2010 Health Goal: Drink More Water!

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What do you, the trees, and every animal have in common? We all drink and require water to survive! One of my most important health goals this year is to simply drink more water! I honestly believe this is the number one step to better health and wholeness. It is the most practical and frugal step we can both take this year to better health. Without water, our bodies will die in a matter of a few days. Water makes up more than half of our bodies. Water is necessary for every part of our bodies to function properly.

Why drink more water? It…

- Increases your energy. Adults lose as much as 10 cups of fluid each day through sweating, exhauling, urination, and bowel movements. Water provides more oxygen which is necessary to burn fat and allow your body and brain to function at their fullest potential.

- Sustains healthy skin. Did you know that water is the single most important element for cellular health? Water moistures your skin inside and out, so the more you drink, the less likely you will have problems with dry skin.

- Regulates the body’s temperature by allowing you to sweat. Water regulates the body’s cooling system.

- Elminates toxins. Water is essential for your digestive tract to function properly. Water helps get rid of excess nitrogen, urea and ketones.

- Moves nutrients and other substance throughout the body. Water is essential for proper digestion, nutrient absorption and chemical reactions. The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream.

- Helps assist in weight loss and balance. Dehydration decreases protein synthesis, the task of building muscle. With water, fat gets burned and converted to energy. Without its presence, fat increases.

- Reduce Your Risk of Disease and Infection. Body cells deteriorate when they are not hydrated and will be susceptible to attack from various diseases: heart disease for one. These cells will try to draw water from other places like heart, which will then have to work harder to pump blood causing additional problems.

Get Well: Water helps restore the body. It can help control a fever, replace lost fluids and thin out mucus.

How much water?

To determine your specific recommended water intake, divide your weight (in pounds) by two. The resulting number is the number of ounces of water you need each day. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., try to drink 75 ounces of water daily.

In order to form the habit of drinking more water, it is important that you start small. Don’t try to drink 75 ounces the first day! Start by tracking your current consumption and add 8 more ounces each day or so. I regularly drink at least 28 oz a day (which is one water bottle full), but my next step is to bump that up to two water bottles. I will fill my water bottle up in the morning. My goal will be to complete that bottle by noon before proceeding onto the next bottle.

If you need further help, check out the water calculator. The water calculator will also help take into account if you are pregnant, nursing, sick, elevation, etc.

How to drink more water?

– Designate and label a special water bottle for your personal use. Fill it up first thing in the morning. Make it one of your most important tasks to begin the day. Try to keep the bottle with you wherever you go. If you are at home most of the day, you might want multiple bottles to place in different rooms.

– Set a timer to go off every 30 minutes. When the timer rings, drink a glass of water.

– Add lemons to your water to improve the taste, if desired.

– Drink quality herbal teas to increase your fluids.

How to get the kiddos to drink more water?

Children need water to function properly as well. They are more prone to ignore the thirsty signs especially when they are in focused play, resulting in dehydration, headaches, pain and fatigue. Watch out for juices and sodas though. They may add fluids, but they also add sugars that decrease the health of their bodies.

Encourage the kiddos to drink more by:

- Providing them with a special water bottle of their own. Karis has a special green sippy cup that she loves.

- Allowing them to keep the special cup with them in bed or in the car.

- Adding Emergen-C or other special healthy supplement powder to their water. We add Emergen-C to Karis’ water and she calls it her “juice”. Helps increase her vitamin intake as well.

- Set the example! The more water my children see me drinking and enjoying, the more they will desire it as well. Every time I take a drink, I offer my kids a drink. They need reminders and normally drink just fine.

A final caution…

Drink Little With Your Food.

According to nutritionist Lori Lipinski, “…Simply drinking too much water with your meals can affect your ability to properly breakdown your food. Drinking too much liquid with meals dilutes the concentration of hydrochloric acid and enzymes needed for proper digestion. So to get the most out of the foods you eat, it is best to avoid drinking lots of liquids 20-30 minutes before and after your meals.”

My water bottles are filled and now I am off to drink them! Care to join me and keep me accountable? Do you have any tips to share for increasing your water intake?

