Striving to create a home strong in the foundations of love, respect, and God's truths ...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Field Work Fridays: Shootin' Hoops


This week we planned a basketball lesson at a gym in a local park.  Things changed a bit when we got there, however, because this is what we saw:


Apparently big portions of the roof blew off in last night's storms, leaving the gym wet and unusable.  Fortunately, we were allowed to use another local gym, instead.


Since our planned teachers were unable to relocate, one of our moms stepped up and did a few drills with the kids.

These two were really getting into this!


The rest of the time, the kids practiced shooting at the extra low hoops ...


they chased some balls ...


and generally ran around and got lots of exercise.


This little guy was quite sweaty and sleepy by the time he was done playing!  He napped well this afternoon, but most of all, he loved exploring his new basketball skills with his friends.

Mother's Day Coasters

When my kids were small, we made coasters for Grandparents' Day.  I've wanted a set ever since, and so this year I decided to make them for myself for Mother's Day.  These are very inexpensive to make and take only a few minutes, but they are very durable.

I bought a set of small tiles from the tile aisle at a Lowe's Home Improvement Store.


Next, I painted my son's hand with simple acrylic paint and he stamped it onto the tile.

We repeated the same step with the other hand on another tile.


My daughter then used her fingers and thumbs to create a flower (her hands are now too big to fit all on one tile).

Next, we sprayed each tile with a clear, triple-thick sealant and allowed it to dry for a few hours.  This puts a glossy sheen on each tile and prevents it from being scratched or damaged.  Until this point, you can wipe the paint off and start again; after this, your picture is permanent!


Then, I cut a piece of felt a bit smaller than the tile so that it would not be seen from above.  This will prevent the tile from scratching any surface on which it's placed.  You can also use the sticky felt dots that you can buy, but one piece of felt costs much less than those dots!

Voila!  A set of personalized coasters for about less than $2!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"31 Days to Clean" - Free, Today Only!

Today only, you can get a free copy of the brand new ebook 31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way by FBing, Tweeting, or blogging about the new book!  Simply alert others by your chosen method and then email the author here and you'll receive a link back to the free book.

Check it out!

"How to be God's Little Princess" by Sheila Walsh

What do princesses need to know?  It's not all about the party dresses and tiaras.  In this princess-pink book, Sheila Walsh teaches girls the ins-and-outs of etiquette regarding clothing, dining, friendships, and hostessing.  While this may seem like any other Emily Post-like manner guide, Walsh takes her tips straight from the Bible and gears them toward young girls.  There are chapters about caring for your attitude, dressing modestly, and being smart on the Internet.

I love the way that this book is divided into chapters with interactive quizzes and games sprinkled throughout.  This is not a serious, study-guide type manual but is written more along the lines of a fun, girly mazagine that just happens to have a rigid spine.  The information is sound and basic and very relevant to young girls' lives today.

The only issue I have with this book is with the princess theme.  This book is not watered down or written for toddlers; I would guess it would be most interesting and be useful for girls ages 5-9.  However, they are not all going to be able to read the text independently at that age, and after that many girls lose interest in the princess concept.  I think, though, that this book would be great if read with an adult and discussed together.

I received a free copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

"The Final Summit" by Andy Andrews

David Ponder is old.  Having recently lost his wife after amassing a fortune, going bankrupt, and acquiring an even larger one, he no longer cares about his growing fortune or place on this earth.  It's while contemplating his purpose as a single man in his 70s that he's visited by the archangel Gabriel, who whisks him away to a final Summit of other humans who have time traveled as he once did.  Ponder is charged with leading the meeting and finding the answer to restoring all of humanity's individual and collective purpose before the current civilization self-destructs.  In only five attempts, can Ponder and his team of Travelers save civilization?

This is a sequel, and knowing that, I first sought out the initial book before reading this one.  Both are fascinating.  They sound deep and serious, and they are; but the books are written in a way that blends humor and history with deep thoughts and questions.  I love how Andrews pulls key people from history and dusts them off to share their stories and help Ponder find his answers.  Most of this book is one huge conversation, but because of the introduction of various historical figures and their quirks, it comes across as one big adventure with an important goal.

The best thing about "The Final Summit" is that Andrews teaches truth through the story.  His points are valid and apply to us all.  

This book would make a great gift - even better if given as a set with the first book, "The Traveler's Gift."

I received a free copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's All About the Attitude

"... you have shown utter contempt for the Lord ..."  ~2 Samuel 11:13


I've always thought of David as a faithful man, full of praise for God.  After all, he wrote lots of the Psalms that we continue to read and study today!  I always thought he just 'fell into' sin and 'made a mistake.'


But did he?


Today I'm thinking about something new.  WHY wasn't David out on the battlefield?  Was he tired?  Did he think he deserved a rest?  Did he think he was above God's rules?  Did he no longer trust God to protect him?  Did he think he was better than the other soldiers and too good to risk?  Was he prideful?


