Thursday, March 29, 2012

Comforting Peace

Today we lost a dear member of our family, Mark's Uncle Charlie. A decorated war veteran, who battled cancer these past four years, Charlie was a inspiration in both life and death.  He will be greatly missed, but we take comfort in the fact that his struggle is over, and he is now in God's hands. 

So during this time of sorrow we turn to God and find peace. Because Jesus gave us all...

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid." -John 14:27

Even though we feel the weight of sorrow, we turn to God and find strength...

'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' -Isaiah 41:10

In our tears, we turn to God and find refuge....

 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; -Psalm 46:1-2

And through Him, we will find joy again...for God is good, all the time.

We will miss you Charlie!
  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Taking a break

Hi all!  I know I said I'd be back this week, but with everything going on I'm going to take a break.  I may have to extend this to next week as well.

This week I'm off to NYC to see a Broadway show with my sister.

Next week is Holy week and we'll be very active at church.

So I'll probably see you all in two weeks, unless I can scrape together some time between jobs (yes, plural- editing is full throttle right now). 

Cheers to you and your families!!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Mom Monday- Gardening

I love it when you can have fun, teach your kids something, and provide for them all at once. Those moments feel rare...and special.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wednesday Break

I'm not feeling 100%, though I am feeling better than I have the last couple of weeks. But because of that and some other things going on, I'm taking a worthwhile break this week. Stop by next week for some more tips worth your time!

Busy, Busy- and a little catch up.

So lately things have been super busy...but it's all good stuff.

Last week was consignment shopping, and I got my sweet girls' whole wardrobes for a fraction of the cost.  Plus I got a ton of toys- for birthdays and to start a game night.  Yes, Elizabeth is finally old enough to play board games!

Silly Girls!!
In case you didn't know, I'm a serious consignment shopper (I went for three days!).  I really don't see the need of buying anything except shoes new.  My girls don't have normal feet- Elizabeth's are narrow and Evie's are chubby...so it makes for a hard fit even at the stores.

This week Mark is in Lexington wrapping some things up.  It's good news that I'll share later.

We've had our usual Kindermusik classes and bible study to keep us hopping.

It's garden season here.  We've got our raised bed in for lettuce and broccoli, and will be plowing up the field this week.  Looks to be around an acre of garden...probably less as I'm adding in the area I'm hoping to have our chicken coop on...which I'm steal fighting for someone to build for me.

Going to the garden
My Etsy store is keeping me even busier.  I love sewing and what a great response I've got.  I'm hitting an average of two orders a week so far.  It's been great and I've even learned applique!

Journal editing is starting back up in full gear.  I'm excited as I love to edit.

New things are happening too!  Elizabeth is signed up for preschool in the fall.  Can you believe that she'll be in Kindergarten in 2013!!!!  How did that happen?!?!?

She and her best friend, Kara, are in the same preschool and should be going to the same school.  They love each other and lately I hear a lot of, "let's go to Kara's house".  It's too sweet!!

I've got my new work schedule.  I'll be teaching two course online this summer and one course this fall.  Always great to teach.

Church is getting busy.  We've got our Easter event coming up that is community wide and the choir has been traveling to other churches to sing.  It's a lot of fun and I enjoy being so involved.

Still looking for swim lessons for the summer for both girls and looking forward to our family beach vacation!

What a wonderful life we lead!!



Monday, March 19, 2012

Mom Monday- One Year!

Today was Evie's one year old doctors appointment.


Even though she HATED the shots, she actually did wonderfully.  She calmed down quickly and when they drew blood, she didn't make a sound.  She was a trooper!  Though funny aside- she pulled off her bandaid and got blood on her checkout sheet- I was mortified, but the checkout lady said she'd had much worse. ;)

The doctor was really impressed.  Evie was very happy and was measuring great.  She is 18% in weight, 40% in height, and ~50% in head circumference.  I will say, both my babies are petite, but very healthy.


She is talking more each day.  The doctor was particularly pleased that she knew so many words.  My personal favorite is when she says thank you- it comes out tank you- so cute!  I have to say, I credit her vocabulary to two things: 1) my house is never quiet, someone is always talking and we don't talk down to anyone, the same words I use with Mark, I use with the girls and 2) Kindermusik: I could go on and on about how great Kindermusik is, but in the interest of time, I'll say that Evie picked up at least two words from Kindermusik.  All in all the doctor made me one proud mommy!