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Establishing a Morning Routine – Maximize Your Mornings

Photo by j.anne4

I have always loved the benefits of rising early; but over the last few months while dealing with sleeping issues, rising early has gone out the window. To be completely honest, I often would lie in bed past 8 o’clock and wallow in self-pity. The longer I would lie there the inevitable result would be increased tiredness. When I would finally be dressed by noon, half my day was gone and the most profitable hours are also lost. Thus I would encourage the entrance of depression and discouragement. Aaron and I determined together that one of our new years goal was to plan and purposefully begin rising early TOGETHER. ;) Accountability is key. Sitting down together to plan out our morning routine was also essential. I determined, by God’s grace, that I needed to rise early, whether or not I slept well. Why do I believe rising early is important?

1. The morning hours are your most profitable moments of the day. You are fresh and energized. You can accomplish more in one hour than most people accomplish in an entire day.

2. It takes time to mentally prepare for the day. As Kat in her e-book, Maximize Your Mornings states, “Professional athletes don’t roll out of bed and stumble into the game. They warm up, talk to their coach and get mentally focused for what is ahead. We need to do the same thing.”

3. Personal quiet time can help maintain peace and harmony in the home. I can testify that without my morning devotions, my flesh tends to be more prone to anger and frustration (my sinful weaknesses). If I don’t focus on the Lord first thing, I often lose sight of my mission as a wife and mother.

“Ever plan for yourself in simple dependence on God. It is nothing less than self-idolatry to conceive that we can carry on even the ordinary matters of the day without His counsel. He loves to be consulted. Consider no circumstance too clear to need his direction. In all thy ways, small as well as great; in all thy concerns, personal or relative; temporal or eternal, let Him be supreme. Who of us has not found the unspeakable ‘peace’ of bringing God matters to minute or individual to be entrusted to the most confidential ear?” - Charles Bridges

Our Plan:

First, we determined what we wanted to include in our morning routine. For us, this included personal devotions, exercise, shower, get dressed, make breakfast, eat breakfast together while having family devotions, concluding with sending Aaron off to work.

Secondly, we mapped out these activities according to our priorities. If nothing else, personal devotions are the most important to us. We believe strongly in beginning our day with the Lord. Sitting at his feet keeps Him the center of our lives and the Source for our strength for the upcoming events of the day. We listed them in order of priority above.

Finally, we mapped out the time frame they needed to take place by. Aaron needs to be out of the house by 8:30am, so we worked back works determining how much time each of these events would take.

Start small. We were previously waking up by 7:00am. Our new goal was 6:00 am. Rather than jumping into that significant adjustment, we started by waking up 5-15 minutes earlier each day. This way it was manageable adjustment and able to be maintained more effectively. Since exercise is one of our priorities for the morning, we also determined to start small here. If we jumped into a strict 30 minute routine, we would fall out relatively quickly, as we have experienced in the past. So we adopted the starting small technique again here – 5-15 minutes each day. Doing a smaller amount more consistently has been proven to be more successful in developing the habit. Exercise in smaller more consistent chunks is also better for your body than random extensive exercising periods.

Collect things for your morning routine the night before. Get things set up in advance for your morning routine so you are not blindly hobbling around at 6:00am trying to find your Bible, exercise clothes, etc.

Make a plan for your devotional time. Choose a Bible Reading plan. You must have a plan to really effectively grow in your faith. There are many different Bible reading plans available free for download at Discipleship Journal or Revive Our Hearts collection of plans. We have used all of these plans at different times in the past and they are very effective.

Plan your day. I have found simply taking 5 minutes to plan my day has increased my productivity. I make a master to-do list of the week during my weekly planning time, but cutting this down to selecting 3-5 things that need to be done today has been helpful. I use a 3 x 5 card to jot down my to-do’s on one side. On the other side, I write out a verse of Scripture from my devotions that I would like to meditate and/or memorize throughout the day. I keep this 3 x 5 card in my back pocket and every time I check my to-do list, I will review the Scripture. It has been very encouraging and edifying!

