Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Do-It-Yourself: Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

I'm always looking for ways to cut our grocery budget and doing things myself significantly helps in that area.  So with three little ones, the next area I wanted to tackle was the dishwasher.  It seems like an unrelated area, but I'm continually amazed why how many bowls and spoons we can go through in a typical day.  And now bottles?  Wow!

I had read several times that you could make your own dishwasher detergent, but until recently we had an older model dishwasher and I was afraid to try it.  When we got a new one last fall, I determined we'd give it a try.  So my DIY Project for Jan was this detergent.  And it's so simple.  Especially since it uses the same ingredients as my Homemade Laundry Soap.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
1 c. Washing Soda
1 c. Borax

Just mix together and store in an old yogurt container.

You can also use vinegar in your rinse compartment to reduce cloudy residue.  I haven't had a problem with the residue, but as I said, this is a new experiment for us so I may notice it later.

There you have it: super easy and super economical.  Hope you give it a try!

*Linked to these Parties

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Monday Muddle

Hey Everyone,

How was your week?  What did you do?

Ours was full.  I guess you can't have three kids and not have a full life.  Volunteering in a second grade classroom, teaching letters to my preschooler, bonding with a 4 month old, and generally trying to be on time for appointments and failing miserably.  I don't think I'll ever be on time again.

Saturday was crazy.  The kids came down and helped clean the church before my hubby took Noah on the homeless outreach.  It's fun to hear how a six year old interprets reaching out to the homeless.  Everything is so mellow in Noah's world, but I can tell he's processing all the time.  Lydia had a birthday party that afternoon and we did family movie night.  Have you watched those old Disney movies with your kids yet?  We checked out Gus from the library for the second time and my kids love it!  They laugh constantly.

Sunday was normal, thankfully.  Homework, grocery shopping, church... normal family life.  I can handle that kind of crazy a lot better than being out of the house all the time.  The kids are growing up and sometimes it just feels like life is getting in the way of just being together.  Or it could be the fact that they take life at 100 mph.

I was reminded this week that I have to be more intentional with my preschooler.  She's the only girl, the quietest, and gets lost in the shuffle if I don't take special notice.  So I did a little planning last night and am going to try to do a specific activity with her each day.  So hard to believe she's already four.  And then again, when she opens her mouth, it's hard to believe she's only four.

So that's what's going on at our house.  What's going on in your world?

Oatmeal and fruit
Cold cereal
Frozen Waffles
Buttermilk Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
Salad in a Jar
Cucumber Wraps
Carrot sticks, string cheese, fruit

Monday: Pasta e fagoli, french bread
Tuesday: Date Night
Wednesday: Lentil Tacos
Thursday: Crockpot Orange Chicken, brown rice
Friday: Staff Meeting
Saturday: Homemade Pizza
Sunday: Hamburgers, Avocado Lime Pasta Salad

Nutter Butter Truffle Cupcakes

Projects I'm working on this week:
Finish review book
Scrap t-ball photos
Work on Family Values Canvas

Posts coming up this week:
DIY Experiment--Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
Meal Planning 101: Lunches and Breakfasts
While You're Waiting
Valentine's Ideas

Lee's To Do List

I'm changing the Resources I'm Currently Lovin' section on the sidebar.  So again, bookmarking those resources here for future reference.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bookmarks for January 2012

*Bookmarks is an online book club hosted at Creative2xmom.  Here we discuss the books we've read in the past month as well as the suggested reading.  Our suggested reading for January is When God's Story becomes Your Story by Max Lucado.

These are the books I read this month:

Love Lifted Me by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck--I read this one to review for Booksneeze.  You can find my review here.

Attachment Focused Parenting by Daniel A Hughes--Although recommended in our foster care classes, I felt this book would also be a great resource for my relationship with my 6 year old birth child.  Attachment Focused Parenting highlights a type of communication and parenting that is very contrary to my own style.  I found myself challenged and ruffled throughout most of the book, but came away with some great tools to try.  As my son is getting older, our relationship is being challenged by many outside forces and this book gave me some ideas for opening communication.  The greatest gift I got from this book is remembering to be curious about my children.  Rather than communication always being directive, more and more dialogue needs to look like questioning in an effort to help my kids understand their own motives for behavior and mommy's motives for direction.