Now to be fair, it wasn't all perfect.  She is still a little picky about some of her foods, but the doctor told us we had a normal child and not to worry, just keep exposing her to the items that she isn't eating.  But I think we are turning a corner with Evie's "pickiness" she's eating a little broccoli now and tomato based sauces.  So hello more yummy veggies!  Of course she'll always eat her staple veggies- carrots, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash- and the girl hasn't met a fruit she doesn't like.


All in all a good day for little Evie!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Worthwhile Wednesday- Reusable Coffee Filters for a Good Brew

Last week I talked about roasting your own coffee, and trust me, you won't regret trying it. This week, I'm continuing with the coffee theme, and I'm going to show you how I make reusable coffee filters.

But first, here's a little bit about why I made our own:

1) I hate waste. I'm not afraid of washing or a little extra clean up if it eliminates waste. Less trash makes me very happy.

2) I'm cheap or frugal, if cheap offends you. This cuts out another thing we have to purchase. Instead of new filters every time, just pull out a reusable one.

3) It's easy. Like I mentioned before, I don't mind a little extra work, but when it's this easy- it's a no brainer.

Now back to the filters. We have two ways we brew coffee at our house and when you read these, I might remind you that we are coffee snobs.

The first is our French press. Hands down, best coffee if you use it correctly. Coffee needs two things to be extracted properly- 1) heat and 2) time or pressure (that's why espressos brew so quickly, pressure). I might add that this is one of the reasons I'm not a fan of the Keurig systems, not enough time or pressure (no offense if you love yours, it's not for me though).

So as long as your water is 198-204 degrees F and is in contact with the grounds for approximate amount of time (this depends on methods and grind- check it out here) than you'll have optimal extraction. For the French press that's easy, just get your water close to boiling and pour over (go with courser grounds so the filter catches them all, and you don't over extract- over extraction = bitter). At the designated time, push down slowly the metal filter and enjoy.

The second way we brew is a drip cup. Now my hubby thinks this is the better way to brew. The cup is conical shape (which provides better drainage = no sludge & better extraction) and drips the hot water directly into a single serving cup. With a good filter and good brewer it has the proper time for extraction. I must admit, I like it too and the hubby is a master at brewing...so I may have to give him this one.

But the problem with the drip cup? Filters! So to stop the waste and expense, enter make your own.

First you'll want a paper filter for a pattern. I used a number 2 filter. If you have a conical basket for a larger machine, you'll probably need a number 4. I added one inch seam allowances for each side.

Make your pattern and cut. For fabric, I used unbleached muslin. This is IMPORTANT. You definitely don't want to ingest any bleach or taste it- Yech.



I wanted a raw look up top, but also didn't want my fabric to rip or shred over time. So I did an overlock stitch on the top.


I then sewed all three sides together (1/2 inch seam allowances).


Trim the edges to remove excess fabric and then flip inside out. Press.  Sew three sides again (1/2 inch seam allowances).


You've just added French seams! Yay. The great thing about this, is it exactly mimics the paper filter, in that you have a thicker bottom portion to fold down over your drip hole. This slows the water down (remember time for extraction) and doesn't expose your coffee to raw seams.


But remember our raw top? I make it taller to fold over the cup. I hate when a paper filter gets caught by the water and folds over.  With it rounded over the top, no problem!


A simple and easy way to eliminate some waste.  Plus remember that easy part- it's not only easy to construct, but simply rinse out when done and allow to air dry.  No need to wash with soap- besides who wants soap flavored coffee??  If you do worry about germs, don't, just boil it and use again.

All in all very worth your time.

This post is linked to Frugally Days Sustainable Ways # 18.

I'm definitely flawed.

So I totally went back on my promise to NOT post on political items on Facebook the other day.  In fact, you could pretty much say, I STINK. 

I don't know why the sudden need to comment...or possibly rant...ahem....

But after a lot of thinking, I contacted the person that I went overboard with and apologized. Even though I stand by my beliefs and my statements, I need to learn restraint. Things can get so quickly out of hand...it's sad really, and I know I'm not the only one who suffers this ailment. 

However, for those of you that don't, do you have any tips for the weak?  I'm praying about staying patient and ignoring things that I find derogatory or agitating...but it's a constant struggle. I feel weak, and I hate that!  I make it a point to do a lot and accomplish as much I can, so when I can't do something I feel bad.

But maybe that's it.  I'm not relying enough on God.  This Sunday our Reverend told us that when we find our weaknesses, we gain our strength.  Why?  Because when we realize we can't do it, we start to rely on He that can do anything.

