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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Come to England!

I'm preparing, once again, to tour England with Sense & Sensibility Tours. I'll be meeting up with friends from India, The Netherlands, South Africa, Ireland, England, and elsewhere to see some of the beautiful sights, as well as study historical costume, this coming September. 

There are two spots left on the trip! Are you interested? We'll be spending the second half of the trip here in Bath and will end the tour by attending the Jane Austen Festival---in costume!

If you're interested in learning more, visit Sense & Sensibility Tours online. This will be my third time visiting England and spending time with Jennie, Suzi, Cathy, and the other ladies who make this tour such a fantastic experience. Trust me---you don't want to miss this!

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These great parties

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Homemaking Party

Our family is anxiously awaiting the arrival of my first nephew! It's so exciting to be an aunt for the first time! He should be here by the end of the week. What a blessing---I can't wait!

What are you celebrating this week? 

Thanks for linking up. Have a blessed day!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Pretty Vintage Pitchers and Some Thoughts on Hospitality

Winter pretty much skipped us here in NW Arkansas this year so I'm packing away the winter time decorations and pulling out the spring stuff! I'm definitely a cold weather girl but the one consolation about nice weather is there are more flea markets and thrift sales to visit. The past couple weeks, I've picked up two pitchers at two of my favorite thrift shops. I found this pretty pink one today.

I love things that show a little (or a lot!) wear---chippy pottery, worn leather---I like to imagine that they've been well-used and well-loved. 

I was thinking about these pitchers today as I worked on redecorating my living room for spring---thinking about how they represent me as a homemaker and my desire to offer hospitality to those God would bring to my home. I've always been nervous about hospitality as I worry my home isn't big enough, or my couches are uncomfortable, or that I won't know what to talk about with my guests. These chipped pitchers, the pink one that is barely pink anymore, they're vessels that aren't perfect but are still beautiful---and still very much able to fulfill the purpose for which they were made.

Like these pitchers, I can be filled so that I can pour out. When I'm running low, I can be refilled so I can continue fulfilling my purpose. It's ok if me and my home are not perfect. My willingness to be hospitable is beautiful to the Lord and He will honor my efforts.



Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Practicing the Art of Being Gentle to Myself & The Homemaking Party

I've never felt like I was the sort of girl people would describe as gentle.

I'm not an animal lover. I don't tend a garden. Growing up, I preferred camping over ballet and took weight lifting when my friends were taking home economics.

I didn't start wearing pink until my fifth child was born and rarely wore a dress or skirt until I was almost 28 years old. Maybe you don't use any of these things to describe someone who is gentle---but they're things that I've always associated with the trait. At any rate, the feminine side of me was slow to emerge and the consistently kind and gentle side is just now beginning to show itself.

Each January, many of my friends share their word for the year and talk about why they've chosen that particular thing to focus on. I've never done that either. (Well, I guess one year I did say I was going to start saying NO to everything. It's been my word for every year, ever since.)

I think I will choose a word this year. I think I'll choose, gentle. What I'm finding is that gentleness has little to do with the outward appearance traits that I described above---and everything to do with the heart.

It's funny---when I'm walking closely with God and he wants to do something new in me, he makes it really clear. I find similar themes cropping up in various areas of my life and pretty soon they all culminate in a big, a ha!! moment for me and I realize it's God.

The last few weeks, I've found myself seeking a gentler path in so many ways...

