Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Last week, my mom treated us to some confections from our favorite natural foods store. One of the desserts I selected was a piece of poppyseed cake - different from the usual bundt cake style but chock full of poppyseeds, topped with fluffy icing and containing a hint of lemon. (Side note: everytime I go to type in "poppy" I accidentally type "poopy" - must be the phase I'm in ;) ).

Since then, I went on the hunt to find a recipe that would duplicate, or at least approximate, this scrumptious dessert. So far the closest I've come is this recipe, but found it a little too buttery. The hunt is still on, but here's a glimpse of my efforts last week.

And in other poppy-related news :), I'm finally ticking a few more sewing projects off my list. Here are a couple I just finished this week and added to my etsy shop:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

painting the town

This week we were blessed with an abundance of fun things to do - especially welcome after more than a week of sickness for 5 out of 6 of us. :)

Wednesday and Thursday morning I took the kids to our local arts center to participate in a couple of children's programs on the Civil War which was part of a 5-day free historical program visiting our community. They got to learn about the life as a solider and participate in a number of circle games and songs which are part of the fabric of African-American culture. I love when we can take advantage of educational opportunities during the summer - vacation homeschooling at its best!

In the evening, we headed to the red tent for Civil War-era music and some amazing performances by actors portraying key figures in the Civil War.

Today we headed to the strawberry patch. Yummy red organic berries quickly filled our buckets. Brie was motivated to get her bucket filled to the brim. Reese was more interested in inspecting the berries and kept chucking out the ones that didn't pass muster until we out the kabosh on that activity. ;)


This is the first time we had visited that farm - I discovered it on pickyourown.org. Visit the link if you also delight in picking your own produce and want to find a nearby location in your area.

We ended up with 3.5 gallons of strawberries, most of which are now in the freezer, some are waiting to be snacked upon, and the others will be put to good use in strawberry shortcake (an IOU Father's Day gift to Dave since I was still under the weather last week).

Friday, June 24, 2011

big shoes to fill

Ben may have big shoes to fill...

...but he sure does want to follow in his daddy's footsteps!

Monday, June 20, 2011

on beauty

Yesterday, I posted at (in)courage on the journey God has taken me on in the last four years in learning to live without makeup and accept His definition of what He thinks is as beautiful. He has so blessed me with the comments and stories shared by women in response to the post.

One of these comments (thank you Betty!) had a poem of beauty tips which I wanted to share here - I think it captures the heart of what God means when He says to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience:

For attractive lips,
Speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes,
Seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure,
Share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair,
Let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise,
Walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.

-Author Unknown

Saturday, June 18, 2011

guest posting at (in)courage

Tomorrow (or today, if you're reading this on Sunday), I'm posting over at (in)courage under the "Daily Guests" column. It's my first guest post and I can't help but smiling that it also happens to appear on Father's Day because I hope that whatever and whenever I write, that it's for Him and because of Him. Happy Father's Day, Abba. :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

scarecrows in melon patches

I'm going through the book of Jeremiah with my mom and one of my sisters using Kay Arthur's, "Listening to God in Difficult Times," which is part of her New Inductive Study Series. If you've never encountered one of her studies and like to get into the meat of the Word, check out her studies. (One feature I loved on her site was the ability to choose a study based on "no homework," "15 minutes of homework" or "one hour of homework.")

I'm in Jeremiah Chapter 10 and encountered a boxing match. The opponents? Idols vs. God. So that you may know the opponents a little better, here is a synopsis of how each is described throughout the chapter:

Idols: can't speak, can't walk, wooden, worthless, perishable, fraudulent, dressed up, objects of mockery, images, and my favorite, like scarecrows in melon patches

God: Lord, King, eternal King, true God, living God, Maker, Portion of Jacob, Lord Almighty

Any guesses as to who might win each round and every match? That should be a rhetorical question.

But, I suspect, for many of us (myself included), what actually happens is that we put our idols up against God and get them to duke it out, hedging our bets that this time, our idol will come through.

This got me wondering why it is easy to fall into the trap of trusting in an idol and thinking it has the power to do anything.

