Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Another Easy Baby Gift

We had a blizzard last week which for some reason made me want to get some little projects done around here. One thing on my list was to get a baby gift made for some folks from our church. And since I am trying to work through using up my stash of fabrics and wasn't about to leave the house, here is what I came up with. The blanket was made from a solid yellow fleece remnant and this shark print fleece remnant, about a yard of each. Hopefully the print will live beyond babyhood into this little guy's toddlerhood. It is sewn up on 2 sides and fringed on two sides. The finished blanket measures about 30" x 36". With the scrap of print leftover, I cut around one shark and just top-stitched it to the onesie. Cost of this set:
- two remnants, $4.00 max, likely much lower
- one onesie (bought in pack of 5 from Jo-Ann with coupon) $1.25

Total: $5.25 or less

I paired this with a pack of newborn diapers bought with a great coupon keeping the complete cost well under $10. Cute. Easy. Cheap.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Celebrating Childhood Creativity: The Art Board

I've been wondering for a while how I could handle the constant influx of art and papers from church, the YMCA and school in a better way so they wouldn't just be dumped on the kitchen island and later discarded. But rather to put them out for display to communicate that we enjoy our kids and their creations and are proud of their efforts.

Inspiration struck in the 90% off aisle of Hobby Lobby. This very large frame was marked at $10.00. I'll take it. It was not at all in pristine condition, but I wasn't going to use it as is, so I was fine with that.
We gave it three coats of paint, using "oops" paint and a reused brush from this project. And I even let Sportster help. Can I admit here that I struggle with wanting to include my children in projects but also get them done quickly and with the results I am looking for? Can anybody relate?the painted frameThen I screwed in eye hooks on each side and strung picture wire between the hooks and hung the frame up in our front entryway. We attached the artwork with tiny clothespins. Here Smiley is pointing to his paper plate face.
As more papers come in, we'll choose the best and change some of the current collection out and I'll save in a box or a folder the ones I'll keep for the kids.

One more little step to enjoying the childhood of my children. This new art spot makes me happy!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Little More Order in the Bathroom

Recently I had some time on my hands and thought I'd try to make some order out of the chaos in one of my bathroom drawers. It began by dumping out all the contents of the drawer and wiping it down with a cloth. Yikes!
I wondered how I could compartmentalize better to keep things in order. Baby wipes tubs were at the ready (free!) and fit the drawer perfectly. One for hair stuff, one for my blowdryer, one (with the lid on to keep clean) for cotton balls, and one for everything else. The depth of those containers keeps things from getting out of place.

And the finished product, which is still orderly after a couple weeks. Success!

This project made possible by the one who looked on while he was supposed to be doing something else. Oh, if only potty training could be as easy as getting that drawer in shape!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another Take on Wool Dryer Balls

Last fall I saw a post Monica at The Homespun Heart had done about making wool dryer balls to take the place of fabric softeners. I let the idea sit for a while, then started one ball and quickly ran out of the only wool yarn I had on hand. But a couple months ago I wondered if I could use strips of felted wool knotted together for the same effect. I started with a piece of felted wool that was originally a sweater and later sewn into a decorative pillow cover.

I started with my little ball made from the wool yarn, about 2" in diameter.

Then I cut several strips of the felted wool into a 1" x 11" size. I used my Olfa mat and cutter, but precision is not important to this project so you could easily do this by hand. I ended up using about twenty strips for two of these balls.

Then I just started tying strips snugly around the yarn ball and continued to do that in a random way until all the grey yarn was concealed, with strips overlapping and intertwining with one another, so it wouldn't be likely to unravel in the washer or dryer. I used about 10 of the strips around the grey yarn ball and it ended up like this.

With the remaining strips I just tied them together around the center and each strip ended up with more of an exposed tail. After these were made I just threw them in the wash with a regular load and then into the dryer with that load. Now I just keep them in the dryer all the time as they seem to absorb some of the moisture from the wet laundry to speed drying just a bit. They also seem to add a little more loft to some of the items you launder which can get matted and lumpy with machine laundering. And I haven't noticed any static cling since I started using them. On the first few dryer cycles I did notice more red lint in the lint screen, but that is no longer an issue.