Our morning routine:

6:00 am – Currently, we are at 6:20 am, working up in 5-10 min increments – Personal Bible reading time individually, plan for the day (make my to-do list)
7:00 am – Exercise (jump rope, push-up’s, crunches, jogging up and down the stairs)
7:15 am – Shower, dress
7:30 am – Kids wake up (roughly), Nurse baby, Aaron get kids dressed
7:45 am – Lindsay prepares breakfast, packs Aaron’s lunch
8:00 am – Eat breakfast, Family devotions (reading one chapter from Proverbs every morning)
8:30 am – Aaron leaves for work, Lindsay cleans up dishes, dinner preparations, quick house pick-up

We committed this plan to the Lord and He has really blessed it. I have never felt so productive in my life! It has been so helpful to develop this plan and carry it out together. The house can be picked up and dinner preparations made by 9:30 am! Formally, this could drag on through lunch. It’s been a huge blessing to our family. I have more energy now in the morning whether or not I slept well the night before. A huge part of this I believe is renewing the priority of quiet time with the Lord. Just getting up and doing the NEXT THING.

I highly recommend and encourage every family to adopt a morning routine, one in which you have quality time with the Lord to prepare your heart for the day, exercise your body to give you health and wholeness, and to prepare and plan for the day ahead!

For more helpful tips for developing your morning routine, please check out Kat’s free e-book, Maximizing Your Mornings.

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Favorite Reads from 2009

I love reading! It is one of my favorite pastimes to be cuddled up with a good book. I only wish I had a nice fireplace in our home to cuddle in front of (memories of childhood). “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body” is my motto. Mark Twain once said, “The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” I began back in 2008 to record my reading list and goal for the year here on my blog. Since taking this step, I have been challenged and motivated to read far beyond my original goals. I have been inspired again and again through the rich materials published for our benefit. Reading brings such joy and refreshment to my life. I highly recommend cultivating a habit of reading. Here are some favorite highlights from 2009!

Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit by Mark Chanski was by far my favorite read from 2009! This book challenged me to really understand the position, domain, and calling God had assigned for me as a women. It was a call to play your position and to play with a win it mentality! Do your work unto the Lord! A must-read for all women, young and old, single or married. Read my full review here.

From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out by Nancy Twigg was my second favorite book for the year. I was so blessed by the way this book challenged me to root out all the emotional and spiritual clutter in my life. She addresses how to reduce clutter in your home as well, but most importantly starting with your heart! Read my full review here.

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Poland is my new favorite read on the history and industrialization of food. He gives you all the amazing details as to where most of the standard supermarket food comes from and how you can find the “real” thing. Read my full review here.

Don’t Make Me Count to Three: a Mom’s Look at Heart-Oriented Discipline by Ginger Plowman is a fabulous read for mothers on training your children through the Word of God. She focuses on training the heart by using soul-searching questions and Biblical truth to draw out here children. I love this book!

Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World by Carolyn McCulley is a fantastic, eye-opening read on the history of feminism. This was both a fascinating and moving read, stirring up women to come to a proper understand of our culture and times and what we can do about it.

Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives by Wendy Alsup is a sort and yet powerful read on Biblical theology written for women. She challenges women to grow deep roots in the Word of God for it affects every area of your life. Theology is for everyone! Read my full review here.

The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections by Amanda Soule was such a delightful read in encouraging fun, interactive, creative play as a family. She gives a wealth of ideas for supplying your children with the tools necessary to strengthen imagination. I appreciated the focus on building relationships – the most important thing. Read my full review here.

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey was another book that was very valuable to our family this past year. I had heard so many good reports from this book and his methods that we knew we had to read it. Dave Ramsey offers valuable principles in helping individuals and families get out of debt and be financially free. The principles are practical and his step by step system works. We were able to save our $1,000, get out of debt, and now we are making strides on step 3 to build our emergency fund more strategically this year, thanks to Dave’s motivation!

Check out my new 2010 Book List.

Previous reading lists and recommendations:

My Book List 2008

My Book List 2009

Recommended Reading List

“The more that you read, the more things you know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr. Seuss

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” –Atwood H. Townsend

Have you made a book reading list/goal for yourself this year? What books would you like to read?

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Ready for the New Year

Karis & Titus over the holidays

Happy New Year!

