust (A). Pin the top of the slip to the top of the dress. You MUST stretch the elastic of the slip as you pin it. This takes time and patience, but you don't want to get the dress on and then have the material rip because the slip is stretching, but the dress material is not. Sew the two together using a straight stitch.

4. At this point, I had a slip with a sheet sewn around the top and extra material hanging off. I wanted to make sure the dress was slightly fitted just below my bust, so I cut the extra material at the top of the dress to fit measurements A, B, and C. Then I sewed the side seam together.

And then I was done. I added a pretty little ribbon to the dress, but it wasn't necessary. The only problem was I had a little poof of extra material on the side that really is only noticeable if you are looking for it, but that's about it. Next time I will sure pre-cut my dress in 3 parts into an A-Frame type dress.

Here's my final shot:

UPDATE: Here's another one I did. It took a LOT of trial and error, but I managed to make some sleeves. I need to add some darting as well. The belt is just a piece of elastic. Later I cut a fake white flower and glued it to a pin and pinned it to the belt. It make a perfect little fit!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wednesday's Cleaning: Room by Room Series: The Bathroom

And we are here. This is the conclusion of the series "Room by Room" where I highlight cleaning tips found on Melissa Ringstaff's page A Virtuous Woman. For the past few weeks (months, really, because I've not been so great at doing this every week), I have been going through Melissa's Household Notebook and highlighting some of the tips she has for cleaning each room.

If you are new to this series or you think you missed an entry, here they are:
1. The Introduction
2. The Kitchen, part 1
3. The Kitchen, part 2
4. The Kitchen, part 3
5. The Bedroom
6. The Bedroom, part 2

And today we are focusing on The Bathroom. Click here for the link to the entire list. Remember, I only highlight some of the tips.

The Bathroom

Care for the Bathroom: Monthly highlights 

1. Clean under the sink. I actually really like that she has this as something to do every month. Just last week I was trying to find something under my bathroom sink, and I realized I had a few half-empty bottles of shaving cream waaayyyy in the back. Those got thrown out immediately, and I realized that the underside of my sink really needed a good cleaning. Once a month will do just fine.

2. Throw out old medications and old make up. This is really important. More and more experts are starting to express their concern for people keeping old medicines and make up. I have to admit, since I don't wear a lot of make up, I have some that dates back to high school. Yes, high school. I really need to just toss it. How about you? Have you checked the expiration date of that tylenol you keep in your medicine cabinet? When's the last time you used that mascara? Uh huh. Toss it.

Care for the Bathroom: Weekly highlights

1. ...Dust the baseboards as you go. Ew! Baseboards in a bathroom are pretty gross, especially if that bathroom is used regularly by boys. As a mother of 2 boys, I cannot tell you how incredibly gross a boys' bathroom is. I actually have my boys clean the baseboards in their bathroom twice a week. One of those days (Mondays) is the "deep cleaning" of the baseboards (soap and water), the second day (Thursdays) is just maintenance. As for my own bathroom, my husband and I shed hair like crazy. If I go 1 or 2 weeks without swiping the baseboards, it fills up quickly. NOTE: she also gives tips on how to deep clean the baseboards in her step 11.

2. Dust the vanity light bulbs. I forget this step all the time! I really need to make a check list of things that need to be cleaned in bathroom, like they do at restaurants, and just make sure this gets done. Because once the dust gets really settled on the light bulbs, then you have an icky, sticky mess.

3. Clean around the top of the the toilet, working your way down the sides. Oh the top of the toilet. Right now on the top of our toilet is a basket of magazines. I tend to dust around that basket on a weekly basis, but there are times when I venture below the basket. Take it from me, just do this. I have my boys clean the top of the toilet twice a week, and it looks great! This is a great reminder in case you forget it or are lazy like I am.

Care for the Bathroom: Daily highlights

1. Rinse tub after bathing. Cute story here: a few of my friends and I were out on a girls' weekend and the topic of cleaning the bathroom came up (yeah, most of us are moms). We all confessed to cleaning the shower while we were still in it. I keep one of those Mr Clean sponges in the shower and swipe it as I go. I thought it was kind of weird I did that until I realized that I'm not the only one. I had to start doing that because my husband has the weird knack of really getting the tub dirty. And I'll admit, in the summer time, when I do the weekly mowing, I do my fair share of making the tub icky. So if you get in the habit of doing a daily swipe, it makes the deep cleaning days much easier.

2. Clean mirror after everyone has brushed their teeth. I don't know why or how a mirror gets so dirty after a round of teeth brushing, but it does. So it's a good idea to just do a quick swipe every morning after everyone is done. I tend to keep an old baby wipes container with homemade mirror cleaner nearby for those quick cleanings. Look here for a further look at what I do.

3. Spray air freshener and leave the room. Voila! Just like that. Just spritz and leave. Really, this list for daily is pretty short. It should only take a few minutes to get in and get out. And what better way to leave than to just spray and go.

So that's about it. I really, really hope that this series has helped you to get organized with cleaning the house. Melissa does a great job in giving a list of daily, weekly, and monthly tips. Honestly, the best thing to do is the make a checklist of things that need to be done every day, every week, and every month. I sort of did this when I made my New Year's Resolution, and it has really helped me stay on track with getting the basic chores out of the way. And if you haven't checked out Melissa's links, please do. She really is a wealth of knowledge.

Happy Cleaning everyone!

Photo Credit