God's Story, Your Story by Max Lucado--This book was our "suggested reading" for January and luckily I was able to get the Kindle version of this one for free on Amazon awhile back.  The chapter titles of this book really got me:

When God's Story becomes Yours...

  • Ordinary Matters
  • You know Satan's next move
  • You find your true home
  • You hear a voice you can trust
  • You won't be forsaken
  • Your final chapter becomes a preface
  • Power moves in
  • The right doors open
  • All things work for good
  • God will come for you
  • You will finally graduate
Written in classic Lucado style, this book was a powerful but easy read told through stories.  I read through it relatively quickly, but could easily chew on each chapter again.  About 2/3 of the way through the book, Lucado hit me with this thought:

"Learn to wait, to be silent, to listen for his voice.  Cherish stillness; sensitize yourself to his touch... You don't need to hurry or scurry.  The Spirit-led life does not panic; it trusts."

So true in today's society.  How comfortable are we with silence and waiting?

So what are your bookmarks this month?

Tell us in the comments about the books you're chewing on.  Or link up a review from your own blog.  Let's share the books we're finding, good and bad.  And give us your thoughts if you've had a chance to read Lucado's When God's Story becomes Your Story.

And come back Friday Feb 24rd as we discuss Made to Crave by Lysa Turkerst and others that you're reading.

*Linked to these Parties

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meal Planning 101: Matching it up with the Calendar

So you've seen why meal planning is important and you've come up with your themes and meal options, now what?  Why not throw the plans into a rotation and run with it?  You can absolutely do that.  And there are many times in our lives where I do exactly that.  But before you throw a plan into the week, it's important to look at your weekly schedule and see what's coming your way.

Matching it up with the Calendar

We all have routines in our week.  In our house, everything seems to fall on Mondays: two gymnastics classes, volunteering at the school, Discipleship Group.  Mondays have to work like a well-oiled machine or Mama falls into a panic.

But beyond our weekly routines, there are also the occasional gliches.  Soccer practice in the fall, a friend that needs help moving, a special date night.  That's why it's important to look at your weekly schedule before setting that meal plan into motion.

Take this week for example at our house.  Monday is my crazy day so it's always a quick and easy meal night.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are crockpot night as I'm coming home from the gym, but this week I have a girls night out.  So I know I have to plan ahead for Daddy to make the meal on Thursday.  We're going to a friend's house on Friday so I'm planning extra special sides and dessert for that night, rather than our traditional pizza night.  And the rest of the week looks similarly out of place.

Matching your meal plan with your calendar further prevents those nights of drive-thru on the way to an evening activity.  Don't drive yourself crazy with a new recipe on the same night you're leaving the kids with a sitter to catch a movie with your husband.  You'll just find yourself frustrated with time constraints.  Make your plan work for you and your life, even if it means switching things up a bit now and then.

How are you making meal planning work into your life?

*Linked to these Parties

Chocolate Mud Pie

My kids have this fun cookbook from Disney.  It's filled with breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas, even desserts.  It's one that's really fun for Mama 'cause I love having the kids in the kitchen with me and they love picking out their own recipes.  So every once in awhile, we'll pull it out and put something on our meal plan.  A couple of weeks ago, we tried this Chocolate Mud Pie.  Delicious!  Not only was it fun for the kids to see how it transformed in the oven, but it would also make a fun treat for your sweetie on Valentine's Day.  Hope you like it!

Chocolate Mud Pie
(*From the Disney Magic Kitchen Cookbook)

1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt (I omitted)
1/4 c. fat-free milk
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c chopped walnuts (I omitted)
3 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 c. warm water

Fresh berries and ice cream on the side

1. Turn the oven on 350 degrees.  Spray 9x13 pie plate with cooking spray.

2. Stir together flour, granulated sugar, 1 Tbsp cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Stir in milk, oil, vanilla, and walnuts (if desired).

3. Pour into prepared pie plate.  It won't look like much.  In fact, you'll wonder why you're following this crazy recipe, but you'll keep going anyways.

4. Mix together brown sugar and 2 Tbsp cocoa powder.  Add 2/3 c. warm water.  Pour over batter already in pie plate.

5.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.  Serve warm with berries and/or ice cream.

This was good for the four of us, but if you have older children, would serve 3 max.  It doesn't look like much when you put it in the pie plate, but the magic is that it expands to fill the plate nicely.  