Overall, this was a quick and easy project and I'm pleased with the results. And as an added bonus, it was all free for the doing.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Counting Blessings

Even through our recent loss, we have been so blessed. I'm pausing today to count those blessings. The road ahead will not be easy, but these blessings from the hand of God make the journey easier to bear.

- The love of friends and family expressed to us through meals, childcare, hugs, calls and prayers.

- Our compassionate and kind Christian doctor.

- A very kind and generous unknown lady at Chick-Fil-A who paid for our entire meal as she was in front of my husband in the drive-thru. This was at lunch and we had gotten the bad news earlier that day. I am amazed at the little things God orchestrates to encourage our hurting hearts!

- Grief that our children have not picked up on. Since they are still very young, we are not telling them what has happened.

- A great marriage with open and good communication, a loving and caring and understanding husband.

- Good insurance that will cover the bulk of the care I have received so far. And that my husband has a job right now in this tough economy.

- Happy times with our children and hearing our 2-year-old sing "Our God is an awesome God" again and again last night before bed, complete with actions that are all the sweeter when done with those sweet chubby little hands that are so often otherwise finding mischief.

- Singing the song below in church the last two Sundays. It has touched my heart both times.

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord - lyrics found here

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be
'Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name
Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

We are blessed people!


..the loss of one we will not cuddle, the one I will not nurse come autumn, the one who will never know the love and adventure of our other children.

Little One, we loved you though we did not know you. We know the Father has you safe in His care...and that does this Mama's heart good.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

At the End of My Cooking Rope

Well, so much for the menu plan I just posted Monday. My children continue to express distaste for whatever it is I fix. We just finished what I think was a great dinner of beef stew, fresh homemade wheat rolls, and spinach salad dressed with red peppers, banana peppers and red onions. Well, only one of my children ate the entree. This seems to be happening every.single.night and I am sick.of.it. There is nothing wrong with my cooking, but morale in the mess hall is way down. All three of our kids are in a picky streak right now and we have not and will not cave to their desires in this area. They really do not even know how good they have it! But it ruining our mealtimes, so the only topic addressed is the food and not the rest of life that should be shared around our dinner table.

I will not fix two dinners, one for the grown-ups and one for the kids.

I will not serve hot dogs, mac and cheese, corn dogs and petrified pizza on a regular basis.

I will press on.

I will stay strong.

I will not allow my kids' opinions to cause me to feel I am useless mother.

I will rise tomorrow to cook again!

Lord, help me cook and serve with a cheerful heart!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Because Menus Make Life Easier

One way to take charge of my slump in homekeeping is to get back to menu planning instead of occupying brain power each and every day to think of what we are going to be eating for dinner. (As an aside, I got a chuckle out of an article in the paper yesterday that said Americans are eating out at fast food more because of the economy. I guess we are weird, but we are eating out even less at fast food. When we do the math, even fast food can approach $20 for a meal for our family. Think of all the groceries you can buy with $20 when you are careful!) Thankfully we have lots of ingredients on hand right now so this won't be too difficult. Breakfasts will likely be made up of some of the 30 boxes of cereal (for less than a dollar per box) I bought this weekend, yogurt, and fruit.

I'm always looking for lunch ideas since it seems I lack inspiration for that meal more than any other and always need something quick and hopefully balanced. Do you have any ideas to share?

L - quesadillas, oranges, leftover rice and orange chicken
D - sausage corn chowder, biscuits, green salad

L - turkey cheese biscuit rolls, apple slices
D - beef roast, mashed potatoes, steamed herbed vegetables

Wednesday - make a batch of bread: 2 loaves, 1 dozen cinnamon rolls, 1 dozen dinner rolls, 1 dozen garlic cheese breadsticks
L - stovetop mac & cheese
D - vegetable beef stew, green salad, whole wheat dinner rolls

B - whole wheat cinnamon rolls, fruit
L - canned soup with pasta thown in to bulk it up, dinner rolls
D - rigatoni bake (pasta, meat, sauce, cottage cheese, mozarella), garlic cheese breadsticks

L - leftovers
D - homemade pizza - maybe one taco and one pepperoni, salad

B - oat waffles (with some cottage cheese blended in for more protein), blueberries, yogurt
L - pasta bar: cooked pasta with choices of meat, alfredo and red sauce
D - salsa cheese chicken, spanish rice, corn

L - burritos made from last night's leftovers and beans
D - pasta e fagioli soup, bread/biscuits/etc.

