Thursday, April 26, 2012

Crafting: Easter Egg Bird Feeder

Easter was about a month ago, and I still find myself on little Easter egg hunts. I tend to find them under my foot at 2:30 in the morning on the way to the restroom. They just seem to pop up in the midst of my laundry. They are neatly snuggled under the leather chair in my living room as I try to vacuum under it. Yup. They are everywhere. Still. And I'm going to get rid of them one way or another.

So this week, Abigail and I are going to do our best to put those little plastic eggs to use (if it's the last thing I do).  I have found two ideas on how to use them. I'm using them as molds for one of my items in the Make Your Own series (that I didn't do yesterday because I couldn't find one ingredient, but I'm heading to Ace Hardware tomorrow, and I will find it). Today's craft is also using these eggs.

 Abigail and I have been studying flowers this week, and I have been brewing up an idea to use the plastic Easter eggs to make some kind of flower. At first I was thinking of just making a flower and doing some melting and molding and such, but I'm thinking melting plastic is not really what I want to do, but I did decide to make a bird feeder out of them. Abigail and I went to a friend's house (hi, Carrie and Anna Pearl!) to play in the sprinklers, and I brought crafting stuff just in case we needed something else to do. Check it out!

Easter Egg Bird Feeder

What You'll Need:

  • Plastic Easter eggs in various colors. (If you can't seem to find your, check the places mentioned above)
  • Hot glue and a glue gun
  • Fishing line
  • Bird seed 
  • Scissors
  1. Spread the eggs out on the table. Have the child choose a center egg to be the middle part of the flower. Then have the child arrange 5-6 (depending on the sizes of your eggs) around the middle one for color. (Educational note: I had the kids sort by size and color...although I didn't think of that until after they were choosing colors. Next time, I will do it first). 
  2. The adult will need to then glue the "petals" on to the center egg. The final product should have the center egg facing down and the petals facing up to hold the bird seed. 
  3. This part is the tricky part. Cut two pieces of fishing line about 1 1/2 to 2 feet long. Loop them under the center egg and tie at the top. Have them loop in different directions to make an X under the center egg. 
  4. (Optional): once you get the loops where you want them, glue them to the center egg to make sure they stay on. I didn't initially do this to Abigail's and it fell off on the way home. 
  5. (Optional): My original plan for the fishing line was to glue the ends of the string to the inside of opposite eggs, having the two lines cross in the middle. I still think it's a good idea, but we just didnt do it. 
  6. Once you have the two fishing lines secure, cut another piece of fishing line about 1 foot. Loop through the other two so they are held together. Tie a knot. 
  7. Fill the open petals with bird seed and hang. 
See pictures below if that was confusing...and to see how much fun the girls had with these! 

Choose a center and then the petals

Here's what Abigail decided

Glue the petals to the center. Make sure the center is upside down. 

Abigail's completed Easter Egg Bird Feeder. If you look closely, you can see how she is hold the one line that is holding the other two (that are looped under the center egg)

Anna Pearl and Abigail are filling them with bird seed

Trying to make it even. When we got home, we filled them up. 

Fill it up and hang it! See Anna Pearl's? Her's has a leaf on it! What a creative mama she has! 

And here are the two bird feeders hanging. 
These turned out better than I thought they would. I was super impressed and really excited about using these. So grab up your leftover eggs and put them to use! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Food: Pampered Chef's Lime-Berry Mousse Trifle

One of my favorite things to make during the Spring and Summer months is Pampered Chef's Lime-Berry Mousse Trifle. It's refreshing and e-very-time  I make it, people are begging for the recipe. As much as I would claim it as mine, I cannot. So if you aren't familiar with this recipe or its delicious wonderfulness, I'm going to share the recipe (with a few of my adjustments) for you.

NOTE: this recipe only takes about 20 minutes to make, so with a shopping trip and making it, you can have a last-minute recipe ready for a party, get together, or...well...yourself in under an hour. Also, you can find the original recipe here. Any adjustments I have made will be noted below with an asterisk (*). 

Pampered Chef's Lime-Berry Mousse Trifle (with slight adjustments by Jana)

What You'll Need:

  • 4-5 limes, divided 
  • *8 ounces cream cheese, softened 
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • *16 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
  • *3 cups assorted berries such as strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries (the recipe calls for fresh, but I have also used frozen. Frozen is messier in the end, but more convenient and cheap, depending on the time of year)
  • *16 oz frozen prepared pound cake, thawed
  • 1 pint lime sherbet, softened
  • *1/4 cup sliced almond 


  1. Thinly slice two limes; set aside. Zest remaining limes to measure about 1 Tbsp; juice limes to make about *1/2-3/4 cup juice. (Just juice the rest of the limes until there is nothing left...then take the rinds and boil them as talked about here
  2. In a large bowl, whisk cream cheese, condensed milk, lime juice and zest. 
  3. Fill a zip-closed bag with about *3/4 cup of the whipped topping and set aside. 
  4. Gently fold in the remaining topping until smooth. 
  5. Slice strawberries *(if you are using fresh) and put all the berries in a small bowl. 
  6. Cut the pound cake into 1-inch cubes with a bread knife or a small paring knife (whatever knife works best for you. Just don't butcher the cake)
  7. To assemble the trifle, place half of the pound cake cubes on the bottom of a trifle bowl. Top with half of the sherbet and spread evenly. Top sherbet with half of the berries and half of the cream cheese mixture. Place the sliced limes around the inside of the bowl, *saving two pretty ones for the end (You can skip this entire part because it is a garnish, but it sure does make it pretty!). Repeat layers one more time with remaining pound cake cubes, sherbet, berries, and cream cheese mixture. 
  8. *Cut a small corner off the bottom of the zip-closed bag with the rest of the whipped topping. Pipe little rosettes (or whatever) around the rim of the trifle and *one large one in the center. Sprinkle the top of the trifle with the sliced almonds. 
  9. *With the paring knife, cut a slit in the lime from the center to the edge. Slightly twist them open and arrange on top of the center rosette of the trifle. 
  10. *If you are not serving within the hour, I totally recommend putting this in the fridge. Otherwise, everything will begin to melt. 
I have prepared this recipe the night before by slicing the fruit and pound cake and mixing the cream cheese mixture (without the whipped topping) the night before. Then all I had to do in the morning was mix in the whipped topping and then assemble. This is a great way to prep it before you have a get together. If you are having a party in the evening, but will have 4 million other things to do, if you prep it the night before, then assembling it at the last minute will literally take you 5 minutes. 