It is a joy to be back here with an update for you all…We had a wonderful holiday season and I am eternally grateful for all that the Lord has done in my life through the trial of dealing with insomnia. God has been so good! He has taught me that self-pity leads only to depression. It is an unprofitable practice! Cultivating a spirit of gratitude has been my desire.  What great blessings He has poured out on me! He has guided me to recognize that I was putting my faith in methods and medicines and not trusting in His sovereign care. Once I stopped trying all these different methods, and rather simply trusting that if He desired me to sleep, He would grant it, I began to sleep better. I also cut back in many different areas of my life. My husband and I carefully prayed and agonized over what we needed to let go of, and the Lord graciously sustained me. Taking a technology break for three weeks was so valuable. We had to let go and re-evaluate what God has called us to as a family. I am here to testify that God is a merciful, sustaining God. He cares for each of His children intimately. Even when I was overwhelmed to tears, He has sustained me. He has taught me to continue working as to the Lord even through my tears. Here are a few notes from my journal over the last few weeks:

“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!” – 1 Cor. 9:24

The Lord has used this verse to show me the importance of continuing to fight the good fight, even when I am weary, tired, or overwhelmed, He calls me just to do the next thing. Fix my gaze upon Christ and His calling! He has called me to wifehood and motherhood…well, then I will do it! I will serve as unto the Lord by doing the next thing. Don’t get consumed with the huge to-do list. Simply ask, what is the next thing? Do it with all your might! Making breakfast? Changing a diaper? Work through your tears if necessary.

‘Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath it’s quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, DO THE NEXT THING.

Do it immediately; do it with prayer’
Do it reliantly, casting all cares;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing.
Leave all resultings, DO THE NEXT THING.- Anonymous

Aaron and I over the holidays

Overall, he has taught me to be still before the Lord, as Psalms 37:7 states, “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act.” I worry, I fret, I doubt His care, but this verse commands me to be still, to wait, to simply trust that God has a plan. He may call me to continue to endure this, but for now, I will be still. I will cultivate my relationship with the Lord by daily coming before Him and renewing my mind in His word.

What does the future hold? I am not sure…it may include more sleepless nights, but overall, I know I serve a sovereign God!

Where will I go from here? I am excited to begin blogging again, but I am purposefully cutting back. My plan is to post 2-3 times per week (2 posts consistently is my goal). I am still praying about what I ought to write about and where to take this blog, so I would love your prayers and input. I am just taking it a day at a time still. I want this blog to be about strengthening wives and mothers to be passionate about cultivating their homes, joyfully serving their husbands and children. I don’t want it to be about Lindsay. I want it to be about the LORD. That is my prayer for this New Year. Stay tuned…

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Merry Christmas & A Time of Rest…

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I wish I could have sent a Christmas card to each of you this year. As that was impossible, I wanted to share our Christmas photo and letter with you all. It has been a true blessing to get to know so many of you over this last year…thank you for your support and encouragement!

Dear Family & Friends,

Greetings to you all as we enter the wonderful Christmas season! It has been a very challenging and yet blessed year for our family. We are rejoicing in God’s goodness once again!

We welcomed little Titus Christopher on March 4th and what a little bundle of joy he is to our family. He is so mellow, peaceful, and so happy the majority of the time. At 9 months old, he loves rolling all around the floor, exploring, eating, and just smiling at us with his cute little teeth. He looks like he may be welcoming his two front teeth by Christmas! ;)

Karis, at 2 1/2 years old, is our queen bee. She loves to sing, take walks, read books (Frog & Toad, and Thomas the Tank Engine are her favorites), playing in her kitchen set, and just making us laugh. She was successfully potty trained in just one month over the summer. Quite a big girl.

Aaron is a wonderful daddy and diligent provider, as he continues to work as a self-employed web developer. The Lord closed the doors for us to begin immediately in moving towards becoming techno-missionaries (where we would use technology to serve missionaries), but it is still a future goal. In the mean time, Aaron is seeking to grow in his business management skills, knowledge, and expanding his business in training an apprentice. Our vision is to get to a place where Aaron could work part-time to support us and dedicate the other time to serving missionaries/churches/agencies. Beyond work, Aaron is serving faithfully in leading worship and training up sound technicians at our church. We are involved in a new church plant called The Gathering in Portland, OR that started in July. In his spare time, Aaron loves learning to barb-a-que and expand his guitar playing skills.

