5 Simple Up-cycling Ideas to Beautify Your Home

Guest post by Victoria Coombs from He Holds Everything.

If you’re anything like me there are many things in your home that are not being used but you are having a hard time just getting rid of it! Well, little did you know this is the perfect  place to be! All you need is a little time – trust me, all I have is spurts of time with six kids running around. Here I will list 5 ways to up-cycle, or repurpose, things that are common to most homes.

Dry erase board from a picture frame

Supplies:

An old frame
Scrap paper or fabric
Dry erase marker to use with it

This one is super simple. Take the picture out of the frame, label desired scrap paper with list name –i.e. groceries- and put into the frame (or fabric pulled tight around the frames’ cardboard insert). Keep a dry erase marker nearby to add to your list. Dry erase marker can be erased using a paper towel or rag… honestly, I just use my finger.

Magazine Rack from a closet door

Supplies:

Plantation style bi-fold closet door (one section)
Paint
Magazines to hang on it

I got this idea from my amazingly creative sister-in-law. All you do is take one section of a plantation style bifold closet door, paint it whatever color you wish, and presto! You have a magazine rack to either lean against a wall or you can secure it to the wall to alleviate floor space. Either way, it’s a much welcome change from the days of having magazines piled high in a basket. Just slide half of the magazine through the slats and let it hang at the binding. This way, each cover is partially displayed for easy selecting.

Yo-yo hair clips from old clothes

Supplies:

Old clothes (I used my daughters’ baby clothes that I adored the pattern of)
Buttons (from old clothes)
Scissors
Two sizes of circle templates – jar lid, CD, small plate, etc.
Sharpie marker
Needle
Thread
Contour hair clips – any clip will do, these are usually just lying around
Hot glue gun or fabric glue

There are definitely more details to these hair clips than to the other ideas, but once you make one you will see how easy it is and find yourself addicted to making them. Trace two circle templates (differing in size an inch or so) with your marker. Once you have cut out your circles, place them good side down. Start from the top of the fabric (bad side), insert your needle through to the underside, then back up to the topside. Do this all the way around the circle. When you get back to where you started pull your thread tight to synch the fabric. Then secure your thread by tying a knot and cutting. Repeat with next piece of fabric and layer them with synched side up. Place button over opening and sew button on through both fabric “flowers”. Secure contour hair clips to the flat side with glue at all corners and let dry.

Candles made from old candle remnants

Supplies:

Cute container – tea cup, jar, or any other cool hollow vessel
Old candle pieces
Tapered candles
Microwave safe container
Knife, or something equally sharp
Stir stick
Skewer

These are great for making your money stretch or as gifts. And you can personalize them to the receiver’s taste or décor! First cut the top part of the tapered candle a half inch smaller than the height of the container (the wick should still be taller than the container). Cut up the left over candles into chunks about an inch cubed. Place cubed wax pieces around the top of the tapered candle to hold it in place. Pack as tightly as possible. Put the remaining pieces of candle into a microwave safe container and place in microwave for thirty second intervals until completely melted. Tie wick of tapered candle around skewer, so that the skewer is resting across the top of your container (this holds the wick in place when the tapered candle begins to melt). Pour melted wax into the container until it reaches right about the top of the tapered candle. Let cool, and enjoy your new creation!

Wall hooks made from skateboard trucks and wheels

Supplies:

Trucks and wheels from a skate board
Screws
Screwdriver

This last one is a super simple idea for a boy’s room. Screw the trucks into the wall in whatever pattern you desire or just one by itself, and use it to hang jackets, backpacks, etc.

Victoria Coombs is a wife to a wonderful husband. Mommy of six in a blended family. My passion is to learn something new every day about my Savior and the world around me. She blogs at He Holds Everything.

 

 

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It’s a girl! Eden Joy is here!

Eden Joy Edmonds
“Joyful Delight
August 7, 2011
9:05 pm
7 pounds 14 ounces, 20 3/4 inches

Born at home in the hot tub  after a difficult labor, but a gracious God sent us a healthy gift of life.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalms 37:4

Birth story to come.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

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Social Media – Inspiration for Finding Your Balance

Written by monthly contributing writer, Trina Holden.