This is SUCH A GREAT dessert!! Give a try and tell me how you like it (or if you altered it...I've always wondered what it would taste like with a different flavor sherbet...or if you use angel food cake instead of pound cake). 


I made this one for a baby shower, and there was about this much left over. When I said I was going to throw the rest out, it was like slow motion of people saying "Noooooooo!" as they dove for the rest...well, it didn't happen quite like that, but super duper close to it. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Devotion: That Small Part is SO IMPORTANT!

"Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ." 1 Corinthians 12:12.

It was late on a Friday night, and my husband and I were bent over my laptop as it laid in pieces on my living room floor. I was holding my daughter's Tinker Bell flashlight, and he was holding a tiny little screwdriver. You see, the past few months my computer has been giving me problems. I couldn't see my screen unless it was opened at a certain angle, and that certain angle was never the same at any given moment. Matter of fact, the post I had written that morning was done with my laptop propped between a fruit basket and a bakery box at a 45 degree angle. I was getting tired of never being able to clearly see any pictures, and only occasionally seeing what was on my screen. And since both my husband and I are pretty decent at technology, we decided to tackle the problem. What seemed to be the problem was this itty bitty plastic piece that held information from my keyboard to my screen. Somehow it had come loose and it requires a certain amount of pressure in order for my computer to work great.

I was absolutely amazed at such a little piece that affected so many aspects of my life. My son couldn't do his research project; I couldn't post things on my blog, my work, or even on just plain ole Facebook. I mean, it was just a small little piece in the entire computer. That tiny little piece was keeping the entire thing from working the way it was intended to work.

Later I was thinking about that little piece and all the little things in this world that have such major impact. Some are good things, like my little plastic piece or my little daughter (who has made a major impact on the dynamics of the mostly-boy family). Some things are bad. Think about how a little splinter in your foot can cause you to hobble around the rest of the day. Or what about your tongue. That small organ on your body can be the source of so much joy and so much pain. It's all in how we use our words.

Then my thoughts transitioned to the body of Christ (can you see the train of thought here...tiny computer piece to the body of Christ...that  is normally how it all works for me). There are so many times that I feel I just don't have the talent to do the stuff that makes a major impact on Christ's church. There are so many talented people in my church, that I feel like a second fiddle compared to them. But God revealed to my heart that it is not always about the big impacts that make the church run. It's about ALL the impacts. Yes, my husband can sing and play and people can be amazed at his talent as he serves the Lord through worship, but taking the time to help my sons read the words on the screen impact their lives in the future. Cleaning the kitchen after a church supper is a great way to serve. Walking around after church picking up all the bulletins that were left is a great way to serve. One lady in my church is there all the time just doing stuff. This past weekend she came to a baby shower, and after everyone left, she helped me pack up my car, and then she stayed to organize the craft closet. All of those things are what make the church thrive. Choosing to use kind words; choosing to apologize to a brother or sister in Christ; choosing to accept that apology; choosing to stay out of gossip, to discourage gossip, and to encourage reconciliation; all of those things are ways we can use our tiny organ in our own bodies to strengthen the body of Christ.

Each part is so important. And God sees each part, no matter the size, as something SO BIG! This week, find way to strengthen the body of Christ. See what  your talents are and use them! And if you feel like you have "no talent", then go to the nursery and rock some babies so a mom can be able to sit in the church service. What way will you let God use you for GOOD this week?

Photo Credit

Friday, April 20, 2012

Curriculum Review: Earth Day (Week) Activities

Just a note: I am so behind in a steady curriculum with Abigail. I was going along pretty decently and then life happened. Although I was "teaching" her through activities and discussions, we were behind on worksheets, coloring, practice writing letters, etc. So when I noticed she was having a hard time remembering and identifying certain letters and numbers, I got back on the ball...just in time for summer break. This review is about what we did this week. 

It's Earth Day...well, Earth Week. Technically Earth Day isn't until April 22nd, but because that falls on a Sunday this year, a lot of schools and businesses are doing Earth Day stuff this week. In light of that, I wanted to make Abigail's curriculum this week about the Earth. I wanted some curriculum that would focus on plants, the planet, and our role as Christians in how we are to take care of the planet. Lucky for us, my garden is actually doing a pretty decent job, so I was able to incorporate that into the lesson plans. Look at my little girl helping me water the plants!
If you are looking at that blue milk jug and asking, "What in the world is that?!" See here

So when I do curriculum with Abigail, I have normally used Hubbard's Cupboard. I love this website. I seriously do. (See here, here, here, and here). But my older kids are getting...well...older, and I needed something that I can have this summer that will be a good fit for all of them. I have been playing around with "2 Teaching Mommies" online for a bit. I got some of the activities for the Holy Week Activities from this website, and I've used bits and pieces from them for other activities. I wanted to try out an entire unit, like I would this summer. I must say, I really like it.