For myself (Lindsay), I feel I have grown significantly this year in simply trusting the Lord. He has taken me through a difficult season dealing with insomnia, and yet faithfully has sustained me through it. I am growing in treasuring my children and enjoying the precious moments I have with them. I love being a stay at home mom, and taking care of the needs of my husband and children. Seeking to live simply and naturally have been my passions. On the side, the Lord continues to grow my little ministry through my blog, Passionatehomemaking.com. It has grown significantly this last year and the Lord has been using it to inspire homemakers around the world. To God be the glory! I am also pursing becoming a child-birth instructor and doula over this next year as I love serving women in preparing and giving birth naturally. I am excited to see what the future holds!

Together as a family, we are enjoying reaching out to international students through our local WSU. It has been a true blessing to build relationships with these precious students, meeting people from around the world, from China to Iran to Turkey.

We love you all and pray you have a blessed holiday season reflecting upon the glorious gift of our Savior who came as a humble baby to redeem the world!

Sincerely,

Aaron, Lindsay, Karis & Titus Edmonds

Note to my readership: Thank you again for making this such a blessed year! It has been a huge privilege to serve many of you and minister as the Lord has led me. I want to thank you for your financial support of this blog as well, making it possible for us to send more resources to support our orphan home in Cambodia. I must now confess as witnessed in our letter, that insomnia has been causing a lot of strain and stress to my life over the last few months. Some days I can barely function mentally and physically. I know God has ordained this for a purpose, and it has really helped me re-focus and refine my priorities. After further prayer, I feel the Lord is leading me to take a blogging break for a few weeks. You may see a post here and there, but overall, I am just stepping back for a bit. I need to pull back, rest, and focus on my family. I am planning on taking a blogging break till the new year.  You can follow me on twitter for regular family updates. I want to spend the holidays resting with the Lord and family. You all are in my prayers! May you have a blessed holiday season till we meet again! ;)

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Only One Thing Is Necessary this Holiday Season

What are you focusing on this holiday season? Are you taking time to sit at the feet of Jesus like Mary, or are you being more like Martha getting overly consumed with the gift-giving, decorating, parties, and preparations? (Luke 10:38-42) I personally have gotten overwhelmed with the gift-giving list, and the many invitations to events, but I have been graciously reminded today of the most important thing. And what is that? I would strongly encourage you to head over to Girl Talk to catch up on their current series called Martha Moment, to keep your focus this season. It’s all about Jesus! It’s about sitting, listening, and enjoying His presence. Here are some quotes to wet your appetite: 

“But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.’” Luke 10:41

What is the “one thing” that is truly necessary?

“Serving is important. Our Lord also taught us: “The greatest among you shall be your servant.” But serving is not the most necessary thing. There is only one thing that is truly necessary—listening to the Lord speak. So as we head into the holidays, as we face the temptation to be distracted with much serving, or tempted about many things, let’s remind ourselves of Jesus’ words. Should I be serving? There is one thing more necessary! Should I be worrying? This is completely unnecessary! There is only one thing that is necessary. And what is that? To sit and listen to the Lord’s teaching, that’s what!

Let’s take our cues from Mary. We shouldn’t wait until things settle down after the holidays. We shouldn’t postpone listening to Jesus until January 1. We must choose to sit and listen to the Lord’s teaching today: right in the middle of the Christmas craziness. And we must strive to do so every day after.”

To read the full series, visit here.

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Treasuring God in Our Traditions – Book Review

Today I welcome a guest post by Sherrin Drew. Sherrin is a wife and mother of one little boy and blogs at Home Based Education where she strives to make a joyful home based learning environment for her son.

Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper would make a great Christmas gift for somebody you love. The book is designed to inspire readers to look to God in fresh ways. A thriving relationship with God can lead to faithful traditions and joy filled celebrations. Noel provides many ideas of how to create God-centred traditions, but her goal is not to write a “how-to manual” (p.16). Instead, she prompts readers to ask themselves how they can show forth Christ as their treasure.