My addiction was out of hand. Though I knew it was unhealthy, I indulged multiple times a day, couldn’t go 24 hours without withdrawal symptoms, and constantly made excuses for my habit.

A Confession…

My vice? Social Media. This tool – wonderful for networking, business, and ministry – was taking more from me that it was giving. It was stealing vast amounts of time and leaving me stressed and burnt out. I knew I wasn’t the only one with this problem (I could name plenty of people who were worse than me – one of my many excuses!) but I didn’t know what to do about it. I needed to use this tool – how was I to keep it in balance?

An Experiment…

Then I heard about a friend who took a month off Facebook. Just the thought of such a sacrifice caused my typing fingers to start twitching nervously. That was a sure sign to me that my addiction was out of hand and needed to be addressed. So, I took the plunge and – without even saying goodbye – I gave up facebook for a month.

It was an incredible season, opening my eyes to all I was missing in real life when I let myself get sucked into the virtual, synthetic “Home” of my facebook page. Facebook seems designed to distract, to never let you finish a thought or task, with so many links on every page pulling you further and further into its time-sucking, mind numbing, stupor inducing  grasp – Ahhhh! Taking a break helped me regain vision and balance in my online time.

A Commitment…

Even as I realized the need to stop letting facebook use me, I was learning how to use social media to market my business, glean valuable information, and find mentors for everything from blog-building to mothering.  In fact, since my fast, I’ve re-entered facebook, joined twitter, and am more committed to my online presence than ever. This  presents the challenge of staying in control even as the opportunities to get sucked in and waste time have multiplied. It is a constant battle, requiring regular re-evaluation and lots of prayer, but I’m committed to the challenge of finding balance in this media-saturated world.

Here are some practical ways I manage the tool of social media…

  1. I only visit my personal Facebook page three days a week. Do I miss stuff? Yes. Has it killed me? No. As fun and fascinating as facebook can be, I’ve never read anything I couldn’t live without or couldn’t have learned by calling a friend.
  2. I do the same thing with Twitter – every other day. Another incredible tool, another dangerous time-waster.  I figure, if something is really good, it will make it to my feed eventually.
  3. I read my favorite blogs through an RSS feed (essential for saving time) and constantly sift through the blogs I subscribe to, keeping to a lean list of the very best blogs for me to expose myself to in this season. (Lindsay taught me this)
  4. At least once a week (usually on Sundays and lately, at least one weekday) I stay off the computer for the entire day. I schedule posts for my blog in advance, and let email go for a day. This gives my mind a chance to breath, refreshing and sharpening my vision for all areas of my life.

The Fruit…

These simple boundaries have been very effective in keeping my online time balanced and productive. I’ve experienced much personal growth in the past year, due in large part to my online mentors and research. Also, my schedule has been freed up to invest in real life relationships. After, all, that’s what we’re really called, to, right? Besides the pivotal relationships of being a wife and mother, we need the honesty, accountability and fellowship of real-life friends. Face-to-face trumps facebook every time.

A Challenge…

  1. Just for a day – Track how much time you spend on facebook or your favorite forum or networking site.  List 3 things you would rather have done with that time. Tape the list somewhere you can see it whenever you log on.
  2. Do this test – scroll through your RSS, Twitter, or Facebook news feed and take a survey of all the the news that is actually relevant or of personal interest to you. Take it a step further and judge how much content actually enhanced your relationship with God or inspired your unique calling or passion.
  3. This week - Choose one of your online friends that you have an email or phone number for (or live within driving distance to!) and make the effort to contact them on a more personal level.  See what kind of fun and fellowship ensues!
  4. Take a trip – go to a really popular blog in a niche you enjoy. Take the time to check out the links the author recommends. Compare the enjoyment and input you receive from purposeful reading to an hour of casual blog-hopping or browsing your facebook feed.

It is my desire that my computer time glorify God.  It’s so easy to lose sight of that goal and slip into casual interaction and low quality input. I pray these tips can inspire you to use the internet wisely, to build up your home and deepen relationships.

What do you do to keep perspective, manage your time, and make the most of social media?

Photo Credit

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Simple Snacks for Busy Mamas

Post by Contributing Writer, Michele of Frugal Granola

Although it’s nice to have healthy snacks available for everyone in the family, there are certain seasons of motherhood where they’re pretty essential.