Now, they didn't have anything specifically about Earth Day on their website, but they did have a few units that would fit. Here are some examples of what I found:

  1.  The Forest (for Tots) 
  2. The Forest 
  3. The Rain Forest
  4. Spring
  5. Space (when I searched "Planet") 
I used The Forest (for Tots). I knew I wasn't going to have a lot of time for something that was going to take a lot of time, so this seemed like it had enough activities that would reinforce what I am trying to teach my children: to take care of the Earth that God has given to us. (That's another thing about this website I really like. They include a Bible verse and devotion...for the mama, too!...if you wanted to include that in your lesson plans. So cool!) 

Abigail did a great job! Well...actually, let me get a little honest with you here...she struggled at first. Ugh! It was so frustrating. She knows her numbers, and yet she was having a hard time. I was getting frustrated. So after a very upsetting session (for me, not for her), I put it aside for a day and came back two days later. Meanwhile, we worked on talking about  plants and the garden. We also talked about taking care of our animals. When we came back, we tried again, and Abigail did much better...and so did I. :) God did a little work on my heart in the space between. 

So my final review? I really liked this website and the lessons they provided. Abigail seemed to enjoy the activities and she like writing the letter "F" (for Forest) over and over again. Here are some pictures of her doing some of the activities. 

Practicing writing "F", two puzzles for the Bible verse, a few "baggie" activities, one of which she is working on: a pattern activity. We did the bags on the first day, she pulled them out again after we finished our Bible verses and writing. 

After I put it all away (or displayed it), she insisted on playing this game again. Earlier in the week, she BOMBED this. Today, she did a MUCH BETTER job. Yay for learning! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Make Your Own: Ant Killer Shaker

Last week's post about Make Your Own Watering Can out of a milk jug got my creative juices flowing. I am super serious about my garden this year (thanks to my New Year's Resolution), so I've made me a little basket that carries my tools, my garden diagram (yes, I made one of those), my watering can, fertilizer, and now, the ant killer. Last summer was the summer of all summers to get eaten up by ants. For serious, I was a walking buffet every time I walked into the yard. Not this year, though. I'm determined to keep my feet (and arms, back, and face...yes, face) free of ant bites this year. So I bought this big mama-jama bag of ant killer.

Ant killer is scary. That is poison that I am carrying around the yard, and the bag I got is pretty big. The directions say to sprinkle only about a tablespoon or so on each ant bed, so I couldn't see myself really lugging around such a huge bag. After feeling so proud about my watering can, I knew I could do something similar with the ant killer. So I rummaged through my recycling bin (another NYR), and found exactly what I needed to make killing ants safer and easier to handle (not to mention easier to carry in my basket).

Ant Killer Shaker:

What You'll Need: 

  • small plastic jar with a lid (I used a peanut butter jar)
  • 1 coffee filter
  • scissors
  • a rubber band
  • 2 paper towels, one of them damp
  • a permanent marker 
  • ant killer 
  1. Clean out the plastic jar and dry completely. 
  2. Cover the opening of the jar with the coffee filter and use the rubber band to hold it on, binding the rubber band over the filter and around the rim of the jar. 
  3. Make a few small holes in the top of the coffee filter with the scissors. Pierce the filter and turn 360 degrees. You need to make sure you make an opening, not a slit. The ant killer will not go through a slit. 
  4. Remove the coffee filter and fill the jar with ant killer. Replace the filter and rubber band. Put the lid of the jar on top of the jar and tighten. Adjust the filter and rubber band as needed. 
  5. Using the damp paper towel, clean off the outside of the jar. This is to make sure that if you did get the poison on the outside of the jar, you remove it to keep your hands clean. Once you have cleaned the outside, use the dry paper towel to dry it off completely for the next step. 
  6. Clearly mark on the outside of the jar with the permanent marker "Ant Killer" or something similar to that. You want to make sure others know what is inside the jar. 
  7. Store in a safe place out of reach of children. Wash your hands after each use to be safe. 
  8. To use: take the lid off the jar and sprinkle over the ant bed. I have also"stirred up" the ant bed to make sure I get the poison close to the inside as possible. I want those bad boys to DIE. If you have a particularly large ant bed, you can carefully remove the filter and rubber band and pour more if needed. 
Make sure to always wash your hands after using. Although it is safely inside the jar, you never know how much may get on your hands in the pouring. 

I sure hope you and I can join forces and make a difference in the world by killing these pesky insects! 

I am not, in any way, advertising a particular brand of ant killer.
See that itty-bitty ant bed? That is at the end of my kids' slide. 

Here is a closer look to the Ant Killer Shaker. Five holes in the top works for us.
More or less for you, depending on your need! :) 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Food: My Go-To Pancakes

Pancakes. Yes, the good, filling food that makes most people happy. Think about all the restaurants that are open just because of pancakes. I make them at least once a week in my house. Some days I get fancy with them (see my Cappuccino Pancakes, Summer Pancakes, and Lemon Souffle Pancakes with Strawberry Syrup), but most days I just make plain ole pancakes. I have pretty much figured the best recipe (a compilation of a few different recipes I have found) for my family. And now with our new griddle, pancakes have become some serious business in our house. So here is my recipe for a basic pancake batter:

Basic, Fluffy Pancake

What You'll Need:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups  milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted 
  • 2 tsp vanilla 
  1. In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients. I sometimes use a fork to "sift" the ingredients. 
  2. Make a little well in the middle of the dry ingredients and slowly add the wet ingredients. Mix well. (NOTE: sometimes I let this sit in the fridge overnight so the batter is ready in the morning. I really, really like how it settles. If you do this, it may be best to add the melted butter in the morning). 
  3. Heat your griddle or skillet on medium heat, pour pancakes (about 4 inches in diameter). Let cook until is begins to bubble around the edges. Gently ease your spatula under the pancake and flip.Cook until it is golden brown. This should really take about 2 minutes on each side. 
  4. Serve and amaze your family! 
These pancakes are so good! They rival just about any restaurant pancakes. For real. Sometimes I will add some chopped walnuts or fruit to the batter. Maybe a little cinnamon, if I'm feeling spicy. :) AND they freeze well. I normally double this recipe, making about 30 (4 inch) pancakes. My family of 5 will go through about half of that, maybe a little more, and then I freeze the rest for me to grab and reheat (15-30 secs in the microwave) for Sunday mornings before church or early morning school days when I am just not feeling the cooking thing. 

