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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

GratiTuesday: Living Vicariously

My grandmother is a home ec teacher, and before she retired she taught grand gingerbread house-making units with her high school students.  

Sometimes she sent us pictures of these fabulous creations she had made, and I always thought, "Wow!  What fun that must be!"  I wanted to make one in the worst kind of way, but it never worked out.

A few weeks ago, while attempting to assemble one of those pre-made kit houses with my Big Helper - and failing miserably - I realized that Nana would be visiting in a few weeks, and that perhaps she could show us how to put one of these together.

My Big Helper loved that idea.

Fortunately for us, Nana didn't mind, and she arrived on Saturday, apron in hand, ready to create her own kind of magic with us. 

Without the time necessary to bake all of our own pieces - at least this time - we began with a premade kit. Nana and my Big Helper soon worked out a decorating plan, and after watching her great-grandmother pipe on some icing, ...

My Big Helper dove right in.

When he saw the mass quantities of candy that had been unearthed for this project, My Little Man came to help - and then left again when he realized we weren't eating it.

After working together throughout the morning and teaching us all sorts of tips and tricks, Nana made it 'snow' on their house, and they called it finished.

Here you can see their carefully-stacked chimney in the back and the snow scattered on the roof ...

And their front door, surrounded by bushes and framed with light pole and wreath.

This whole project looked like such fun.  The two of them worked in tandem, sharing ideas and suggestions and tips for how to make the imagined become reality.

Throughout their confectionery session, I sat glued to my chair just across the table, happy that my daughter could have this special time with her great-grandmother.  It made me remember times of learning from my great-grandmothers, times when I learned to roll out pie crust or bake special cookies.  It made me remember watching Nana create her own piping bag during the summer I took cake decorating in 4-H, and to wish that I still knew how to do that.

Most of all, though, I lived vicariously through my Big Helper Saturday morning.  Seeing her delight at Starburst chimneys and sugar icicles made me feel as if a tiny part of me was a part of the creation.  As if a dream twenty-five years in the making came true.

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Multitudes on Monday - February 27, 2012

What a week!  It's been busy but wonderful.  Here are a few of our blessings:

- We got out first - and maybe our only - snow!  

- Not only was the snow fun, but it was beautiful, too.

- I loved watching the kids' excitement!

- Lenten fastnachts, our own version, shared with friends.

- An opportunity to learn with friends.

- A weekend visit with family.

- My Big Helper's first lost tooth.

There was also:
- I was served communion by My Big Helper for the very first time this weekend.  It was amazing.
- A run with my Little Man.
- Riding my antiquated scooter with the kids - until they decided that mine was better.  ;-)

What sorts of blessings did you receive this week?

Menu Plan Monday - February 27, 2012

Before us stretches a week with few commitments and warm weather - woo-hoo!  I'm looking forward to a slower pace and some serious playing time with the kids.  :-)  I also have a fridge full of leftovers from this weekend, so we'll be incorporating those things into our week.

So this week we'll be eating these things ...


- Perfectly Pumpkin Pancakes 
- Scrambled eggs and oranges
- Cereal and bananas

Lunches will be our usual assortment of leftovers or sandwiches with yogurt or cheese and sliced veggies or fruit.

- Baked BBQ chicken, crashed potatoes, steamed veggies

- Chicken quesadillas with black beans, cheese, and salsa; baked corn, applesauce

- Spaghetti with marinara sauce, salad, applesauce, chocolate chip pumpkin brownies
- Fish tacos, lima beans, sliced fruit
- Roast beef, baked potatoes, roasted carrots and onions
- Grab it and growl
- Dinner at church

What will you be eating this week?

For more Menu Plan Mondays, visit OrgJunkie.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

White Chocolate Popcorn

A friend told me about this treat a few weeks ago, and we made it for our Big Helper's school Valentine's Day party.  It came together in minutes!

This is super simple to make, keeps much longer than typical popcorn, and can be personalized with your favorite treats.  It's sweet but with a healthy base, so you can feel better about serving this than many other sweet treats.  We added M&Ms this time for a colorful pop, but next time we'll try some nuts and raisins.  Yum!

