Sloppy Lentils in the Crockpot

It’s been one of those seasons when learning to use the crockpot has come in quite handy! It is so nice to be able to get dinner prepared while you have a little more energy in the morning, if you know what I mean? I have been adapting some of my favorite winter meals for the crockpot and wanted to share with you my variation to Sloppy Lentils. It is actually way easier to prepare this in the crockpot actually! Just throw all the ingredients in and let it go! This is a easy, frugal, and nutritious meal that we love. I have actually simplified the original recipe a bit as well. For the original recipe, visit here. It’s recipes like this that make eating whole foods on a budget possible!

2 cups water (the original recipe uses 3 cups, so notice the change for crockpot preparation!)
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
salt to taste (optional)
1 cup chopped onion
15 oz can diced tomatoes (drained), tomato sauce or 2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste, optional (as needed to thicken – especially if using tomato sauce)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
3 tablespoons rapadura, molasses, or honey
1 Tbsp white vinegar
salt and ground black pepper to taste
4 hamburger buns, split
cheddar cheese, grated (to top your lentils when serving)

Combine all your ingredients in the crockpot (besides the buns and cheese!). Turn on low and cook for approximately 5 hours, until lentils are tender and the mixture has thickened and absorbed most of the liquids. Serve on open faced hamburger buns and top with melted cheese, as desired.

Want to join me for a nutritious crock pot meals carnival? It would be a great way to pass around meals such as this that make meal preparation a little easier for busy moms! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Free to Be Green: 10 Steps Towards Green Living

Screen shot 2009-10-22 at 9.05.40 AMPhoto by Denis Collette

This talk was prepared for a live presentation I made on Wednesday, October 21, for a local mom’s group. I post it here for reference for these ladies in addition to inspiring others to join us in pursuing a good stewardship lifestyle.

Aaron and I and our two little ones took a weekend vacation to the beach in Sept. I have had a life long passion for the ocean. Growing up we would take annual vacations to the beach and enjoy the beauties of the Oregon Coast. Watching the rhythm of the waves, cuddling up and enjoying a good book, digging for agates, hiking, and exploring. It is simple and beautiful. We find rest and refreshment in the beauty of God’s creation. Nothing brings me as much pleasure as just being out in nature. Fall is here and we see the glorious changing colors of the earth.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…and it was good. He made man in His own image, in His own likeness and gave him dominion over the birds of the air, the fish of the seas, and called him to care for His creation, to steward it, to protect it, because it was good! “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry around the ground.” (Gen. 1:28)

There is a truth in this first command that is often overlooked! God has made us rulers of the earth and we are to be stewards, caretakers of the world around us. What does it mean to “reign” as Genesis describes?

Cornelius Plantinga’s says it this way in his book, Engaging God’s World:

“God gives human beings authority in the created world, what we might call ‘responsible dominion.’ Let them take responsibility for keeping the earth, for respecting the integrity of kinds, and times, and seasons. Christians and others have sometimes taken dominion as justification for the ‘conquest’ of nature…the Bible speaks of dominion, not in the sense of conquest, but in the sense of stewardship…To have dominion is to act like the mediator of creation. This means that a human steward of God’s good creation will never exploit or pillage; instead, she will give creation room to be itself. She will respect it, care for it, and empower it. The person who practices good animal husbandry, forest management, and water conservation shows respect for God by showing respect for what God has made.”

Did you catch that? When we care for His creation, we are showing honor and respect to the Creator. This is a high calling…a royal assignment! Being good stewards and caretakers of God’s glorious creation is a wonderful privilege entitled to each person on this earth. Not just me, not just you, but all of us together as a united force.

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Womanly Dominion Book Review

I have to share my favorite book read of the year! Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit by Mark Chanski has been one of the most challenging and influential books I have read in strengthening and encouraging me in my calling of pursuing Biblical womanhood. It is a must read for every woman!

Mark Chanski presents this call throughout the book: “On the field of life, God challenges every woman to live and run in such a way as to win the prize (1 Cor. 9:24). In whatever she puts her hands to, she’s to “do it with all her might” (Eccl. 9:10) in order to hear that blessed commendation from her Lord, “Well done, you good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21). And if she’s to achieve this noble goal on the field of life, she needs to be convinced of living according to these two fundamental principles: “Play your position!” and “Win it!”