Who can go wrong with chocolate for Valentine's Day?  Hope you enjoy!

*Linked to these Parties

Monday, January 23, 2012

Family Values: Our Family

I was praying recently about the values we pass on to our children.  Every day, our children watch us, study us, waiting to see how the world works.  We are their role models for life.  As families, we create our own unit, ... community, ... culture.  That's not to say that we shouldn't be in the greater community of the church, but take a look at the language you family uses.  Are there certain phrases or words that are unique to your family unit?  What about traditions?  How does your family interact with the greater world?  What types of values are you directly, or indirectly, teaching inside the four walls of your home?

Think about how it was when you were first married or even back as far as dating your future spouse.  I suspect there were phrases, ways of relating, characteristics that required some explanation on both sides.  The way you were raised was probably not exactly the way your partner was raised.  So when you did something that seemed perfectly normal to you, your spouse may have found it hurtful or offensive.  As you began to communicate and understand each other, habits changed and you created your own family culture.  A culture that continues to evolve and be passed down to your own children.

As a stay at home mom, I know I have a huge impact on my kids and how they see the world.  So much of what I say and do is being absorbed into small heads and small hearts.  That's why it's important that I weigh my words against what I truly believe.  And that's why teaching values is as much about my own heart as it is about theirs.

Over the next year, I'll be embarking upon a journey of discovery into how we identify and teach these values to our children.  I'll share with you the values the Lord has laid on my heart and how we're implementing them in our own home.  I'm also excited to see what you have to say about how values work out in your family.  I have a few ideas already laid out, but I'm continuing to pray that the Lord will shape our family values as He shapes yours as well.

What are some of the unique characteristics of your family?

*Linked to these Parties

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Monday Muddle

Hey guys,
How was your weekend?  Did yours pass as quickly as mine?  Did you catch that Niners game?  Heartbreaking!  (bunny trail)

Anyways... Our week last week was just crazy.  Besides working full time, my husband attended a three day conference in town, had a two day area meeting for the church, and several meetings on Sunday.  Just crazy.  So now it's Sunday night, grocery shopping is down, and school lunches are packed, and this Mama is not looking forward to rolling into another week already.  Wow!

The kids and I did have fun.  We took a trip to the library on Saturday and we always come home with a pile of books.  My first grader is devouring books.  He picked up several and has already read a couple to me.  It makes my heart proud to see him enjoy reading so much.

Other than that, our weekend feels like it was such a blur.  I'm reading a review book that's really good, but I've been up far past my bedtime for the past several nights.  I can't wait to share this one with you, but believe me, you won't be able to put it down.  Well, now that I'm rambling, I know it's time to finish this one off.

Here's our menu for the week:

Monday--Shrimp Stirfry, brown rice
Tuesday--Blackbean soup
Wednesday--Spinach Calazone
Thursday--Taco soup
Friday--at a friend's
Saturday--Lighter Lasagna Soup
Sunday--Homemade Pizza

King Cake
Berry Pies

Projects I'm working on this week:
Finish review book
Finish chore cards
Scrap 4th of July photos
v-day fun!

What does your week look like?

Lee's To Do List

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Meal Planning 101: Make a Weekly Plan

Well, now that we've seen the benefits of meal planning, it's time to get come up with a plan.  A plan?  Easy right?  Write down a few meals for the week and take it too the store.  And next week, do the same.  And the same the week after that.  But then we get sick of planning and coming up with new ideas.  And we fall into old habits.  What if there was a tool to make meal planning easier?

Theme Nights:

We have theme nights in our house.  One night for each theme based on our own personal schedule.  Monday nights are vegetarian.  Tuesday and Thursday nights are crockpot meals or quick and easy.  Fridays we have pizza.  Planning theme nights makes it easier to focus your meals and still keep variety in your kitchen.  Some ideas include:

Meatless meals
Crockpot dishes
Italian dinners
Mexican meals
Pizza night
Grill out
Soups and sandwiches
Classic Sunday dinner

The theme nights makes it easy to plan from week to week and your grocery list will look similar each time.  Because I know we have pizza every week, I can stock up on pizza sauce when it's on sale.  Tortillas are another idea I look for... great for tacos, enchiladas, and casseroles.

