Happy Birthday, Daniel!

Today is Daniel's birthday, so this post is for him. :)

I am so incredibly blessed that the Lord brought you into my life. (For those of you who may not know, my mom introduced us at their Sunday school class in the fall of 2004.) Since the day we met, I knew there was something special about you, and the Lord gradually brought us together. Since our wedding day (July 1, 2006), I have grown more and more in love with you. I can imagine no one I would rather walk through life with.

I love it when you come home at the end of a long day, and yet you still have the energy to smile, to laugh, and to be an encouragement to me and to our children. You are a godly man and a godly leader.

You are my dearest friend and I love you beyond words.

All my heart,


Post-Thanksgiving Photos and a Short Video

Today has been a relatively quiet day. We put up the Christmas tree, as planned, and it is now decorated. :) I'll post pictures of it later.

As always, I was struck by the absolute cuteness of Patrick and Erin (I'm soooo not partial. :-p). This afternoon, Erin was playing in the floor after her nap and I captured a few precious moments.
For those of you who may be wondering, yes, Erin is generally this happy! :) We are definitely blessed. :)

This evening, I gave Patrick a hair cut. I have found that the easiest place to do this is when he is secured in his high chair. He can still play with toys but not have the freedom to run off while I'm working on trimming up his hair. Of course, he is covered in hair by the time it is all said and done, but this routine works well. He had a few cute moments once we had cleaned him off and removed his hair-covered shirt.
Hey look, Mom, I have a brush!!!

As I mentioned in a previous post, Erin has started to say, "Bababa." This is adorable, and I did manage to get a quick video of her "talking" this afternoon.


Thanksgiving, Christmas Trees, Scrabble Night and the like

On top of having much to be thankful for, we had a fabulous Thanksgiving! We started our day with a breakfast of scrambled eggs and homemade, whole wheat biscuits with butter and honey. Yummmmm...We spent a relatively quiet morning at home and let Patrick enjoy his afternoon nap before heading down to Granddad's house for a Thanksgiving feast! Patrick spent a portion of his morning watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. When the Sesame Street float came along, he was stunned and proclaimed, "Wow..."
We had a wonderful time with family down at Granddad's house. Patrick seemed to enjoy himself, too...Patrick spent a few moments cuddled up in his Great-Grandpa's lap looking as content as can be. Of course, the moment was too short to capture on "film" (or should I say "memory card"?) in its entirety... such is Patrick's life. It's difficult to say what Patrick was up to here... but it's pretty clear that he was happy. :)
Patrick had a grand time "playing football" with the guys. (Or maybe he just took their ball? )

Erin had a grand time as well, being doted upon by her Gramma, Great-Aunt Cathy, Aunty Sarah, cousins, etc. She took a nice, long nap during the dinner hour and was happy as a clam for the entire visit. (I should have more pics to post at a later date.) As the afternoon/evening progressed, Erin learned a new trick... saying "Bababa..." Too cute!

For my family, Thanksgiving traditionally marks the beginning of the Christmas season (yes, I said season!). So, this morning, Dad, Daniel, Patrick and I went hunting for the perfect Christmas tree. We found the perfect one and look forward to setting it up tomorrow. The Christmas tree place was closed today, so we tagged our tree and Dad and Mom's tree and Daniel and Dad will go back in the morning to cut them.

I LOVE Christmastime and can't wait to have our tree up. Of course, with 2 kids under 2, we had to make a few adjustments to our tree-selecting as Daniel and I determined the tree needs to be placed in the dining room this year, out of Patrick's reach. Patrick spends most of his time in our front two rooms (the living room and the study), and the living room is the most logical place for a tree, but one can't leave a nearly 20 month old alone with a full-size Christmas tree for any extended period of time... So, we decided it would have to go in the dining room this year. This, however, meant that we needed to choose a much smaller tree than we might normally have picked. I'm confident we found the tree to match our new "regulations", so I look forward to putting it up and decorating it tomorrow. (Now, if we could only figure out how we're going to get power to the lights...)

Tonight is Scrabble Night. I love Scrabble Night. Its a great at-home date-night with Daniel. Since Crusoe doesn't come on tonight (it has moved to Saturday nights), we're planning on watching "The Bishop's Wife" - a great black-and-white Christmas film introduced to us by friends from church. We love this film, so I have much to look forward to this evening.

Before the Scrabble Night festivities begin, however, dinner will take place. We're having black bean burritos with salsa for dinner. :)

As I said at the beginning of my post, I have much to be thankful for.

A God who loves and sent His Son to die for me
Beautiful children
Family and extended family
Good health

I hope any of you who are reading this had a fabulous Thanksgiving and I hope you have much to be thankful for. By the grace of my Heavenly Father, I certainly do!



I love make-up. I always have and I probably always will. You can accomplish many different looks just by using a few simple supplies - the simple, everyday "girl next door" look or a more dramatic look for formal occasions. The possibilities are endless. That having been said, I've learned a few things in recent months.

I used to think that I needed to apply foundation, blush, lipstick, eye shadow, eye-liner, mascara, etc. daily. While I still like the finished product these supplies produce, they aren't practical as a stay-at-home mom. In fact, there is simply not much time in any given day to apply make-up with the precision I would like. Yet, I never know when the call of motherhood requires that I go out - to get baby motrin, diapers, etc - and I don't want to go out looking like I just rolled out of bed. So, what do I do?

There are four carefully chosen staples that meet my everyday make-up needs... moisturizer, concealer, blush and eye-liner.

Your skin is the largest organ in your body and it deserves careful attention.

Exposed skin - particularly your face, neck, and hands - need to be moisturized, especially in the winter months. I've found that using a decent, natural moisturizer helps my skin look healthier and I am less prone to break-outs. Also, if possible, find a way to naturally exfoliate your face once or twice a week and you will probably see healthier skin. That having been said, if your skin looks healthy, why cover it up?

Of course, uneven skin tone is common. Freckles, moles, darker spots, lighter spots... chances are, we all have them in some capacity. In the areas where you may have darker circles or spots, use a small amount of concealer - just enough to blend with your natural skin color and to minimize the unevenness in color. This doesn't mean you have to completely cover up the "flaw" - just minimize it.

Eye-liner is one of my cosmetic bag favorites. It can be used to draw attention to your eyes without using mascara - something I used to wear daily, but got tired of using regularly after Patrick was born. And, it washes off easily. Probably 90% of the time, I use eyeliner without mascara and the results aren't much different.

Powder blush is also a must-have. Apply to your cheeks, your chin and your forehead. This gives you that healthy glow without looking like someone smeared paint all over your face. If you put it on too heavily, grab a piece of toilet paper and gently rub off the excess.

Lipstick is one of those possible musts, but in the last few weeks, I learned that if your lips are properly moisturized, they will develop a natural healthy color. I've always had difficulty with dry lips year-round, so I use lip balm all the time. Since I found an all-natural one that works well, I've been wearing considerably less lipstick. But, this need will probably vary drastically from person to person.

Anyway, those are my tips regarding make-up. Following my own instructions, I can usually moisturize my face and have make-up applied in 5 minutes or less. Sometimes it takes longer, but that's only when I have time.

God gave us skin and He gave us things in nature to help take care of it. :) How does your skin look?


Sick Kiddos

Today has been interesting. Yesterday, Daniel and I tag-teamed staying home with the kids because Patrick's nose was dripping like a fire hose and I'm sure the parents of the other kids in the nursery, not to mention the nursery workers, would prefer that he not leave his germs all over the toys in the nursery. So, Daniel went to Sunday school and I went to church. Last night, Erin started coming down with the same chest cold/runny nose. :( The poor little thing can hardly breathe.

Of course, chest colds do not magically disappear over night, so today I had two drippy nosed, coughing kiddos. Erin, who hates to cry (just like me) and will do everything in her power to prevent crying, definitely shed some tears throughout the day. Between the necessity to care for and comfort Erin, the need to wipe Patrick's nose and his desire to be held more than usual, I felt like I wasn't able to accomplish anything...

But, sometime mid-morning I realized that I was accomplishing something. God gave me extra opportunities today to love and nurture my children. What greater thing could I have hoped for? :)

Blossoming Musician



While I was making dinner this evening, Patrick was playing in the living room. I went into the dining room and discovered the following. :)

He definitely loves to explore and to learn... and to create new uses for old things. I love my little boy!


I love Fridays!

But not for the reason you might think. Sure, its nice that the weekend is here, but as a homemaker, my work really never ends (a fact that I am thankful for!), so Friday, Monday, it's pretty much all the same to me.

Friday is the day that I often stay home with the kiddos. Sometimes we have a friend over for a play date, but sometimes - like today - we don't. This morning, I decided to make a yummy breakfast - something a bit more exciting than Cheerios. I made breakfast burritos. Yummmmm!

(L: Patrick's burrito. R: Mommy's burrito.)

I made them with eggs, black beans, cheddar cheese, and four cheese con queso.

Patrick waited patiently for his breakfast. :)

Patrick has this thing about stretching his feet out to rest them on the table while he eats. He does this almost without fail every time we eat. Patrick enjoyed his breakfast. :)
Then, it was Erin's turn to eat. She got pumpkin. While this may not look super appetizing to you, Erin seemed to enjoy it!She ate most of the pumpkin.

I'd say we had a great morning!


I'm a professional model

This morning, I once again had the privilege of attending Mom 2 Mom. It's a beautiful 2.5 hours spent with the kids in the same building, but not under my immediate care and a time spent with other young moms. I am SO thankful for this.

One of the things I was reminded of today is that I am a model. No, I don't walk down the runway in odd, very expensive clothing in front of a bunch of cameras with the demeanor that I have nothing to be thankful for.

I do, however, walk about daily, for countless hours in front of my children. They absorb everything.

I've heard it said, "If mom isn't happy, no one is happy." This is so true.

I remember one day, a little over a year ago, I woke up in a grouchy mood. Of course, I had no good reason to be grouchy, but my sin nature was definitely evident in my demeanor, my attitude and in my actions. At the time, I only had Patrick to take care of. But, we had quite the morning.

I was grumpy. Patrick was grumpy.

I had violin lessons to teach that same afternoon, which meant that Mom kept Patrick at her house for his nap that day. I dropped him off and went back home to teach. I think once the lessons were done, I had some time to think and to pray that the Lord would correct my attitude. He did.

Shortly thereafter, I picked Patrick up and we had a fabulous afternoon.

My point is this: As parents, we train our children... we train them to love the Lord or to hate Him. We train them to respond selflessly with grace or to pitch a fit out of selfish anger. We train them to have compassion or to not care.

If you are a parent, you are a model. What are you teaching your kids?


Cost cutting tips

Okay, so I've mentioned some cost cutting tips using home-made items before, but I've also found that some things must be bought and in order to actually keep costs down, sometimes you need to buy the more expensive items. Sometimes, you just need to use common sense to keep the costs down. Below, I've provided some very realistic ways to keep the costs down or to allow more "wiggle room" within budgets.

In the bathroom:

Toilet Paper: why oh why do some people think you have to use 15.75 squares (a.k.a. a fist full) of TP to wipe?!?!?! I am baffled by this. Sure, if you buy the one-ply kind, you might need a small fist full, but seriously... spend $3 on a pack that you go through in a week? This is wasteful.

Cost cutting tip: buy quality TP. We get the charmin strong in the jumbo rolls. There are something like 2,000 squares of TP in a 6 pack. You will probably pay around $7.50 for this. Now, you're probably thinking, "Why would you spend almost $8 on TP that you'll go through in no time?!" Ahh, here is the key... use 2 squares each time you go to the bathroom... you may need a square or two more if you poo, but after careful experimentation, we have determined 2 squares is more than adequate. That may not sound like much, but seriously, if you have quality, thick TP, why in the world do you need more?!? If you don't do this already, humor me and try it. Your bank account will probably thank you.

In the laundry room:

Laundry detergent:
I've already written a post about making your own laundry detergent. As far as I'm concerned, this is the most inexpensive way to go.

Cost cutting tip: If you're not into making your own laundry detergent, you can buy an inexpensive laundry soap like purex (this is what I use as a back-up to my homemaid detergent) and use 1/2 the amount it calls for per load. This allows your store-bought detergent to last twice as long!

Wash cycle: Why do we run our washers on the full wash/rinse cycle?! ALWAYS choose the shortest cycle unless you cloth diaper or have seriously soiled clothes!

Cost cutting tip: Run your washer on the "light" or "delicate" cycle. It generally takes less time and less water.

In the Kitchen:

Dirty Dishes:
I could go on about the ways we typically do dishes, but there's really no point. :-p

Cost cutting tip: If you do not have a dishwasher, soak your dishes first. Scrub them with a sponge or wash cloth in the same water you soaked them in (soaking generally doesn't take too long) and then rinse them. If you do have a dishwasher, set your dishwasher on the water saver option and then latch it so it will start. I usually click the washer until the first rince cycle has passed and then let it run. Even eliminating one rinse saves water!

Water saving tips:

Showers: Do you really need to shower daily? For some people the answer is "yes", but for most of us, the answer is "no". Sure, you might prefer to shower daily (is it just because you "feel dirty" or is it because you are dirty?), but again, this can be wasteful. If you don't need to, don't do it. Just remember this... in third world countries, daily showers are not a regular occurrence and they can maintain acceptable hygiene. Daily showers, in my mind, are mostly a waste of time and water.

In this same vein, when you do shower, you don't need full water pressure. Turn the hot water on first about 50% on and then turn on the cold water on about 20% or less. This should do the trick. When you need to adjust the temperature, try turning more of one temperature off rather than turning more of the other temperature on. Generally this works.

"But, I have thick hair," you might say, "I can't get the shampoo out if I don't turn it on all the way." I have thick hair, I've experimented and I can get all the shampoo out with about 50-60% water pressure. Honestly, once you've turned it on about 1/2 way, the pressure doesn't change much. Try it.

Edit: Just so you don't think I never shower, every other day or once every 3 days should suffice. :)

Brushing teeth: the tendency can be to leave the water running full force the entire time you're working on your teeth.

Cost cutting tip: turn the water on about 25% to wet your tooth brush, then turn it off. When you're ready to rinse, turn it on at the same pressure and then turn it off again. Repeat as necessary.

Using these water-saving tricks, I have actually managed to cut my water bill in 1/2.

I can't claim originality for most of these tips, but they have been helpful to me and I suspect if you're willing to try, they will benefit you as well.


I'd rather be in bed...

It's 7:54 am, and its cold outside. Yet, I've fed a baby, changed a diaper, I've unloaded the dishwasher and I'd really much rather be in bed right now... This morning is one of those mornings where my kids were making it very obvious that they were ready to start the day well before I was. But, as kids (particularly the smaller ones) seem to have incredible volume when they aren't happy, I got up. At first, I was less than happy about it.

I bring this up, not to be complaining, but to remind you of two things.

First, as adults, parents, and children of God, we are called to a life of self-sacrifice. My husband surely didn't want to go outside this morning to scrape the snow off the cars before he went to work. (Yes, he scraped mine, too, so I wouldn't have to do it when I leave for CBS. He's great like that. :D ) Then, he went to work. This sounds less than ideal to me, but, he did so joyfully, knowing that his calling is to provide for me and the kiddos. Christ modeled what it meant to be self-sacrificial and He made the ultimate sacrifice, so the least I can do is crawl out of bed with a smile on my face when I don't want to, right? (I'm still working on this...)

Second, kids grow up way too fast. My mom has reminded me regularly that if it wasn't for the people in my house - Daniel, Patrick and Erin, I wouldn't have those socks to fold, or those bottles to wash or that diaper to change... While these things may seem a drudgery in the moment, they really are a blessing.

So, when its cold outside, you would much rather stay in bed where its warm and cozy, but your child is making it quite plain that the sun has risen and you're missing out on all the exciting things going on outside, remember, this is a season and it will pass quickly. Enjoy it.



Of the great mysteries in life, this one perplexes me.

Why do children often poo just after you've changed their diapers?

Nasty task that changing a diaper is, it is still a joy and a blessing to be thankful for!


I'll Shamelessly Admit...

My kids are cute. :)

I will give thanks to God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. ~ Psalm 139:14

Play Date

I try to have regular play-dates for Patrick so he can have more one-on-one interactions with kids his own age. This morning, Charlie came over. They had a lovely time together.

It can be virtually impossible to actually capture their interactions, but sometimes the camera is fast enough to capture a cute moment.


Precious Patrick

This morning, I took the kiddos to Mom 2 Mom that meets at one of the local churches. I LOVE M2M and am so blessed to be getting to know other Christian women who are in similar life phases. It is also a fabulous for both Patrick and Erin to be around their own peers for several hours at a time. Of course, this means that by the time we get home, both kiddos are tired.

Today, Erin fell asleep on the drive home. So, I carefully lugged her into the house and placed her (still in her carrier) on the sofa while I went to get Patrick. Once we were all back in the house, I gingerly attempted to unbuckle and lift Erin from her carrier without waking her. (This worked beautifully until I actually lifted her out! grrrrr...) Even though I woke her up during the transition, I still put Erin down in her bed, hoping she would go back to sleep (she didn't).

When I came back to the living room, this is what I found.

Precious Patrick!



Today's topic is paper and this applies to everyone, not just wives and mothers.

I was thinking this morning how easy it is to collect paper... No, I'm not saying go start a paper collection. I'm talking about those church bulletins, concert programs, kids drawings, lecture handouts, class notes. You get the idea.

Ask yourself this... "Do I really need these?" If the answer is "yes", ask yourself "Why?"

In answering the "why" you may realize that you actually do NOT need to keep ____.

Paper can take up soooooo much space and its really not worth it. It clutters shelves, drawers and possibly closets. This seems extremely wasteful to me... it wastes space and most of the paper can probably be recycled.

Today, I would encourage you to walk around your house, room, wherever your personal space is and collect unnecessary paper. Throw it in the recycling bin.

There are a few things that are worth keeping, but we'll get to that in a minute.

Now, this is a special note to the moms reading. There are some things you just won't be able to get rid of. Maybe that amazingly adorable first drawing that your 2 year old made you that you can actually tell what the picture is supposed to be, or maybe its that first letter from your husband where he told you how much you meant to him, or maybe its a birthday card from your mother or grandmother. It is okay to hold on to some of these things, but do you really need to keep ALL of them? The answer is simply, "No."

This is a depressing thought, but its worth considering:
Moms, ask yourself this, "When I'm gone, will my kids really want to go through all this?" (Sorry its a morbid question, but lets face it, we will all die someday and someone will have to go through all our stuff.) Shouldn't we want to minimize the volume of things for their sake, if nothing else? If you don't have the energy to go through it now, imagine the way your kids might feel when they're still grieving.

Sentimentality can turn into someone else's burden. Don't hold on to more than you need.

Be ware of convincing sentimental arguments:

"But its cute!"
"I remember when he drew that!"
"We made such great memories that day!"

All well and good, but not worth the clutter.

Bear with me... you're probably thinking, "Enough with the what not to do!"

Here are a few ways to minimize clutter and still hold fast to those memories without creating a burden for yourself or others.

Journal - Seriously. Go out and buy a nice journal. Go ahead and spend $30 or $50 or whatever on that beautiful, thick, leather-bound journal. Fill it with your memories, some photos and maybe even a carefully folded drawing or two. Spend the money on it because you're more likely to take it seriously.

Cards - I absolutely do not believe in saving each and every card that comes through the door - including those from family. But those with special notes or for momentous occasions may be worth holding onto. Maybe not, but if you are of the mentality that you should save them, get a shoebox and decorate it. Or, if you have the money to spend, buy one of those nice card boxes from hallmark or somewhere. Keep it simple and keep it clean. If the box begins to overflow, you need to throw some of its contents out.

Drawings - If you must hold onto SOME of your little one's "priceless masterpieces", get a small binder (like 1-1.5 inches) and store your kiddos' precious artwork in there. This way, it can neatly be stored on a shelf or in the closet and you can go back and look at it to your heart's content. Same principle here as with cards - when the drawing binder is full, start weeding and tossing. If you absolutely must, have one binder for each child, OR, to save space, place a divider in the same binder and place each child's artwork in their own section. This will help to minimize possible paper clutter.

Notes: Sermon, Classes* or otherwise - Why, oh WHY do we take notes and then hold on to them for years on end? Lets be serious here... when was the last time you went back to look at your notes? As a mom of two young kids, I have found that taking notes during the sermon helps me to focus, so I do. There is nothing wrong with taking notes and there is nothing wrong with keeping notes - if you USE them. I have recently become involved with Community Bible Study - CBS - and love the workbooks they give us. After all the time I have put into just this first series, I do plan on holding on to the workbooks for a while, but I plan on writing the year that I took this class on the front and allowing myself 3-5 years to keep the binder. Why so long? I figure it is possible that I may reference my notes as I teach Patrick and Erin about the Bible, but if I haven't used them in that 3-5 year gap, I probably won't. So, out they will go!

If you are a pre-med student, you may want to hold on to all science notes until you are through med-school. If you are planning on attending grad-school, you will probably want to hold on to any big papers/projects that may pertain to your grad work. Otherwise, those notes from ENG101 need to go!

Receipts, Bank Statements and the like - This one is tricky. Bank statemtnts, insurance records, health records etc. all need to be kept for a while. I would suggest using the binder method for each of these. For health records, maybe make a small binder for each person in your household and keep their personal documents in there? For each account, do the same thing. In regard to receipts, you're on your own. I give them to Daniel and they are at his disposal. :-p

Anyway, that is my $0.02 on paper clutter. Now that I've written a book about it, I'm off to dispose of some!


Christmas, Gifts, and De-cluttering

I had so many things I could have written on this morning, but the one that is the most time sensitive is this... Christmastime is right around the corner... are you prepared?

Call me crazy, but I love everything about Christmas - the reason we celebrate it, the special time spent with family, the yummy food and the giving of gifts. If you're not careful, though, getting gifts for everyone you love can get quite costly. Since Christmas comes at a time of year when the weather is cool and the heating bills can be high and travel expenses can add up, buying all the gifts at the last minute, or even just in the month of December, can be a bit more than a modest budget can handle. So, how can we be generous to the people we love without breaking the bank?

Think ahead! You may think I'm off my rocker, but we're not even at mid-November yet and most of my Christmas gifts have either been thought through (meaning: I know what who is getting...) if not already purchased. In fact, I started buying gifts toward the end of October. Some gifts are even in their "final" phases of packaging. This makes gift-giving affordable.

Now, if you either like to be creative or are looking for ways to cut the cost of gift-giving, think about making your own gifts. While this can trim your costs by quite a bit, the quality of the gifts can be just as nice as the store-bought variety, possibly even nicer. Not to mention, there is thought put into handmade gifts. :)

There is one more facet to gift-giving that I would encourage you each to consider. Think practical and don't give dust-collectors. While sentimentality is okay, I feel I am always fighting the battle against clutter and with 4 people (including 2 under age 2) in a 2 bedroom, 1400 sq. foot house, we are in no need of impractical items. We have more toys and random kid things than we have space for! I am continually trying to throw things out or give things away (usually to Goodwill or the Rescue Mission). As a result, I do not want to receive impractical items and therefore I will not give impractical items.

"What are some examples?", you might ask? Think daily use, think consumable. Beyond that, no suggestions... Santa can't let all his tricks out of the bag, right? :)

One more thing... with the Christmas season drawing near, look around your house. Find things that are still in prefectly good shape, but things you never use - that shirt you've had since high school that you haven't worn since high school, that vase someone gave you for a wedding gift that you love, but have never used, those cds sitting on the shelf that you haven't listened to in over a year... you get the idea. Just go grab them without thinking twice, toss them into a trash bag and throw it in the trunk of your car until the next time you go past the nearest Goodwill. If your tossed items aren't safe from your sentimentality, go ahead and go to Goodwill before you have a chance to think twice.

Trust me, you won't miss the donated items and someone else may be blessed by them.

Not to mention, you'll feel refreshed by that extra space in your closet, or on your shelf or wherever.


Dabbling with that thing called "gardening" (Part 2)...

Today was another beautiful day, so I had no excuse but to go work on my garlic bed. It was a bit cooler than I would have deemed ideal for working outside, but its probably one of the warmest days we'll get for a while, so out I went!

I have to admit, I really know virtually nothing about growing garlic, short of the necessity to plant it in the fall. I figure, there is something to be said for the willingness to experiment (and to possibly fail!), so I put all I had into making this plot usable.

As I mentioned in a previous post, earlier this week I went out and tilled it up a bit, added some leaves and watered the plot. I haven't done anything since then.
So, I tilled up the ground once more. The picture above shows the rich soil color underneath the top layer. YAY for compost!
I tilled up the entire plot (as seen above). Then, I started planting (see below) the garlic (all you need are individual garlic cloves to use as seeds). Side note: wearing a gardeners hat makes you a real gardener, right? :-p
I planted the cloves with the tops pointing up. I'm assuming this is how its done.

Then I covered the cloves with dirt and added freshly fallen leaves that had been strewn all over our yard. I finished my gardening expedition by watering the plot. Now, I wait. I can't expect much to happen until spring, but my hope is to have at least 15 home-grown cloves of garlic ready to be harvested sometime in late spring/early summer just in time to plant tomatoes!


Erin's Second Meal

Well, after giving the poor little girl a break from proper food for a few days, I decided it was time to try again. We were given some rice cereal, so I figured, why not try it? I decided this time to mix the applesauce with some thick rice cereal - I thought it may take some of the acidity out of the applesauce. Once Erin has gotten used to the flavors of other foods, the rice cereal will go.

Here is what she thought:

Scrabble Night

Having two kids under two is such a huge blessing and I wouldn't trade it for the world. As a result, though, it does make going out on dates a bit challenging. (We do have loads of free help - thanks Mom and Sarah! - but we don't want to abuse their generosity.) Yet, spending time together to reconnect after a long week or just having that time to laugh with (or at, depending on the situation) each other is something we prioritize. In the last month or so, Daniel and I have tried to get creative with dates at home. We've made Friday nights our "Scrabble night."

Usually I try to make something fun for dinner - we've done French toast and eggs, pancakes, homemade pizza. Then, Daniel plays "tickle monster" with Patrick and tends to Erin as I clean up the kitchen. Around 7:30, we put the kiddos to bed and the Scrabble match begins! (I usually win.) Sometimes we make pop corn on the stove - yummy! - or we snack on any candy we might have in the house. Its just a fun time to sit together and to really enjoy the other's company. We've also added watching "Crusoe" into our Friday night routine.

I love Scrabble night and Daniel does, too. We feel so blessed that the Lord brought us together and it really is worth setting aside a few hours on a Friday night just to spend with one another. Its amazing how easy it is to build great memories together at home without spending any unnecessary money.

So, tonight, be creative. Think of something you and your loved one enjoy doing together and find a way of turning it into a free date, at home. :)


Chapstick - sometimes, you just have to buy quality stuff

Okay, so I mentioned several posts back that olive oil has a multitude of uses from cooking to diaper rash treatment, etc. Olive oil is also an excellent lip balm. However, it is unlikely that you can take a small vial of olive oil with you wherever you go... Of course, you could try taking some with you, but it might end up in an oily mess. :-p

If you're like me, in the winter months especially, chapstick needs to be on hand at all times. I have done my share of experimenting with different chapsticks (its a shame I haven't been hired to be a tester...) and I thought, until last week, that I had found the perfect kind. I've tried Chapstick brand, I've tried more than one Blistex brand, I've tried Softlips... the list could go on and on. I have used softlips for the last several years, though I was still always on the lookout for something better. Unfortunately, in the last year or so, softlips just hasn't worked as well as I would like... even with several applications throughout the day and right before bed, I would still wake up with dry, sometimes cracked, lips.

So last week in my efforts to follow through with the more "natural" approach, I purchased Burts Bees lip balm with pomegranate oil... Until then, I had thought of this brand as being a bit too pricey (I did the math, and its actually cheaper/gram than softlips). I went ahead and bought some and found out rather quickly that I LOVE it. The main two ingredients are sunflower seed oil and beeswax. So, it stands to reason that it both hydrates and protects without adding any unnecessary chemicals. Besides, all the ingredients listed can actually be pronounced by the average human being. (In fact, if you're trying to be healthy, a good rule of thumb is to not buy anything with ingredients you can't pronounce.)

Anyway, potentially rambling story short, I bought Burts Bees lip balm and don't plan on going back. I need to use this kind less often than softlips or any other brand and it actually feels as if its healing dry skin, not just treating the symptoms. :)


Well-rounded Breakfast

Patrick loves to feed himself. But, at his age, finger foods are about the best thing we can give him... otherwise, disaster strikes. :-p Most people who know me know that to me, breakfast does not necessarily mean traditional breakfast foods. (In college, I was known for eating beefaroni for breakfast on a regular basis.)

This morning, to make sure Patrick gets off to a good start, I will be fixing him a cup of V8 Fusion (1 serving of veggies and fruits) and a flour tortilla with cheese and maybe some guacamole. This way, he will get 1 serving veggies, 1 serving fruits, some protein and some healthy fat. Not to mention, he loves it! :)


Dabbling with that thing called "gardening"...

Since my *brilliant* idea about crop rotation last night, I'm in the midst of trying to get my plot ready for the garlic. My hope is to plant the garlic by this weekend. Today's goal was to take some of the leaves from our compost pile area and my current tub of compost from the kitchen and to till the soil once more. In an effort to expedite the decomposition process, I watered the plot... I have no idea if this will work, but it was worth trying!

Side note: For my compost bin, I use one of those large folgers coffee tubs w/ the lids and line it with a grocery bag... I keep it in my side cabinet under the counter top. It doesn't smell as long as the lid is on and you'd never know its there! When it gets full, I take the tub outside, dump it in the compost pile, toss the bag and start all over. If the coffee tub is wet or otherwise gross, I rinse it out, let it air dry and then start again. Having a compost pile is a great way to turn otherwise wasted food into something useful. :)

I've also planted french lavender seeds (indoors) in effort to begin growing that, as well. Not sure what I'll do with the lavender once it grows, but I figure the experience should be worth it. Besides, lavender smells good. :-p I have them in a two foot long planter sitting on top of our radiator - we use forced air for heat, so this is not a problem - in our dining room. It gets plenty of light during the day, so I think it should work. I realized this afternoon while outside that I really already have an "herb garden" started by accident. By our back patio, I have two echinacea plants that my parents gave us growing in a bricked-in bed. So, why not add some lavender next summer? :) Now, if I can just figure out for sure what parts of the echinacea is used for tea...


Its amazing how times can change...

As a child, my parents would frequently take me outside in the summer to pull weeds (dandelions were an absolute no-no for our yard... no blowing the white puff balls for us!), water the tomato plants, pull up the endless new maple trees sprouting up all over the place every year... I wasn't a big fan. But, it built character, right? ;)

So, last fall, Daniel and I planted irises from my parents' yard in our back yard along the fence between our yard and our neighbor's yard. We meticulously spaced them and tried to make sure we did everything right. When spring came, there was no iris bed to be seen for all the leaves and weeds... two words... chick weed... So on a warm spring day, at about 7 months pregnant, I dragged the stroller to our back yard, put Patrick in it, and rummaged around in the basement to find my gardening gloves - a kind gift from my mom. After some hunting - I'd never needed them before - I found them and out Patrick and I went. I pulled weeds for an hour........ I eventually found those little irises poking their way through the over-crowded soil, cleared out as much as I could to make room for the irises (I was 7 months pregnant after all) and let it be. I took Patrick inside and put him down for his nap and then it hit me... of my own accord, I had been outside pulling weeds. And, I enjoyed it. (Sometime around Erin's birth, the irises bloomed and they were beautiful!)

Since the rise in produce costs, I've been thinking through reasonably easy ways to grow our own "crops" next year. I don't want anything fancy or complicated - just something that won't take much time to tend to, but something we're likely to enjoy and use. I figured why not garlic and tomatoes? I use both all the time in my cooking. Of course, in order to make this work, we have to start planning now. (Garlic is planted in the fall, so I'm cutting it close!)

Yesterday, Daniel, Erin and I went outside during Patrick's nap time and we worked in the yard. Daniel raked leaves in the front yard while I donned my gardening gloves and started uprooting grass and weeds where I intend to plant tomatoes and garlic in the back yard. I simply extended the iris bed farther down our neighbor's fence and also down our back fence. The intent was for the garlic to go in the back and the tomatoes to go on the side. Once Daniel was done raking in the front, he came back to help clear out the iris bed and to uproot any stubborn weeds. Basically, he tilled the soil after I cleared it out. The only true setback is that the soil where I was going to plant the garlic is extremely rocky, so I'm not sure I'll be planting there this year. We may get some topsoil, but haven't decided for sure yet.

Edit: Okay, so lest you think I'm a mindless dunce, I had an epiphany just a few moments ago. Garlic is planted in the FALL, tomatoes are planted in late SPRING... lets see, use the same plot for both crops?! Brilliant... crop rotation. :)

Once the beds were finished, Daniel proceeded to bring the leaves from the front to the back where I have my compost pile (this is a new thing I've started since I realized we're going to be "gardening" next year). I grabbed the leaf blower - well, once Daniel got it started for me :-p - and moved most of the leaves around the back yard to the compost piles, too. We now have two large, 2ish foot high piles of decaying leaves in our back yard in hopes of using them to provide good, rich soil for our plants next year.

When it was all said and done, Daniel and Erin (she played remarkably well in her stroller the entire time we worked) and I were outside for about 2 hours and we got a lot done. Not only that, but we enjoyed seeing the fruit of our labor.

Who would have thought I'd ever enjoy yard work?!? :) Thanks, Dad and Mom!