December 2009

For some time now, I have been desiring a new way to organize my ever expanding collection of recipes.  I finally got in mind what I wanted, and proceeded to search for it.  I found something that worked on a country decorating website:

 However, I was far to frugal to pay the necessary $35!  So I discussed my desires with S.  I wanted a rustic look about it, so it had to be wooden.  It also had to be large enough to hold 4×6 cards.  I also really wanted a removable divider so the cards would not constantly fall flat in the box (a problem I have fought for some time with my old box). 

One of the many things I love about my wonderful husband is that he is so quick to do things that I mention needing. On Christmas day, as if he hadn’t given me enough already, he disappeared into the garage (his workshop) for a while.  Using some scrap lumber he had, he came up with this:

Then it was my job to give it the finishing touches.  First, I sanded it down to get off all the old varnish.  I love the natural look of wood, so I stained it a pretty honey oak color using some stain we had in the garage.  What I didn’t consider was that he had used 2 types of wood, so the color did not absorb evenly.  Next, I decided to try painting it a country color, and found a can of hunter green spray paint in the garage.  I let dry overnight, and it wound up looking more crayola crayon green than country.  I also didn’t like the sheen the paint gave it.  It wasn’t rustic enough for me. 

Finally, we broke down and bought some acrylic dark jade green.  It wound up being perfect!  Since it was acrylic, it lacked the fresh shine of the other paint, giving it a much older, beaten look.  I am working towards a kitchen theme of “Fruit” to go along with the “Fruit of the Spirit” scripture found in  Galatians 5:22, so the green went well with that too. To add to the theme, I also bought some rub-on transfers to decorate it a bit.  Finally, using an online scrapbooking program I had, I designed and printed a label, and  I used my scrapbooking tools to handwrite Galatians 5:22 on the top. 

I love the final result:

Look closely and you can see the scripture written subtly across the top.

Inside, you can see S installed 2 dividers, with 2 additional grooves to allow me to customize it as needed.

 I wasn’t able to find recipe card dividers to go with my fruits of the spirit theme, so I gave up and used my scrapbook software again to design my own.  Nothing fancy, but it gets the point across.  Just a simple, vintage looking card, with Galatians 5:22 printed across the bottom.

Now I just have to add my recipes to the box, and I’ll be set!

Honey, I LOVE IT!  And I LOVE YOU!  Thank you!

I briefly mentioned in my Christmas post that I had made M’s gift by hand.  I thought I would offer a bit more detail on the gift.

Ever since I got my Ergo baby carrier, M has been trying to carry her dolls around.  My Ergo was way too big for her, of course, but she made do as best she could.  I thought an M-sized carrier would be perfect for her.  I designed one based on my Ergo, and used JR, bless his heart, as my “model” for measurements as I went along.  He did a great job keeping the secret for weeks!  M absolutely loved it!  I made it reversible just like my Ergo, so she can wear her baby on her front or back. 

Once I got it all finished though, I had JR try it on with a doll in it.  It was then that I realized her plastic baby dolls weren’t gonna cut it.  Their little plastic feet jabbed into his back.  So I began trying to design a fabric doll. 

I won’t go into all the details for fear of boring you severely, but suffice it to say, a doll was no easy task for this beginner seamstress!  After much trial and error, I finally had something that remotely resembled a doll–complete with fake hair and a facial features.  But then another problem arose.  She was naked.  Well, it just so happened that I had been sorting through my baby clothes to find stuff to yard sale.  I remembered a tiny little dress I had seen.  I was able to alter that dress slightly to fit the doll.  VOILA!  It was complete!

I can’t believe how much M loved these 2 gifts!  I am impressed the doll has lasted this long, as the seams were starting to burst the day I made it.  Nonetheless, although she has already lost her nose, and the fake hair now resembles the worst bed-head you ever saw rather than the cute pig tails I originally gave her, she is M’s new best friend.  They keep each other company at nap time and bed time, and they are playmates when M is alone. 

Funny how the last minute, seemingly worthless gifts can be the most appreciated since they come from the heart!