During early pregnancy, small protein-dense snacks can help with morning sickness. Later on in pregnancy, snacks can fuel you through the day, when you feel like your tummy is too “full” with a baby to eat much of a meal. Then during seasons of breastfeeding- especially those early days, when you’re always nursing- it’s important to keep up those extra calories as you nourish a little one and maintain a milk supply.

Busy mamas are likely often munching “one-handed,” as they juggle a nursing baby, a toddler on the run, a stroller, or other tasks. Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to sit down and rest, but you might still be holding a little one with one arm (and maybe sharing a bite or two of that snack, too).

Here are a few of my “one handed” snack favorites.

(Some take a bit more prep-work than others, so choose what works best for you. If you have help available at times, hand them this list! If you have a chance, make a big batch ahead of time & stash it in the fridge.)

  • Hard-Boiled Eggs + a bit of Sea Salt (If you have an extra moment, you can mix them into egg salad.)
  • Crockpot Oatmeal or Brown Rice + a little Whole Milk and/or Peanut Butter or Cheese (My husband would measure it into the pot in the morning, and I just had to flip the “on” switch and stir in any additions. Hint: It’s easier to eat one-handed out of a mug than a bowl.)
  • Homemade Fruit & Nut Snack Bars (I like Katie’s Reverse LaraBar recipe), or if you’re really desperate, buy a box of packaged bars at a bulk discount. I like to stash a couple bars in car compartments or diaper bags.
  • Healthy Fudge Balls (similar to the snack bars)
  • Homemade Trail Mix, with nutrient-dense nuts, dried fruit, coconut, & a bit of good dark chocolate or a savory-seasoned mixture (Buy ingredients in bulk for best cost economy; your toddler will be glad to help pour into a mixing bowl for you.)
  • Smoothies (Frozen berries or pre-diced fruit pieces are easiest, so you don’t have to chop up anything; just pour ingredients into a blender. When my baby was afraid of the blender noise, I used to run to the garage & turn it on really quick!)
  • Natural Jerky (Grass-fed meats are most nourishing; dehydrate your own or purchase from your favorite local farm or meat market.)
  • Cheese Slices/Cubes (You don’t have to buy special cheese stick packages; a regular block of mozzarella will tear into pieces just the same.) 
  • Prepared Sandwich (A friend shared this tip with me: prepare a sandwich or two ahead of time, cut it into quarters, and then just grab a piece from the fridge when you need a small bite to eat.)
  • Cooked Salad Shrimp (You can often find this in the freezer section or at the butcher/deli cases. Look for seafood from safe, sustainable sources. Mix with a bit of mayo or yogurt, and salad greens if desired.)
  • Avocado + a bit of Sea Salt (Scoop out with a spoon, and slice if desired.)
  • Baked Yam + a sprinkle of Walnuts, Butter, & Sea Salt or Raw Honey (For simplicity, bake it whole in a baking dish or crockpot.)
  • A bowl of Cultured Cottage Cheese Eat plain or stir in some fresh berries. (A mere 1/2 cup contains a whopping 14 grams of protein, plus good probiotics!)
  • A glass of Coconut Water for rehydration and nourishment

What are your favorite “Mama Snacks?”

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Ways to Bless a New Mom

Guest post by Jessica Fisher at Life as Mom.

Fifteen years ago I was a young wife dreaming of the day we would turn two into three. Even though I had helped my mom with my four younger siblings, I had no clue what motherhood really entailed. I know that – now.
What a surprise I was in for!

Six children later I have a learned a few things about adding a baby to the family. Thanks to generous family and friends I’ve discovered some amazingly helpful ways to bless a new mom – because they blessed me so abundantly.
Taking my cues from them, I offer these suggestions for you as you help friends and family greet their new little bundles of joy:

Bring a meal.

Food is a great way to bless others, especially those who’ve just had a baby. My newborn days were always ravenous ones. With breastfeeding, baby duties, and a healing body, I found it hard to find time or motivation to cook, but it seems like I was always hungry. I loved it when others brought us a meal.

Consider bringing a meal or two, preferably early in the day so that the family can eat when their schedules – and sleeping baby – allow.