Perhaps it has to do with seeing and believing. Like when I'm emotionally frazzled and want to talk with someone, it's easier to reach out to a fellow human whose voice I can easily hear and whose arms can hug me in sympathy. But God is teaching me to turn to Him first when I need a friend and counsel. And that even though I may have a hard time discerning His whispers above my own voice and the enemy's clamor and can't feel His arms around me, He still is there, listening and speaking to my heart, hugging me with His peace, reassuring me He won't leave.

Or when we have a whole lot of bills to pay, it's easy to fall into the trap of being reassured by a bank account that has enough money in it to cover our bills. Because trusting and believing God for every penny can turn into a roller coaster ride where doubt that God will come through in the end threatens to derail the car at every turn.

Or when I need a little extra reassurance of protection, it can be easy to fall into the trap of seeking security in things I can see. I fell headfirst into that trap last year (and still cringe about it). Dave was out of town for a few nights and I had just finished reading the book, "A Lion to Guard Us" to the kids. So when a snowfall presented us with an opportunity to make some snowmen, I decided to make a snow lion. And then, just as the little boy in the book drew comfort from a lion-shaped door knocker his father had given him before heading out to sea, I began to imagine we had a snow lion sitting out front, guarding us until Dave returned home. Pathetic, right? But that's exactly what idols are and what might start out as seeming all fun and innocent can quickly turn into a slippery slope down the path of destruction.

And that is the deception of idolatry. It makes you think it's harmless and blinds you to the fact that you dethroned the eternal King, however momentarily, in your life. Thankfully, God quickly called me to account on the "snow lion incident" and I pray He uses it to sharpen my awareness to idols that want to creep into my life.

For creep they will. But we have the reassurance from Jesus in John 20:29 that we are blessed when we have not seen and yet believe.

And, in the words of Paul in his letter to the Philippians,"I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (chapter 3, versus 12-14  NIV) Amen.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

rhythm and mood

After having a total breakdown in the middle of last night (a result of not being able to fall asleep until 3 a.m., a sick child who was too agitated to sleep soundly and running around with many balls in the air for so long), I really needed to hear this song by JJ Hellar. It's been one of my favorites for a while (and a great song to run to).

Thankfully God's mercies are new every morning and He's teaching me a valuable lesson in the meantime. :)

around the house: repurposing ideas

Last day to enter the giveaway. :)

I stumbled across this book at our local library last year and loved the fun ideas for re-purposing items and also saving them from the garbage heap.

I especially was inspired by "The Salvage Sisters'" idea to create a quilt from past-their-prime jeans and decided to put together a quilt for our family. It's still a work in progress, but here's how it looks so far:

Here are some other ideas that I've used around our house:

Converting a wall hanging to curtains: Dave had a batik print hanging on his wall back in his bachelor days. When we moved it got stored away until I repainted our boy's room last year and thought it would work well as curtains. All I did was cut it in two, hem the cut edges and create a casing for the curtain rod. Easy peasy.

Using curtain rods as garden stakes: we used this idea in our garden to support tomato plants and to support netting we needed to put up to keep out the deer. This is the best picture I have of using the curtain rods. Note the decorative finals (which we eventually removed because they were too sharp and pointy - but if you use this idea, consider using rods with interesting finials)

Plastic cupcake holders make great change holders: we have one of these to hold our spare change in a cabinet near our kitchen phone. They'd also work well organizing items in a drawer such as buttons, safety pins, elastics and paper clips. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

personal care green tips

I wanted to share two of my favorite skin products - one I just discovered and the other I learned about a few years ago. Since doing a lot of research a few years ago and learning about what goes into skin care products, I've been more vigilant as to what I put on my skin. Here's my new favorite lotion which has a tropical scent (I found it at Target):

I've also been using California Baby's sunscreen on myself and my children for a couple of years now and was excited to discover Target also carries it (save on shipping!). You can get it unscented but I love the lemongrass scent of the regular screen.