  • Gentle Reading: I read Stepping Heavenward by Mrs. Elizabeth Prentiss in January and just finished Mary Froehlich's Courageous Gentleness. I'm finding myself hungering for books that are going to nurture my soul and encourage me in my walk as a wife, mother, and homemaker. I've started hashtagging these #gentlereading on my social media. I'm hoping others will do the same so I can get more ideas for great reads!
  • Gentle Speech: I've always sort of prided myself on my ability to make a joke in a split second. I've got a pop culture reference for just about anything anyone says and tend to be a social media show off when it comes to debating hot topics. I struggle between congratulating myself for my wit and condemning myself for the way I make some people feel. I do not like this part of me anymore. I'm trying to clean up my act and remember Proverbs 31:26--"She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness."
  • Gentle to My Body: I've dealt with a lot of self-loathing as I've done the yo-yo diet thing for far too long. Lately, I've focused more on what I put in my body, rather than what I'm avoiding. I'm choosing natural and fermented foods, drinking healing herbal tea, taking good quality vitamins and supplements for those my body is lacking in, and cutting back on sugar. I feel peaceful and positive---which is way more motivating than putting myself through the daily guilt like before.
  • Gentle to My Soul: I want to focus on positive self-talk. Speaking kind words to myself and others. Seeing the positive side of things and believing in myself more. Allowing myself times of rest and peace.
  • Gentle in Homeschooling: Since moving to Arkansas, we've been able to relax quite a bit as there's not nearly the constraints on our rights as there were in Oregon. I want to continue on that path---letting go of crazy expectations and allowing God to mold our homeschool into the unique-to-us thing he wants it to be. I want more kids-on-lap reading time, more wonderful discovery time.
  • Gentle in My Treatment of Others: Assuming the best, ignoring the rest. Walking away from conflict instead of getting sucked in. Realizing I can't "fix people" and doing my best to be an example of Christ in my words and actions.

I'm excited about the work of bold gentleness that God is doing in my heart and I'm looking forward to sharing more with you all about that.

Thanks for stopping by the Homemaking Party! Have a beautiful week!


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Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy Homemaker Monday

I've been lurking at Sandra's Happy Homemaker Mondays for a couple weeks now and decided this week to join in and do one of my own! You can check out the prompts at Diary of a Stay At Home Mom.

The weather.....
Today we were surprised by a bit of snow! Nothing stuck and it only lasted for short bursts, but the kids still had fun outside for the couple of minutes it lasted! A friend was in Joplin today and said they were getting snow and since we had a lot of wind, I guess it just blew south a bit!

Right now I am....
I've just finished up a government lesson with my 16 and 14 year olds. We are going through a US History book together as part of their homeschooling lessons and really enjoyed our time together. We tend to rabbit trail in all different directions so these discussions take much longer than planned. I'm thankful I'm blessed to be able to homeschool during this time.

Thinking....
The house is quiet and everyone is relaxing. I'm trying to decide if I want to read my book all evening or watch Merlin with Jamie. We just started re-watching the series. It may require ice cream. I'm trying to decide if I feel like going to buy some this late.

On my reading pile....
I'm currently reading The Treasure Box by Penelope J. Stokes. I don't love it but it's keeping my attention. 10 years ago I would  have devoured it and ordered everything I could find by her. But now, I feel like I'm wasting time if I read fiction that doesn't have a firm base in reality. This one is kind of science-fictiony so I'm not that into it---but I'm trying to lighten up. 

On my TV.....
I'm not sure what they're watching out there. I imagine it's probably The Bible series on Netflix.

Favorite blog post last week (mine or other)....
My favorite post from last week is my Stepping Heavenward review on my book blog, Belle's Library. That was such a great book!

Something fun to share....
Today my almost 7 year old, Avalon, received her first Math books in the mail. She grabbed them and squealed and ran around the house showing everyone. She immediately began working on them and only stopped for dinner time. After dinner everyone wondered where Avalon went. She was working on her Math.

Blog hopping (newly discovered blog)....
Today I followed a comment on one of my social media networks (or maybe it was on my book blog?) Anyway, I found Amy at Making a Joyful Home. I can't wait to see what she's got to share as my first visit to her blog was really encouraging.

On the menu for this week....
Six year old Liam has requested biscuits and gravy and tacos made in pita pockets. He also asked if we could have pork chops every single night forever. 11 year old Cainan is planning our Valentine's Day family party and dinner so I'm sure we'll have something special then, too.

On my to do list....
I have a large pile of sewing: 12 year old Elisha wants me to make his dress shirts cufflink-friendly. Cainan has some badges to go on his Royal Ranger vest, as does 4 year old Kynthia. I have a button to sew on pants for Elisha and Liam's super hero eye mask needs repairing. I also have a book review to put up and general housework/homeschooling. I'll do grocery shopping on Thursday.

In the craft basket....
I'm considering making some curtains for my kitchen window (that's actually a fake window looking into my boys' bedroom and currently sports a Spiderman blanket for a curtain). I've got some vintage handkerchiefs that I'm going to form into some kind of pretty treatment for my side of the window.