Some tips for meals on wheels?
:: Bring kid-friendly foods for families with older children. Meals that can be served “not touching” are always appreciated. Offering meat, starch, and vegetables as separate dishes allows picky eaters to fill up on what they like. (Tired moms with new babies don’t need to fight food battles in the early days.)
:: Consider bringing a few extras like muffins, scones, or even an egg dish that can serve as a quick breakfast the next day.
:: Use dishes that you don’t need back so that the family has fewer dishes to keep track of and return.
:: Observe food preferences and allergies.
:: If your budget allows, bring two meals, one to eat and one to freeze and enjoy later.

Offer childcare.

As I added to my new family, I was very conscious of not neglecting my older children. I didn’t want them to feel left out or ignored. Yet, sometimes I was just too exhausted for much play. It was so nice when friends fill in the gap. If the new baby has older siblings, offer to come play or even take the bigger children to your house for the afternoon. In this way, Mama can rest (providing that Baby cooperates) and not worry about the older kids.

A caveat: Please be mindful of exposing Baby’s family to illness. Worried about offending others, new moms may be hesitant to say, “Keep your cooties to yourself.” However, it’s no service to your friend if her kids all get sick. Even if it’s “just the sniffles” steer clear of the new baby’s home for the first few weeks.

Clean house.

An offer to mop floors or scrub a bathroom is sometimes hard to extend – or accept. But the newborn days are ones during which Mom should be enjoying her baby and resting in stead of cleaning house. Offer to fill in the gap.Something as simple as vacuuming or pulling a few weeds can help the new mom rest more easily, knowing that there aren’t nagging tasks to tackle.

Just hang out.

While rest and seclusion from outside illnesses are important during the early weeks, fellowship with the outside world is vital to combating a new mom’s cabin fever. I have great memories of friends coming to visit — with food in hand. Their (healthy) kids played in my backyard with my older children while we moms chatted and caught up. And in many cases, I had a clean bathroom when they left!

It doesn’t take much time or money to bless a new mom. It takes effort and love, though. But the results are well worth it. You and your friend will both be blessed.

What do YOU do to bless a new mom?

Mother of six, Jessica Fisher writes about parenting hacks at LifeasMOM and posts delicious ways to act your wage at Good Cheap Eats. She is also the author of Organizing Life as MOM – a 125+ page e-guide complete with customizable planning pages and inspiration for home management.

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July at Our Home

Waiting…waiting…this past week has been a challenging week of striving to stay focused while anxiously awaiting our third little one to arrive. I admit I have been very impatient. After my previous two little ones came 6 and 8 days early respectively, I was half expecting this one to arrive in a nice early fashion as well. God had some lessons in patience to teach me. I’ve noticed more grumpy tendencies creeping out of me. I’m large. It’s hot. My body hurts. My plumbing overflowed in the kitchen. I can’t do much even if I wanted to. ;)

The Lord is gracious despite my weakness. His grace is sufficient for me. I have much to be thankful for. This month I hung curtains in my living room making it more comfy and inviting, we hosted a fun ice cream social reaching out to friends and neighbors, I learned all about infant massage and the benefits to baby, I had a lovely personal retreat preparing my heart for our new addition, I started reading all about classical education and became so excited for the potential of educating our children, and so much more. It has been a blessed month filled with lots of family time investing in our two littles ones before we expand again – picnics, summer reading, and tea parties.

Tea time with Karis

3 in 30 Challenge: August

I have really been enjoying recording three goals for each month following the inspiration of the 3 in 30 Challenge.

My goals for August include becoming more faithful in daily prayer for my husband and children. I was really challenged to see these precious individuals as my primary ministry more so and what better way to serve them then through prayer. So I set up a little nook in my bedroom with my nursing chair, a small lamp, table, and my Bible and journals. I taped the 31 days of prayer chart for your children and the 31 days of prayer chart for your husband to the wall next to my chair. I plan to use this not only as my nursing nook, but it will certainly double as my prayer/Bible study corner during those hours of nursing that I will be entering soon.

Secondly, I want to develop a basic chore chart for my little ones. I have been inspired by the materials provided by Preschoolers and Peace and plan to develop a chart along these lines for my 2 and 4 year olds. As we welcome number 3, I can see it being even more essential to begin training them in being useful helpers to mommy!