What do you like to put in your pancakes? I would love to hear what your family favorite is! 

This was what was left over after the boys all ate breakfast this morning.
Thank goodness we are having brinner tonight! 

I have recently gone low carb, so these pancakes, as they are above, are really out of the question for me, as the carb count was equivalent to what I could eat in ONE DAY. So I did some experimenting. I have made a low carb version of this recipe that tastes lovely and is just as easy to make.

Low Carb Pancakes

What You'll Need:
  • 1 1/2 cups ALMOND flour, I use Bob's Red Mill or my homemade version
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt {this is decreased...trust me}
  • 1 Tbsp Truvia baking blend
  • 1 1/4 cups  ALMOND milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted 
  • 2 tsp vanilla 
  1. In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients. I sometimes use a fork to "sift" the ingredients. 
  2. Make a little well in the middle of the dry ingredients and slowly add the wet ingredients. Mix well. (NOTE: sometimes I let this sit in the fridge overnight so the batter is ready in the morning. I really, really like how it settles. If you do this, it may be best to add the melted butter in the morning). 
  3. Heat your griddle or skillet on medium heat {NOTE, turn the temperature a little lower than you would the regular pancakes}, pour pancakes (about 4 inches in diameter). Let cook until is begins to bubble around the edges. This takes a little longer than regular pancakes, more like a crepe. It's a little trial and error to get it right, but I basically waited until they looked like flat eggs. Gently ease your spatula under the pancake and flip.Cook until it is golden brown. This should really take about 2-5 minutes on each side. 
  4. Serve with 1/2 cup fresh berries and amaze your family! 
At 4g carbs for each serving, this turns out to be a great breakfast for those who are low carbing and still craving the pancakes. Hope you enjoy. 

See how flat they turn out? If those in the back were regular pancakes, they would be ready to turn, but these need to settle completely before flipping. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Devotion: I've Gotta Tell You Something!!

"As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:20

"Daddy! Daddy! Look at all my new clothes!" Those were the first words my husband heard as he came into the house after a long day at work. My daughter had taken ALL of her new clothes an old friend passed down to me and had them spread out all over my living room. She went through each piece and showed him what was on the dress/shirt/shorts/jacket while he still stood in the doorway, keys in hand, and smiled lovingly at his daughter. This was the third time I had heard this story, so it was losing it's appeal for me. But not for my daughter. Not one bit. She went through the whole story again and again as a new person came over. She had a story to tell!

It got me thinking about Sunday's sermon in church. We are going through Acts, and we got to the part where Peter and John were sent to "court" to be reprimanded for healing a crippled man in the name of Jesus. The verse that stuck out to me was Acts 4:20 (above). They were basically threatened and told to stop preaching about Jesus. Those two brave men said, "Uh...I don't think that's going to happen. I'm going to tell others about the Lord!" (my paraphrase).

Now jump to the other stories in the Bible of Jesus and the miracles he did: Jesus heals the man with leprosy and Jesus heals the blind and the mute. After healing those people, did you notice what Jesus says? "Don't tell anyone?" Notice what they do? They tell everyone! And these are just two of many cases where Jesus healed and the good news of Jesus was spread. Their lives were changed forever, and they were desperate to share who changed it for them. That passion is the same kind of passion that so many experience when they first come to the Lord. They are so happy to tell others! They have that mountaintop experience where they are just in awe of the power of the cross. Unfortunately, though, that passion, that overwhelming joy, fades. In many true believers, it's a roller coaster of emotions throughout our spiritual walk. One minute we are singing His praises, and the next, we forget to make time for Him, therefore, our passion is not as strong, not as obvious. There is a constant renewal of love for Jesus. He gently taps on your heart's door and reminds you that He is love.

Just as my excitement over my daughter's new (adorable!!) clothes had faded after the story was repeated 20 times, there are times when I forget how much God truly loves me. This past Sunday, it hit me that my passion for the Lord fades. He gives me the constant reminders that He is the source of my joy; He is the source of my everything. I should have the passion of those who are healed (doesn't God heal our hearts all the time?). I should shout to the streets that God is my savior and my strength. I should have the courage of Peter and John. Christianity, in our society, is daily threatened (don't be disheartened. Jesus warned of this, but we also know who comes out victor in the end!). It won't be long before Christians are seen as racists, sexists, bullies, etc, because we stand for His truth, not the world's version of it. Peter and John set a good example of how to stay strong and continue sharing. Those who were healed set a good example of the passion we should have to share His love.

And we Christians should always be willing to admit when our passion has faded and work to restrengthening our love with Him. When my daughter actually wore one of her new dresses to church, my excitement was there again. I wanted to show off her new dress, just like she did. If I can get excited about a new dress for my daughter, then I should most definitely get excited about the constant love, patience, strength, and dependability I find in God.

Where do your passions lie? Has your love for the Lord faded over the days, weeks, months, even years? The good news is that He is right where you left Him, and He is more than willing to have an active relationship with you. And by all means, tell the world of Jesus! There are so many who need that hope and passion as well!