I took another big step last week.  I finally ran out of my bulk order of dishwashing gel, and made my own!  As it turned out, I already had all the ingredients needed since I made my laundry detergent.  So far, I have been very impressed, and the dishes come out sparkling clean!  This is going to save a tremendous amount of $$, as it only uses 2 tablespoons per load!

Homemade Dishwasher Soap

  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
  • Vinegar (optional)

Combine Borax and Soda in jar, mix well.  Use 2 Tablespoons powder per dishwasher load. 

For best results, use vinegar in the dishwasher’s Rinse Aid holder.


After using this mixture for almost a year, in two different homes, two different states, hard and soft(er) water, we finally accepted that this recipe does leave a white, filmy residue on the dishes.  While the residue can be easily washed off, it is a bit embarrassing.  A temporary solution I have found for now, is to continue using vinegar as my rinse-aid, using the recipe for my pre-wash cycle, and using a standard dish gel for the main wash.  This seems to be working much better, as the recipe detergent continues to save me money, while the final, main wash eliminates any residues.

Christmas…  My favorite day of the year has come and gone once again. 

As usual, like a little kid on Christmas morning, I woke up bright and early–even before S, which is incredibly rare… once a year rare!  Why can’t I wake up that early and be that refreshed every morning?  I got up, ground some flour on my pedal-powered grain mill, and baked some buttermilk biscuits for breakfast.  And just for the record, apparently waking early on Christmas morning is not something MY kids do.  They may wake early every other morning, but not on Christmas…GO FIGURE!   S finally went and woke them at 7. 

Then we learned one of the few downsides of routines.  While we waited impatiently for the kids to come down, they took their time doing their usual morning bedroom chores, getting dressed, and so forth.  I tried to convince them to come down in their PJ’s, but NOOOOO!  They wanted to be dressed and take care of their tasks first.  *sigh*

FINALLY, they came down. Everyone curled up on the couches while Daddy read us Luke 2. 

All dressed (but wearing robes to keep warm) and listening to Daddy read the Bible

Then we commenced to passing out the presents (one at a time to make it last, of course).  The first thing we noticed was the lack of paper EVERYWHERE like in previous years.  Yet, it was just as much fun unbagging the gift as unwrapping them.  But, Aaaaaahhhhhh, no clean up afterward.  I think I am sold on the gift bags!

The kids got an assortment of things.  We took the next step toward a minimal-plastics lifestyle and bought each of the kids Klean Kanteens drink bottles.  We also got them each a stainless steel drinking cup since breakage has signficantly reduced our glass cup supply.  (I would be lying if I blamed it on the kids.  They broke a few glasses, but I definitely am to blame for most!  I am a huge klutz!)

A admiring his new cup

New color-coded water bottles for each kid!

"What am I supposed to do with this thing?"

The noteworthy gifts of the year include roller blades for JR (found the whole set with pads and everything for $5 at a yard sale–like new!!)  and a scooter for M (another yard sale find).  We plan to call it “P.E.” for school!  I also sewed a baby carrier for M since she is always copying me.  The only problem was that her plastic baby dolls would be uncomfortable in it, so then I had to sew a cloth baby doll.  More on that later, but it is, surprisingly, by far her favorite gift of the day.  She actually cried when I made her take the carrier off and put the baby down for a nap so we could all go try out the toys with wheels!

M's new doll in her new carrier

S on his new roller blades and M with her new scooter

I got S some misc books and a data DVD of Mother Earth News archives to serve as references as we move ever closer to our homesteading goals.  He’s only had the DVD for 2 days, but it has already helped us develop a solution to a major issue we had with our farm.

S gave me a couple of items I really wanted for a while.  Simple home decor items, but each contained scripture, which I love in decorating!

The tray was one of my gifts. It has scriptural words printed on each side. The table runner was something I won (along with some goat's milk soap!) from another blog site!