Lastly, I want to make a simple plan of learning activities for my 2 year old as we begin early Kindergarten lessons with my daughter in September. He is pretty independent and enjoys his own play, but I really want to make sure I have some scheduled quality time with him each day. I want to make a list of fun ideas and such that will help keep him busy during our lesson times. I recently found a new simple curriculum called Flowering Baby that I will be reviewing and sampling. I’m really excited to try it out!

Any tips you might have to offer on these things would be greatly appreciated!

1000 Gifts – My Thankfulness List

What a blessing to continue on in the pursuit of recording 1000 gifts of everyday blessings in our lives. This has been such a rich and rewarding experience. My little moleskin notepad stores such treasures and graces from our day to day life.

#568- Cool weather for a summer pregnancy

#569- Selling furniture for a good price

#570 – Chai milkshakes

#571- Hot tub family time in the morning

#572 – Neighborhood parades with free goodies

#573 – Karis’ excitement over science experiments with daddy

#574 - Summer picnics at the park

#575 – My own little reading/nursing nook

#576- Kids digging in the dirt

#577- Play dates with cousins

#578- Delicious lunch salad

#579- Impromptu family dinner out to support a friend

#580- Kiddos making a slide out of daddy’s legs

#581- Craigslist deal for last minute baby needs

#582- Girls night hot tub and foot massages with dear friends

#583- Catching up with a long absent friend

#584- Homemade mint chocolate ice cream

#585- A new comforter for our bed

#586- Pregnant mommy toes soaking in cold water with fresh air and a good book in hand

Summer beauty from our backyard

Book Reviews

The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh Bortins – I have been enthralled in this book over the last week. The classical method has been opening my eyes to the potential for training our children to be equipped to make such a difference in our nation. The pattern for studying chronological history, using real living books, and following the pattern of learning makes a lot of logical sense. I read the Well Trained Mind earlier this year and highly recommend these resources if you are beginning your homeschool journey like me.

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus by Tim Keller – This is one of my favorite books by Tim Keller presenting the power of the story of Christ through the book of Mark and how it relates to our day and age. My eyes have been open to the beauty of the gospel in a new way through the powerful insight presented in this book. I will have to read it again and again to glean it all!

August Sponsors

I will be taking a maternity break from blogging this month, but you’ll still find a wealth of fun articles from our contributors and guest posts to fill in during my absence. I am excited to take some time to be able to rest and enjoy our new little one (once it decides to show up!).

We would like to thank our wonderful selection of sponsors for the month of August, including:

Beyond Organic - a newly launched company founded by Jordan Rubin desiring to provide you with organic and raw delicious food products delivered to your door! Set to begin deliveries in October 2011.

Fertility Flower - Fertility Flower helps you build your family or practice natural birth control using the sympto-thermal method.

Graham Gardens - Wonderful natural soaps, bug repellent, and more from this wonderful company!

Willow Store - So many wonderful options for using natural cloth alternative in your home instead of disposables!

Sweet Bottoms Baby Boutique - My all time favorite cloth diaper and natural baby/mom products company with free shipping, wonderful customer service, and a fantastic rewards program!

Have a blessed August! May you be encouraged and strengthened in your homemaking and mothering!

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3 Mission-Minded Family Dynamics

by Passionate Homemaking’s monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan.

God has a destiny for you and for your family. He has an individual plan for each member, as well as a “corporate” purpose for you as a family unit. As a mom, God will help you to train each child toward God’s mission for his or her life, and He will help you to focus your family toward making a strong impact for His kingdom — in your community, in your church, among your children’s friends, and in the world.

In a mission-minded family, there’s a God-infused energy. There’s a focus on God’s worldwide purpose. There’s a passion for the lost. There’s a spiritual depth and hunger that reaches beyond the maintenance mode of cultural Christianity. A mission-minded family emphasizes leadership, calling, and destiny. There’s a prevailing attitude of self-sacrifice. And there’s an unmistakable and contagious joy.

I believe these qualities can be identified and summarized in three powerful dynamics.


Dynamic #1: A mission-minded family lives in SUB-mission.

A mission-minded family is totally submitted to God and to His purposes. Like a submarine advancing to its underwater target, it’s under the surface that counts.