Photo Credit

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Crafting: Easter Outfits

This is going to be a quick one. For Easter this year, I wanted to make most of our outfits. So, I made 1) my daughter's dress, 2) my dress, and 3) the boys' bow ties. I wanted to share the links I used as tutorials. They are on my list of "must have" tutorials.

1. Abigail's dress: The Cottage Home, Party Dress for Little Girl
I found this dress on Allfreesewing.com about a year or two ago, and I have used it so much! I love it because Abigail looks good in these dresses, and she loves it because she can twirl and twirl and twirl. I often tell people, though, this is my most frustrating dress. For some reason it takes me about 6 hours (from cutting the material to the final stitch) to make. And it's not that hard to do. But she loves them, and I'll keep making them. The pattern goes up to size 5, so that will take my daughter until she is 6 to wear these dresses. Here is how Abigail's Easter dress turned out:

Showing off her dress 

My pretty little girl 
2. The Boys' Bow Ties: A Lemon Squeezy Home, Bow Tie Tutorial

 I took the leftover material from Abigail's dress and made bow ties for the boys so they would match. This tutorial was SO easy! I kid you not. This is a great tutorial for beginners. Give this a try. Here are a few pictures of the boys and their bow ties:
With the blue material

With the flowered material
Look how adorable my kids are with their matching outfits. 
3. As for my dress, I used an old dress that is pretty, but also pretty simple in it's design. I used some wax paper to trace the dress and got to work. There was a LOT of trial and error with this dress. I'm a curvy girl, so I need stretchy material or a lot of adjustments when making my own clothes so they will fit my curves. Here's what my dress looked like when I finished:

And here is my dress Easter day after I bought a yellow cardigan ($15 at The Limited Outlet!!) and made a belt from large elastic and made a blue flowered pin to go on the belt:

If I can perfect my dress, I will do a tutorial on it in the future.

I hope everyone's Easter was lovely and full of bright colors as well! Happy Spring and Sewing, everyone!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Make Your Own: Watering Can

It's Springtime. Yup. It's already hit 90 degrees here. BUT part of my New Year's Resolution this year is to have a successful garden. My dad, who has a HUGE garden and comes from a long line of farmers, has been guiding me step by step to help me out. It makes me wish I had paid attention when I was younger.

So in attempt to have a successful garden and get my kids involved, I found this great idea on Pinterest: make a watering can out of milk jug. We go through at least a gallon of milk a week, and I have been feeling pretty crummy throwing out those jugs. So every other jug or so I wash it out good, and save it. My original purpose was to make liquid laundry detergent (which is on my Make Your Own list), but since my dry laundry detergent is working well, I have all these milk jugs begging to be used. Lucky for me, I can now use one or two to water my plants...or have my kids do it! So...

Make Your Own: Watering Can

What You'll Need: 

  • Milk jug, cleaned out (I cleaned mine out and then ran it through a wash in the dishwasher) 
  • Sharp knife
  • Water
  • (optional) plant food (the kind that needs to be mixed with water)
  1. Take the lid off the jug and place it on a sturdy surface. I put mine on my counter. Just make sure it is sturdy and level. With a sharp knife, pierce the top of the lid. Slowly and carefully turn the knife. This will make a nice little round hole. In the picture below, you can see my first attempt. On the left you can see where I thought if I just pierce the lid a few times it would work...uh no. You need little round holes like the one on the right. 

2. Add plant food to the jug. Slowly add water to fill the jug. I really like doing this! I have no clue how much water my old watering can holds, so when the plant food instructions said "1 scoop per gallon", I was just guessing. This way, I know how much water! Yay! 
I'm not advertising "Expert" plant food. It just happened to be what I got. 

LABEL! You don't want someone to mistake this as kool-aid or something. 

3. Begin using! 

What I really love about this idea is that my kids can use it! While I am planting or putting away stuff, my kids can walk around the garden or yard and water the plants. ALSO, I hate having to drag my hose everywhere. The moment my dog sees the hose, she things it's playtime, so this reduces the chance of another destroyed hose. (For real, she rips the nozzle off the hose. We bought 4 hoses last summer). Finally, I love the way this pours out. It helps make sure I don't overwater my plants! 

And check out the garden fairy that helped me out! 

When I told her that was good, I got all the pictures I needed, she insisted on finishing the job.
::sigh:: makes a mama proud! 

Food: Charoset Pies

Last week was Holy Week, and in our house, my husband and I really tried to make this a learning experience for our children. I did some research and compiled a Holy Week Curriculum for my family, church family, and friends to use. One of my most memorable things of last week was the Seder meal we did with our kids. I tried my hand at lamb in the crockpot, steamed some carrots and parsnips in vanilla-buttered water, made communion bread,  and made Charoset (also called "haroset" and pronounced "KHah-Roh-sis"). The Seder ceremony we did needed really only about 1/2 cup, so I had a TON left over. So when Easter Sunday rolled around, and I was given the task of bringing a dessert to the family dinner, I decided to make little pies...little Charoset pies. Here's what I did:

Charoset Pies
serving size: 18 small pies

What You'll Need:

  • 5 cups apples, peeled, cored, diced 
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp honey 
  • 1/4 CUP ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups grape juice
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
That was what was needed to make the Charoset. Just mix it all together. For the pies, add: 
  • 1 cup golden raisins (I found raisins and/or figs in a few recipes for the charoset, so I figured this would help)
  • 1/2 cup sugar or honey. (The grape juice and cinnamon in the Charoset makes it a little bitter, and I didn't want bitter pies) 
  • 2 boxes premade, rolled, refrigerated pie crust (the kind you roll out, not the kind already in a pie pan) 
  • Cupcake wrappers 
  1. Preheat the oven at 425. 
  2. Mix together the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. 
  3. Put cupcake wrappers in the muffin pan. I have one large (12 cupcakes) pan and one small (6 cupcakes) pan. I used both. I wanted to cook it all at the same time. 
  4. Unroll the refrigerated pie crusts. Using a LARGE cup, cut out 18 circles. This will take about 1 and 1/2 crusts. You may have to ball up the scraps, reroll, and cut circles until you use all the crust and you have all the circles you need. Place one cut circle in each cupcake wrapper. Press down gently. 
  5. Scoop a large spoonful of the Charoset mixture into each pie. Make sure it is an even amount. All of mine filled up and came close to the top of the cupcake wrapper. 
  6. Cut out 18 more circles out of your refrigerated crust. Again, it used about 1 1/2 of the crusts. I had a little left over. Gently place the cut circles over the top of the pies. Using a fork, seal the edges of the bottom and top crusts. I then poked holes in the top with the fork making a cross. This helps the air to escape (you don't want exploding cupcakes all over your oven. 
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is slightly browned. 
When you these little cuties out of the oven, everyone will ooh and ahh over them. They tasted just like little apple pies (with a twist, thanks to the walnuts and raisins)! Having them in the cupcake wrappers can also help save on the dishes, and because they are so small, they make great serving sizes. My dad kept saying, "These are so good! And they taste healthy, too!" Aw, shucks! Thanks, dad! 

I hope your family enjoys these as much as my family enjoyed mine! 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Devotion: That Sneaky Devil!

"Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests  and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him." Matthew 26:14-16 

Oh, money! The prospect of wealth! The temptation of beauty. The desire to "share" with others by gossiping. The appeal of knowing more, doing more, being more. Everywhere you turn, there is something out there that is seemingly that much better than what you already have. And Satan is the mastermind behind so much of that. 

Movies, television shows, and music tend to portray Satan as this ugly, horrid looking creature, lurking in the shadows. I always think of Al Pacino's character in The Devil's Advocate when I try to visualize Satan. He's just the creepy, but commanding, character that sits back behind a desk tapping his fingers together in a sinister way. 

But is he really like that? I attempted to find an actual description of Satan in the Bible. I did find a few verses, but I am no theology student, so I'm not 100% sure they are in reference to that Ultimate Bad Guy. If you are interested, check out here, here, and here. What I do want to do, though, is point out how Satan shows himself. 

1. Through Beauty: Oh man, this one is a seriously hard one. Not only are we tempted to be beautiful on the outside (because, as I tell my daughter, it's more important to be beautiful on the inside), but we are also tempted (oh so tempted) by the beauty of others. Look at David. "One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful..." (2 Samuel 11). Now was there anything wrong with her bathing? No. Was there anything wrong with him up and walking around late at night? No. Even if he saw her bathing, that's not necessarily wrong, if he wasn't looking for a naked woman, but he saw her, and he kept looking (sin), and he sent someone to find out who she was, and he arranged for her husband to be killed so he could have her to himself (sin and sin). How many men (and women) are tempted by another's beauty so much that is has led to sin? Did you see Satan walking around or whispering in David's ear to desire that woman? No. But you better believe he was there. 

2. Through Power: Here is a tricky one. Is it bad to have power? Not necessarily. God anoints leaders (David was a leader, so was JESUS). But Satan likes to take what is good and exploit it and until power becomes an idol. Check out the story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph was his daddy's favorite. He 12 other brothers were not too happy with that. They wanted the power of being the favored son. So they arranged for him to be sold off. That would then, supposedly, open the door for one of them to move into Joseph's position (Genesis 37). Joseph, though, took it in a decent stride. He continued to trust God would take care of him. And God did. BUT (sneaky Satan), some of that power got to Joseph's head. He ended up becoming the 2nd most powerful man in Egypt. And instead of using that power to help his family (which eventually does), he used it to torment his brothers (Genesis 42). Luckily, Joseph remembered his place, and God was glorified in the end. 

3. Through Money: Have you ever read The Pardoner's Tale? Oh, if you haven't,  you should. It is one of my favorite ones to teach. Not only does it teach about greed, but it also is so stinkin' believable, the story could be set in today's time instead of the 1300s. BRIEF SUMMARY: 3 boys go on an journey to find Death to avenge their friends' deaths. They end up coming across a huge bag of money...and greed takes over. Money is not bad, but the love of money can definitely lead you down the wrong path (1 Timothy 6:10). Judas betrayed Jesus for about a month's paycheck. A big ol' ugly something did not come up to Judas and tell him he had to do that, but that gleam of silver sure caught his eye and led him to betray Jesus. 

And those are just a few ways Satan presents the temptations. He doesn't make us sin, but he most definitely puts them in front of us. And doesn't he just love to tempt Christians? We are God's children, but if we sin, then we give that name a bad one. We must be set apart. AND we must recognize Satan for what he is and what he does. Thank the Lord we have learned, through Him, about *grace, mercy, and forgiveness. 

Luke 10:19 says "I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you." Cling to those words. YOU HAVE POWER OVER THE ENEMY (Satan). Be watchful for ways of temptation and *flee (RUN!!!) away from them. You will enjoy a more blessed life if you do! 