Here are a few other personal care tips:
  • If you have an infant, use cloth wipes instead of disposable ones (this also saves you some green :) ). I bought some cheap white ones so I could bleach them if needed. It takes a little more planning when you travel (e.g. make sure you pre-moisten them if you won't be near a water-source), but it's much kinder to the environment. I also noticed that when my  boys had diaper rashes, a wet washcloth doesn't sting their skin like the disposable ones did when I used them on my daughter.
  • And speaking of rashes, I have found cornstarch helps prevent rashes, or when my children have had a rash, to combine it with petroleum jelly or diaper ointment to create a thick paste to create a good barrier on your baby's skin. 
  • Baking soda works as underarm deodorant
  • Reuse (washed and thoroughly dried) large spice shakers for your baking soda deodorant or to hold the cornstarch for your baby's bottom. My brother-in-law actually came up with this one and our family has used ever since.
 P.S. Only one more day to enter the giveaway!

Monday, June 6, 2011

giveaway green tips: birthday edition (including a tutorial!)

Since today is Ben's birthday, I thought it was only fitting to do birthday-related green tips (you have two more days to enter the giveaway). So without further ado, here they are:

1. Use strips of material instead of ribbon madeof plastic. See...

2. Use fabric to wrap your gifts instead of paper - especially good for your family members and friends who like to sew :). Here's a baby gift I wrapped in material and finished off with coordinating grosgrain ribbon:

3. Instead of paper/plasticky gift bags,use cloth bags. Here's one I put together (see this post for details)

And here's a lovely one my mom gave us:

4. Since pennants are a big thing lately, I came up with an idea for a birthday pennant and a way to upcycle your birthday cards. Usually, I end up recycling the cards because I have a daymare (grin) of drowning in paper and visions of our children going through all our stuff when we're gone and exclaiming over the mountains of cards we collected over the years. Anyway...I may need to amend my paper-tossing habits because God was gracious enough to give me this fun idea for hanging onto a bit of nostalgia. Thus, a tutorial for:

Step 1: Collect the cards and select one of them to use as a template. You may want to use a smaller rectangle - choosing a larger one may mean your template won't fit on the smaller cards. Unless you want to create several different sizes of triangles.

Step 2: Make your template. Tear the card in half along the crease mark. Like this:

Then, using the back half of the card (the one with the main message), fold it in half. Like this:

Next, using a ruler, draw a diagonal line from one corner to the other. Like this:

Cut along the diagonal, unfold, and...voila! your template.

Step 3: Cut out your pennant pieces. Using your template trace around the colorful front of the card and cut out. At this point, you may want to write on the back who the card was from, who the card was for, and the year. Also, you may want to play with the order of the pieces to get a pleasing pattern.

Step 4: String your pennant pieces together. Punch two holes at the top and thread string, ribbon or raffia through the holes. Holes small in diameter are better than larger ones unless you are using a thick material to string the pennants - you want to be able to slide the pennants along and adjust their position easily.

Step 5: Hang up on the day of the celebration and enjoy. Tuck away for the next birthday and add to it as you collect more cards. If you have more than one child, you may want to create a banner for each. Or mix them up and pull out the banner for every special occasion (in which case cards for other occasions may be used).

Funny behind-the-tutorial-scenes story: Apparently, I was very thorough in purging our birthday card collection from years past because I couldn't find any to use for this tutorial. However, I did have the entire cache of cards from our wedding and wedding showers, in case you noticed the wedding theme to the cards I used in the pictures. :)

I also admit to using the plasticky ribbon stuff to string these together - something I already had on hand. So if you still have this stuff in your stash, consider using it for this craft since it's meant to be something to hang onto for a number of years versus being bound for the trash heap after the gift opening is over.

Happy Birthday Ben!

eating his cake (one day early)

I can't believe my baby turns two today. I feel like I've tried to hold onto his babyhood longer than the others and certainly, this is the longest I've ever gone without being pregnant since we started having children. Sigh.

our favorite birth day picture
Ben is the only one of our four to arrive on his due date. The fact that he was later than the other three was wearing me to a frazzle and I was having such a hard time giving my worry over to God. Not my best moments.

So, in the interest of growing me in the area of trust and patience, God waited until 12:30 a.m. on Ben's due date to kick things in gear. I love His timing.