It may sound more important to board an overseas-bound 747 or to have the opportunity to influence a huge crowd of people, but these activities may not be God’s best plan for this particular moment (or season) in our lives. We’re all called, as believers, to be a part of God’s worldwide plan; but His expectations for us, as individuals and as a family, may be much smaller, yet possibly even more challenging to obey. Today’s mission-for-the-moment simply may be to open our Bible and read a few chapters or to take a minute to pray for a friend. Maybe right now all God wants is for us to snuggle up on the couch with a little one and read a fun storybook. Or perhaps God’s perfect will is merely for us to quit procrastinating, turn off the computer, and go finish those loads of laundry!

Living in SUB-mission to God involves every area of our lives: our personal maturity (spiritually, mentally, physically, and financially), our attitude toward our marriage, our family priorities, our disciplines in home management — along with our ministry callings. As we allow God to refine those sub areas in our lives, we can trust that He will fulfill all of His mission promises to us, in His timing.


Dynamic #2: A mission-minded family is focused on eternity.

Mission-minded families have a focused purpose for life.

It’s good to consider the godly legacy we will leave for the next generation and important to realize that our day-to-day decisions can leave a lasting example, for good or for evil. But as Christians, and as members of mission-minded families, our godly legacy is not the end. Our ultimate life evaluation will not be determined by the opinions of those we leave behind. Instead, our life will be judged by the One we go to meet—our almighty God in heaven.

A mission-minded family keeps God’s focus in mind. A powerful dynamic is present when you raise your children to walk daily in the fear of the Lord. It’s not about preparing kids to be successful, or to get into a good college, or to make a lot of money to give to missions, or even to do something “famous” for God. Our mission is to love and please God—to live every day in complete obedience.

How this plays out for each mission-minded family will be different. God has unique purposes and callings. But we begin with the end in mind. As we’re raising each of our children—from cuddling our babies, to disciplining our toddlers, to teaching and training our school-age children, to encouraging and motivating our teens, to aiming and releasing our young adults to God’s call for their lives—we keep the target in focus.


Dynamic #3: A mission-minded family is strategically aimed.

Each person in your family has specific gifts and callings, and you also have a destiny as a family.

God has placed you together as a powerful mission-minded unit, so it is important to seek the Lord for His purpose for you as a team.

Our goal is not to raise kids to be popular, famous, or wealthy. The goal is not to somehow get our teenagers to “survive” their youth without tasting a drop of alcohol, puffing on a cigarette, or experimenting with illegal drugs. It’s not enough to “hope” that each child will turn out okay or “trust” that they won’t be “too bad.” As we influence tomorrow’s world changers, our vision must be infinitely higher.

Instead of focusing on the “NO” side of human legalism (emphasizing our never-ending rules), it’s much more fulfilling and productive to challenge young people to live on the “YES” side of God’s life (emphasizing His eternal plans).

As we keep each of our children focused on God’s long-term goals, today’s short-term decisions will make sense. And today’s temptations, by God’s grace, will be easier to withstand.

As mission-minded families, we can seek God’s direction and then begin to serve as God’s facilitators and motivators. If we can encourage our children to discover God’s plans and want to develop specific God-given abilities, it will totally change everything. Instead of dealing with surface issues, we begin to train our children’s hearts and to focus on staying aimed toward God’s purpose. A change at this root level alters everything, from grades in studies and success in activities to confidence in leadership and a spiritual desire to develop God-glorifying friendships.


Mentor Families for World Missions

The post is adapted from my book, The Mission-Minded Family. Right now, our mission outreach, Harvest Ministry, is running a special on my two-book-set (The Mission-Minded Child & The Mission-Minded Family — at our COST!). We also have a new FREE 30-page study guideusing these books (to mentor your family or small group in a 4-week study).

If you’re interested in learning more, please CONTACT me through our website, and put “MM-FAMILIES SUMMER SPECIAL” in the subject line, and I’ll send you more information (with no obligation). My heart is to motivate families for missions — right now, right where you’re at!!!


Missionary David Livingstone said, “The mission of the church is missions.”
I say, “God’s mission for the family is expanding His family!”

Blessings to you and yours!!!
Ann

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5 Simple Steps to Freeze Summer Berries

What a blessing to be finishing up stocking my freezer with good produce for the upcoming year! It is so important to our family. We love having an assortment of frozen berries for smoothies, berry sauce, berry desserts, and more. We find local sources of fresh berries when in season that have not been sprayed with various chemicals to preserve. I usually get an assortment of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries for our freezer each summer. Our methods for preservation are very simple. I don’t worry about layering them all out on individual cookie sheets to freeze as it requires too much space and time.