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, my precious husband surprised me by telling me to get out of the house and just go shop the after-Christmas sales on Saturday.  Understand, I am not a shopper by nature.  I have a list, I go online or into the store to find those specific items, and I go home.  If I find the items I want looking for and particularly if I find them for a clearanced price, then I consider it a successful shopping trip. 

So, I left Saturday morning with list in hand.  You can imagine my surprise when I learned that the day-after Christmas isn’t much better than trying to shop the day after Thanksgiving.  WHOA NELLIE!  There were people everywhere!!  And traffic!  Nonetheless, I was able to make out like a bandit with some long-desired Christmas decor for next year (all 40-80% off!) and a few other odds and ends that had been on my mental list for some time.  I also managed to get a great haircut at a stylish salon for…..get this…FREE!  So I went home feeling pretty hot and quite satisfied with my bargain finds.  Then, as if that wasn’t enough, my husband agreed to take us all out to dinner last night at one of my favorite restaurants (they even know what real sweet tea is!!), then we all strolled the plaza area looking at the Christmas light display. 

We have indeed had a wonderful Christmas holiday.  My absolute favorite part, besides Jesus and family of course, is the fact that I have had nearly a week of my husband being home with us!  We’ve been married 7 1/2 years, and I still love having him around! 

I hope you had a Christmas at least half as wonderful as ours!

AAAAhhhhhh, how I LOVE Christmas!  Christmas has always been my favorite time of year.  Whether I lived in the desert, on the beach, or in the mountains, I always dream up visions of snow and cool weather outside, hot cocoa, something baking, a warm fire, and sparkling tree with presents underneath inside. 

I have never been much of a shopper.  In fact, nowadays, about 90% of my shopping is done online (even groceries!), which makes Christmas shopping so much easier.  We also tend to reduce the holiday pressures by deciding on our gifts early in the season.  We actually have a budget set aside for gifts every month, which adds up to allow us to spend more freely when the time comes.  Because we think of gift giving as part of our budget, we tend to have it on the back of our minds all year.  This results in us getting gifts earlier in the season which significantly reduces the last-minute pressures many experience. 

When it comes to gifts, we have so much fun giving to others!  I am so thankful I have a husband who doesn’t wait until the last second to rush out to the store to find me something–anything–to put under the tree.  No.  He spends as much time as I do planning, plotting, sneaking cash out of the gifts envelope months in advance so I won’t notice it missing.  He also works with me to help with handmade gifts, or picking out just the right item when it comes to purchases for others.  This year, we had a great mix of both!  Because Christmas is about so much more than silly presents, we like to put forth a lot of effort and thought to bless others just as God has blessed us.

I also enjoy not limiting “Christmas” to just one brief morning.  Last week, we had a wonderful visit from my mother-in-law. 

Grandma and kids

While she was here, we went ahead and had Christmas with her and the kids, so they could see each other open some gifts.  I guess you could almost say this has become a tradition, since we have done it for 3 years in a row now.

A opening his gift from Grandma

...A terrific all-wood block train set!

JR got "a REAL nutcracker that REALLY cracks nuts!" ...It's a long story!

N got an all-wood block fire engine set. Of course, like most babies his age, he had a lot more fun with the wrapping paper!

hmmmm, I'm not sure who is enjoying the wooden toy sets more--children or Daddy?

I spent the afternoon today baking breads.  This, of course, meant lots of pedaling for the needed flour!  While I can pedal a whole lot more than I can do by hand, I was still very thankful to have a husband in such great biking shape!  He did a lot of the pedaling while I was doing a lot of mixing of ingredients.  The house had that delicious sweet baking smell all afternoon as I experimented with cinnamon-raisin bread, cranberry-orange-walnut bread, and banana-walnut bread.  Then tonight after dinner, we bundled everyone up and loaded into the van.  We drove to several different friends houses all over town delivering the loaves.  JR and M had a great time wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and handing them their “present.”

