Monday, April 30, 2012

habit forming (updated with disclaimer)

Habits are funny things. They come, they go, they can be hard to form or hard to stop. I wonder why that is? The difficulty or ease with which they form.

And what makes a habit stay for a lifetime? That's something I'd like to understand. Because there are a few habits I'd like to stick around for as long as I the habit of recording my "sacrifices of praise" to God. He desires it. It brings deep, abiding joy, and yet, for the past two months I'd gotten out of the habit of writing them down.

Sure I would make a mental note of them as they happened and think, "I'll remember this forever." I don't. And it's funny how writing them down solidifies something in my spirit, but that doesn't happen when I just leave it as a thought.

So I'm left wondering how can I make this habit of recording gifts a lifetime habit. After all, I've successfully (to this date) made a habit of getting dressed, brushing my teeth, making meals even on days when I'd rather not. Does fear of what might happen if I don't do these things motivate me (e.g. I wouldn't be decent in public, my teeth would rot and my breath would smell, I'd go hungry).

Or is it because I've been doing these things for years and they've become a part of me?

If anyone has wisdom on this habit-forming subject, I'm all ears. Because the alternative to not doing this daily is to miss out on the greater joy God has in store for those who look, who seek, who knock.

Gifts from today...
  • Reese having a good day at school, experiencing joy in a place he'd rather not be (for now)
  • Impromptu get together with friends on a warm afternoon
  • Dave home early from work
  • Boys time with Daddy
  • Chili on the stove - a meal for more than one night
  • Maple keys falling like rain
  • Eyes on God
  • Shredding paper

If you're looking for a place to record your gifts, your thoughts or even your to-do list, perhaps consider a journal from Delicate Fortress Creations (if you don't already have one or are almost at the end of your current journal). Like these mini ones from (so portable).

Or maybe a larger one just begging to have its pages filled to the brim with the gifts God gives you.

By purchasing one through DFC, you'll be helping women and children in extreme poverty.*


Linking with:

Disclaimer: If you make a purchase at DFC through my unique ambassador link, I will get a portion of the sale which I can use towards my own purchases at DFC. But I share about DFC because I believe this is what our consumer culture must move towards - fair trade and justice for everyone on God's earth. You also have the option to make a purchase through DFC without going through me too. :)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

i am their voice

I want to share with you an issue that is growing near and dear to my heart and an organization that is doing something about it.

The issue: slavery and human trafficking
The organization: Delicate Fortress Creations

Up until a few years ago, I always thought slavery was a thing of the past. After all it's no longer socially acceptable to kidnap people and then force them to do hard labor with little/no pay and poor living conditions. I mean, no one these days thinks that's a good/normal/just thing to do, right?


Because it is going on. All the time. The only problem is, it's much harder to spot.

And that's why Delicate Fortress Creations and the work they do is so important.

I started reading DFCs blog a couple of years ago and was captivated by Karyn's (DFCs founder) commitment and her solution to this issue. As you read her blog, you'll find yourself becoming more aware of the various issues surrounding modern day slavery and human trafficking and other organizations that are fighting for the ones with no voice.

And when you shop their store, you will proactively be joining in the fight too because DFC is all about "provid[ing] dignity, livelihood and fair wages to female artisans all over the world." After all, fair wages = a chance for women to survive without selling themselves or their children = freedom. 

To help raise awareness about DFCs work, they recently began offering an ambassador program for bloggers and businesses. So I signed up.If you have a blog or business and find this issue tugs on your heart too, visit DFC here to learn more about their ambassador program.

As a disclaimer, DFC offers its ambassadors free gifts and a small percentage of any sales generated through their unique ambassador link. So, in a sense, I will be compensated for sharing on this issue. But I would do this even if I received nothing in return because this issue is to important for me to keep silent. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

the best vegan peanut butter cookies ever

I'm always on the lookout for healthier versions of favorite classic recipes. I stumbled upon this recipe in the "Feeding the Healthy Vegetarian Family" cookbook by Ken Haedrich.

I was skeptical at first that this recipe would even work given the absence of eggs or egg replacer, but I bravely sallied forth and was delighted with the results. The only trouble with this recipe is that it tastes so healthy that it's hard to stop eating them!

Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies
1 c. natural, unsweetened, unsalted peanut butter (I like the Smucker's brand though it does have some salt)
1 c. pure maple syrup

1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour*
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
chocolate chips (optional)

*Whole wheat pastry flour is essential. The first time I made these, I used regular whole wheat flour which does not have the same "wow" factor.

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper
2.Whisk together peanut butter, maple syrup, oil and vanilla.
3. Combine dry ingredients (except chocolate chips) and make a well in the center.
4. Pour p.b./maple syrup mixture into dry ingredients and stir until mixed.
5. Let the dough sit for 10-20 minutes (I found doing so resulted in rounder, "puffier" cookies)
6. Shape dough into 1-2" balls and place on cookie sheet
7. Using an oiled fork, press cookie dough down, then decorate with a few chocolate chips if desired.
8. Bake 10-12 minutes and let them cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.

Linking with KoJo Designs Friday Fun Finds

Thursday, April 26, 2012

3 gifts on Thursday: "re"gift edition

***Remember: silent auction over at Jen's til midnight this Saturday.***

No, I'm not re-gifting previous gifts. Nor will you be receiving something I've already gotten (not sure about the grammar on that one, but we'll run with it anyway). To continue with the green theme of last week's gift, here's are three gifts in the form of reducing, reusing and recycling.

For previous 3 Gifts installments, click here. If you would like to have a "gift" featured in this series, please see the bottom of this post for details.

1. the gift of reducing
I saw in a recent Heifer's World Ark magazine (I think it was in their 2011 Holiday issue) that industrialized countries throw away a ridiculous amount of food - 925 million tons! With people starving in this world that just is unacceptable. Our family is guilty of it, and I've tried to reduce our percentage over the years. One thing I've found which helps immensely is planning our meals weekly. Since starting this practice a several years ago, I no longer arbitrarily buy items thinking they'll come in handy for a meal. Now I know what I need and on what day I'll use it.

Bonus side effect: No longer wondering what we'll have for dinner one hour before we need to eat. The hardest thing to account for is whether one or more child will decide they no longer like the food item placed in front of them.

Further reduce waste going to landfills by composting your plant-based foods and eggshells. Even if you don't use it in your garden, you may be surprised how much less garbage you toss away.

2. the gift of reusing
Ever buy food items that come in resealable bags (e.g. craisins)? Instead of tossing the packaging, try using them in packed lunches or when you need to bring a snack on the go. I was going to make Brianna and Reese cute reusable sandwich keepers when they started school, discovered these resealable bags did the trick and saved me time.

3. the gift of recyclying
When my husband recently began a job with Habitat for Humanity we discovered a large part of their funds come from their ReStore - a shop which resells donated items for the home. It's a mystery how this store remained undiscovered by us for so long given our close proximity to its location and that fact that we've renovated so many homes. If you've never heard of this yourself, you can see if there's one near you by clicking here. Consider it as a good place to donated new and gently-used household goods and building materials too. So far we've found a new back door for our garage, a great kitchen chair and vintage white ceramic drawer pulls for my third floor update project. Happy hunting!

If you have a "gift" you'd like me to consider wrapping into a 3 Gifts on Thursday package, please email me the details. It can be anything you are hosting or have heard about: from a giveaways to service projects, household/parenting tips, resources, promotions/coupon codes, items such as books, music, movies, etc (ones available for purchase online). If I choose to incorporate your gift suggestion into a 3 Gifts post, I will email you to let you know when it will be featured.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

silent auction


There's no getting around the fact that God designed women for fellowship with other women. Jen, over at Finding Heaven, has done a wonderful job of honoring God's design by creating a community online through her blog and weekly "Soli Deo Gloria" link up. So it was really exciting to hear her announcement several months ago that she was planning a retreat for the SDG sisterhood in Austin, TX.

Though I'm still waiting on the Lord to determine whether I'll be there in person or in spirit, I felt a tug on my heart to help Jen lower the cost to attend the conference by donating a few of my handmade items (and a portion of any proceeds from my shop this week).

So if you are looking for a Mother's Day gift or want to get ahead on gift-giving for other occasions or could just plain use one of these items for yourself, please stop on by Jen's to consider bidding on one or more of the three items up for auction. And/or, if you place an order with me this week (either through the shop page on my blog or etsy shop), I'll donate 10% of the proceeds to Jen for the conference.