Firstly, Noel Piper encourages readers to develop “everyday” traditions that turn their hearts toward God. Christians need to plan to focus on God’s word and prayer, because such activities “are too close to the heart of God to be left to choice” (p. 49). The second half of the book is devoted to “especially” traditions. God can be placed at the centre of each celebration, whether a birthday or a Christmas dinner, because he is the giver of all these good gifts.

Memorable stories of God’s dealings with the Piper family are used to illustrate each example of a God-centred tradition. If you enjoy reading about what God is doing in the lives of other families, you will love these sections of the book. Family recipes, poems, letters and songs are incorporated in burgundy text boxes, adding to the beautiful presentation of the book.

Noel’s experience of family life and faithfulness in raising children make this a valuable child-training resource. Noel particularly recommends repetition and tangible symbols as learning tools. The Pipers always keep the key goal in mind: children are adults in training. The book includes an appendix about children worshiping with their families throughout the church service. In this essay John and Noel offer reasons to work toward this and practical suggestions.

Treasuring God in Our Traditions is not just for families though. Noel makes an effort to draw in singles, childless adults, and those from troubled backgrounds. The book is also an appropriate gift for men. They would enjoy its many insights into John Piper’s role in family traditions. All Christians, regardless of gender or situation, can benefit from considering whether their lives communicate that God is their treasure and joy.

Note from Lindsay: For my personal review of this title, visit here.

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Healthy Homemade Peanut Brittle: A Great Gift & Treat!

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My Papa is a big peanut brittle fan so I like to make him a batch of it for Christmas. The problem is that most recipes for peanut brittle are based around corn syrup. I prefer to avoid this ingredient, so my goal this year was to make my own peanut brittle from natural sweeteners. I am hear to announce that I have been successful. Thanks to the inspiration of this recipe and some further tweaking and adapting, I am excited to share this yummy candy treat with you. This is another great gift idea that is simple, delicious and more healthy for you.

1 cup Sucanat/rapadura
1/4 cup honey (I am sure you could use maple syrup here if desired)
1/4 cup water
1 cup peanuts, raw or salted as desired
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Grease a large cookie sheet. Set aside.

2. In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, over medium heat, bring sucanat, honey, and water to a boil. Stir until sucanat is dissolved. Bring to a boil and add coconut oil and vanilla, stirring constantly until mixture reaches 280F on the candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer (like me!), then you want to have a cold glass of water nearby and drop a bit of the mixture into it every few minutes until it forms a stiff ball in the water. This will confirm that it is hot enough.

3. Add peanuts and continue stirring until temperature reaches 300 degrees F (150 degrees C), or for another 2 minutes or so, or until a small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water separates into hard and brittle threads.

4. Remove from heat and quickly stir in baking soda. Work quickly and pour at onto cookie sheet, spreading out with the spoon to form a thin layer in a rectangle shape. Cool and then break candy into pieces. It takes about 10-15 minutes to cool. Store in a covered container.

IMG_6840This post is a part of the Healthy Holiday Eats and Treats Carnival! Check it out!

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Healthy Homemade Fudge: A Great Gift!

IMG_6843Need a simple easy treat to give away this holiday? How about some delicious healthy fudge that is incredibly easy to assemble? I adapted this recipe from Kimi’s edition of healthy fudge. I don’t use coconut sugar, so I had to do some experimenting to use with honey. I used raw honey to sweeten and it is a delicious combination of three simple ingredients -cocoa powder, coconut oil, and honey! Whip it up in your blender and solidify in the fridge, and you are set! This is a great little nutritious gift idea for him or her (especially the guys!) and also an very easy dessert for guests. I have served it several times over the last few months and always received great reviews.

