"For I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in You...You make it Beautiful Somehow"

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Little Encouragement

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galations 6:9

Has your job as a wife, mother, or homemaker, made you weary this week? Don't give up, don't loose heart! This job is not an easy one, but the "harvest" will make all the endless laundry, dirty diapers, and runny noses worth it! As you finish up the week and head into the weekend, bring to mind the verse above any time you feel like it is just too much. Then ask God to give you strength to keep going, to keep having the right attitude, to keep setting a good example for the little eyes that are watching you.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend with your families! Monday, I am going to have an exciting, probably crazy (ok definitely crazy), 30 day challenge for you! See you then!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Treasure Basket

My little guys love to discover new things. Especially Luke. He is at that age where he is curious about everything around him! I can't even open the dishwasher without him crawling as fast as he can to it, and then trying to take everything I put in it, back out. He wants to touch and chew on everything within reach.

I recently found The Imagination Tree blog via Pinterest. It has loads of wonderful ideas for sensory and heuristic play. I instantly loved her idea for Treasure Baskets. You fill a basket with every day items from around your home or outside. Items such as...different fabrics, wooden objects, kitchen utensils (safe for baby of course!), pine cones, ribbon, sea shells, beaded necklaces, etc. The idea is to find objects that are safe for your little one to explore. Items with different colors, textures, and patterns that will peak their curiosity and interest. The concept behind this is known as Heuristic Play. If you want to learn more about Heuristic play check out this post from Little Acorns To Might Oaks.

I knew this idea would be a huge hit with Luke. He has a basket filled with various rattles, blocks, and other baby toys that he loves. He sits next to it, takes one toy out at a time, looks it over, shakes it, chews on it, then tosses it aside and proceeds to the next toy.

These are a few of the things I put into Luke's "treasure basket"...

various fabrics
piece of scratchy velcro
brightly colored chunky necklaces
measuring tape
empty thread spools on a shoe lace
2 wooden hearts and a car
large sea shell
3 clothes pins
large metal kitchen spoon
bean bag
foam shapes

All of these are objects we have either found in our home or on a nature walk. No cost whatsoever!
(Don't forget to make sure when choosing items for your basket, that they are age appropriate and safe for your little one. I would also suggest supervising them while they play with their basket to make sure nothing gets lodged anywhere!)

It was a HUGE hit! Luke loved it!

The funny thing is, Jack loved it more. Luke sat there for a good 15 minutes, inspecting several of the items. Jack sat there for almost 45 minutes! He wanted to touch and feel everything in the basket. Once he had that out of the way, he began to figure out how each item "worked". His favorite item...a retractable measuring tape. He would pull it out, let it snap back quickly, and laugh hysterically. This would make Luke laugh as well. It was so adorable!

Luke's favorite part of it all...

...sticking every item in his mouth!

After a while I put the basket away. I pull it out once a day and allow the boys to play with it. Jack discovers new ways to play with the items each time. Luke watches him very closely and often tries to mimic Jack. I switch out half of the items every few days to keep them interested and excited. I may even try to do a few "themed" treasure baskets in the future. It has been a wonderful way for the boys to discover and learn to be more creative in their play.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Today We Built A Tepee...

The weather here in Oklahoma has been absolutely amazing this past week. We have been soaking it all in and spending as much time outside as we possibly can. We read books and ate snacks in our little tepee. Jack eventually brought a few of his toys inside to play. There is just something about little spaces that children love!

 Little brother enjoying a banana in the shade. 

We used some bamboo poles that we bought at Wal-Mart in the garden section (only $1.50 for a package of 12) as our basic structure. I pushed them into the ground, tied them together at the top with some rope, draped a fun looking table cloth over the top, and tied it to the sides. Instant tepee!

I would love to someday make a more "permanent" tepee out side like this one from Creek Side Learning or an indoor one like this from The Boo and the Boy.

It was a wonderful time spent together!
What do you like to do on a beautiful spring afternoon?

Linking to Frugally Sustainable!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Natural Cleaning: Getting Started

I feel like I have been on a journey lately. My views on certain things have changed so drastically in the last few months. Since deciding to move to Houston to help plant a multicultural church, I have been searching all over the internet for new ways to start saving money for my family. What started as just a way to save money has slowly evolved into seeking a healthier lifestyle for my family. It all started with trying coupons. I did okay with it initially.  I would grab two copies of the Sunday paper, match up coupons to the sales, and get to cutting. I would go to the store and come back home feeling really good about how much money I had saved. I would get laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, and even some food. Our stock pile was slowly beginning to grow. However,  I quickly started to realize that I was spending an extra $20-$30 a week buying these coupon items to build our stock pile. We simply didn't have the extra money in our budget to do that. I tried to reason that in the long run we would save a lot of money by not having to buy these products at full price. Maybe I wasn't doing it right, or spending enough time working at it, but it just was not working for us. I finally gave up.