If this is your first introduction to Jen, I hope you'll find it a frequent place to visit - especially on SDG days.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

life offline

It's hard to imagine life without the computer isn't it? I remember playing spelling games on the good ol' Commodore 64 back in the '80's and our first home computer (lovely orange duotone screen plus a dot matrix printer).

And seems everything is connected in someway to a computer. Though it is possible to perform basic functions like getting dressed and eating, I'm sure at some point our children will wonder how we ever did those things without the aid of a computer.

So when I decided to fast from the computer for Lent, I figured it might be difficult, but I never realized just how freeing it can be. The biggest challenges usually came in when trying to remember when our multitudes of books were due at the library (email notifications of life savers!), knowing what the extended forecast looked like (because in these parts it's a really mixed bag) and finding directions to places.

Yet it streamlined by decision making on my to-do and helped me focus on who I am in God's eyes. It was so refreshing, I'm 99% sure I'll continue to some version of this on a regular basis, though in smaller increments.

And, because I don't want to forget all the goodness of those 47 days, here's a snapshot of what I did:

*Painted our 3rd floor and designated it as a sewing/reading/praying room. At some point, i.e. when we finish the room by installing brighter lighting, I'll share pictures. But for now picture a room 2/3rd dark paneling converted by paint to a room all in a soft-white.

* I finally finished the quilt for my nephew Jack. I started it two years ago. It felt great to finally check this one off my list and here are the finished results.

*Ben took a trip to the ER after splitting the skin above his nose at the playground - he came home with stitches, a couple of hot wheels cars, a cool light up thingy, a story about how he got to ride in an ambulance and taxi car. But those are details for another post. ;) Seriously, and eternally gratefully, though, he's fine and we're blessed it wasn't his eye that took the brunt of the fall.

*In happier Ben news, he's potty trained!!! Which, as all parents know, is big news. Hallelujah - we're almost diaper free. If I made New Year's Resolutions (and if I could actually control something like this) I'd add "being completely diaper free to the list."

*We finally said goodbye to Dave's car last month. It was seriously weird to feel this attached to a car. But it was the same car he had when we were dating, we drove home in it after we got married, we brought at least two of the kids home in it from the hospital (as babies, not due to accidents, though that probably happened too). Sigh. I still miss the sight of it's rusting out backside in our driveway, the slowly rusting away gas cover and that oh-so-familiar rattle as it came up the driveway. Ben misses the ability to open and close "Daddy car" doors (the doors on our new-to-us car are not quite so amiable).
goodbye faithful steed of metal

*I started taking Luke and Ben to story time at the library again. Though it's really for Luke's age group, it's such a delight to see how Ben gets right in there.

*I started seeing a counselor after realizing the depression/anxiety/whatever I was experiencing toward the end of last year was not going to go away on its own. I'll probably post more about this in the future as I believe mental health issues are pervasive, yet often hidden in our society. The counseling is a blessing and I believe God is using this time to answer a long-time prayer of mine.

*I went with my parents and daughter to a Seder dinner put on by a Messianic Jewish temple and have tucked away thoughts to share on this for a later post, but the experience was amazing.

*I still occasionally thought in blog posts. Which probably tells me God just put this desire to write inside me.


Now I feel like I've caught up with an old friend. And if you've stuck with me to this point in the post - thanks for listening. :)

Linking with:

Friday, April 20, 2012

3 gifts on thursday (on friday)

Sunday is Earth Day, so I thought it only appropriate to have "green" gifts this week.

For previous 3 Gifts installments, click here. If you would like to have a "gift" featured in this series, please see the bottom of this post for details.

1. the gift of buying organic
Organic food is healthier for you and for the earth. It tastes better too. (If you haven't tried the organic difference already, choose at least one organic fruit or veg to buy for one month. After the month, try the non-oganic can almost taste the chemicals). Admittedly, until and unless organic becomes a way of life in our food production chain, organic produce can be a bit pricier. However, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) developed a list of 12 non-organic fruits and veggies, known as "the dirty dozen," which are known to have high pesticide contamination levels. Perhaps if enough people avoid buying these pesticide-laden foods, producers will switch to organic practices. :) The EWG also has a list of "the clean 15" so you can see which non-organic produce items have low pesticide levels present. I printed out this list and put it on my refrigerator so when I make my shopping list, I note which items I want to buy organic, and which I'm okay with buying "regular."