Godly women, made in the image of God, must daily tell themselves: Win it! to the glory of God. We must for the long haul, for the entire game, contest after contest, resolve to put forth maximum effort to rule and subdue our daily challenges, so help us God. We have each been called to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it. What field do you have to subdue? If you are a wife and homemaker, this will look like subduing the chaos and overcoming the obstacles in your home, creating order and stability for your family. If you are a student, this means pressing into your studies, focusing on the goal and accomplishing it. This is dominating your world whatever season of life you are in!

“A woman is to dominate aggressively her environment, rather than allow her environment to dominate her. She needs to work and play with a win it instead of with a surrender it mindset. She must rule and subdue, rather than letting herself be ruled and subdued. God has commissioned her to assert herself aggressively as a master over the teeming spheres of her life. God has not assigned her to sit on her porch swing with a pink parasol daydreaming what she might do “if only” the obstacles weren’t so complicated. No! She’s to get out there and do it with all her might! (Eccl. 9:10).

In marriage, He gives the challenge to “stop blaming your man, and start helping him!”

In child-rearing, he issues: Give yourself to raising those children! You have been given a royal assignment, so go forth and win their hearts for the gospel!

What challenged me the most in this book was the beautiful glimpses it provided in what a high calling God has assigned to women. We are the goalies in the soccer game of life. We may not be out in the front lines scoring points, but we are guarding our goalie at home. We are protecting the home base! It motivated and continues to motivate me to just do it, to play my position with all my might. I must not focus on the overwhelming task ahead of me in home managing, being a helper to my husband, and a nurturer to my children. I must get out there and subdue my domain. Do the next thing…work heartily as to the Lord and not unto men for you are accomplishing a kingdom purpose!

Highly recommend this read! It is one I will read again and again. I am hoping, Lord willing, to host a book study on this book starting the beginning of the new year. So pick up your copy or add it to your Christmas wish list! It is worth every penny!

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Pay More, Eat Less: An Important Truth to Eating Naturally on A Budget

Screen shot 2009-10-16 at 8.08.40 AMPhoto by flickr

There is no doubt that eating whole nutritious foods can often be more expensive than conventional processed food. Processed food has been purposely designed to be cheap, but at what cost? How can we possibly eat more naturally when on a budget?

When you pay more…you are more likely to eat less of it. Michael Pollan emphasizes this point in his book, In Defense of Food. When you spend more on a product, you will naturally savor it more! One of the greatest pleasures in being a homemaker is being able to prepare nutritious food that is delicious. We love it…we savor it…we don’t stuff ourselves. We enjoy our food!

Michael Pollan shares: “Overeating promotes cell division, and promotes it most dramatically in cancer cells; cutting back on calories slows cell division. It also stifles the production of free radicals, curbs inflammation, and reduces the risk of most of the Western diseases.”

1. Slow down and enjoy it – serve smaller portions!

If we slow down to enjoy our food more, it will give our body sufficient time to let us know that it is full. Plus, slowing down helps proper digestion, allowing our bodies to receive the full benefit of the food as well. I also practice this by purposefully serving smaller portions and keep the leftovers in the kitchen away from view. It is partly psychological – we stop eating when the plate is empty. In this manner, we naturally slow down more to enjoy it and then we will really be able to evaluate if we need more after the first plate is completed. The bigger our plate is, the more our mind and body think we need to eat it all before we are full.

2. Whole foods sustain longer.

Whole foods, such as whole grains (especially when soaked or sprouted) are far more satisfying that their refined counterparts. Refined wheat for example, has no germ in it. The germ plays an active role in telling our bodies when we are full. When this is removed, our body has no idea how to communicate this. When we eat food that is nutritionally dense, it satisfies the needs of our bodies. When we make our whole wheat pizza for example, Aaron and I will eat just two pieces each because it is satisfying, and then we have leftovers for tomorrow. When we eat out for pizza or take-out, we will be more inclined to eat 3-4 pizzas each because we need more! The refined flour is not providing the body with the nutrition it needs, so it tells us to keep eating until it gets it. Alas for overeating and obesity in our nation. Do you see how it can be more expensive to eat refined foods? You need more to satisfy, but at the risk of overeating.