Oh, it is so hard to believe yet another year is almost gone.  Yet, I think I can honestly say each year gets better for us.  It seems like we have had major events in our lives each year for the last several.  God has moved us to new locations, brought us more children than we ever imagined, and blessed us with friends of all kinds!  While Thanksgiving may be the technical holiday for thankfullness, Christmas surely is a close match for us!  And now, just 3 more days, and I can once again see the joy of Christmas morning on my children’s faces, as Daddy reads us the Christmas story from Luke 2, we sing worship songs to Christ, and then we proceed to handing out the gifts. 

It was almost ironic that, as we were driving down the road this evening, M suddenly called out from the back of the van, “Excuse me, but what is John 3:17 again?” 

“For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

There is no better gift to celebrate on Christmas!

My recent post on the powered grain mill resulted in a question from my brother-in-law who is a missionary overseas.   So the following is from him, and the resulting answer from my dear husband (his brother).  Oh, and just for the record, my name is not Judy (it’s a long story)!

Q: “Hi Judy,
I’m having some trouble with my boiler (that’s a water heater there)and I can’t get it fixed because they won’t come unless I’m home. So I was wondering if SP could cook up something so I could get some hot water for a shower and heat. Global warming doesn’t seem to be working over here.”

A: Day Jay,  I’ve thought long and hard about your conundrum.  I needed something simple (to account for your lack of mechanical skills) and cheap (to account for your lack of accounting skills).  Here it is.  Punch a hole in your shower wall 3.5 feet below the shower head.  Buy a blowtorch from the local hardware store.  Heat pipe for 30 seconds prior to turning on water.  Keep torch going for the duration of the shower and adjust distance to pipe to control water temp.  For hands free operation attach the blowtorch to a hanger connected to the showerhead.  Try to keep body parts away from the flame, however, if scorching does occur, flush affected area with cold water immediately (you seem to have plenty of that).  Be advised it also doesn’t work well with PVC piping (or bamboo). This technique can only be used overseas due to its complete disregard for OSHA, building codes, and fire codes.  You would also risk a lawsuit from the Plumbers Union for installing an on-demand water heater without a license.   Skype me if you run into any technical issues.

I feel so high tech right now!  I am grinding my wheat with some serious power! 

I tried the whole manual grinding thing for a while, and could never seem to get the stamina to do more than a cup or so at a time.  It didn’t help any that the only place we could put the grinder put me in a position where I had little leverage to grind.  I had originally planned to wait it out, let S do most of the grinding until we moved, then see if we could position it better in the new house.  S is a busy man though, and despite how wonderful he is, I know he had better things to be doing than grinding 16-20 cups of flour for me every week.

So, with a lot of searching on my part, and more creativity on his part, I now have this:

Oh yeah! Burn the calories before you eat ’em!  Guilt free carbs in the final product!  OK, so I’m totally kidding myself!  I was able to grind over 5 cups in just the few spare minutes I had earlier today though.  I will finish up tomorrow and be ready to bake a couple of loaves of bread.  And the best part is that it didn’t cost us a dime!

For the technical part, I found the exercise bike as a freebie on Craigslist.  It had a problem with the chain sticking on the chain ring.  S dismantled the entire thing, gave the whole thing a good cleaning, hooked another chain to the original chain, and used some scrap wood to design a table for the milland some braces to prevent the handlebars from moving (they originally moved with the pedals).  He decided to keep the flywheel on, as it would improve the momentum of the pedaling, making it easier to grind.  Then he rigged a system with a new chain ring (off another old freebie bike) on the mill itself, installed the mill onto the bike table, and we tried it out.  It works great!  There is still an issue with the chain sticking, which results in quite a bit of friction and noise as I pedal, and he is going to work on that when he has a chance.  We haven’t been able to find the cause for that so far.  In the meantime however, I can grind to my heart’s content, and get some great looking legs in the meantime!!

Today was a big day for us.  We started our first official “lessons.”  I have posted previously about how our children have become so passionate about music.  After a tremendous amount of research, prayer, and discussion, we decided to enroll JR in violin lessons.  Today was the big day.