Looking forward to this week....
Other than ballet, we have a quiet week at home. This is always nice! Friday night I'll be visiting with a friend for awhile. That will be great! Sunday is Valentine's Day and we always do something fun for the kids here at home. This year, Cainan wants a special party so we'll need to do some crafty things ahead of time to plan for that. 

Looking around the house....
It's funny because there are several clutter spots in my house that usually drive me crazy but this week I just don't care! I've begun focusing on taking in extra vitamins, kefir, fermented foods, healing teas, etc. this week and I just can't believe the impact it's made on my moods. I feel so peaceful. Even though I've got homeschool clutter and craft area clutter and a pile of clothes that need to be hung up, I don't have the guilt about it that I usually have. I've focused on health and family this past week and I feel good about that.

From the camera....
Here's a silly picture of the kids enjoying our 30 second snow!

On my prayer list.....
This week I'm especially praying for my friend, Sarah, who is battling Lupus and has been accepted into the Lupus treatment at Johns Hopkins in Maryland. She leaves on Sunday. None of her treatments have been effective so I'm really praying that God will use the wisdom of the doctors there to heal her and bring her relief and comfort. Please be in prayer for her, her husband, and their three young daughters.

Bible verse, Devotional....
I've just finished Courageous Gentleness by Mary Froehlich and am so encouraged to practice gentleness and kindness. I'm reminded of Proverbs 31:26--"She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness."

Make sure to visit Happy Homemaker Monday to see what other homemakers are sharing this week!


A Worry-Free Date Night and a Better For You Pub Mix Recipe #DataAndAMovie #ad #cbias

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #DataAndAMovie #CollectiveBias
There are a lot of things about my kids growing up that make me a little weepy and nostalgic, but it's also really great to watch them maturing into responsible young men and women. In the last couple years, I've had to give up a bit of my mommy freakout and let my teens grab hold of a little independence. One great thing about having older teens is the freedom it gives Jamie and I to have a date night now and then. With our affordable Walmart Family Mobile PLUS plan, we feel comfortable leaving our teens in charge because they have a dependable way to reach us, if needed.

The Walmart Family Mobile PLUS plan features Unlimited Talk, Text, and Data. It includes up to 10GB of 4G LTE data PLUS a free movie rental on VUDU every month per line for just $49.88. Sometimes I need to keep up with my social media while I'm out, so I love having the extra data. The affordability of the plan means we can have an extra phone at home so the kids can reach us while we're out. Even though we have contacts saved in the phone, I still leave a list of numbers and info. for them. This makes it easier for them to just pick up and dial if there's an issue and they're upset. It's also easier for the youngest kids to just type in a number rather than try to navigate my contacts. 

While nights out are fun, usually we want to stay in and have a date night at home. We put the kids to bed early, make a simple snack, and play a game or watch a movie. 
If you're like us and prefer an at-home movie night, this is a great time to take advantage of the new Walmart Family Mobile PLUS plan and get a free monthly movie rental to boot!  

Back in the day, (like 1998) Jamie and I loved to browse the video rental stores and pick up a stack of VHS tapes to watch over the weekend. The 5 for $5 nights were the best! It's funny---we're the only generation who experienced that. Our teenage selves never imagined we'd soon be able to rent a movie and watch it without ever leaving our home. Usually our teens choose what's on the TV in the evenings but we'll have to wrestle it away from them when it's time for our VUDU movies!

We love putting together fun snack mixes for our at-home movie nights. Here's a great one that features some of my favorite better-for-you snacks.

Better For You Crunchy Pub Mix
2 c. veggie chips
3 c. sour cream & onion puffed corn
2 c. miniature pretzels
1 c. mixed nuts

I found the LG Leon LTE on Rollback for $69.82 (originally $99.82). When you go to pick up your phone, make sure you get a $25 starter kit, as well (located right above the phones). You can set up your service in the store or online. You can find a selection of phones and Walmart Family Mobile plans in the electronics section of your local Walmart.

Be sure to check out the Walmart Family Mobile PLUS plan and let me know what fun things you like to do on a date night at home!

Disclaimer: All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to http://cbi.as/28aqc or your local Walmart for current pricing.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Homemade Chicken Stock & Broth -- Trim Healthy Mama Recipe

So what's the difference between stock and broth? Aren't they interchangeable? No. It's all about the seasoning. Stock is what you get from simmering the scraps of the meat, along with any vegetables you throw in. Broth is made when you add herbs and spices to season the stock.