3. Get rid of the snacks and fancy foods.

When we eat whole foods, we don’t buy the snacks (except for the occasional box of Jo-Jo’s from Trader Joes – my hubby’s special treat)! They are usually empty carbs that we don’t need. Whole foods keep us happier much longer. I have purposely not purchased snacks over the last few years in order to stay within our food budget. But it wasn’t till recently that I realized we really did not need them anyway. We honestly rarely feel a necessity for a snack…even among the children. Delicious green smoothies or soaked oatmeal will keep our bellies full. If we do need a little extra something, a piece of fruit, handful of frozen blueberries, or raisins will do us just fine. Snacky foods are just expensive and when we have them on the shelf in our kitchen we are just tempted to eat them. Did we really need them? NO! If we avoid buying them all together, it is not a problem! We are forced to eat the whole foods. ;)

Lastly, make sure you and your spouse are on the same page. This is key! Read In Defense of Food or Real Food together or just highlight important points to your spouse. Watch Food, Inc together and discuss it. I did this while reading In Defense of Food, and my husband was astounded by some of the facts and then supported me more fully in our food purchases. When you are in agreement as to the importance of eating real food together, you will both be united in seeking ways to cut back in other areas in order to eat whole foods. If you are not on the same page yet, pray it out and still present them with the information in a gracious and appealing manner, and be patient.

That is our goal: use our food budget to buy real food, slow down to enjoy it, serve smaller portions, eliminate the snacks and drinks, and we are happy and satisfied! There are a few more ideas for eating naturally on a budget!

For more on this topic, visit my tips for eating nutritiously on a budget and my natural living on a budget topic index.

Have you experienced this? How do you seek to eat naturally on a budget?

This post is a part of Fight Back Fridays.
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Why Eat Local? Finding Real Local Food

Screen shot 2009-10-14 at 7.26.25 AMPhoto by donkeycart
Originally published on May 21, 2008 under the title Enjoying Local Abundance. Revised and republished.

How spoiled we are when we truly look at the abundance God has provided us within our own communities! Why should I buy food that has traveled thousands of miles at times, when an abundance is available in my own vicinity simply through doing a little research. The more I reflect on enjoying and supporting local agriculture the more I realize that eating locally is the way to go!

1. Buying locally provides you with the freshest food and ingredients.

Local food is fresher and tastes better than food shipped long distances from other states or countries. Local farmers can offer produce varieties bred for taste and freshness rather than for shipping and long shelf life. The average food travels 1,300 miles from farm to table! That means it needs a lot of preservatives and added chemicals to make it last! Refining and processing allow these products to store for months. Supermarket food often travels seven to fourteen days before arriving in your local supermarket. By then, it lacks significant nutritional benefit, making it hardly worth the cost. Make your dollar count!

When trying to find local food that is free of pesticides (to get the most nutrition without the harmful chemicals), make sure to ask! Many local farmers cannot afford the cost to become certified organic, but they make every effort to keep eco-friendly practices. Simply ask them if they use sprays and how they raise their products, and you will know whether it is a quality food source or whether you should look elsewhere.

2. Buying locally is beneficial for the environment.

Local food doesn’t have to travel far. This reduces carbon dioxide emissions and packing materials. When you buy local food, you vote with your food dollar. This ensures that family farms in your community will continue to thrive and that healthy, flavorful, plentiful food will be available for future generations. This is another small way we can be good stewards of the world around us! You are also supporting local farmers and their efforts to provide quality products.

3. Buying locally is often cheaper when you buy in season.

Buying according to the what is in season is definitely cheaper! It doesn’t have to travel very far to your table and thus doesn’t have all those additional costs for transportation and perservation. From my experience, I have found that shopping at the farmers market or local farm stand is a very frugal option. From March-November, our farmer’s market is open, offering us quality produce for just around $15-20 per week, and we eat a lot of produce!

4. Buying locally is so much fun!

Getting to know farmers in the area is quite enjoyable! It is refreshing to know where your food is coming from, knowing how farmers go about producing their goods, and to get to knows them in the process is a great joy. The commercial food industry has fallen short (read more in my review of In Defense of Food), resorting to inhumane practices, harmful pesticides and preservation techniques, so it is growing more and more important to know where your food is coming from!

Even if you do spend more to buy locally, you can be assured that more often then not, the quality is superior, meaning you are getting more nutrition for your dollar.

Where to find local food?

Eat Well Guide -is an online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs. Enter your zip code to find healthful, humane, and ecofriendly products from farm, stores, and restaurants in your area. This guide includes listings for US & Canada. It is awesome!

Eat Wild -lists local suppliers for grass-fed meat and dairy products.

Local Harvest – helps you connect with local farmers, CSAs, and farmers’ markets.

Pick Your Own – find local farms with fruits and berries. Make sure to ask if they spray. You want to avoid those pesticides!