Did that carry over to his encounter with Bathsheba?  Did he consider himself above the laws that the 'regular' people were to live by?


Did David have an attitude problem?


Throughout this story, we see him acting as if he were somehow above God's laws.  He stayed behind when his armies went to war (2 Samuel 11:1).  He committed adultery (2 Sam. 11:4).  Upon finding out that Bathsheba was pregnant, he manipulated others to cover up his sins (2 Sam. 11:6-13).  Something else struck me about that today - was he willing to give up his child just like that? ... but that's a whole 'nother tanget.  He manipulated others to the point of murder - several times over (2 Sam. 11:17).  


Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.  ~ Col. 3:16-18


David's attitude shifted from one of thanksgiving and praise to one of pride.  He took his focus off God and put it on himself, and he slid off the path God prepared for him in the process.


Fortunately for us, the story doesn't end there.  David eventually confesses and is reassured of God's forgiveness.  My favorite part, though, is how David goes on to praise God in the midst of this storm:


 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
      Renew a loyal spirit within me.  ~Psalm 51:10



David recognized his attitude problem and asked for God's help putting it back on track.  God obviously loved David and He gave him the help David requested.


But the good news?  When we let our heart's guard down and things get messy, God will help us.  He loves us, too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

GratiTuesday: From Brain Tumors to Birthdays


About five years ago we found out that we were pregnant.  We were wildly excited and started planning baby names and nursery themes when we had the big five-month appointment.  We couldn't wait to see our baby moving on the big screen, but the technician was much quieter than we expected.  The doctor ushered us into his office and explained that our baby had two tumors growing on the brain.  He said that they might go away completely - that they usually do - but if they didn't, our baby could suffer anything from learning disabilities to deformities to more serious unnamed problems.

We waited for two long, dreadful months and had another test.


The tumors were gone.


On Friday my Little Man turned four.  He's happy and healthy and has no side effects from whatever tumors once resided on his brain.  But every year, when we celebrate another birthday, I remember those two months of waiting and wondering ...


and it makes me realize how grateful I am that my Little Man can enjoy the simple pleasures of a bike on a sunny day.


I'm grateful for his smile when he flies through the air on our faux tire swing and yells, "Higher, Mommy!"


I'm grateful for tree climbing with Papa on his birthday outing ...


and for his innate inquisitiveness as we explored Duke Gardens.


I'm grateful for two children who love each other and are best friends ...


and even survive random falls into tiny froggy ponds while chasing bubbles.


I'm grateful for my All-American boy who loves baseball and popcorn and celebrated his big day watching the Durham Bulls lose miserably.


And I'm grateful for the peaceful sleep of an exhausted boy, happy after a day of birthday celebrations.

Brain tumors?

Nah.

For us, it's all about the birthdays.

Join us for GratiTuesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Menu Plan Monday - April 25, 2011


We're finally settling back in to normal around here! I'm very excited about that.  I roasted a ham on Easter, and our meal plan for the week will reflect the abundance of ham that we have.  What we don't use this week, I'll chop and freeze for use on pizzas, salads, in soups, and in breakfast casseroles.  Since my husband isn't a big fan of leftovers, however, I try to 'remake' everything into something else!

Breakfasts:
scrambled eggs and oranges
banana muffins and watermelon X2
orange muffins and oranges X2
Cereal and bananas
Cinnamon rolls and oranges

Lunches continue to be sandwiches and veggies for the kids, yogurt and fruit for me, and sandwiches and fruit for my husband.  We like routines around here ...

Supper:
Monday:  Grab it and Growl
Tuesday: Baked potato bar with diced ham, steamed broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower, and cheese; salad
Wednesday: Ham and cheese stromboli, salad
Thursday: Spaghetti, salad
Friday: Grilled Pizza, sliced veggies
Saturday: A cookout of some sort

Read more menu plans at OrgJunkie!

Mom's Baked Corn


This is a family staple for us, and no family gathering or holiday would be the same without it!  It's simple and easy to make, transports well, and holds when necessary.

Ingredients:
1 pint frozen corn (I freeze my own each summer) or 1 can creamed corn
1 can creamed corn
2 eggs
1 c. milk
2 T. cream of Tarter
salt and pepper to taste
2 handfuls of crackers, crushed
2 T. butter

Mix all ingredients together.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until center is set.

Bunny Cake



Every Easter, for as long as I can remember, we've made a bunny cake.  When I was little, Mom made it with my sister and me.  One year we even had four generations working on it.  Now, my oldest remembers and asks for it each Easter.

The tradition isn't in the flavor of the cake or a traditional recipe; rather, it's all in the shape and the decorating.  This year I used one of my favorite cake and icing recipes (chocolate Goofy Cake and peanut butter icing) to make it, though, and we'll definitely be making it this way again.