I went back to researching other ways to save the money we needed to be saving. I finally stumbled upon a blog one day that opened my eyes to a whole new way of doing things. I saw a post on Like a Mustard Seed blog about making your own laundry soap. Now I had heard before about some one doing this and never had thought very seriously about it. However, after seeing how cheap and easy it would be to make, I started getting excited. While talking with one of my best friends in Ohio, I shared with her my laundry soap find. She told me that her Uncle actually made his own cleaning products. He used one gallon of water and adds in 1/3 cup of white vinegar to clean the floors and surfaces in the day care he cleaned.

Could it be that simple!?!?!

I decided to give this a try first. Here is the final recipe I ended up using:
1 Gallon Water
1/3 Cup Distilled White Vinegar
1 Lemon Rind

Obviously the only thing I changed from my friend's Uncle's recipe was to add lemon peels.  I saved a gallon jug from our milk, used a funnel to add the water and vinegar, and added one whole lemon rind. I poured some of the mixture into a spray bottle and added a few more lemon rinds. The lemon rinds added a fresh lemon smell to mask the vinegar smell.  I sprayed the floor with the mixture and used my mop like normal. So easy and works great! Even after using the more expensive floor cleaners, my floor would still feel slightly sticky. It drove me nuts! Now my floor feels clean, looks clean, and smells clean! 

I have began to use this cleaner on my kitchen counters, kitchen table, the bathroom, and even to wipe down appliances! My favorite thing about this cleaner is that not only is it cheap cheap cheap, but it is also much safer for my family, and so much better for the environment. I am hooked! I will never go back to buying expensive cleaning products again! 

I am continually looking for and finding new recipes for cleaning products.  You can check out my pinterest board Make it Yourself! for a lot of the recipes I am using. I will also share some of my favorites with you in later posts.

I currently am making...
tub and shower cleaner
dishwasher detergent
dryer sheets
Color Safe Bleach Alternative
Citrus Enzyme Cleaner

On my list to make is...
Laundry Detergent (I am waiting to run out of my stockpile first)
"Clorox" Wipes
Hand and Dish Soap

Seeing how much better these cleaning products are for my family has me researching other ways, not only to save my family money, but more importantly, to be healthier. As I mentioned in this post, I am slowly starting to rework my family's diet. We are eating more real food as opposed to processed, boxed food. I am also very interested in making our own body wash, shampoo, lotion, deodorant, and toothpaste. I plan on trying each of these out when we run out of them in our stock pile.

I have even began to think about switching out the medicines in our cabinet with more natural/herbal remedies, as well as growing our own vegetable garden. These two ideas however, are going to take much more research before diving in. 

I am so excited about it all! I will be sharing with you as I try new ideas...whether they are successes or failures!

Have you tried making your own cleaning supplies? Any tried and true recipes that you love?
Please share below, I am always looking for new ideas!

Linking to Raising HomemakersMake Your Move MondayHomestead Barn HopRaising Arrows

Monday, March 26, 2012

Managing Our Home...the Ultimate List

The first time I heard of a Home Management Binder I kind of laughed. My thought was "wow, that is a little unnecessary". I just didn't see a need for it. Two kids later...I totally get it! Between the boys schedules, doctor appointments, homeschooling Jack, Chad's schedule, church activities, keeping up with laundry and cloth diapers, keeping up with cleaning the house, and shopping for and cooking meals...it gets a little crazy. I found my self constantly playing catch up and feeling stressed out when I would get behind. On top of that, all of our schedules were starting to conflict. I would schedule a necessary doctors appointment on a day my husband had something big scheduled. It quickly became frustrating.

One day, I was looking at Passionate Homemaking, a blog I LOVE, and she was explaining her Home Management Binder. I started taking a serious look at the links she provides. I have to say...they are really cool! This is coming from a girl who loves to make lists! They honestly have every kind of list you could ever think of making. For me, it was love. Oh man...I know...I am a dork, but I do love it. I get so much more accomplished in a day, feel so much more organized, and a lot less stressed.  So here is a look at my home management binder...

I am all about doing things the inexpensive way, so I looked around my house first to find what supplies I already had on hand to use. I grabbed...
3 ring binder
 Scrapbook paper
 Colored Sharpies, glue stick, and scissors
File Folders
 Hole puncher
Computer and Printer

The first thing I did was to decided what sections I wanted to have in my binder. I chose to include...
Weekly Overview
Daily Overview
Menu and Recipes
Family Info
Master Copies

There are a lot more you could include depending upon your own needs. Here are some additional ideas... Schedule, Finances, Inventory, Blog Posts, Contacts, Medical, ect. Add anything that applies to your families specific needs. I am planning on still adding a Contacts and Blog Posts section to mine.