I thought my water had broken, but it turns out it hadn't - the doctor went ahead and broke it and very quickly things got IN.tense. I seriously contemplated the decision of going without an epidural because I was experiencing crazy painful contractions and when the nurse checked me I was only at 5 cm. I kept thinking there was no way I could go another hour or so to get to 10 cm at this intensity (which is the amount of time I figured it would take to get there). Turns out it only took me another 10 minutes or so - the next time the nurse checked I was at 8 and then on the next contraction (or maybe it was the one after that) I felt something...drop (I liked to stand up as I labored. Gravity is a good thing).

I jumped up on the bed fully expecting Ben to be halfway out already, but was relieved to find he wasn't as close to dropping on the floor as I first thought. Several pushes later and he was here. Interesting to note...all our children were born very near the half hour...and come to think of it, we were married on the half hour, too...

Anyway, here are some pictures to capture our littlest man in highlights of the past two years:

the best pic we could get as a new family of 6 :)

Ben tiring of waiting for me to finish up in the kitched

Ben loves his big sister

his favorite sleeping position once he could roll himself over - face down, arms tucked under him

Ben loves his daddy!

one year old  B.C. (before crawling)


he's not a baby anymore :(

playing with dinosaurs just like his big brothers

We celebrated yesterday with family and gave him a tricycle with a parent-friendly handle (finally, for the fourth child we realized the wisdom in this accessory :) ). It was Ben's favorite part too - which made Luke happy since he also thought it was a great gift. Please pray for the birthday boy (and Luke) - they both have wicked colds which have developed into fevers, and for Luke, mega-swollen glands.

Birthday edition of the giveaway green tips will be posted later today :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

swim finds and giveaway green tips

 I'm (re)discovering that I'm not a wing it kind of person. I am a planner through and through.

Which, for me, means adding research into my preparation for the triathlon. So far, I've been focused on what exactly to wear on race day, especially since the swim portion adds an interesting twist to "what to wear" dilemma and on freestyle swimming techniques.

Here's what I've discovered so far:
1. Swim goggles are a must. This probably is a no brainer, but some part of me was holding out hope that I could get away without needing them. Didn't work. 
2. Take some time to get used to the goggles before the race.When I tried out the goggles for the first time, it was a little freaky to see above the water, below the water and see my arms moving in the water all at the same time. Kind of made me a little "sea" sick. ;)

3. Spend a little extra and get a good pair of goggle. Dave got me a pair of Speedo(R) "Hydrosity" goggles from our local sports store. They worked well the first time, but then the straps became progressively looser with each use and the lenses kept filling with water. Part of the issue is that I have a smaller face. So...back to our favorite hometown sports store. Turn out the "Hydrosity" goggles are, in the words of the sales associate, "a kids goggle." Happily, they had a pair of women's goggles (I got the Speedo(R) "Vanquisher," but not the mirrored ones from this link) with a set of nose bridge pieces that can be swapped out until you find the perfect fit. Very cool. These goggles also have two straps which give a snugger fit.So far, so good.

4. Anti-fog solution for the goggles also is a must.

5. Swim caps aren't (at least for training). After readying the May edition of Triathlete Magazine, one athlete recommended this swim cap because it's easier on your hair.I got Speedo(R)'s version thinking it would keep my hair from getting wet and damaged from the chlorine. Didn't work - my hair still gets wet.

6. It's hard to find a two-piece competition swimsuit. So far my efforts have been unfruitful since the sports stores in our area aren't carrying competition-savvy two-pieces (other than one that say "life guard on the chest") and the one I ordered online was too skimpy in the bottoms. Note: I could make it easy and get a one-piece, but it bugs me when I'm running (and the temperatures are hot) to have something clinging to my torso. So the search is on.
Which leads me to the giveaway Green Tip...
Reuse (clean and empty :) ) cereal box liners to store your wet swimsuit.
I've been saving and reusing cereal box liners for awhile now when I decided to stop buying Ziplock(R) sandwhich and storage bags as a way of reducing the amount of plastic we use in our home. For the most part, I reuse the liners for storing leftovers and other food, but here are some other ways you could reuse them (if you have any severe food allergies in your family, you may not want to use this idea):
  • Tuck some in a diaper bag for anything that needs its mess (or smell!) contained until you get home
  • If you're shipping a breakable package or are moving, use them as packing material
  • If you're going on a picnic and have items that may leak, put the container in the liner and secure with an elastic band.
Any other ideas? Please share them in the comment section. :)