Ideas for next week: cook a turkey and use it in lots of different ways, balsamic pork chops, loaded baked potatoes, turkey soup with homemade noodles and homemade broth.

What's cooking at your house this week?

Mundane Monday

I guess I've not been posting because, well, not much has been happening around here. Just keeping on, keeping on. It's that time of year when there is not much exciting on the horizon for us, though I surely am looking forward to summer. So, here's the mundane we've been up to.

We're working the plan with our Dave Ramsey babysteps and budgeting. We are behind the pace we had hoped for to achieve our next step, but there is only so much we can do on one income in the savings department without truly eating beans and rice around here regularly. Our grocery budget is limited already and we're not looking to reduce it further unless something major happens. And sadly, the grocery allotment is the only area in which we really have flexibility to control spending. I'm thankful for lots of good grocery deals lately. We were out of cold cereal for a week coming up to payday and that wasn't a lot of fun. The kids like their predictable breakfast of cereal and milk and yogurt and fruit and don't like to branch out much from that. And I don't especially like to start the food fights with breakfast. I don't like to have to think of the financial cost of every action or activity, but this is just the stage we are in. There have been weeks and seasons when we have not been as careful and aware of things, and those times have been to our detriment. I'd say we are frugal by necessity more than by option.

Home Life:
I've not been doing a great job at keeping up with the house and laundry. I feel outnumbered and the messes can be made at 3x the rate that they can be cleaned up. I must work on better training so they can be contributors to the household, each at a level appropriate to their age. It did feel great to get rid of numerous bags of extra things that have been camping in our garage for months waiting for our church's free exchange. I was blessed to find some clothes, canning jars, a sport coat and a great Liz Claiborne purse all for free this past Saturday. The purse wasn't something I needed, but I really like it and it seems like something just fun to refresh the wardrobe. A good, stylish purse that works well for your life is hard to come by and this one for free seems just right.

I have been diligent with my goal to work out 300 times this year. The majority of the workouts happen at home on the treadmill and a couple a week happen in the pool or on a good cardio machine at the YMCA. I thankful for the variety the Y brings. I think I've missed about 9 days since January 1st, so I'm on track to reach the goal. Unfortunately, this increased level of activity has not equated to losing even one pound. But I know I'm healthier even if the number on the scale doesn't reflect that. I'm on my way to being a fit fat girl, and I think I just need to come to terms with that. If I keep the fit part, hopefully things won't get worse.

Home and Garden:
I'm starting to plot and plan to hopefully have a fruitful garden this summer. This is a tough climate for gardening, but I'm up for the challenge. And since our backyard grass is gone and not coming back, I'm craving some green there. I'm also craving spring colors inside our home, but since we've used lots of red and darker neutrals, refreshing the living space would require changing out a lot of curtains and pillows and accessories, and I don't think our budget is moving in that direction. I need to get creative with what we have to change things up, even just a little bit.

We've experienced our share of challenges in this department lately. I don't know how to or really want to elaborate, but parenting is certainly not for the faint of heart. We need to be more prayerful and purposeful. Our kids are such a blessing, but they really do require everything we have to train them for life and godliness. And the task isn't made easier by lacking local family support. This last matter is something we do struggle with a fair bit.

We've been blessed by healthy kids this winter as well as last winter....no doctor visits! We are thankful that my husband still has a job in this tough economy. We find comfort in a God who sees us and provides for us and encourages us and loves us through all of life, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I know this has not been the most positive post, but I'm just keeping it real. We are doing fine, but may have a case of the 'blahs' right now. But spring is around the corner and even today is a new day!