So looks like I'll be relying a lot on God while on Facebook...at least until the elections are over. ;)


Friday, March 9, 2012

Fix and Forget Friday- Guest Post

I'm really excited and honored to share my first guest post with you all over at Stacy Makes Cents

When looking into changing our diet to a more whole foods diet while on a budget, I found Stacy's site and what a blessing she has been.  I've learn a great deal from Stacy and my own family LOVES her recipes.  That's why I'm so excited about my guest post.  Today I get to share one of my own recipes, inspired by Stacy's love of the crock pot.

Below is a sneak peak.  Follow the links to see the whole post:



I’m a recent convert to the crockpot. Not that I didn’t use a crockpot before, but now that I’m home
with my girls, it’s become a staple in our house. I’ll be honest, it’s just easier to fix something quickly
and then spend the rest of the day chasing my girls down…and yes, they do move that quickly.

Once I became a fan of Stacy, my love of the crockpot deepened even more. I used to think crockpots
were only useful for soups and meats covered in some type of sauce. Now I make our yogurt, breakfast
casseroles, oatmeal, and even “fancier” dinner items consistently.

Today I wanted to share one of the “fancier” items I regularly cook, Cranberry Apple Stuffed Pork Loin. It’s a recipe that I like for company. A delicious meal that is easy to throw together, but will impress whomever is coming to dinner. It started as an oven roasted recipe, but I found myself crouched over the hot oven basting the pork…forever. A great taste, but inefficient and all of us mommies know that an efficient use of your time is key to a happy mom.




Read the rest at Stacy Makes Cents and find out more about Stacy at her site and on Facebook.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Thankful to have a healthy, happy baby girl today...like yesterday's yuckies never happened.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Worthwhile Wednesday- Roast your own coffee

I'll admit it.  My hubby and I are coffee snobs.  We love a good cup of coffee.  In fact, we would rather not drink coffee than drink poor quality coffee.

But I'll make another confession- we're living on a budget, a strict budget.  Let's face it, your best brands are NOT cheap.

So after a lot of research, we discovered roasting coffee on our own.

Now, before I go into all it takes to roast your own coffee, let me make a comment on caffeine.  My husband and I are not heavy coffee drinkers.  At most we have a cup to two a day...however, if you are not a moderate coffee drinker than I wouldn't suggest this for you (why tempt yourself).  As most of us know, excessive amounts of caffeine are not good for you.  But that said, there are benefits to drinking moderate amounts of caffeine and coffee in particular (some benefits come even with decaf coffee).  You can review some of this here and here

Back to roasting!  The first thing you'll need is green coffee beans.  This is how we save money on good coffee.  If you buy unroasted beans in bulk online, you'll find the price per pound to be around $4-5.  That is amazing for good quality coffee.


We buy our coffee from Sweet Maria's.  I love them!  They are an American company that excels in selecting great coffee beans and providing great support for their clients.  In fact, I used their original youtube videos to learn about coffee roasting. 

An added bonus, all of Sweet Maria's products are purchased at fair trade or farmer's gate prices.  Farmer's gate just means they bought the beans at fair trade values, but they purchased them from a farmer and not a co-op.  Either way, you can guarantee that your coffee is bought at a living wage.

Green beans store for a long period of time. From the seller, you typically can store the beans in a cool dry place for up to 9 months without any change in quality.  They'll keep longer than that, but you might have some quality changes after 9 months.

When you're ready to roast, you have a lot of options.  You can purchase a home roaster- but that's too pricey for us.  You can oven or stove roast- but the consistency can be hard to obtain.  What you'll find is most roasters will recommend- Air Poppers!

That's right your common Air Popcorn Popper, produces an excellent quality and consistent cup of coffee.

Now, not just any air popper will work.  You need one that looks like this on the inside.

The side vents allow the beans to get hot, without allowing the oil secreted from the beans to getting to the heat source. If you have a popper with the grate on the bottom, the oil and other fragments can get into the heat source, resulting in a FIRE HAZARD.  So check that popper before you buy.  We use the CVS brand of air popper.  It works great.


With the right popper, add 1/3 a cup of green beans to your popcorn popper.  Turn it on.


I like to stir mine in the beginning , until it looses enough water weight to move on it's own. But you don't necessarily have to do this.


You'll notice the beans slowly yellowing and the smell is something like baking bread at this point.

The chaff will fly up.  This is just the casing of the bean and is harmless, though a bit messy. You don't have to pick it out either.  It doesn't effect the taste of the coffee at all.  I keep a colander in front of the popper with a wet cloth.  It catches the chaff and keeps it from flying all over the place.


After about 1 minute 30 seconds, you'll enter first crack.  It sounds like popcorn popping. This is when the internal structure of the bean is breaking up and the oils are being released.  That's what gives coffee it's great taste!  You'll notice the smell is changing into a more coffee like scent.

Once first crack has past, you officially have coffee.  How far you go from here depends on the bean and the type of roast you want. My hubby is a dark roast man.  I follow the recommendation of Sweet Maria's and go to the darkest that particular bean is best at.

This usually means I go to the second crack and stop it right when it starts.  While first crack sounds like popcorn, second crack is quieter and is more like paper crackling.  Don't let it go too far.  Soon after second crack is over you get ash. Yuck!

Turn off your popcorn popper and using oven mitts dump into a colander. I shake my beans, this helps cool them off quickly.  Lay them out on a cookie sheet and allow to cool.


Mark and store in a glass jar when completely cool. I like canning jars.  I don't screw it down all the way at first.  What is happening is the beans are degassing, releasing CO2.  This will build up pressure if you screw it down all the way.  Leave it that way for several hours and then secure and put in a dark place.  Light and oxygen is what causes your coffee to go stale.

Since the coffee is so fresh the taste you get at 4, 8, 12, 24, 48, and even 72 hours after roasting will be totally different.  Most coffees peak at about 48 hours.  But they are still wonderful later on.  I'll give you an good example.  Starbucks has the goal of roasting the coffee and getting it to you within 2 weeks.  Even with the best packaging the coffee is losing flavor.  So at four days out, your cup of coffee is fresher and more amazing than then gold standard of coffee in the store. 

You'll notice the amazing taste immediately...but be warned.  You might end up like me and the hubby- Professed Coffee Snobs.



Next week- Brewing Coffee with reusable filters and the best extraction!

This post is part of Frugally Sustainable Ways #17.

Ta-Da Tuesday!

PEEK-A-BOO!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mom Monday- Evie's First Birthday Celebration

This weekend we celebrated my baby's first birthday.  All my family and some friends came down to the house to enjoy some barbecue and baby time.


First the birthday girl had to get up from her nap.  She rolled out of bed to find a party going on, I think she was happy.

She loved hanging out with her family.


We had some yummy food.


Including a flower cupcakes and "healthier" cake made by mommy.


She seems to like the chocolate, even if it has wholewheat flower and unprocessed sugar. ;)


Evie is very loved, she got so many wonderful gifts and almost got lost in some.



Mommy and Daddy got her a wagon and kitchen set.  She loves wagon rides, which will be good this summer as both girls will be helping me with the garden.  Both girls love that kitchen sings.


She played hard...

But before you know it, needed a pacy and nap.


A great day to celebrate with so many wonderful people!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Faithful Friday- Love, even on Facebook

A while back I made myself a promise not to engage in fights, nasty comments, or other negative posts about politics on Facebook.

All in all I've been good and happier for it! Though I will not lie, I had a slip up yesterday.

However, as election season draws closer I'm seeing more and more posts that frankly leave me feeling sad...from both sides of the political spectrum.

So much name calling and vilifying of both parties isn't necessary. My mom always taught me that if I didn't have anything nice to say, then I should keep it to myself and she's right.

It's not that I'm advocating for everyone not to post their opinion. But if you have to use terms that involve the level of someone's preposed intelligence, cursing, or negative stereotypes, you're not really sharing facts or a reasoned opinion...

You're sharing hate.

I'm not free of this either. This year I've gotten closer, but I too am not perfect. However, by eliminating name calling and emotional posts I've found that I'm calmer, happier, and I'm able to love more...which Christ commands us to do.

Not just my family,

But those I disagree with.

Not just my God,

But those that hurt me with their rhetoric.

He calls me to love. All the time and in all places...even Facebook.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:43-48

So before posting a picture that likens someone to Hitler or calls them a moron, let's think about Christ's greatest commandment- Love.


Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:7


I think it would allow all of us a little more civility, and we might just find out we have more in common than we think.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Happy Birthday, Evie!!

Today my little baby is officially one year old!

Time has flown by, and I can't believe how much Evie has grown.

She is walking and talking, loves going to her music classes, smiles all the time, laughs when tickled, loves a good book, giggles when I make farm animal noises, and is still an avid breast feeder. All in all the best baby!

So Happy Birthday to my angel, I'm so looking forward to what the future holds!



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