Much of my cooking the last few years has involved various forms of soups and stews. When you've got a good broth base, a little bit of food can stretch a long way in a hearty soup. At first, I'd buy cans of broth---but when I was buying eight or more cans per meal, storage became an issue. Then I switched to bouillon cubes or granules---but the additives made me nervous and I had little control over the flavor. Last year, I started making my own stock and found it to be the least expensive, most flavorful, and healthiest option I'd tried. In fact, I spend just pennies every time I make a huge stock pot full, as I use scraps* that I've saved in the freezer.

Homemade Chicken Stock
Chicken, Vegetable, & Herb Scraps (frozen or thawed---doesn't matter)
3-4 bay leaves
splash of vinegar
water
large stock pot

Making your own stock is so simple that I feel a little silly writing this out. Still, it's something I didn't start doing until my mid-30s so I've got to assume this information will be valuable! So basically, just put your chicken, veggie & herb scraps, splash of vinegar (to draw out more nutrients from the chicken carcass) and bay leaves in the pot and fill it with water within 3 or 4 inches from the top. You don't have to cut anything up---just put it in there frozen, if you'd like. Put the pot on a back burner to boil. Once you've got a good boil going, turn it down to simmer and leave it for several hours. You'll know it's done when you've lost a few inches of water and the water has turned a beautiful golden color.

I use two straining methods to remove the scraps from the broth. I use my vegetable colander for the first straining, gently pouring the stock, a little at a time, through the colander and into a roasting pan. I throw the scraps away at this point, and then I clean out the stock pot and pour the mixture back into it---this time using a fine mesh sieve to get out the smaller stuff.

Now you can bag it in quart size bags and freeze, or preserve it in jars with a pressure canner. I'm thinking I'll start saving plastic food containers to reuse, but for now I use quart size bags. I usually get 5-6 quarts of stock each time I make this. I stand them up inside a baking pan and let them freeze, then I retrieve my baking pan and I'm good to go.

Using the stock is simple...just remember to thaw first!

When you're ready to use it as a broth base, add your own blend of seasonings. Some that we love include: salt, pepper, bay leaves, garlic, thyme, basil, and marjoram. I don't add any extra salt or seasonings when I'm making the stock because I don't always know what I'm going to use it for. This also helps me not over-salt the soup as I don't have to remember whether or not I salted each batch.

*A note on scraps:

Chicken: Oftentimes, I pick up a rotisserie chicken from Walmart to use in chicken taco salad or our favorite creamy chicken soup. If I go during the right time of day, I can get one from the day before at half price (about $2.50). I save the bones and skin from these in the freezer in a gallon-size freezer bag until I have saved up enough vegetable scraps to make the broth. Of course, you can always just pick up some fresh chicken on sale---but be sure to buy it bone-in and boil for awhile to get all the important nutrients out of the bones.

Vegetables: We always have a simple vegetable tray made up to serve with lunches. Usually just carrots and celery, with a separate bowl of cucumbers. When the carrots and celery start to dry out or turn a little brown at the edges, I put them in the freezer bag with the chicken bones. Onion scraps often come from leftovers on hamburger night (tomatoes, too) or from the other half of the onion when a recipe only calls for a small bit (this is becoming rarer---ha!).

Herbs: use stems and "less fresh" herbs from your garden.

Once you get in the habit of saving scraps, you'll find that there are actually lots of things you'd normally throw away that can be saved for a soup base or even a casserole.

Thanks for visiting the Homemaking Party! Have a beautiful week!

Looking for more great Trim Healthy Mama Recipes? Try these! 
Got one to share? Let me know and I'll add it to the list.

THM Lunches & Dinners

Creamy Tomato Basil Chicken
Pork Egg Roll in a Bowl
Spaghetti Squash Casserole (No Pasta Spaghetti)
20 Squash Recipes
Baked Spinach and Pepperjack Chicken

THM Breakfasts

List of THM Breakfast Ideas

Chicken Ranch Omelette

THM Treats
Chocolate Peanut Butter Candy

THM Misc.
Homemade Ranch Dressing
Make Your Own Chicken Stock & Broth
Zesty Burger Spread

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