FYI, we had been researching music for a while now, trying to figure out what age and instrument was best to begin with.  When the information I found began to conflict and overwhelm us, I decided to go out on a limb.  I actually contacted the Duggar family and asked their recommendation, as they have so many young children who play so well.  Mr. Duggar introduced me to the Suzuki Method of instruction. 

Suzuki is quite an interesting teaching methodology, but after looking into it, watching some classes, and so forth, we decided it was  a good fit for us.  One of the great things is that it requires the parent to learn with the child.  So, although JR is the one getting the actual lesson, I get to rent a violin and learn everything he does.  This is working beautifully for us, as I am then able to bring home what we learn and reinforce JR’s practices.  I am also able to give M basic instruction so she can learn a few things as well. 

We have a lot to practice this week–terms, feet and hand positions,  proper violin and bow holds, etc. We are learning together though, and I can already tell that we will enjoy this immensely.  Tonight, we had the unexpected benefit of listening to a young friend play her viola (similiar to a violin).  After only 8 weeks of lesson, she serenaded us with several beautiful Christmas songs.  Although we have only learned the note “Mama A” at this point, and although I have heard that note played countless times today, it is exciting to think how far we may be in just 8 weeks!

One of the results I just love about the choices we have made in raising our children is the fact that they are best friends.  That’s not to say they don’t bicker on occasion–they are siblings after all–but they genuinely enjoy being with each other. 

JR, 5 and M, 3

 This photo was taken last night during our family worship time.  M cuddled up next to JR to listen to Daddy’s lesson, and I just couldn’t resist grabbing the camera!  JR and M tend to be closer than any other of our sibling “combinations,” but I suspect that simply has to do with their age and similiar abilities.  I will often find them curled up together at naptime or playing some new game together during their free times.  Though he is still young, A is beginning to fit in more and more when they play, and everyone loves to have a turn playing with little N. 

I heard long ago that a by-product of sheltering children, homeschooling, and taking great cautions when allowing children to socialize outside the home often result in these types of close-sibling relationships.  Whatever the cause, it thrills me to no end!  I pray they all grow up and remain close throughout their lives.

To read from the beginning of this series, click here and here.

I have to tell you, I found the events that occurred this weekend absolutely fascinating from a spiritual perspective.  You hear about this type of war, but so rarely see it up close and personal. 

After my last post, a friend did a little research for me and convinced me to betray my sweet-iced tea roots, and I tried a little hot honey-lemon hot tea.  I don’t know whether it helped, but my croaking voice held in there.  We arrived at the event later that evening, and I went to the box to pull out my speech notes.  They were gone!  Everything related to my speech that I had packed into this box were gone!  The only thing I can figure is that is one of the kids pulled them out when I wasn’t looking.  However, it felt like one last attempt by Satan to discourage me.  I prayed, quickly created some prompter notes, and readied myself for the speech.  Around 140 women showed up, and as the host was introducing me, she asked me a question from the stage (I was in my seat about 10 feet in front of her).  I attempted to answer, and…NOTHING!  So, here I was supposed to speak, and my voice was gone!  She called me up on the stage, and essentially said, “Ladies, we are going to pray right now!”  And she did. 

I stood in front of the mike, took a deep breath, and spoke clearly for the next 20 minutes (as long as I stood in front of the mike!)  I concluded, sat down at my table, answered a couple questions someone asked, and that was the last time I heard my voice.  Now, it is almost 48 hours later, and I still cannot speak over a whisper.  What an amazing adventure!  I can’t tell you what it felt like to be right in the thickest part, just having to trust God to work this thing out, then losing my voice at the last second, just to have God restore it just for the speech!  Don’t ever try to convince me there is no God!

I did actually wake up sick this morning, likely a combination of the stress and harriedness of the weekend, and the fact that I was off my raw milk, coconut oil, and zicam for 2 days.  The virus was finally able to take root a bit.  I actually felt lousy enough this morning that I even broke down and took a Tylenol, then missed church, and slept most of the day.  Nonetheless, somehow, this cold isn’t getting me down like some have in the past, as I have been witness to such a heavenly force. 

All I can say is “WOW!”

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