1 cup cocoa powder
1 cup coconut oil, divided (virgin unrefined coconut oil is recommended for its nutritional value), palm oil or butter
3/4 cup honey (raw honey is recommended again for its nutritional value)

Gently melt half of the coconut oil in a small saucepan. Allow too cool slightly. Place the remaining 1/2 cup solid coconut oil in your blender with the cocoa and honey. Carefully add the melted coconut oil and pulse a few times till smooth. Make sure not to over blend or else it can seperate. Line a bread pan with a layer of parchment paper or saran wrap. Carefully pour the fudge into the pan. Place in your refrigerator until solid, about 1 hour. Gently remove from pan and cut into squares. Makes about 12-15 squares. Store in refrigerator till ready to serve.

Note: I found that if I melted all the coconut oil, the final result was a very stretchy, wet fudge. For the more solid fudge like texture, I melt half of the oil, just enough so that it blends together well, and this seems to work perfectly.

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Homemade Creative Play Gifts for Kids

How about offering your children fun and creative play gift ideas this Christmas? By creative play I am referring to supplying items that will help spur on and encourage their imagination, giving them freedom to explore and develop their minds. Here is a list of items that you can make at home inexpensively that will entertain your children for hours. We all love those frugal gift ideas, and the special touch of handmade items is an extra bonus.

Playsilks

Screen shot 2009-12-03 at 3.23.42 PMPlaysilks are a simple creative play item made out of fabric and dyed various colors. These playsilks can be used to play peek-a-boo, doll blankets, forts, dressup clothes, head scarves, and numerous other ideas. There is no end to the ideas that little ones can come up with for their use. Playsilks can be a bit spendy to purchase, but you can make your own with white silk scarves sold through Dharma Trading Company. Include your little ones in a fun project of dying them with Kool-Aid. Yes, it’s that simple! For a easy tutorial, visit here. You can also buy playsilks through A Toy Garden or Let’s Explore.

Dress-Ups

There are numerous free patterns online for costume and dress-up ideas that you can make yourself. Here are some favorites I have seen:

Fairy Wings
Tulle Skirt
Sword
Wand
Ladybug Costume

Add old watches, old oversized clothing, jewelry, wigs, hats, gloves, handbags, etc. and you will have a fun dress-up box! You also might want to check out the fun dress-up outfits produced by Melissa and Doug. They are cute!

Play Dough

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What kid doesn’t like play dough? Give them a batch with a knife, rolling pin, and a few cut outs, and they love it! Try your hand at making your own. It is safe for your family and easy! Make your own play dough with a few basic ingredients that you probably already have on hand: salt, flour, oil, cream of tarter and various food colorings. For this easy recipe, visit here. Make all different colors and store in little baby food jars to keep it fresh and soft. Or try yummy edible play dough made out of almond butter.

Building Blocks

Screen shot 2009-12-03 at 3.21.55 PMWooden building blocks are a perfect gift for any little boy or girl. There is no end to ways you can assemble them in building castles, houses, and the like. Find scrap wood from your local lumberyard and Make your own wooden blocks with this tutorial.

Felt Toys – Kitchen Food Items

How about some fun homemade felt food? Kids love pretending like they are cooking. Why not encourage the creative chef in them? Check out these ideas for cute felt food to get you started:

Homemade Bread, Pan & Mitt kit
How to Make Felt Food – cheese, cookies, carrots, eggs, strawberries and other fruits
Food Sandwich

Waldorf Dolls

Screen shot 2009-12-03 at 3.18.48 PMA homespun doll made out of completely natural and cuddly wool and cotton materials? I love it! Waldorf dolls are intentionally simple in order to inspire creativity, improving and strengthening the imagination. Check out the simple waldorf doll making kits available through Wier Dolls & Crafts or Magin Cabin. Boy & Girl patterns are available. Simple instructions are included with the kit or for further help, visit this tutorial.

Doll House

Screen shot 2009-12-03 at 2.55.19 PMI love this idea of making it yourself doll house with a simple cardboard box and cut out pictures from magazines. You don’t need delux dollhouses when it comes to little girls. Inspire creativity and simplicity with this homemade edition. How fun!

Making Make-Believe: Fun Props, Costumes, and Creative Play Ideas – a fun book offering children ideas for creating a life-sized igloo from empty milk jugs or putting on a puppet show in their very own Lighted Box Stage. This book is filled with wonderful storybook play ideas, games, cooking fun, making costumes, and so much more.

Do you have any homemade creative play gift ideas to add?

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