To make your own White Chocolate Popcorn, you'll need:
  • 1 batch of popcorn
  • 1/2 bag of white chocolate chips
  • your choice of add-ins (we used a handful of M&Ms)
You'll have your own white chocolate popcorn ready in under 15 minutes.  
  1. Prepare your popcorn and leave plain.  Put in a really big bowl.
  2. Melt white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring every 30 seconds to prevent scorching.
  3. Drizzle melted chocolate over popcorn.  Working quickly, stir the popcorn until completely coated with the chocolate.
  4. Add mix-ins and spread out on dish towels to dry.  Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to several days.
What would you add to a chocolatey popcorn treat mix?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Multitudes on Monday - February 20, 2012

Being busy always makes it harder to find peace, I think.  I love that God asks us to "be still" and know Him.  I've been bad about carving out those important pockets of time this week - I'm determined to do better in the days to come.

Still, despite my failings, He is always faithful.  This week has been no different:

My Little Man, excited to peel his own carrots, saying that "it's the best job ever!"

- Making valentines with My Big Helper.  She made each one individually and it took days, but it was fun to have some crafty time with her.

- Time hanging out and playing with friends at our Valentine's Party.

- My Big Helper is super excited about her new Bible and daily reading plan.  :-)

- I won a giveaway and a whole box of cakes in a jar showed up at my doorstep.  Yay for chocolate - delivered, even!

- Some beautiful, warm sunny days when we could play outside - more than usual.

- The neighbor's dogwoods are blooming!  They're so pretty and always remind me of my great-grandmother's tree outside the farmhouse.

- Violet-like flowers blooming all over the front yard.  They had my Big Helper quite excited this week!

- A playful, happy kitten.

- Our first Chinese food dinner as a family, and the kids loved it!

- While it was 69 a few days ago, today it snowed!  We've got much more than this now and school has been cancelled.  Snow day at home!  :-)

What blessings have you seen this week?

Menu Plan Monday - February 20, 2012

Whew, what a crazy week!  It was 69 only two days ago, but it's snowing now!  I don't think I'll every get used to Southern weather.

Being a SAHM keeps you quite busy.  Somehow My Little Man and I have plans away from home four days this week, with the Big Helper having one of those days off from school.  We're getting company for the weekend, too - yay! - so it's sure to be a big week.

Here are our meal plans so far:

- scrambled eggs, toast, oranges

- yogurt, bananas, and Cinnamon Almond Granola

- Perfectly Pumpkin Pancakes

Lunches will be our usual assortment of leftovers or sandwiches with cheese or yogurt and sliced fruits or veggies.

- Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches with oatmeal cookies for dessert

- Chili, cornbread muffins, applesauce
- Mexican baked potatoes (topped with black beans, cheese, corn, and salsa)

- Spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, salad, applesauce

- Pizza, carrot sticks
- Baked chicken, crashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, applesauce
- Grab it and growl

It's going to be a big food week, too.  Tuesday is Fastnacht Day, so we'll make our fastnachts on Monday and then share them with friends the next day.  I love that tradition!  Following that, it will be my last sweet for the duration of Lent, so I'm particularly looking forward to them this year.  I haven't found a fastnacht recipe that I like enough to use more than once, but this year we're going with this one.  It's not really a true fastnacht, but it will give the kids the right idea and be a smidge healthier than the real thing.

I'm excited to be sharing a special family-friendly Lenten project that I've been working on here tomorrow!  Come back and check it out.  

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How to Make Puffy Paint

My kids love to paint with puffy paint.  It adds dimension to their work and makes painting even more fun.  The best part: you can make it easily with ingredients you already have home!

To make your own puffy paint, simply mix one part of paint to one part of shaving cream.  Stir together gently and then brush onto paper.  If you spread the paint out super thin, the paint will flatten close to the paper; if, however, you brush the paint on thickly and allow it lie in small mounds on the paper, it will dry exactly as you paint it, texture and all.

Allow the paint to dry and display as usual.

What will you paint with your puffy paint?

Shared at I Can Teach My Child.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Join the SwagBucks Birthday Bash!

Swagbucks is about to turn 4 years old, and they're celebrating with a huge birthday bash - where 4 $1000 prizes will be given away!  

Entering to win is as easy as 1, 2, 3:
  1. RSVP here for the SwagBucks Birthday Bash Team Challenge.  Only takes a second!
  2. Pick one of the two parties and RSVP for it - or choose 'surprise me.'
  3. You're done!
If you're not familiar with SwagBucks, it's a way of earning virtual 'bucks' that you can then trade in for gift cards and prizes.  One of the easiest ways to earn is just through searching the web.  Since joining less than two years ago, I've earned nearly $200 in Amazon gift cards.  Why not earn prizes for searches that you need to do anyway?