To keep some variety in our meals, I sat down with my husband and we brainstormed 4-5 meals that fit each category.  After 10 years of marriage, we have tried a lot of recipes.  Some have been really good.  I keep that list in mind when I plan my theme nights each week.  It takes the guess work out of plugging in meals.  And I can be sure to add some of my kids' favorites as well.

Another thing you could do would be to create 4 or 5 sample menus and rotate them throughout the month.  This really makes meal planning easy.  Pull out a menu on Sunday night and you're all set for the week.  These are just a few of the tools I use to make my meal planning simpler.

What other creative ideas have you used in meal planning?

*Linked to these Parties

The Morning Chaos

It's a typical breakfast scene.  Kids are up, baby's babbling from the bedroom, and Mama's wondering why morning comes so quickly.  She was so careful to prep the house the night before.  Sandwiches made.  Backpacks and school clothes laid out.  Diaper bag packed.  She is even getting up earlier these days.  Certainly she's sleep walking for the first 30 minutes on her feet, but she's out of bed nonetheless.  And yet the same scene unfolds.

Two little ones on the couch, wondering how they'll survive the months between Christmas break and Summer break.  Fuzzy jammies, favorite blankies, and lazy gazes.  Mama walks by on her way to the kitchen, kissing sleepy heads and praying for a peaceful breakfast.  Knowing there's less than a 5% chance of that happening.  But still praying.

Mama calls from the kitchen.  Cereal or oatmeal?  Requests for pancakes, waffles, even Christmas candy float from the couch to the kitchen.  No, cereal or oatmeal?  Moans and groans, whines and pouting, and Mama's glad she's in the kitchen to miss the eye roll.  And again she wonders why she gave up coffee.  Or if it's too early to take up drinking.

Sleepy heads turn into rowdy siblings and they finally come to the table.  Cereal for one, oatmeal for the other.  They can never seem to agree.  "Don't look at me," says the one.  "Stop singing the ABC's," says the other.  "He's looking at me."  "She's singing."  And so it begins.

Mama, finally dressed, gets the baby a bottle and they sit on the couch to watch the scene unfold.  In no time at all, rice krispies cover the floor and oatmeal covered bowls are soaking in the sink.  Two littles scramble into school clothes while Mama burps the baby.  Jammies fly through the air, little toes push into socks and fingers fumble with laces.  Mama makes her way through one... two... three sets of teeth to be brushed.  Hair ribbons wrapped into hair, backpacks lined up, and lunches packed.  A sigh of relief as they just might make it to school on time.

Keys found; crisis averted.  Two siblings scramble into the van as it warms up and Mama straps in the baby.  She wonders how they've made it this far.  Oh, wait.  One forgot a jacket and the other is running back to the house for library books.  Finally they're on their way.  Mama pulls the house door behind her, closing her eyes to the peanut butter and jelly on the counter, the cereal to be swept, and the dishes to be done.  Another morning of pudgy arms embracing her neck.  Another morning of praying they get out the door on time.  Another morning of chaos.

*Linked to Writer's Workshop and these Parties.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On Bedtime Reading

One of the sweetest parts of our day is reading before bed.  We started our bedtime reading routine when my oldest son was about 15 months old.  I was weaning him from the bedtime nursing, but still wanted to cuddle on the couch.  So we started reading together every night.

In seasons of our lives, our bedtime reading has looked different.  Some nights we read in their rooms or on Mommy's bed.  Currently we have small group on Monday nights and the kids get to bed late so reading is limited to our bible.

But for the most part, we gather on the couch almost every night.  After the jammies have been located and teeth have been brushed, the kids grab blankets to snuggle and we read together.  The kids each pick out a book, plus we read a story in our children's bible.  This is also the time of day we read a chapter in our current read aloud. 

Through the years we read the entire Little House on the Prairie series, children's versions of Heidi, Pollyanna, and Moby Dick, and some of Boxcar children.  Our bedtime reading and coming together after a long day are some of my own sweetest memories with my children.

How do you close a day with your kids?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake Party

My sweet little Lydia turned 4 years old just before Christmas.
And what birthday is complete without a party?

Since she is my sweetie pie,
we decided to have a Strawberry Shortcake party this year.
What's sweeter than Strawberry Shortcake?

Girlie, pink, and sweet...
This party was a berry ton of fun!