Next I went through several different websites to pick out which templates I wanted to use. You can check out the Passionate Homemaking link above or check out my Pinterest board Organization and I have pinned the sites where you can find some of the templates that I used. I especially love this site and this site for free printables. 

What I did...

Once I gathered all my supplies I started to organize. In the front of my book I put the week's calendar... this has the schedule and any notes I need to remember.

I also have the menu plan for that week...

...and a to do list that I fill out each day. I love this list because I can write in specific things I need to get done that day, as well as make up a new schedule for each day. 


Next I have my sections. First is the Weekly Overview. I keep all of my extra copies of the weekly schedule shown above in here. Right now I am trying out several different types of templates for a weekly schedule...but so far I like the one found on this blog the best.


Then I have my Daily Overview section. Once again this contains extra copies of my daily schedule for the week. 

The Menu and Recipe section holds all of the extra copies of my weekly menu plan, as well as a page full of meal ideas to help me fill out the menu plan faster. I plan on adding a grocery list template but haven't found one that I love yet. I might end up just making my own. 

The template below is one I made myself. I copy down my favorite recipes from Pinterest so they are easily accessible. 

Is it weird that the Cleaning section is my favorite? I think it is because it holds some of the things I am most excited about lately. Weird...I know, but since discovering that I can make all of my own cleaning products, save lots of money, and it be better for my family, I have become excited about cleaning. Again...excited about cleaning...weird...I know :-)

I found the cleaning schedule below at the  Time Warp Wife blog. It is great for keeping up with basic household chores every day. It spreads them through out the week so it will only take you thirty minutes or so to complete, rather than trying to do it all in one day. This leaves me with a lot more time for the more important things...like my boys! On the first page of this section, I wrote out a list (not shown in pictures below) of the reasons why I desire a clean house. I did this to help my self stay focused and motivated on the real reasons a clean house is important to me. Here is what my list looks like:

Reasons I Want A Clean Home...
to have a feeling of peace
to feel comfortable
to do a good job taking care of my family
to keep my family healthy
to take care of what God has given me
to make our possessions last longer
to be able to be hospitable to others

I do not have to have a perfectly spotless home. Everything does not have to be perfectly in it's place at all times. With two little kids, that is just not possible! I do want to have a home that my kids and husband can feel at peace in, that they can feel comfortable. A lot of clutter or filthiness can make it very difficult to relax and enjoy time together as a family.  I would encourage you to make a list for yourself that you can look at on days when it is difficult to remember why you are doing all this.

The next two pages I made for my book. The first page is for writing down the recipes I have for each of my cleaning products, and the other is for awesome cleaning tips. I love that the soap on the cleaning products page says "Make Awesomeness"!


I also added a Spring Cleaning Checklist that I found on this awesome blog, as well as a list of 60 uses for baking soda. How did I not know that baking soda could do so much?!

The last three sections do not have much in them yet, but I will be adding to them soon. The Family info section will have a baby sitter information page filled out for each kid. As well as medical information, family birthdays and anniversaries, etc.

Eventually the homeschooling section will hold lesson plans, schedules for the kids, and fun projects to do.

Can you even begin to guess what the Master Copies section holds? Yup, you guessed it..a master copy of each of the templates I am using. This way I don't have to go searching through websites to find the one that had the template I liked. I also did this so that I don't accidentally use the last one and can just make more copies.

It took a little thinking and planning to figure out exactly what I wanted, but I am so happy with the finished result. I added a lot of scripture to my notebook to remind myself of why I am doing this and to stay encouraged and focused. The scripture really is my favorite part.

The great thing about this notebook is, you can make it exactly what you need it to be. If you are looking for help and little bit more organization in your life, I would definitely encourage you to give it a try!

Linking to Raising Homemakers

Friday, March 23, 2012

Back to the Basics: Menu Planning

 It drives me nuts to go to the store and spend $100- $120 on groceries for our tiny family of four! By the way, that's for one week! Ridiculous! I know I can spend less, a lot less, if I just work at it a little. For the past few months I have started to change a few things in order to get the grocery bill under control.

Here are a few things to initially cut down on your grocery bill...

1. Write up a weekly menu plan. Include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacks.
2. Check your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for any ingredients you already have on hand. Check to see if you need toilet paper, or cleaning products (We include the cost of cleaning supplies in our grocery bill budget since we shop for all this at the same time).
3. Make a list of the ingredients and items you will need for the week. Stick to the list and only buy what is on it. Sticking with this list will help you to not buy unnecessary or extra items you don't need.

Now I could add a point #4, using coupons, if that works for you. I did try this for a time, but found I was not very good at it. I did not have the time it takes to devote to doing it well and making it worth it. I also found that there were coupons for a lot of processed food, which I didn't really want my family to eat any way. However, if you can do coupons and it is worth the time to you, then by all means go for it! I know a lot of friends who manage to save a lot of money this way.