After baking and cooling the cake in two round pans (recipes to follow), place one on the center of your board and ice.  Pretend that the other is a baseball and cut where the seams would be.  The outside pieces become the ears, and the center is the bunny's bowtie.

Then, let the decorating begin!  We like to choose the bunny's fur color - usually white or brown - and then ice the center of his ears pink.  We choose a color for the tie, and after all of the icing is finished, it's time to decorate.

Like making a candy house, the best part is being creative with the candy that you have on hand.  This year, we sliced a marshmallow in half and used that for the base of the eyes.  A brown M&M became the pupils, a pink jellybean egg the nose, and a large, bent Tootsie Roll his mouth.



Our favorite part, though, his making the bowtie.  We always make a polka-dotted tie with M&Ms.  (My Little Man usually finds it necessary to push each candy into the icing with his finger, so that then he must lick it off after each and every one.)  You could do it another way, I suppose, but this is just fun!

After Easter lunch, there's always a fierce debate about who gets to eat the ever-popular bowtie, who gets the eyeballs, etc.  But really - with a chocolate and peanut butter cake, there's never a bad piece!


Goofy Cake:


2 c. sugar
3 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
4 T. cocoa
2 t. vanilla
2 c. water
1 t. salt
2 T. vinegar
1/2 c. softened butter

Mix all ingredients together well.  Pour into greased pans and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  Chill.

Or, for cupcakes, bake for 20 minutes at 350.

Peanut Butter Icing:
3 c. powdered sugar
2 scoops of peanut butter
1/4 c. milk

Mix together.  Taste.  If too runny, add some more peanut butter or sugar.  If too stiff, add a bit more milk.  This is one of those recipes that requires a bit of taste-testing, but it's well worth it.  :-)

PS - Want to see how it looks the rest of the year?  Check out a more traditional rendering of this recipe over here!


Visit here for more of This Week's Cravings!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Conservators' Center




Yesterday our group visited The Conservators' Center, a non-profit rescue organization that helps animals in need.  They are located in outside Mebane, North Carolina, and have an absolutely wonderful website.  

Upon arrival, head animal keeper Janine began our tour.  




First we saw servals.  These cats are originally from the African grasslands and were fascinating to watch.


I must admit, I can't remember the name of this cat.  She just kept pacing and pacing throughout part of her cage as we stood, watching, and learning about her.  I felt so bad for making her nervous that I missed hearing anything else!


I've never heard of a binturong before.  These Asian animals are banana crazy and imperative for keeping the rainforest alive and well.  This one in particular showed off for us by climbing all over his habitat, including showing us how to climb down a tree head first!


Everyone seemed fascinated with the wolves, and this arctic-timber wolf in particular stayed right near us for quite some time.


We didn't faze this tiger.  He just hung out in the corner of his pen and watched us all.  He was one cool cucumber!


Some of the lions and tigers were born around the same time and have been raised together.  There was something awesome about watching these two species of cats play together.


They rested atop this towering play structure in their area, too.  I'd love to know what they're thinking!


My most favorite animal, however, was Arthur, the white tiger.  He may be part snow tiger, or his coloring may be due to the abuse he suffered as a baby; but either way, his stripes are very faint and are most prominent on his tail.


We didn't seem to bother Arthur, either, and were able to catch him playing hide-and-seek with his friend ...


and then, amazingly, he went seeking while we were still there!  I've only seen these types of animals in the zoo, before, when the most action you can hope for is a lazy tail flick as they sleep.  To see such strong and mighty animals roughhousing only a few feet away was incredible.

The kids took their own kiddie cameras along and took hundreds of pictures - literally - so we'll be editing those tomorrow.  They were both fascinated with the animals, but also with the new friends that they've made today.  Isn't it funny how experiencing something amazing with someone else draws you together?

After a picnic lunch in the Conservators' Center's new pavilion, we headed home, full of stories of lions and tigers and ... bobcats and lemurs and wolves and all sorts of wonderful animals.

If you've never been to The Conservators' Center and you live in the area, be sure to check it out.  It's definitely worth a visit.  If you live far away, be sure to check out what kind of animal resources are in your backyard.  You won't be sorry.

Monday, April 18, 2011

GratiTuesday - Tornadoes


Saturday was my son's fourth birthday party.

It was also the day that massive storms took over North Carolina and the surrounding states.

As the guests arrived, it began to rain buckets.  As we gathered in the living room and Luke settled down to open his presents, the lighs flickered over and over.  We lit candles and, having no recent update as to the storm's intensity, assumed we were having a bad storm.



There wasn't much thunder or lightening that we could see, so we lit a few candles and moved on with the party.


By the time we sang to the birthday boy and cut the cake, the rain was over and the sun had come back out.