Decorations and Table:
I laid everything out the night before so I wouldn't forget anything.
We used a lot of the tableware we already had in creative ways.
My mom had this vintage Strawberry Shortcake tray at her house
and I found the fruit tray at the local dollar store.
Plus the stripped bowl was an easy addition
with the fun colors.

I'd seen a similar centerpiece and decided to use what I had.
I found a tall vase in the cabinet
and filled it with red paper shreds from the dollar store.
Then I printed clipart from the internet,
matted it,
and adhered the kebab skewers.

My mom made the banner from her cricut,
and the green curling ribbon was perfect!

Plus a friend found this poster at a local thrift store.

We added paper lanterns, balloons, and streamers from the dollar store,
and we had the perfect party atmosphere.

Goodie Bags:
Checking that dollar store again,
I found frisbees, bracelets, hair ties, and strawberry lip gloss.
Plus, I made the girls flower hair clips from a Jo-ann's remnant.
Packaged in a plain red paper bag and tied up in green ribbon,
they were so berry sweet.

First for a game of pin the jewel in Strawberry's crown.

With 3 and 4 year olds,
you never know what you're going to get.

After that we played pass the strawberry.
We took the pockets off an old pair of jeans
and made bean bags.
They were so cute.

Pretty funny watching these little ones
get the hang of it all.

Plus I borrowed Strawberry Jams music
from the library.
The music was fun
and was berry perfect with the party.

Finally we ended the games with a strawberry pinata.
We made a homemade one with an extra party balloon
and homemade paper mache.

Plus the red duct tape was awesome for making a handle.
This was my son's favorite.
He had been taking a back seat to the girls most of the day,
but they needed him to break the pinata.

He got to be the berry hero after all.

Our party happened to fall around lunch time
so I had a pot of soup simmering while we played.
We added a spinach berry salad
as well as the following:
Peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches
Strawberry fruit dip
Strawberry and raspberry jello cups
and Strawberry wafer cookies

Grandma always does our cakes
and she had this pan from when I was younger.
So berry cute!

We've started our new tradition of asking guests
to bring non-perishable items for the homeless shelter.
But of course there are still presents from
Mommy and Daddy
and grandparents.

This year I scored a Strawberry Shortcake remote control car
from the local kids' thrift store.
Berry fun!

So there you have it...
a Berry fun...
Berry cute...
Berry sweet
Strawberry Shortcake party!

*A few sites for additional ideas:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Monday Muddle

Hey everyone,
How was your weekend?  Did you do anything fun?  Or did you just relax at home and enjoy the family?

I say it every week.  Where does the time go?  The boys were out of our house on Friday night so Lydia and I had our movie night with a super girlie Strawberry Shortcake movie.  It was fun to just be at home with her.  When she gets a chance, there's some really interesting insight that comes out of that little girl.

Saturday was spent doing household chores.  Truth be known, I'm not sure where that day went.  My hubby and I worked around the house and the kids played well together.  Lydia and I did a little baking. We found a fantastic recipe for homemade chocolate cupcakes that I want to share with you soon.  They would make the perfect dessert for Valentine's Day.

I'm reminded every week as I write this post how important it is to live every moment.  The days feel long around here with three little ones.  I often feel as though there's not enough of me to go around.  But at the end of every week, I look back and wonder why I didn't capture every moment.  Why did I spend time on the internet on Saturday morning instead of with my kids?  Why did I worry about that phone call that could have been made during nap time?  Where in the day did I spend time with my husband?

It's a continual balancing act and one that I'm fighting to advance in.  I know we'll never be perfect this side of heaven, but I'm committed to striving forward.  My kids are growing too quickly and time seems to slip between my fingers.  MUST LIVE AS THOUGH MY MOMENTS MATTER.

Whoa, who know all that was going on in my brain?  Swirling thoughts for a Monday morning.  Anyways... here's our menu for the week:

Monday--White Turkey Chili
Tuesday--Korean Beef Soft Tacos
Wednesday--Potato Soup
Thursday--Pea Soup and bread
Friday--Pizza Night
Saturday--Hamburgers, ???, and salad
Sunday--Aztec Turkey

Projects I'm working on this week:
Finish God's Story, Your Story
Chore cards
Christmas card book
Family Rules Canvas
Finish hanging photos
Plan Great-Grandma's birthday
Clean off dresser tops

What are you doing this week?