The next things you can do to cut down on your grocery bill is to begin making your own cleaning products and switching mostly to cloth. By making your own cleaning products, you can avoid buying all of those expensive and unnecessary cleaning products. Plus you have the added benefit that it is better for your family...but more on that in a later post. To get you started in the mean time though, you can follow my Pinterest board "Make it yourself!" That has tons of pins for making your own cleaning products.  

With those changes I have managed to cut our bill down to $80 for food and about $10-$15 for any other supplies. My ultimate goal is $60 for food and $10 for other supplies. In order to achieve this, I have started to completely rethink my menu planning. It is so nice to finally be able to run my oven in the winter and it not make my house feel like a sauna. For this reason, I have been making a lot of casserole type dishes. They are so delicious...but also require a lot of ingredients. Especially meat. It costs me roughly about $8.00 for 3lbs of lean ground beef, and $7.00 for a whole chicken. This will give me about 5-6 meals. That is $15 a week for meat just for dinners. 

I started realizing that meat was the main component of our meal and every thing else was just extra. If I could cut down on how much meat we are eating, I could lower our bill and possibly help my family eat healthier at the same time. After telling a friend what I was thinking about doing, she mentioned that she always followed this formula for a meal...
50% Vegetables
25% Starches
25% Meat


I decided that made a lot of sense and would help me rework my weekly menu planning. So we are going to try this for one month and see if it makes a difference. Not only a difference cost wise, but also health wise. My hope is that by eating more vegetables, salads, and beans that we can be healthier. I went ahead and worked up a full month of meals. Then I wrote down how many meals we would be eating meat for so I could buy it in bulk at the beginning of the month (hopefully for cheaper). With this next months meals, we will only be having meat for 15 days through out the month. On the days we are not having meat, we will have some type of beans to give us some of the protein my growing boys need.

I did not put any casserole type dishes on the menu, but I think after this first month I am going to add one casserole dish per week. This way we can still enjoy those meals.

Here is what a few of those meals will look like...

           1.  Small portion of shredded barbeque chicken
                Brown Rice
                Steamed Broccoli
                Black Beans

            2. Baked Potato
                Corn on the cob
                Great Northern Beans

            3. Large Salad
                Crash Hot Potatoes (find the delicious recipe here)
                Green Beans

            4. Baked Fish
                Black eyed Peas

            5. Soup
                Grilled Cheese

I am really taking us back to the basics. We will see how this works.
I am hoping that all of this will...

1. Get us eating healthier, REAL food
2. Save us money on our grocery bill

What does your family do for meals to help cut down on cost and eat healthier? 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Un-Paper Towels

              (image source)                                    (image source)

With our move to Houston only five months away, I have began to think about what will be changing in our lives. One of the big and more obvious changes is going to be in our finances. Because of this, I have began to look for ways that we can change our lifestyle now and save money.

One way that I have already started doing scrimping, is by switching mostly to cloth. I made the switch to cloth diapers and wipes back when Luke was born, and I have always used cloth napkins for "fancy" dinners at our house. But, while perusing Pinterest I saw this post from "One Good Thing", by Jillee (awesome blog to check out if you are wanting to make your own products), to replace your paper towels with cloth! They are called "unpaper towels". It was one of those...now why didn't I think of this before...moments! I was immediately hooked.

I hate the idea of buying something that I can only use one time and then have to throw away. So this just seemed perfect for me! Now, you can buy unpaper towels already made! I especially love these and these on Etsy...they are so colorful! But, one of the big purposes for me doing this is to save as much money as possible.  So I started looking around at what I had on hand. I remembered that I had two birdseye cloth diapers left over from when I had made cloth wipes. I grabbed those, cut them to the size of a paper towel, and serged around the edges. Now you could leave your edges and they will fray a bit, but I wanted mine to last as long as possible, so I went ahead and serged them. It only took about fifteen minutes.

This gave me sixteen towels. Sixteen was good, but that would last me about...oh...one day, maybe two. I didn't want to have to wash them that often or worry about running out. I was just going to buy a new package of birdseye diapers, but they are $12 for 10 of them...which isn't bad. I just didn't have that much to spend on that particular day. So I kept looking around and found flour sacks at the Dollar Tree. Perfect! I bought five of them which gave me forty towels. Now that should be plenty. Hopefully.

These towels work perfectly! So much better than even the expensive brands of paper towels. Once I have used a towel I place it in the pink basket on my counter. Then at the end of the day, I empty the basket in to the laundry with the rest of our shower towels. If I am running low on clean ones, I go ahead and run a load of towels that night. It really has been so easy!

I am so excited to not have to worry about putting paper towels on my shopping list again! One less thing to buy when I go shopping...and that makes me happy :-)

What are some small things your family is doing to save money and resources?

Linking to Frugal Days Sustainable Ways

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