1. No rinsing required! I buy non-sprayed berries so there is no worry of chemicals on them. I will only rinse if I noticed excessive dirt on the berries, but having dry berries is key to preventing them from sticking together in the freezer.

 

2. Layer the berries in individual gallon size freezer Ziploc bags. Chose the quality brand that are specifically designed for freezer use because you want them to protect your investment of fruit! I empty two pints of berries per Ziploc and gently spread them out in a thin layer. I want to avoid them sticking together, so make sure not to overcrowd them. One to two layers of berries is most effective.

3. Place them on various shelves of your freezer. I simply put one bag on top of each shelf. Try to avoid stacking bags until they are completely frozen. This will again help to prevent sticking berries.

4. When frozen, I like to combine two bags together. I gently break the frozen berries apart so they are only individually frozen. If you didn’t put too much in each bag, then there will only be a few stuck together that easily will separate. I add two bags into one which helps consolidate and save bags. I like to rinse out the other Ziplocs and use them for another purpose.

5. Make sure to press out all the excess air from the bag before sealing. Consolidating bags makes this much easier as well especially after the berries are frozen. A helpful tip for getting all the air out is to place a drinking straw at the very edge of the bag and suck out the air before sealing completely in a quick fashion. Lastly, label the exterior of your bags with a permanent marker to highlight the date that you put them in the freezer. This helps you know which berries need to be used up first, especially if you have leftovers from the previous season (like me!).

Frozen berries should be consumed within 12 months for best results.

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Preparing for A New Baby: Essentials?

Our little nursery in our bedroom

I have humored myself by all the things that I have bought and sold on craigslist in preparation for each of our kids. I’ve tried this swing, and that stroller, and this bouncer. There is this certain hype and excitement about having a baby that leads you to want to find the best of everything that would be suitable to meet your needs. Just enter a baby store and you will likely be overwhelmed by the walls of stuff that claim to sooth that colicky baby, or is essential for a peaceful nights sleep, etc. It has finally taken me to this third little one when I have finally figured something out…your baby doesn’t really need much at all. I’ve known it in the back of my head…but I still wanted to all least try it all. You think it would be obvious. But its fun. It’s exciting to do the research for the best stroller, car seat, bassinet, etc. But in reality. Your baby only needs a little tender loving care. And we have to be on guard against wasting too much time in this preparation and planning stage.

So as we welcome our third little one, we have narrowed down our baby supply list significantly…

1. Changing Table on Top of Dresser

I have found this to be the best idea ever! It can change from room to room as needed or removed to the floor. It saves space as it eliminates any need for an additional changing table.

2. Bassinet

A simple Moses Basket will honestly suffice for a baby bed for quite some time. They are easy to transport, bring traveling, and save space. We use the Contours Classic Kolcraft bassinet (thanks to craigslist once again!) that has the removable Moses basket with additional storage beneath which stores baby clothes, blankets, cloth diapers, and burp rags. Simple, cute, and serves us very well.

3. Swaddling Blankets

I loved swaddling my babies for the first several months of their lives. The best choice here is the Aden & Anais Muslin or Bamboo swaddling blankets. They are simply a large piece of wonderfully soft material that wraps snugly around your little one for swaddling. Baby sleeps so much better in this fashion.

4. Burp Clothes

We have found the best option for burp clothes is some simple indian/chinese prefold diapers. They are the most absorbent, useful, and durable. Chose in a premium/toddler size for the best coverage.

5. Baby Carriers

I am a huge fan of the ergo baby carrier! This was the best investment we have made. We tried the standard bjorn and found it extremely uncomfortable to the back. The ergo provides more significant support and works in three different positions (front, back and side). We also love the Moby Wrap as a snug comfortable hands free fit for the early months of life.

These are a few additional items that all our baby’s have really enjoyed, but certainly not essential:

6. Travel Swing

This item is compact and easily movable! This works especially well in small places and can be easily transported upstairs, which was a very nice feature. We also took this with us on a few vacations. It doubled as a bouncer. Worked well from 0-6 months.