Lee's To Do List

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Meal Planning 101: Why Meal Plan?

As the new year unfolds and so many of us struggle with wanting to improve, wanting to be better, one of the biggest goals is being coming more organized.  And for many people, that includes meal planning.  We throw the idea around in our heads: "I'm going to meal plan this year."  Sounds good, doesn't it?  Should be easy right?  But why are we planning?   These are just a few of the benefits of meal planning:

*Meal planning means eating out less.  By being prepared, you won't be so tempted to order out for pizza.  And when you do order out, it will be more by choice than by desperation.

*Meal planning means eating healthier.  No matter where you're at in your nutritional journey, home cooked meals are generally healthier than anything you'll find in a restaurant.

*Meal planning means financial savings.  By planning your meals, you're less likely to spend the extra money on last minute trips to the store.  Last minute trips that will often include unnecessary impulse buys.

*Meal planning means avoiding the stress of the 4 pm question: "What's for dinner, Mom?"  Having a plan takes more time upfront, but eliviates the stress when you and your family is hungry.

*Meal planning means a better balanced diet.  Planning allows you to see the bigger picture before the onset of the week and see where you need to fill in more fruits and vegetables, a variety of entrees, and healthier desserts.

*Meal planning means being able to let your kids get involved.  As your kids see you planning every week, including them by asking if there's a favorite meal they would enjoy.  Hospitality begins with our own families.

*Meal planning means having the freedom to work around busy days.  For example, I take an aerobics class at the local YMCA from 4-5 pm.  Disaster for going home and wondering what I'm making for dinner.  Having a plan means I can throw items in the crockpot and actually enjoy the activities I'm at.

All this means less stress on your time, finances, and emotions.  Meal planning proves to be well worth your time.

Are you ready to get started?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

While You're Waiting: Learn to Love

(Image Credit: Jomphong)

*Recently I was thinking about all I would want my daughters to know before they get married.  Instead of wishing the days away until they walk down the aisle, how would I encourage them to live?  Living in the joy of who God created.  The practicalities and the dreaming.  What would I want to encourage... While they're waiting?  These are some of those thoughts.

I didn't always wait so patiently.  I've never been a patient person and to compound matters, I'm the most Type A person you'll ever meet.  I had a time line, a plan, a clearly laid out path for my life.  It included knowing my husband through grade school and high school, going to college together, and marrying young.  And in the waiting, patience was not my strong suit.

One of the ways the Lord worked in my impatience was drawing me closer to Him.  My days were free from the responsibilities that would come later.  Looking back, I was given time to just be, just be with Him.  My time was open: prayers with roommates in the morning, a moment to praise between classes, late night bible studies.  And although I didn't value it enough, I look back now and see how that time set the tone for  my learning to love, to fall in love with the Creator.

To this day, when the mornings are hectic and someone needs their shoes tied, I can go back in my mind.  Back to the scriptures that are hidden in my heart.  Back to the silent prayers for peace.  Back to the arms of my Father that are well known.  It's this foundation of faith from which my husband and I can grow together and challenge each other.  It's this foundation of faith from which I can draw when I'm with my kids.  And although I'll never stop learning, the things I learned in my single years are invaluable and remind me how to love.  And how I am loved.

When the world seems upside down and I'm struggling to keep my head above water, I remember the times I was alone with the Lord.  And I can know that He is the most steady and faithful person in my life.  Just as He was when I first learned to fall in love with Him.  When I took the time to open my heart and embrace truth, I knew His love.

While You're Waiting, learn to love the Lord.  Spend time in His presence.  Lean into His unfailing love for you.  Learn to rely on Him.  Seek to embrace the intimacy that you can only know with the Father.

How will you learn to love in your time of waiting?

Minnie Mouse Candied Apples

*These Minnie Mouse Candied Apples were originally posted as a guest post last Jan.  But I wanted to share them with you here.  I hope you like them.

Remember this fun Minnie Mouse party I planned for Lydia's Third Birthday?  We had so much fun playing off the Disney theme and along with that, I made these Minnie Mouse Candied Apples for the guests.  They took a little trial and error, but they were so worth the effort.
Here's what you'll need:
Apples (I used large ones and did one per family)
Popsicle sticks
Milk Chocolate
White Chocolate (use the dots from a craft store for special effect)
Red Sprinkles
Other materials:Cookie Sheet
Wax paper
Bowl for melting chocolate
Boiling water
Cut bamboo skewers
1. Insert popsicle stick into top of apple and dip into a pot of boiling water for 20-30 seconds.  This will help remove anything on the outside of the apple and allow the carmel to stick better.  Dry apple.