Photo Credit 

*Other references: 
1. Defining True Repentance
2. Wheat and Weeds 
3. Forgiveness
4. Flee Sexual Immorality
5. Flee Idolatry  
6. Pursue God

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cleaning: Make Your Own...Hair Detangler

It's been a while since I've dried to Make my Own something. I really wasn't in desperate need for anything. I did have to refill my MYO Dishwashing Detergent and Laundry Detergent on the same day, recently, but that is about it. Until about a week ago. My precious (princess) daughter and I got into it when I tried to comb out her long, luscious, golden locks after getting out of the bath. That girl would rather run around with major tangles in her hair than have me try to get them out. So I needed a detangler, and since it was on my list of Make Your Own items, I pulled out my camera, dug out some bottles I had been saving for such a time as this, and got to work.

It was EASY! And it works, too! I did a little research and they all said about the same (water, conditioner, and shake!). I added just a little bit more to mine, put it in a bottle I hadn't seen in my research, and I have myself (I mean, my daughter) a nice, inexpensive bottle of hair detangler that is going to last us a while.

What You'll Need:

  • Water
  • 1-2 Tbsp hair conditioner 
  • 1 Tbsp anti-frizz conditioner (if your conditioner does this anti-frizz thing, then all you need is the conditioner. Mine doesn't...so there you have it) 
  • Container with a pump (I used an old dish detergent foaming bottle and pump...on purpose...I like foam) 

  1. Make sure your container is completely clean and dry. No use in having dish detergent in your bottle of detangler. I ran mine through the dish washer cycle twice and then let it dry completely. 
  2. Add the conditioner and anti-frizz conditioner to the bottle. 
  3. Sloooowly add water. If you do it too quickly, the conditioners will bubble up. And you don't want bubbles just yet. 
  4. Put on the lid tightly and gently shake to mix the ingredients together. They will separate at some point, so don't freak if it doesn't mix completely. 
And you are ready to go! 

My review
It doesn't foam all that well. but it works great! I give mine a little shake before I use it to make sure there's some conditioner going in the hair. And I haven't heard any complaints yet. :) 

This is the bottle I use. See how it separates? Also, label. My husband thought it was hand soap and almost freaked when he saw me put it in her hair. :) 

And we have long, luscious, golden, happy locks again! 

See? All smiles. No tears. (Please note that she dressed herself and her shirt is on inside out) 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Food: Making Meals for a New Mom (and Freezer Meals for Me!)

Babies!! They are everywhere! I kid you not, in the past month, I have had 7 (yes, seven) friends have a baby.  And for those who know me personally, no, I was not part of this baby boom. But it sure gave me the opportunity to get my baby fix...and to serve the mamas who are either brand new moms or moms to a brand new baby. I love (love, love, love, love) to be able to help out new moms as they make that transition from hospital to home. I remember what it was like to get visitors in the hospital, but when I got home, there was a bit of loneliness. Once Joe went back to work, I was home, by myself (and now, looking back, suffering postpartum depression) with my little one(s). So getting visitors was actually kind of nice. So I want to be able to do that for new moms. What better way than to bring some yummy goodness for the family to enjoy for at least the first week home?!

I didn't want to bring the traditional lasagna over. I had just read a blog about a new mom who was grateful for the food-gifts, but had a freezer stocked full of lasagna. So, lasagna was off my list...sort of. I researched recipes that would be easy to freeze. Also, I wanted something that, in the most part, could be removed from the freezer by single servings. When it's just mom at home, there's no point in heating up an entire casserole. I found a lot of helpful recipes. So I collected all my ingredients, strapped on my apron, and spent an exhausting, but rewarding, 6 hours cooking in my kitchen. It was totally worth it! And since I doubled the ingredients, I was able to also finally able to do some of that freezer cooking that's on my New Year's Resolution list. Below I am going to show the picture of what I made, give a brief explanation when necessary, and give you the website where I found the recipe.

1. BBQ: I didn't really need a website for this one. I just got about 2 pound of pork, a bottle of bbq sauce, and my trusty crockpot. Making bbq in my crockpot is the norm in my house. Anytime I make a roast (whether beef, pork, or chicken), I normally make bbq out of what's left. And because I made so much, I was able to split what I made in half to give to my friend and the other half went in my freezer.

2. French Bread Rolls: What better thing to go with bbq than rolls? You can eat them separate or make a sandwich. And since I love to make bread, making bread once a week is part of my NYR, and my french bread rolls are a house favorite, these were a perfect choice. YUM!

3. Muffin Pan Chicken Pot Pies: I have not been a fan of chicken pot pie. I just don't like bread mixed in with my food. BUT, the idea of using  my large muffin pan to make meal-sized servings was appealing to me. And most people like CPP, right? So I figured I would give it a shot. And they turned out great! I had enough to make for my friend and still had enough left over for my hubby to take to work....and then I braved the recipe again last night to make for my family. They LOVED it! A side note if you plan on making these: The recipe calls for you to make your own crust. The first time I made this (for my friend), the crust turned out great. The second time, it was too flaky. The next time I'm going to try to make it, I'm going to use the Pillsbury ready-made pie crust that you roll out (the same stuff I use when I make pop tarts). If you are nervous about making your own pie crust, first, give it a try. If it doesn't work, then try the pre-made stuff.

4. Lasagna Cups: Here was another opportunity to use my muffin pans. For this recipe, I used the regular-sized muffin pans (because it makes good serving sizes AND my large muffin pan was being used for the chicken pot pies). This made a TON of little individual servings. This recipe I started the night before with the bbq. I used a smaller crockpot, dumped in my lean, ground beef, set it on low, and let it brown my meat overnight. In the morning, I drained the fat, and prepped the rest of the ingredients. What I really like about this recipe is that it used wonton wrappers instead of pasta noodles. So cool! Anyway, this turned out great. I wrapped each one individually to be pulled out for evenings when my husband has to work late, and I don't want to make an entire meal for me and 3 kids who don't normally eat a lot anyway. I pulled them out of the freezer, opened up (but did not remove) the foil, and put them in my toaster oven at 350 until the cheese started bubbling again (maybe 15 minutes). These are great and would also work great at parties as well.