Then the reports started to come in.  A local charter school, only ten miles to the north of us, lost its roof and sustained a lot of damage.  Trees are down all over the county, and many houses are damaged.

While this is all horrible, it's not even the worst of it.  As far as we've heard, only one tornado was spotted in our county, but only two counties south, hundreds of houses were damaged or destroyed outright.  People died.

So today, I'm grateful for our cozy little cluttered house.  I'm grateful for our intact roof and the walls holding it up.  I'm thankful for my getting-bigger boy who was so intrigued by the candles that he didn't question their necessity.  But mostly, I'm grateful for my family, who came through this round of storms safely.  So many didn't.

Join us for GratiTuesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

"Max on Life" by Max Lucado

What kind of questions do you have about your faith?  About who Jesus is?  Do you want to know why a good God allows bad things?  In this crazy world, who should we listen to?  How can we live out Bible values in  modern society?

Max Lucado answers these and more than 150 other hardhitting questions in his new book, Max on Life.  The book is divided into seven categories, including 'Hope,' 'Hurt,' 'Him/Her,' and the 'Hereafter,' and then within each section are questions written by others, followed by Lucado's response.  Lucado leaves no topic untouched.

The book is simply and well written.  When possible, Lucado injects humor in his answers but also answers each response honestly and based on Biblical principle.  Lucado shows understanding to the author of each question but clearly explains why he believes in his proposed answer.

This book would be a perfect gift for someone struggling with faith issues.  It also is a wonderful resource for the mature Christian, counselor, or pastor to keep for sharing with others who may have questions.  Do you have any?  Look up the answers in this book!

I received a free copy of Max on Life from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Lillies in Moonlight" by Allison Pittman & Giveaway!



**  Congratulations Abby - you've won this copy of "Lillies in Moonlight!"  It has been sent out to you and should be there soon.  I hope you enjoy it!


_______________________________________________

Lilly Margolis escaped from her domineering mother's household to exert her independence and find the acceptance she lacked at home.  A beautiful flapper, she finds her security in all the wrong places until stumbling upon the forgetful society matron Betty Ruth Burnside.  A twist of fate convinces Betty Ruth's son Cullen to take Lilly in temporarily, but this wounded war vet is locked in his own world of past regrets and doesn't want to risk damaging his mother's fragile memory further.  In the end, will Betty Ruth's proposed cross-country journey grant them all the forgiveness and acceptance they've desired?

Set in the 1920s, Lillies in Moonlight is rich with historical detail.  Pittman creates lifelike characters in such a realistic world that you can't help but cheer them along.  The story's twists and turns add to the suspense of the ending.  The messages of forgiveness, love, and acceptance come through loud and clear through the story of Lilly and Cullen in a natural, non-preachy way.

I enjoyed reading this book.  I'm definitely going to seek out Pittman's other books!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Multnomah's Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

This book was great - and I want to share it.  I'm randomly giving away one copy of this book on Monday, April 25th.  To enter, do one or more of the following and then leave a comment telling me which you did.  Please leave a separate comment for each entry.  Be sure to leave an e-mail address so that I can get in touch with you if you win!

1.  Rate this review.
2.  "Follow" this blog.
3.  Share about this giveaway on Facebook.

Good luck!

Tai Kwon Do


This week we were visited by Mr. Earl Fuller, of Earl Fuller's Tai Kwon Do Center.  He taught the kids the basic principles of the martial arts.

Since the term 'martial arts' means 'the art of war,' I was a bit worried about this one.  I know very little about the martial arts except that they require extreme discipline and strength, and while I believe those are both great things to possess, I was a bit worried about introducing my very impressionable son to them.

Once again, I worried needlessly.

Mr. Fuller started out by explaining that the basic tenets of the martial arts are the same as those that govern all of life.  He talked about the importance of goal setting and then moved on to stranger danger.  He emphasized that the only time someone should use their martial arts skills are in times if immediate, physical danger - and when running away has not worked.

Mr. Fuller showed the kids six blocking techniques that they could use to stop people from touching or harming them in various ways.


The first, putting your hands up and facing out, means "Stop!"


Another, if someone is swinging at your head, involves ducking and turning from the waist.


Mr. Fuller showed that you should never try to stop someone reaching for your leg or foot with your hands, as this leaves your head exposed.


Instead, he recommended bringing up your knee to stop them.


Lastly, if someone is kicking down low at your feet or legs, simply jump up and over the attack.

Finally, Mr. Fuller spoke about the importance of exercise and proper nutrition.

I was very impressed with Mr. Fuller's presentation.  He gave the children information about martial arts techniques, but also gave them practical information that they can use every day.  He was careful to emphasize the proper purpose of the martial arts and how they incorporate into everyday life.

If we ever decide that our children should have martial arts lessons, we will definitely go to Mr. Fuller.  And if you've never considered it, check it out.  Mr. Fuller even gives three free classes to people who want to try it!