7. Johnny Jump-up

I remember the days my younger siblings entertained themselves for long periods of time in this jumper! Great for developing the strength in their legs, small, and lots of fun! I have seen them for $10-15 on craiglist or garage sales. We borrowed a Graco one with a basic tray, which works well for snacks or to give them small things to play with. Works well from 6-10 months or so.

8. Walker

This was a borrowed hand me down from my family. This worked very well as both my kids learned to walk. They both used it for several months, followed by standing up on the edge and using it as a push toy. It worked well on both carpet and hard wood floors. Works well for us from 10-15 months, or until they start walking.

9. High chair

We choice a portable space saver booster seat that secures on top of a chair. This works well especially for small places. It is portable which made it wonderful for bringing on vacation or when invited to other friends’ homes. Made feeding times so much easier! You certainly don’t need a huge high chair that takes up half your dining room! Plus it works great as a transitional seat.

10. Nursing Cover.

This is a handy tool for nursing discreetly in public. Making your own is a fun little maternity project.

Beyond your basic clothes, diapers, basic car seat (whether you choose an infant or convertible style), simple stroller (I don’t recommend the huge trailer ones, as we have found more often than not, that a simple umbrella stroller does the job the majority of the time), and eventually a crib of some sort, you don’t need anything else. Also, always buy these bigger items used on craigslist! You can save so much money in this manner.

Diaper bag? My favorite has been such a simple large hand bag. My current hand bag doubles as a diaper bag.

Nursing pillows? Nice for the first week but ultimately, you figure it out pretty quickly.

Baby bath? The best place to bath your little one is the kitchen or bathroom sink, just like our mommy’s did.

Bath toys? They get moldy. My kiddos are perfectly happy in the bath with just a little toy matchbox car.

Baby toys? Babies will enjoy holding and sucking on practically anything. One or two soft toys is all you need. Sophie the giraffe is the only one on my wish list.

Things we borrowed or bought but then later sold because we found to be nice but ultimately unnecessary in our opinion and mainly adding to clutter were an exersaucer, play mat, car sun shades, and bouncer (the swing covered any need for the bouncer, accomplishing the same purpose).

Overall, I have been amazed how much money you can save by utilizing craigslist! I always recommend that you never buy new. And more often then not I actually made money when reselling various items. It is certainly possible to have babies on a budget!

And of course, feel free to take my recommendations with a grain of salt. This is just my little whisper of experience from my trial and error.

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Practical Preparation Tips for Postpartum

Postpartum baby blues affect 50-70% of women recovering from the birth of a child. It is a reality that is important to acknowledge and prepare for. It is important to realize that dealing with a large range of emotions after birth is very common. There are extreme changes happening in your body from various hormones (estrogen, progesterone, oxytocin, prolactin, and thyroid hormone) that occur after birth.

Postpartum blues can include mood swings, crying, insomnia, irritability and other symptoms. Postpartum depression is the second level of baby blues that affects 1 in 10 women. It includes more extreme signs of the symptoms above and may include lack of interest in baby, memory loss, extreme fear, etc. I am one that is very susceptible to postpartum blues. I also struggle with fear of depression from my past experience with it and because it runs in my family. With having a baby in the midst of summer, I struggle with the thought of being trapped inside when everyone else is enjoying the summer. This is a new adventure for me as my previous little ones were born in springtime. How can we together be wisely prepared to deal with these varying emotions?

We want this period to be full of joy and delight as we celebrate the newness of life! It is a beautiful season of life. It is a celebration! A party. It is important to safeguard this special period by taking a few preparation steps…

Get Help.

We need to acknowledge that it is foolish not to seek help from others in advance. I confess I can easily think that I can do it all on my own. I am a perfectionist. I like it done my way. It is my sinful nature that tries to handle struggles on my own strength. But that is not how God intended it to be. He designed our need for others. We need to come along side on another, using our various giftings, to make the transition a peaceful one. It is humbly to acknowledge a need, but we must seek it. In this way God is most glorified as well as we don’t foolishly depend upon our own strength. So humbly ask for help.

Ask family. Ask friends. Hire help if necessary. Ask for freezer meals. Sign up for Meal Baby. Or a casserole shower. Hire a postpartum doula.

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