So for some reason I didn't take pictures of what was left. Sorry! If I make it again (which I am SURE I will do), I will upload a photo. :) 

5. Summer Porridge (or cold oatmeal) Yum. Seriously yum. The website has about 6 different recipes for summer porridge (really, all have the same base, but what you ADD to it varies). I made the Maple Blueberry and the Vanilla Raspberry. I doubled the recipe so my family could have some as well. I really wanted to try this. AND I really think you could freeze this as well. I was taken back by the first taste of mine. My head was saying, "Oatmeal should be hot" but my tongue was saying, "This porridge is cold!...but lovely." It tastes a lot like those yogurt parfaits. I wanted to provide some breakfast or "lighter" snacks for my new mom friend, so this worked great!

6. Corn and Potato Chowder. The recipe calls for the frozen corn to be "roasted". Uh...Wal-Mart didn't have "roasted", so I just added some Mrs. Dash to the corn. This was decently easy to make (and if I wasn't making 6 other things at the same time, I don't think it would have taken so long). Once this soup cools, it's great to freeze and then reheat later. We are quickly approaching warmer weather (yesterday was a record 93 degrees!! In April!) so I didn't want to do too many soups, but I figured one would be okay.

7. Homemade Biscuits Like Grandma Made: These I prepped but did not cook. If you read my post on them, they make great individual biscuits. I thought these biscuits would go well with the chowder. So they were a natural choice for me to provide for my friend. Here's a picture of what I've done in the past:

8. Pre-Made Pancakes. Wal-Mart has these bags in the frozen food section. When I was still teaching and my boys were itty bitty, I found these little treasures. They come 3-in-a-pack and take about 45 seconds to heat up. Before I started making my own pre-made pancakes, these were a life saver. They work great on Sunday mornings. We are rushing to get out the door for church, and the kids normally eat something that is filling but can be eaten in the car. These fit that bill. If you are looking for a recipe to make your own pre-made pancakes, I use this recipe at least once a week. My addition is about 2 tsp of vanilla to the batter. I normally make about 20 small pancakes (about 4 inches). Whatever is leftover, I freeze for those mornings we need a quick breakfast or I just don't feel like cooking.

So it took me about 6 straight hours of cooking. I studied the recipes the night before and planned which course of action I should take. It was worth every second. I was able to serve my friend and her family, and I was able to finally get my freezer cooking done. It would also be a good idea to make one or two of these and freeze so when a friend, family member, or someone in your church or community gets sick, has a baby, or is just in need of being served, you can pull one of these out, get a nice little cooler bag and spend some time loving on your neighbor.

And just so you can see why I love doing this, here is the joy I get in helping new moms:

Mmm...See how I'm getting my baby fix? Love holding those little ones! 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Devotion: Keep Forgiving

"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" Matthew 18: 21-22

"I'm sorry." The words were spoken with so much conviction. It was the type of scene you see in a Nicholas Sparks movie were the guy is gently grasping the girl's face between his hands, looks deep into her eyes, and whispers "I'm sorry" in a way that would melt any girl's heart. And this was happening to me. In my kitchen. My husband and I had gotten into a disagreement the evening before over how to fix a tire on a bike stroller. It was a silly argument, and really, at the time, I couldn't understand why my husband was getting so upset with me for asking if I could fix it since he was so busy. But it happened, and he apologized. And I forgave him.

That evening, though, he got upset with me again. We took the entire family to a baseball game. Two-thirds of our kids weren't really into the game (if you know my kids, you know which ones) and were climbing all over the seats, bumping into other spectators, begging for more food, and just being kids. I was getting frustrated because I just wanted to spend some time with the kids and my husband, but I ended up spending the entire time making sure those restless two weren't disrupting other people. So when he asked me to scoot over a little more, I sarcastically said, "Oh, sure, honey." And that started another argument that ended with him picking up our other child and moving to another seat so the two of them could see the game. Both of us were in the wrong, but my feelings were so hurt and I was frustrated already, that I just couldn't believe we were back to square one. When we got home, he tried the "I'm sorry" route again. This time, though, I knew it was coming. I knew he was going to apologize and do something like clean up the kitchen while I was getting the kids into bed as a way of apologizing. And what did I do? I rejected his apology. He apologized, and I said, "Really? For what?" We both went to bed without speaking to each other.

The only problem was I couldn't sleep. As soon as the house was quiet and I was lying in the dark, a voice as clear as could be said to me over and over again "Not seven times, but seventy-seven times." I immediately knew that my words and actions were not called for. All night long I kept thinking, "Who am I to judge his apology?" "What if someone didn't accept my apology?" And honestly, I was reminded of the other times God has opened my eyes to forgiveness (see here and here). Then my thoughts turned to how often God has forgiven me of repeated offensives. Oh man, I was feeling so incredibly guilty. My husband, a kind and gentle man, who gets along with most everyone around him, was having a stressful couple of days. He does not normally get upset with me so easily, and I should have taken all of that into consideration. Who  was I to not forgive him?

As I continue to work on my relationship with my Lord, He is showing me more and more that everything is about the condition of my heart. Living for Him means to have a pure and honest heart. It means to see others where they are and to not get upset over the little things. It means to admit when I am wrong and to seek forgiveness. And it also means that when others ask for forgiveness, it is my responsibility to show them God's love in accepting their apology and to get back on the road to making things right with them.

Because He loves me so much and has forgiven me for the countless ways I have disappointed Him, I, too, have the responsibility to love others and forgive others "seventy-seven times" and more.

Photo Credit