2. Cut bamboo skewers into 1/3.  Insert one end in each marshmallow.  You will need two marshmallows for each apple.

3. Melt carmel in microwavable bowl.  Dip apples and then quickly adhere marshmallow "ears" before carmel hardens.  You can adhere them without the skewers, but I found that mine kept sliding and needed extra help.  Place apples on wax paper and allow to harden.

4. Melt milk chocolate in a microwavable bowl.  Check and stir every 30 seconds until smooth.  Dip apples, making sure to cover the ears.  Place back on wax paper and allow to harden again.

5. Melt white chocolate in a microwavable bowl.  Dip bottom half of apple, creating a "skirt."  Place several unmelted dots to create a polka dot effect before adding red sprinkles.  I didn't add the polka dots to mine, but thought they would be really cute.  Just don't forget to add the red sprinkles before the chocolate hardens.  Place apples back on wax paper and harden again.

And there you have it, a super cute, very delicious treat for your party guests.  I love how they turned out and then packaged them in red cellophane baggies to send home.  A treat for the whole family and no tracking down those little party favors?

What fun treats do you make for parties?

Monday, January 9, 2012

12 DIY Projects for 2012

As I mentioned in my 2012 Goals, I'm challenging myself to complete 12 DIY projects in 2012.  For the most part, these are new skills and products for the kitchen and homemaking.  A few are just for fun as well.  I tried to narrow my list to items that would go back to again and again, but I'm also super excited about finally putting some lighting together for the back patio.

As always, I'm sure I'll have plenty of projects to keep my busy throughout the year, but these are just a few that I'm specifically committing to.  So after much debate, here's my final list:

January--Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

February--Homemade Kitchen Hand Scrub

March--Homemade Wheat Thins

April--Homemade Sourdough

May--Homemade Yogurt

June--Patio Lighting

July--Key Lime Ice Cream

August--Homemade Bug Spray

September--Homemade Vick's Vapor Rub

October--Homemade Vanilla

November--Homemade lotion

December--Peppermint Ice Cream

Each month I plan to post the successes (and flops) of this experiment.  Wish me luck!

Do you have any DIY projects planned for this year?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Monday Muddle

Hey everyone,
How was your weekend?  2012 is here already and we're even into the second week.  Crazy!

Our weekend was busy and rough.  Seems my kids are ending the end of their Christmas break and we're all running a little low on patience.  Despite keeping consistent bed times and meal times, everyone seems a little wore out and ready to get back into the routine of school.  Today's the last day of break and  I'd like to do something fun with them, so I've got my thinking cap on.  Any bright ideas?

We finally took down our Christmas tree this weekend.  Am I the only one who's sad to see it go?  It always feels so final.  Having to wait another year for Christmas to come around.  My rule in the past has  been to wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate, but I found stuff that I didn't even have time to decorate with this year.  Next year, I might have to break my own rule and start early.  The outside lights are still up, but that's ok with me.  I personally wouldn't mind using them all year.  They're just cheery.  What would you think of the crazy lady down the street who still turns on the Christmas lights in July?

Kids go back to school on Tuesday.  Little Man needs to get his pictures taken this weekend, and MOPS is Thursday morning.  Plus I'm looking for a birthday present for my niece.  Any ideas for a one year old?  The routine will be nice, but it seems like routine is always busy.  I'm beginning to believe that a balance, simple life is a myth.

Well, I'm off and running, chasing three littles.  What does your week look like?

Our Menu this week:

Monday: Taco Soup
Tuesday: Chicken Noodle Soup
Wednesday: Fancy Grilled Cheese and salad
Thursday: Korean Beef Soft Tacos
Friday: Homemade Pizza
Saturday: Tomato Soup
Sunday: Black Bean Soup

Nutella cupcakes
Chewy Granola bars

Projects I'm working on this week:
Family values canvas
Scrapbooking July and Aug photos
Valentine art/snack idea
Family mail boxes for V-day notes

Lee's To Do List

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