Right now you can sign up using the code BIRTHDAYBASH12 and get an extra 110 SwagBuck bonus - which means you'll start out with 140 instead of the usual 30!  :-)

See you at the party.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"The Maid of Fairbourne Hall" by Julie Klassen

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall

What do you do when you run away from home with only a few coins to your name and are forced to take a servant's position in a wealthy household - where two of your would-be suitors are living?  That's the position that Margaret Macy finds herself in after fleeing her stepfather's brutish nephew, who plans to force her into marriage so that he can gain control of her massive trust fund, which she will soon inherit.  With absolutely no work experience and a kind heart, albeit a selfish one, Margaret must learn to survive in the real world.  Even better - can she remain invisible to those who know her true identity, but somehow win the affections of the man she truly loves?

From the very first page of this book, author Julie Klassen draws the reader out in two ways:  by making him/her sympathize with the hard work done by household servants, and by drawing his/her ire towards Margaret Macy's self-centered attitude.  That ire soon changes to understanding and then appreciation, but at no point in the story do the reader's feelings get put on a shelf.  Klassen tethers the reader's emotions to Margaret, pulling out more and more just when you think an even keel has been reached.

Klassen's attention to detail throughout the book is amazing.  From a description of the brushes commonly used when cleaning an estate in England in 1815 to the household hierarchy, Klassen has done her research, and the tidbits and information she incorporates into the story add that much more authenticity.  I walked away from this having been not only thoroughly entertained, but feeling as if I'd learned something, too.

Not that I was ready to walk away - not by a long shot.  Though a rather longish book (my favorite kind!), I wasn't ready to put The Maid down, and so upon finishing the last page I promptly turned back to the middle and kept right on reading.  Margaret Macy is one of those timeless characters whom you'd love to meet and aren't ready to leave.

Not that The Maid is all about flue brushes and love songs, either, because that wouldn't do it justice.  With everything from social issues like slavery to duels, pirates, and masquerade balls, Klassen doesn't let any dust settle on the plot.  She writes with enough humor and fluff to keep the story entertaining but with true, deep issues to make The Maid of Fairbourne Hall much more than, say, a typical beach romance.

I think I've found a new favorite author.

I received a free copy of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

GratiTuesday - Newfound Excitement

A few weeks ago our Big Helper was invited to attend a why-you-should-read-your-Bible-daily class for kids.  Since she has been learning how to find the scripture for our evening devotions in her Bible, we thought this sounded like a good fit and signed her up.

After the first class I asked what she learned, and she was rather non-committal.  "Tired," I assumed, and let it go.

But by the end of the series, she was on fire.

She came home with her Bible after the next-to-last class excited that she could read the Bible for herself.

She came home from the last class saying that she wished there were more, and showing off her new Bible (given out at the class) and all it's kid-friendly features.

Our Big Helper came home from school sick yesterday, and after settling onto the couch and watching half of Cinderella, she called to me.  "Can you turn the movie off, Mommy?" she asked.

I asked why, but she answered only with a mysterious smile - and then darted across the room to get her new Bible and do that day's reading.

The pastor teaching the class gave each child a read-the-New-Testament-in-a-year plan.  Being broken down into doable chunks is exciting to her, and she's already planning where to fit her new reading into her day's schedule.

Yesterday she asked, "Mommy, what's a Christian?"

"It's someone who loves Jesus," I answered.

"Oh," she said.  "Then I'm one, because I love Jesus."

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - February 13, 2012

The beginning of our week is full of baking for this lovely holiday happening tomorrow, but then we slow down for a bit.  The kids have lots of food requests this week, so we're incorporating those into our plans.


- yogurt parfaits with fruit and cinnamon almond granola
- scrambled eggs, toast, and oranges
- whole wheat cinnamon rolls, fruit

- Crock pot mac 'n' cheese, steamed broccoli
- BBQ, crashed potatoes, and roasted carrots
- Baked sweet and sour chicken with brown rice and stir fried veggies

- Homemade "Subway" sandwiches (at daughter's request) with grapes, peanut butter ball with pretzels for dessert

- Parmesan Veggie Potato Soup, bread, apple slices
- Grab it and Growl

Our Valentine's Day Menu:

- Blueberry sprinkly pancakes in heart shapes with strawberry smoothies (breakfast)

- Valentine's Pizza Casserole with green beans and Peanutty Krispy Treats

We're helping at several Valentine's parties this year, and so for those we're making:
- chocolate and peppermint cake ball truffles with this cake as the base

- Black Magic Cake with Cheesecake Filling and Chocolate Ganache
- White chocolate popcorn treats, bagged individually

What's on your menu this week?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie!