Make Time to Read

Make Time to Read #chc #summerbookclubThere was a time not so very long ago (actually, it’s pretty recent history), when I believed that reading was a luxury enjoyed by those who had more time on their hands than I did. My sisters and friends would talk about this book or that book and I’d think, “Man, I wish I had time to read!” Not that I never read – that would have been sad indeed – but I didn’t read very much. I either read in stolen moments here and there (like in the only room in the house where a person has a little privacy if you know what I mean), or I’d binge-read late into the night and regret it the next day.

Then one day, I happened to read a really really really really REALLY good book (more on that book in another week or two), and suddenly my love of reading came rushing back to me and I remembered what I was missing. From that point on, me and my Kindle (and Thrift Books and library sales and my own neglected bookshelf) have been inseparable and I’ve been reading several books a week (have to make up for lost time, you know).

So if you’re in the place where I was not so very long ago, I have good news for you: yes, my friend, you DO have time to read. You just have to make the time!

If it helps you, this is how I made time for reading in my life.

1. I realized its importance.

Reading became a priority when, about a week or two after I started reading regularly again, I was amazed to find that my spirit was more settled than it had been in a long time, my relationship with my husband was better than ever, and I was enjoying myself immensely. It had been a really long time since I had felt so relaxed and at peace, and I’m pretty sure that reading played a large part in that. When talking about it with my husband, he agreed that he could see a difference in me when I spent more time reading, and he encouraged me to continue.

From that point, I consciously made an effort to read more, and I gave myself permission to do so. It’s not a chore for me – I love reading! – so it’s not like I have to force myself, but I do have to overcome that mommy guilt if I ever feel like I’m neglecting other tasks for the sake of reading. Acknowledging the importance of reading in my own spiritual and emotional well-being went a long way in assuaging that persistent mommy guilt. 

2. I deleted Facebook from my phone.

Back when I kept telling myself I didn’t have time to read, I had Facebook (and Candy Crush) on my phone. Guess what I was doing every time there was a lull in conversation or I was waiting in line somewhere? Yep! Facebooking or crushing candy. After a while, Candy Crush became boring so it wasn’t as much of a temptation… but there’s ALWAYS something new on Facebook and I could get lost on there for hours!

One day, for reasons that had nothing to do with the current topic of conversation, I decided to delete Facebook from my phone and save it for whenever I was actually on the computer. In terms of time management, it’s the best thing I’ve done in a really long time. I should have done it ages ago! Suddenly, all the time I used to spend on Facebook (it must have been hours) was now freed up for other, more worthier pursuits… like reading. Make time to read. Bring your books with you. #CHC #summerbookclub

3. I keep my current book with me wherever I go.

As a child, this is how I managed to read copious amounts of books in short amounts of time: I always ALWAYS had a book in my hand. Nowadays with smart phones, tablets, and Kindles, it’s super easy to always have a book at your fingertips. I even have a medium-sized purse that fits almost all paperbacks, so I take real books with me everywhere I go, too. That way, if I’m waiting around somewhere for somebody or something (which happens surprisingly a lot), I whip out my book (or smart phone or tablet) and start reading away.

4. I read whenever I can.

I’m learning my limits on this: for example, when The Boyz are crazy in the backseat of the van, I can’t read. (I hope it goes without saying that in this scenario I’m the passenger, not the driver!) I have to engage with them or they will start doing things that make my eyeballs pop out of my head and wonder if they’re really human and if it’s possible they actually came from my body. Either that or I will start screaming. So I’ve learned that while riding in the van is a great time to read, it’s not perfect, and it’s definitely not a good idea of The Boyz are in a mood. 

I also have a strict rule for myself about not reading when eating out or at the dinner table. Mostly because I want to teach my boys not to always have their nose buried in an electronic device when spending time together, and it’s my job to set the example for that.

Otherwise, I squeeze my reading into available moments like these:

  • in the bathroom (the perennial favorite of busy moms everywhere)
  • in the bathroom (not only when I’m taking care of business but when I’m doing my hair or getting dressed or slathering myself with oils, I have a book propped up so I can read it while I’m busy)
  • riding in a car or other transportation (except for when The Boyz are crazy or we’re having good conversation)
  • waiting in a hair salon, doctor’s office, at school, etc.
  • in the evening before I go to bed
  • when I’m cooking (I prop the book up and read it whenever I’m standing still long enough. This is also a good opportunity to take advantage of audio books.)
  • watching TV (I try to stick to watching it during commercials because it drives my husband crazy when I try to read AND watch a TV show at the same time. I kind of see his logic. But sometimes a book is just that good, you know?)
  • at nap time (I’m a preschool teacher. Yay! for nap time!)

DSC07223-B5. Sometimes I listen to audiobooks.

I’ve discovered that audiobooks really aren’t my thing, but sometimes it’s the only way to get reading in. The problem is that if  it’s a book no one else in my family is interested in (which is probably 99.9% of what I read) then I have to wear earphones which makes me very inaccessible to the needy people in the house (which is all of them). Plus when my mind is not actively engaged in the reading process, my mind tends to wander and daydream and collect dust bunnies and I end up missing half the story. Consequently, I’ve discovered that the only time audiobooks really work for me is when I’m in the kitchen cooking or washing dishes.

You, however, might find that audiobooks are the perfect solution for you!

Want to see what I’m reading? I’d love to see what YOU’RE reading! Join me at Goodreads, where I keep track of books I enjoy (and even books I don’t)! I’d love a sneak peek onto your bookshelf, too.

Summer Book Club #christianhomemakingcommunityJoin Our Summer Book Club!

Some blogging friends and I are going to spend the next six weeks talking all about reading… and sharing our favorite books with you! Follow our blogs to join in the discussion and find some new favorite books to love. We’ll also be chatting about our blog posts – and the books we love – in our Facebook community for women, Christian  Homemaking Community. 

Click on the links below to read what other bloggers have to say about reading:

BundleoftheWeek.com, 5 eBooks for $7.40!

Why You Should Read {And Not Feel Guilty About It}

Why You Should Read - it's not a guilty pleasure

As a child, I was the textbook image of what people are thinking when they use the phrase “avid reader”. I have a horrible sense of direction – can’t find my way out of a paper bag, and no kidding! – because from the time I could sound out words, I brought a book with me everywhere I went, especially in the car. I can remember pleasant days spent in my room lying in all sorts of crazy positions on my bed, reading, reading, reading, and laughing out loud hilariously at Beezus, Henry, and other characters in Beverly Cleary’s stories. I was always in the middle of reading one book or another, and always had a book close at hand (or in my hand!).

This trend continued throughout my elementary years and on into high school, where I read a steady diet of mostly classic novels, with a few biographies and Christian fiction novels thrown in for good measure. In my late teens, I lived in Moscow, Russia, and I used the hours and hours of riding on the public transit system to read, read, and read some more.

Fast forward to the time when I started working full-time… and then got married and had my own house to keep… and then children came on the scene. With the exception of the time I spent breast-feeding my little ones (hey, that’s some great reading time, there!), I found that I rarely had time to indulge in my favorite pastime. Or, at any rate, I felt so pressured by all my responsibilities that seemed more important that I rarely took the time.

Now? I still work full-time, I’m still married, I still have a home to keep, and I still have 2 young children, but I’ve rediscovered the joy of reading. I’ve also discovered that the benefits of reading go far beyond mere pleasure and I no longer feel guilty when I make the time to read. In fact, I’ve learned that it’s a priority for me, right up there with keeping the house clean and getting dressed in the morning. With the modern convenience of Kindle (and a larger purse where I can stuff a paperback if necessary), I always have a book handy to read in stolen moments. 

My challenge to you is this: no matter your season in life, make time to read. I look back regretfully on those intervening years where I consciously made the decision not to read and to focus on other things that demanded my attention, and wish I had taken the time to read.

Why do I think you should take time to read? Personally, I feel like the benefits of reading a good book go far above and beyond the mere pleasure it brings to passing time.  I would go so far as to say that aside from spending time with your Heavenly Father and your earthly family and friends, reading books is the best thing you can do for your mind and your spirit. Why You Should Read - it's not a guilty pleasure

1. Reading relaxes the mind.

And this is a good thing! As women (many of us wives and mothers), we have a constantly running mental list of things to do and things to worry about. That constant track resounding in your head serves a good purpose (otherwise, how would anything ever get done?!) but it gets tiresome. It depresses, it weighs you down, it stresses you out, and it leaves you in a cranky, irritable state that no one enjoys – not even you!

I’m not saying you need to eliminate this mental process from your life – like I said, it serves a worthy purpose – but you absolutely do need a break from it. A break from your never-ending responsibilities gives you a chance to re-charge and attack those responsibilities with renewed vigor when you return to them. Life is a beautiful rhythm of work and rest, and you need to develop the habit of resting your brain and relaxing the internal pressure that you place on yourself.

 Reading provides a wonderful way to temporarily silence this running mental track that exhausts you physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Not all books are suitable for this purpose – books about dieting, housecleaning, or child-rearing, while valuable for other reasons, will probably have the opposite effect! In my family, we call books that provide a mental escape “brain candy”, i.e., damaging if you make it a steady mental diet, but pleasurable and not harmful on occasion. Brain candy books are kind of short and fluffy – just a light story without any real depth that gives you a mental break and a chance to recoup your thoughts for dealing with real life and its real troubles. 

But brain candy isn’t the only type of reading that relaxes your mind – anything that directs your thoughts away from their usual well-run course of dishes to do, bathrooms to clean, homework to supervise, menus to plan, will serve the purpose admirably. I like to intersperse brain candy with other selections that have benefits beyond relaxation.

2. Reading informs the mind.

Now this is a given, and it doesn’t only apply to non-fiction. Even a well-written piece of fiction can inform you about a time and place that is otherwise foreign to you. I’ve learned about Philadelphia Quakers during the American Revolution, the earliest settlers in the “wild west” (prior to the Louisiana Purchase) and all that they faced, turn-of-the-century immigrants and the struggles they endured, the life of a Caribbean pirate in the 1800′s, silk farmers in India, Jews in the time of Christ, medieval lords and peasants, and many more, all from novels. A well-researched novel (sometimes a novel makes me so curious about a time period or a place that I research it to see if the book was really accurate) can teach you more about history and foreign cultures than any course you could take at school.

Books such as these can make you aware of situations – political, religious and social – that you never even thought about, and can help inform your views about them. A really good book explores various aspects of the topic at hand so you can have a good understanding of the issue and come to reasonable conclusions about it. Why You Should Read - it's not a guilty pleasure

3. Reading develops empathy.

A well-written book can also delve into the mind of a person in a very different situation in life from your own, and give you glimpses into the heart of another person. However fictional that person might be, you can gain understanding about the driving forces in their life that lead them to make decisions you wouldn’t otherwise understand. Right now, I’m reading a fictional book about a woman who escapes an abusive husband. It’s a situation I have no personal knowledge of, and reading a book about it doesn’t make me an expert by any means, but it does help me understand what that kind of life is like for the women who have to go through it.

Reading doesn’t replace actual experience when it comes to real-life issues like this, but it does help create empathy within you for others who deal with struggles you will never face. In my opinion, that is one of the most powerful gifts that reading can give – to take the chance to walk in another person’s shoes for a while, if only in your imagination.

4. Reading challenges you.

Depending on the type of book, the challenge can be physical, spiritual, or emotional. Non-fiction books can challenge you in your work, your child-rearing, your scheduling, your relationships, your diet and nutrition… anything, really! There’s a book on every subject, so you can certainly find one that will challenge you to be your best in every area of your life.

Even fiction can challenge you spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Well, good fiction can. This is where you need more than brain candy! My most favorite books are the ones that challenge either the way I think, the way I feel, or the way I relate to God and my fellow man. These books are the ones I will re-read.

God calls us to do everything in our life heartily – our very best – for His honor and glory. A good book will challenge you to do just that! Why You Should Read - it's not a guilty pleasure

5. Reading connects you to greater minds.

The wonderful thing about God’s creation of humankind is that each one of us has our own working brain, and the thoughts within our mind are privy only to ourselves and to God unless we choose to share them with others. Each one of us thinks in a different way from everyone else, and we all benefit from the glimpses of perspective we receive when other people share their thoughts either verbally or via the written word.

The wonderful thing about the invention of books is that we have access to the great minds of previous generations. Because of the written word and its preservation through the ages, we can learn about those who have gone before us and all that they learned and experienced. In this way, each generation is able to build on the knowledge of previous generations… and if we heeded what they were telling us, we could  avoid a lot of heartache and evil.

I tend to think of the greatest minds in historical terms, because I feel that the test of time is the greatest of all tests in determine the quality of one’s thoughts, but books can connect you to today’s great thinkers and communicators as well.

6. Reading sharpens the mind.

There’s a caveat here: if you just read, mindlessly accepting everything that passes your eye, there will be no mind-sharpening. Or precious little, at any rate. The sharpening of the mind occurs when you read actively, engaging your mind (this is why brain candy needs to be kept to a minimum, or you’ll have brain softening instead!) to discern whether what you’re reading is true or not. 

To read actively, you must ask yourself while you’re reading if what is being said is true or not. Weigh your own knowledge, understanding, and experience against what the book is conveying to you, and decide if you agree or not. What makes the author draw the conclusions he or she draws? What leads a character in a story to make the decision they make? Is God glorified in what is being read? Or is evil lifted up?

This applies to fiction and non-fiction, by the way. Anything that goes into your mind needs to pass a filter that weighs the truth of what is attempting to be absorbed. This can be an exhausting practice but it is essential to get the most out of what you read. And when you read critically in this way, it will sharpen your mind, even as it relaxes you and brings balance to your busy life.

So, busy mom (or college student, or full-time working woman), make some time in your schedule to read! Don’t think of it as a guilty pleasure, think of it as a necessity for your life. Nourishing your mind is just as important as nourishing your body, so do yourself a favor and make time for it.

Want to see what I’m reading? I’d love to see what YOU’RE reading! Join me at Goodreads, where I keep track of books I enjoy (and even books I don’t)! I’d love a sneak peek onto your bookshelf, too.

Summer Book Club #christianhomemakingcommunityJoin Our Summer Book Club!

Some blogging friends and I are going to spend the next six weeks talking all about reading… and sharing our favorite books with you! Follow our blogs to join in the discussion and find some new favorite books to love. We’ll also be chatting about our blog posts – and the books we love – in our Facebook community for women, Christian  Homemaking Community. 

Click on the links below to read what other bloggers have to say about reading:

BundleoftheWeek.com, 5 eBooks for $7.40!

Spelt Vanilla Cake

A delicious vanilla cake made with spelt flour and unrefined sugar. #spelt #wholegrain #cakeI always feel obligated to preface every cake post with a disclaimer that goes something like this: I stink at cake baking.

Soooo if you’re a cake-baking expert, this post is not for you. However, if you’re a cake-baking stinker like me, keep reading!

I think my biggest problem with cake-baking is that I attempt to make a delicious, light, fluffy, high-rising cake with ingredients like whole-grain flour and unrefined sugars. I always tell myself that if I were baking with white flour and white sugar that – Certainement! – my cakes would be absolute perfection.

Since I don’t bake with white flour and sugar, the world will never know. Probably best to leave it that way. 

A delicious but healthy indulgence - a vanilla cake made with spelt flour and unrefined sugar. #cake #wholegrain #speltI bumble along the best I can, though, with freshly grained spelt flour and coconut sugar, and I have to say that this most recent cake experiment was overall a success. The resulting cake seemed heavy but had a nice light crumb, a moist texture, and perfect vanilla flavor. I made two cakes – one topped with caramel frosting, and one filled with lemon curd and topped with lemon frosting. Everybody said they were good, but I wasn’t completely pleased with the frosting recipes, so I won’t be posting those.

However, the cake is definitely a recipe worth sharing, especially since whole-grain spelt cake recipes are currently a rare commodity in this world. I made it in my WonderMix with the cookie beaters on low (speed 1). Whipped it up in no time!

If you’re looking for a delicious but reasonably nutritious (wouldn’t exactly call it healthy, but it’s not that much of an indulgence, either) cake for your next celebration, this one’s it! It pairs nicely with just about any frosting – I like to pop the layers in the freezer before spreading the icing just to limit the crumbs getting involved.

a healthy indulgence - whole grain spelt cake with unrefined sugars. #spelt #wholegrain #cakeRecipe: Spelt Vanilla Cake

Summary: a delicious vanilla layer cake made with spelt flour

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How to Save on Grass-Fed Meat

how you can afford grass fed meatYou know that the mass manufactured meat available here in America is horrible, what with its hormones, GMO’s, antibiotics, occasionally horrifying additives (pink slime, anyone?), and other hair-raising issues. But what’s a girl to do when that’s exactly what’s available at the local grocery store… and for half the price (or less) of the good stuff?!

I hear you. That’s exactly why my family has only been enjoying grass-fed meat and dairy products for the past year or two instead of all our lives. The good stuff – pastured, grass-fed, local beef, chicken, pork and other meat & dairy – is pricey to say the least, often twice the cost of its conventional counterparts. Daunting, to be sure!

But it IS possible to work grass-fed meats into your budget, I promise. Here are a few tips that helped me work the healthiest meat possible into my family’s budget. (Keep in mind, by the point I started to add grass-fed pastured meat & dairy into the picture, I’d already gotten to the point where just about everything else we buy is traditional/clean/whole foods and totally from scratch. Removing processed packaged foods from the diet significantly reduces your grocery budget in the first place.)

1. Start small.

Instead of instantly replacing all your conventional meat purchases with the healthier grass-fed variety, start small. Every little bit helps and is a step in the right direction!

Here are a couple ways you could begin incorporating more grass-fed and pastured meats into your grocery budget:

  • Start with whole chickens or ground beef. Those tend to be the cheaper options and also more readily available at regular grocery stores.
  • Start with one kind of meat. For example, if you normally eat beef, chicken, and pork, choose just one of them to begin your grass-fed experiment. (I vote for beef because it’s the most noticeable improvement in taste and texture, in my opinion.)
  • Start with just one package. If all you can afford in a week or a month is one package of grass-fed ground beef, then do just that! Buy everything else conventional for now.

2. Keep your eyes peeled for sales and markdowns.

Before I committed to only purchasing pastured meats, I bought them whenever I could simply by keeping my eyes peeled for deals. They don’t go on sale in the traditional sense very often, but you can frequently find them on markdown in some grocery stores. 

In my personal experience, Safeway and Harris Teeter (and occasionally Wegmans) were the stores in my area that most frequently had marked-down grass-fed meat available. I suggest doing some reconnaissance in your area and noting which stores seem to have that type of meat available; also consider asking the butcher when they mark down the meat.

Whole Foods is one store that will have sales on grass-fed meat because they carry more of it than most other grocery stores. So if you live near one, keep an eye on their sales and take advantage of them when they happen.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway… when you find a great deal, STOCK UP to the extent that you can. Clean that store out of their grass-fed, baby!

3. Purchase directly from the farm.

When I say directly from the farm, I mean it literally. Most of the meat I purchase comes directly to me from the farms via their internet ordering systems. I haven’t found that any local store, including Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, has as good a price on their pastured meat as what I’m able to get by ordering directly from local farms. Ordering or purchasing directly from the farm is also cheaper than purchasing at a farmers’ market (I’m assuming the price is higher there because of the overhead costs).

I will say that it has taken a significant amount of internet research and local networking to find the best prices in my area. Most farms don’t spend a lot of money on advertising, and not all of them have an internet presence, so you’ll probably have to do a little digging in your area. Some suggestions for your search:

  • Join local email lists and Facebook groups that focus on natural or organic living. With any luck, those folks will already have a directory in the files somewhere with the info you’re seeking. If not, just ask around there.
  • Snap up pamphlets at the local library, coffee shop, health food store, etc. Some farms will have printed advertising material posted in such places.
  • Ask around your friends. The very first farm I ever ordered from was recommended to me by a local friend.
  • Search on localharvest.org. It’s the largest directory for local food that I know of. Also try eatwild.com.
  • Use a search engine and google various terms. Searching different terms (grass-fed meat in __your location___, grass-fed delivery, pastured meat, local farms, etc.) will bring up different results and broaden your choices.

If you live in a reasonably rural area, you might be able to save on delivery costs by driving directly to farms and picking up your orders there. The farms I order from are just enough out of my way that it’s worth it for me to order for delivery, but if I lived a few miles closer (and didn’t work full-time) I’d go pick up my orders in person. Also, many farms arrange local pick-up spots that are also cheaper than direct delivery. Take that into consideration when researching pricing.

4. Purchase roasts.

Not only are roasts cheaper per pound than many other cuts of meat, they go farther than most other cuts also, especially if you shred the meat once it’s cooked. A 3-lb roast can last a good 3 meals in my family, and can be disguised creatively so we don’t get tired of it. Once a roast is cooked, you can take a small portion of it, chop or shred it, and add it to pastas, pizzas, casseroles, salads, and sandwiches.

For more tips on sticking to your grocery budget while eating healthy, nourishing foods, be sure to read Your Grocery Budget Toolbox, chock-full of strategies and practical methods for cutting costs without cutting quality. 

5. Buy in bulk. Split with friends.

By far the cheapest way to buy pastured meat is to buy in bulk, by which I mean purchasing a whole cow or pig at a time. Most farmers also offer the option of purchasing a half or even quarter cow or pig also. The biggest problem most people have is that they don’t have the storage space (i.e. a big enough freezer) for all that meat, so that’s where your friends come in. This is where it’s helpful to be networking amongst like-minded local folks, so you can organize a bulk meat co-op or join in on one that’s already been organized.

In my area, I can save probably a good $2/lb by purchasing meat in this manner instead of buying individual pieces at a time. Do keep in mind that purchasing in bulk means you get a wide variety of cuts, some of which you may or may not be familiar with.

6. Stretch with less popular cuts, organ meats, bones, etc.

I have to admit this is the part I’m still working on. I haven’t been able to work up my nerve to order cow tongue yet, but I have ordered marrow bones and liver! As I advised above, start where you’re comfortable and work from there. Most people can stomach purchasing bones and using them for broth, so start there if nothing else! You’ll get a lot of bang for very little buck.

One little tip about liver: if you don’t like the taste (we don’t) and prefer not to eat it straight-up, you can grind it in a blender or food processor (Total ick but if I did it, so can you!), freeze it in ice-cube trays and then add a cube or two to ground beef when you brown it. You won’t be able to taste the difference, and it will add extra nutrition to your spaghetti. Not to mention it stretches that pricey ground beef a little!

7. Reduce meat consumption.

If you’re paleo or grain-free, this idea won’t work so well for you, but for everyone else, it’s an option to consider. I have a friend who stretches her ground beef by adding lentils to it, which is a great place to start. You could also try “Meatless Mondays”, or focus on making meat the side dish of your meal and not the main dish. For example, top a salad with it, or mix some chopped meat into a filling pasta dish. I also typically have one dinner a week that is based on fish rather than meat. A well-chosen can of tuna (taking care where it originates, how it’s caught, and how it’s packaged) still costs less than a pound of meat and forms the basis for a nutritious and filling meal.

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Lavender Syrup

Lavender Syrup  - 3 ingredients!  #yleo #essentialoilsI never ever would have considered lavender as a beverage flavoring were it not for a pleasant occasion a month ago or so when my sister and I went to a favorite coffee shop in Maryland, one we are rarely able to visit but enjoy very much. As we perused the lengthy menu board, the final item on the list caught my sister’s eye and she exclaimed that she *HAD* to try it. 

What was that concoction she had to try? Lavender Iced Coffee. 

Hmmm, I thought, unconvinced,but in the end, decided to follow my sister’s footsteps and give it a try. It sounded refreshing, and didn’t seem like it would be too horrible, plus I love to try new things.

A Refreshing New Twist

Word. It was amazing. Refreshing, yes! Also, quite delicious and crave-worthy. In a remarkable turn of events, however, I completely forgot about it once I got home and only remembered it when I was trying to brainstorm essential-oils-based refreshments for a class I was teaching.

In a flash of inspiration, I recalled the herbal goodness of the lavender iced coffee I had enjoyed, and realized it would be ridiculously easy to duplicate it by quickly boiling up a simple syrup and adding some lavender essential oil to it.

Easy peasy! And, of course, this versatile lavender syrup can be used for much more than coffee – splash it in lemonade, tea, punch, or anywhere else you’d like a dash of flavor.Lavender Syrup  - 3 ingredients!  #yleo #essentialoils

Recipe: Lavender Syrup

Summary: a refreshing flavored syrup you can add to hot and cold beverages

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar (I used coconut sugar)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3-4 drops lavender essential oil*

Instructions

  1. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Stir and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  3. Cool to room temperature and add lavender oil. Store bottled in the refrigerator.

*Most lavender oil available on the general market today is more than likely adulterated in one way or another. I only use Young Living lavender oil because I know that Young Living controls the process from planting the seed in the ground to putting the seal on the bottle, and I know there’s nothing in it but the best and finest lavender oil available!

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WonderMix Giveaway!

WonderMix Remember how I made those delicious Kumquat bars in my new favorite kitchen tool, the WonderMix?

Guess what?! You can win your very own WonderMix and make your very own Kumquat bars in it!

That’s right! Many thanks to WonderMix (the same company that brought us the WonderMill) for providing one of my readers with such a fabulous prize. This giveaway will end next Friday, May 15, 2015 at midnight. Complete one or multiple entries for your chance to win the WonderMill for yourself. The winner will be drawn randomly by Giveaway Tools and will have 48 hours to respond before.

Good luck!

BundleoftheWeek.com, 5 eBooks for $7.40!

Kumquat Bars

2015's answer to Lemon Bars. Sweet and tart, creamy filling, crumbly crust. Lemon bars are SO last century. Join me in the twenty-first century (2015 people!) with a delicious twist on the old classic that takes it to new heights… a simple switch of key ingredients and you have an impressively exotic dessert that tastes just as good as (better?) than the original.

I’m talking kumquats. “Say wha?” I hear you mutter. Yep, kumquats! They look like baby oranges but taste like grumpy grandpa lemons. In other words, adorably cute but ferociously sour. Some people like to pop the little cuties right in their mouth, but I can’t personally even give a little lick without puckering up all over like I just drank lemon juice out of the bottle.

A delicious 21st-century version of the classic Lemon Bar.

However! Like their yellow and green counterparts, kumquats pair nicely with a bit of sweetener to create deliciously sweet-tart desserts, no pucker involved.

I whipped these bars up on a whim the other day, basically just switching out the lemon juice in a lemon bar recipe with kumquat puree, resulting in an orange-colored version of the favorite lemon bars. I was quite pleased to have my brand-new WonderMix at my disposal for the creation of the recipe, because its blender attachment made whipping up the puree and adding it to the filling mixture a total breeze. I love having appliances that do more than one job… and consequently take up less real estate on my countertop, which is quite valuable these days!

Blend and Mix with one machine!

Want to win one of these beauties? Check out our giveaway coming this Friday – May 8!

As a matter of fact, I have been experimenting quite a bit with this new mixer, and am looking forward to sharing more of my recipe creations with you in the very near future. This lovely little machine makes quick work of just about any dough or batter, giving me more time to try my favorite sort of experiment… the kitchen kind!

Wondermix

Enter to win your very own Wondermix this Friday, May 8!

Win your very own WonderMix! Enter the giveaway here!

Deliciously beautiful kumquat bars - a new take on the old-fashioned lemon bars.

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You Are a Failure

You are a failure. But God isn't. /Commence internal monologue

Words you don’t want to hear, and certainly wouldn’t say to anyone else (no matter that you secretly believe them). Words well-meaning people insist are a lie straight from the devil himself, meant to be ignored, or at the very least, overridden by louder voices with more encouraging things to say. Words you vehemently dislike.

But true words.

No, I mean it. If you’re honest with yourself, you are a failure on a daily basis.

You Are a Failure

Don’t believe me? Don’t want to face the facts? Maybe a glimpse into your typical day will help you:

  • 6:30 am: You ignore the Vienna Boys Choir boisterously singing “Goooood Morning!” over and over again in their valiant effort to awaken you. You roll over, close your eyes (and your ears) tighter and will them to stop. singing. forgoodnesssakes.
  • 6:35 am: They’re singing again. Good. Grief. Will they ever shut up?!
  • 6:40 am: Your husband walks into the room, turns off the incessant singing and hands you the tablet so you can read the Bible (which you should have started ten minutes ago). You mumble your thanks, manage to find the Bible app and open it up to today’s reading.
  • 6:45 am: You realize with a start that you’ve dozed off after reading the grand total of 1 whole verse. You rub your eyes, sit up straighter, whisper a desperate prayer for help, and focus your eyes back on the tablet.
  • 6:55 am: You manage to somehow finish your Bible reading and begin to pray.
  • 7:05 am: Your husband returns from showering and starts making noise in the room, waking you up as you realize you need to start showering NOW in order to head to work on time. Gah. Prayer time practically non-existent again.
  • 7:20 am: Emerging from the shower, you see your children eating their breakfast without the benefit of an accompanying nutritious health-fortifying fruit OR Vitamin C OR elderberry syrup, all of which you have asked your husband countless times to include in the morning breakfast routine that typically occurs while you’re in the shower. Hurling mental insults at your husband for his lack of concern, laziness, selfishness, and all other manner of unforgivable sin, you remedy the situation to the extent you can and proceed to finish getting ready.
  • 7:25 am: Interrupted from your concerted efforts to be ready on time for once in your life, you are irritated beyond reason by The Boyz’ goofing off when they are supposed to be getting dressed. You holler. You yell. You pronounce judgment and unreasonable consequences.
  • 7:30 am: You realize with renewed regret that once again, you are not going to be ready to walk out the door at the necessary time. Your day begins with frustration and anxiety…

And this is just the first hour of the day. It doesn’t include the impatient words, the raised voice, the proud thoughts, the inconsistent parenting, the irritation, the ill-treatment of your (truly beloved) significant other. The failure – and along with it, the shame, regret, and guilt – piles up, heaps on heaps, as you go through your day, determined to do right but instead only making everything very very wrong. You finish the day quite sure that you will one day lose your job because you stink at it, your husband will one day leave you because you rolled your eyes at him for the last time, and your kids will hate your stinkin’ guts when they’re grown.
OH, and no one will attend your funeral.Ever feel like a failure? The bad news is, you are. The good news is, God isn't!

You Are a Failure

Yes, my dear self, you are a big fat failure with a capital F-A-I-L-U-R-E. Tell me, when was the last time you actually accomplished something that you determinedly set out to do? Because as I recall, you have made repeated attempts to:

  • Blog on a regular basis
  • Lose weight
  • Conquer the mid-life acne for once and for all
  • Exercise daily (or at least make it to 10,000 steps)
  • Eliminate sugar completely from your diet
  • Eat more vegetables
  • Speak kindly at all times to your children even when they’re driving you nuts
  • Not let your children drive you nuts but happily accept their childlike childishness as a matter of course
  • Not roll your eyes at your husband, at least when he’s looking. No seriously, you desperately want to be a wife who respects her husband because he deserves it.
  • Patiently – ever-so-patiently – teach your classroom full of littles while repeating everything you say ten thousand times (“Sit on your bottom!”) with a smile on your face and kindness in your voice.
  • Share the love of Jesus with those incorrigible little people
  • Stop eating out so much and make more food at home
  • Eat 80% clean food instead of this miserable 70-75% you’ve got going on
  • Ferment all the things! Probiotics everywhere!
  • Build your multi-pronged home business so you can fund your dreams

And on and on it goes.

Failure.

/End internal monologue

The Defeat of Failure

*Sigh* Depressing, isn’t it? Have you ever had that conversation with yourself? Surely I’m not the only one who repeats this mental monologue ad nauseum until I’m incapacitated by depression, fear, and an overwhelming sense of guilt because I just. Can’t. pull. It. Together.

And the truth is, no matter how many times someone lovingly encourages me that I am not in fact a failure (thanks, sweetie!), nothing can erase the sheer fact that my “successes” in life are so minimal as to be essentially nonexistent. The bare facts mock me in their invincible veracity. I am, in fact, a failure.

In and of myself, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.

BUT!Grace: Turning failure into victory every day

The Victory of Grace

Thank goodness the story doesn’t end there! Praise God that my failure doesn’t affect His view of me. How amazing that my continual failure at anything in life – spiritual, emotional, physical, practical – means very little in the grand scheme of things.

Because grace.

Here’s the deal: failure is a fact of life because Adam sinned and the world was cursed. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, life isn’t perfect, and the world is a horrible place because of our combined failure to get it right.

But grace.

For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.

We know these words, we’ve memorized them, we can recite them in our sleep. But somehow we feel like their power was already applied in our lives way back on the day we got saved, and that they are irrelevant for our daily (hourly, minutely) failures – and SINS. Grace forgives sin and grace fixes sin. We know about the first part but we forget about the second part.

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.

Did you notice that? Who is it that gives you both the desire and ability to do what is right? How is it that you can successfully perform God’s holy will in your life? By pulling up your bootstraps and trying harder? By renewing your determination? By praying more fervently? By being more spiritual?

No, No, NO, and NO! None of that does a lick of good, because trust me I tried and it didn’t help. (Doesn’t stop me from trying again… I’m a slow learner!) And anyway, God’s Word tells me it ain’t gonna do any good in any case: All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. So… the best I got isn’t anywhere near good enough. Even if I did manage to make it through a day when I woke up on time, read the Bible and prayed with adequate fervency, spoke kindly and compassionately to all I met, fed my family homemade nutritious food, and loved my husband perfectly, I’d still be a big fat failure because I’m still human.

But grace.

Nothing in me, in and of myself, is good. Yes, I’m a failure. But GOD and His GRACE work in me, changing me, helping me, forgiving me, fixing me, cleaning me, empowering me, and enabling me on a daily basis.

I fail.

But God doesn’t.

Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!

Grace.Grace - enough for every failure.

/Recommence internal monologue

So, yes, dear self, you are in fact a failure. That cannot be denied. However, greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world. The Power that lives in you is greater than your failure, greater than your sin.

And besides that, you are not defined by your failure, not anymore. You are no longer condemned by your sin. You are covered by the blood that cleanses you, and the power of the Holy Spirit is changing you. You are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, made possible by the mercy, love, and grace of God.

Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. No matter how badly and catastrophically you manage to completely mess up your day – and the day of everyone you love most dearly – God’s grace is more than enough to forgive it and to fix it.

So. Stop looking inward (enough of this incessant internal monologue!) and start looking up. Confess, repent, move on. Lay aside the sin that does so easily beset you and look to the cross for your power to go forward in grace.

And watch God turn your failure into victory.

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Remembering {and Reviving} the True Story of Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann, a Symbol of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

As a child, I remember feeling a certain affinity for Raggedy Ann simply because she (sorta) bore my name. I didn’t really have a passionate interest in the doll (frankly, I didn’t love dolls much at all), but I did feel a kinship with my namesake doll.

Fast forward to 2015… I’m all grown up now and I still have an affinity for Raggedy Ann, but for entirely different reasons. As the vaccine storm whips up into a frenzy, I’m reminded that Raggedy Ann was a potent symbol of one of the earliest anti-vaccine movements that holds eery similarities to today.

Raggedy Ann, a Symbol of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

The Sad Story of Raggedy Ann

Johnny Gruelle was the creator and inventor of Raggedy Ann, a creation intended for the enjoyment of his daughter Marcella. Around the same time he was developing the story and character of Raggedy Ann to prepare for publishing, Marcella was given the smallpox vaccination at school without the consent of her parents. Shockingly, although she developed an infection from the vaccination, they inoculated her several more times. Marcella died a slow and painful death, eventually becoming so weak she could not move her muscles, and so was much like a rag doll in appearance. After her death, Johnny became a staunch supporter of the anti-vaccine movement and Raggedy Ann became a symbol of that movement. You can read more about the Raggedy Ann story here.

At a time when scared and angry parents are calling for compulsory and mandatory vaccinations across the board – no exemptions – it behooves us to remember the hard-won freedoms of earlier generations who had valid concerns about that very practice. 

Raggedy Ann, Symbol of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

I know many of us who have questions about vaccines have been feeling rather attacked lately in social media and mommy wars. The insults, the threats, the anger, and the hate are bullets that, while they may not change our course, certainly leave wounds behind. Many of my fellow vaccine-questioners have expressed to me that they are tired of dealing with the onslaught, tired of debating, tired of the hatred directed at them. Most of them have come to the conclusion that they’d rather not get into these heated debates – not with people they love, and not with strangers online – and so have resigned themselves to silence.

I’m torn myself because I am also heartily tired of the debate, and I’m tired of the vitriol. It’s exhausting to be constantly defending myself and trying to educate folks on the very real dangers of vaccination. But I feel like the heat of the battle means that it’s almost over, and if we don’t keep pressing on, we’ll lose. We’ll lose the right to make medical decisions for ourselves and our children, and that’s a slippery slope I don’t want to take a ride on.

So. I have an idea. Let’s all take up the symbol of previous generations who fought the very same battle and faced the same foes. Johnny Gruelle fought with ink and paper, let’s fight on social media. But you don’t have to say a thing! All you need to do is replace your profile pic on all your social media accounts with a picture of Raggedy Ann. It’s a seemingly innocuous image that won’t get in people’s faces and it won’t anger anyone. But it will represent what you stand for and it will remind you of your historic right to fight for that stand.

And if enough of us do it, then we’ll have a sea of Raggedy Ann profile pictures all across Facebook, across Twitter, across Instagram. Folks will see all those Raggedy Anns and will start wondering. And when they do, you can point them to the history of Raggedy Ann by posting a simple link. You don’t have to say a word. Let Raggedy Ann speak for you.

Are you in? Let’s do this thing!

Raggedy Ann Social Media Storm

  1. Download a free graphic of Raggedy Ann.
  2. Upload it as your profile picture to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… wherever you are on social media.
  3. If anybody asks you why, direct them to this link that explains the story of Raggedy Ann.

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Palm of His Hand Valentines

You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentinesWhile browsing through Pinterest for Valentine’s-Day-Card inspiration, I spied a brilliant card/gift idea that incorporated the verse from Isaiah that says “I have engraved you on the palm of My  hand”. Beautiful verse, beautiful thought, perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Plus also, perfect for gifting with a pencil instead of junky VDay candy. Can I get an Amen?! You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentines

The particular card that inspired me was not exactly what I was looking for, though, and as it turns out, what I’m looking for really wasn’t out there. However, I’m very grateful I spied it because it started my wheels turning… and they kept turning… and turning… until they came up with this cute little Valentine idea!You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentines

I re-worded the verse just a bit (call it the Simpson Limited Edition Version) to make it more personal and easily understood by its future recipients… and also to make it fit even better with the pencil idea. As I was making the cards with my boys, I explained to them that sometimes people write something very important on their hand that they want to remember, and that’s exactly what we are to God: very important and unforgettable!

You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentinesI intentionally made these cards with the bold turquoise/red theme because I love that color combo and because – hello – I have boys. Pink and purple – not their thing. ‘Nuff said. You can use any color scheme you want, depending on the paint you have and the color of doilies you find. I kept you in mind when creating the printable circles with the verse on the back and made a set with pink and purple just in case. You are written on the palm of His  hand.  #valentines

Palm of His Hand Valentine’s Day Cards

Supplies

  • 1 package of medium sized doilies
  • paint
  • white card stock
  • printable verse circles
  • glue stick
  • black pen (or whatever dark color works best with your color scheme)
  • sharp scissors or X-acto knife
  • Valentines’ themed pencils

Instructions

  1. Have your child make one handprint for each card using whatever color of paint you’d like (we used a bold turquoise).
  2. While the handprints are drying, cut out the printable verse circles and glue them onto the back of each doily right in the center.
  3. Once the handprints are dry, cut them out and glue on the front of each doily in the center.
  4. Write the name of the recipient across the palm of the handprint.
  5. Use sharp scissors or an X-acto knife to cut a slit a little bit above and a little bit below the name. Thread the pencil from above into the bottom slit, and then from below into the top slit so that it is held securely on the heart.
  6. Spread Valentine’s Day cheer by giving to friends and loved ones.

You are written on the palm of His hand. #valentines

 

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