2. the gift of safer waste disposal
Reese helped me come up with this one - he learned it in school. :) In the past, I've always tossed used up batteries in the garbage without a second thought. Reese shared that it's better to create a "battery box," or whatever container is handy, and use it to collect the dead batteries. When the box is full take it to a local disposal facility so they can be recycled and made into new batteries. For more information on recycling batteries, visit this link.

3. the gift of a free green bag
Seventh Generation is running an offer to receive a free reusable tote. It's called the Lorax ChicoBag(R). To get the bags, you need to buy two specially tagged Seventh Generation laundry, cleaner or dish products, visit their site and enter the product codes and then they'll send you a bag.Target carries their line and I'm sure most health food stores selling household products will as well.

If you have a "gift" you'd like me to consider wrapping into a 3 Gifts on Thursday package, please email me the details. It can be anything you are hosting or have heard about: from a giveaways to service projects, household/parenting tips, resources, promotions/coupon codes, items such as books, music, movies, etc (ones available for purchase online). If I choose to incorporate your gift suggestion into a 3 Gifts post, I will email you to let you know when it will be featured.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Well, yesterday I finally found it when I was getting ready for church. My first gray hair. At least I think it's my first. Who knows, there could have been others hiding out long before this one.

I'd been wondering for awhile when I might make this discovery and it comes with a mixed bag of emotions.

Yes, I wanted to cry because it's a glaring reminder that I am getting older than what I feel. On any given day, ask me how old I am and I seriously have to think about it. I'll be 36 this year, but I only feel like I'm approaching 30 (and a few weeks ago I was asked if I was of drinking age!).

Yet, if I take God at His Word, these soon-to-be multiplying gray hairs (or albinos as Dave prefers to call them), will give me a crown of splendor and are an indication that I'm leading a righteous life, which really is nothing to shed a few tears over. Stop by Proverb 16:31 to see it black and white.

I fully anticipate a struggle of "to dye or not to dye" to rise up within me, especially if I go all gray well before I feel ready to wear that crown. But perhaps that is the point. Perhaps God gives us this crown regardless of how we feel about it to test our faith. Are we standing on His Word and what He says or will we be swayed by the world?

So how do you see it? If you have gray hair, do you see it as a crown of splendor or something to cover up? Tell me the story of your splendorific discovery.

Linking with:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

if you love personalized artwork...

My youngest sister is seriously blessed with creative talent. Though you might say I'm kind of biased, I've always loved her unique style in the drawing department.

For Reese' 7th (and where did those seven years go?!) birthday, she drew him a Calvin & Hobbes-esque style cartoon for us to frame for his wall. Reesie Piece loves his Judah-lion given by his Aunt Amy for his birth-day and through his love of reading, he's discovered an affinity for Calvin & Hobbes cartoons. Hence this:

was a perfect gift for him.

Here are some of my other favorites she's done and posted on her blog.

If you like this style and are looking for a unique and personalized gift for someone (or for yourself), you can contact Lauren through her blog.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


As I suspected, re-balancing life with the computer back in it, is more challenging than cutting it out altogether.

Without the computer, my choices of how to spend my free time were pared down to praying, reading, sewing, a home improvement project which I'll share more on in a future post, and the occasional workout. Now, I still want to do all those things, plus add in the menu of options the computer brings with it. I often bemoan that God designed me to need 8 hours of sleep to feel rested. Only sleeping four hours a night would allow me to get so. much. more. done. And would leave me leaning less on Him and prayerfully discerning how best to spend the time He gives me.

All this to say I'm not sure how much I will post over the next several months and especially when our children are on summer vacation. I'd like to think it will be more than once a week, yet my prayer for this blog is that it reflects what God is doing in my heart and my life. So perhaps some weeks I'll post often when the words well up within and must be spilled over in a river of black and white, while others will be quiet while I tend to other pieces of life important and dear to Him and to me.

For now, this week may be more quiet - with Brianna and Reese at home my focus is called elsewhere, but I am treasuring up in my heart what I want to share here.

Until the next post...

Monday, April 9, 2012

back again

Hi everyone!

I'm back again. Or will be slowly over the next couple of weeks. I was fasting from the computer entirely during Lent and through Easter and now need to play catch up with emails (!) and my shop. This week back online also happens to coordinate with my children's spring break AND Reese's birthday. I'm excited to share more about these past 47 days and reconnecting with you all.