Check out restaurants in your area through Eat Wild (select your state, and then click on the right side bar “Beyond the Farm” for a full listing of restaurants) & Chef’s Collaborative.

Another recent find has been Edible Communities which is a network of excellent local magazines on local food. Edible Portland is for me!

What foods are in season?

Check out these fun resources: Epicurious offers a table that includes what is in season by state and then provides shopping guides and recipes for using those items. You can also find a seasonal guide at Sustainable Table.

How to find the best deals on local food?

Look outside the city. I have found I can get far better deals if I look to communities outside of the city. Just a few miles north of us can provide me with a significant discount of berries each summer. Or buying meat from Tillmook, a few hours drive south of us, provides us with $2 per pound grass-fed meat, versus the $4-5 per pound cost in town.

Find local farm stands. Local farm stands are one of the best providers for our seasonal produce. CSA’s are a great option, but they are usually significantly more expensive than buying at a farm stand or farmer’s market. Plus, you usually can get more for your money than through a CSA’s and still be supporting the local farmers.

Local Food Sources & Restaurants – NW Washington & Portland

If you live in close proximity to us, you are in luck! I have compiled a huge resource of local food sources, restaurants, CSAs & markets in the area. You can check it out at my Local Resources page.

Further Resources

Food Routesa national nonprofit dedicated to ‘reintroducing Americans to their food – the seeds it grows from, the farmers who produce it, and the routes that carry if from the fields to our tables.’
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver the story of one families journey to eat locally!
Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets by Deborah Madison
Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Food by Gary Paul Nabhan
Holy Cows And Hog Heaven: The Food Buyer’s Guide To Farm Friendly Food by Joel Salatin

Check out your packaging! Where are these items coming from?

Have fun exploring the bounty that surrounds you! Every little step is making progress! We started with CSA, then we began visiting our local farmer’s market, and now I am starting to check out my labels for other items! You would be surprised how far things can travel before getting to your table! While shopping at Costco, I found organic salsa produced in Eugene, OR which is just two hours south of us. I also found raisins grown and produced in Oregon as well. It’s surprising what you can find when you look a little closer!

Find more helpful resources at Real Food Wednesday.
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In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

I recently completed In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan, and what a mind-boggling, insightful and enjoyable read it was. I read frequent quotes from the book to my husband and we were both astounded at how far the food industry has fallen in providing healthy nutritious food.

In just 200 pages, In Defense of Food gives you a guided tour of 20th century food science, a history of “nutritionism” in America and a glimpse into the union of government and the food industry. It provides the reader with very helpful step by step tips to guide them in food shopping.

“Nutritionism prefers to tinker with the Western Diet, adjusting the various nutrients (lowering the fat, boosting the protein) and fortifying processed foods rather than questioning their value in the first place.”

With the age of industrialization, we have more heart disease, obesity, and diabetes than any other period of time. And these diseases are only so common in Western societies. Why? Corn, soy, wheat and rice is the majority of what we are eating!

“Corn contributes 554 calories a day to America’s per capita food supply and soy another 257. Add wheat (768 calories) and rice (91) and you can see there isn’t a whole lot of room left in the American stomach for any other foods. Today these four crops account for two thirds of the calories we eat. When you consider that humankind has historically consumed some eighty thousand species, and that three thousand of these have been in widespread use, this represents a radical simplification of the human diet. Why should this concern us? Be humans are omnivores, we need somewhere between 50 and a 100 different chemical compounds and elements in order to be healthy. It’s hard to believe we’re getting everything we need from a diet consisting largely of processed corn, soybeans, rice, and wheat.” (page 117-118)

Why are we eating so much of these products? Because it grows fast, is cheap to grow, and the government pays farmers to grow corn and soy! Most of the corn and soy winds up in the feed of our food animals (and then we pump them up with antibiotics because they get sick on it), but the rest goes into processed foods. Thus it results in cheap food; unfortunately, food that is depleted in nutrients because it has grown too fast to get what it needs. Then it is processed and refined so that there are no living organisms in it that would cause it to spoil over the long distance that it must travel to get to the supermarket. People are more worried about what to eat then ever before. Health claims are smacked on every packaged food on the market. Is this really advancement? Americans now eat more calories resulting in being overfed and yet undernourished.

Food quality has declined since the introduction of industrialization with the depletion of soil nutrients from chemicals and pesticides. “To put this in more concrete terms, you now have to eat three apples to get the same amount of iron as you would have gotten from a single 1940 apple, and you’d have to eat several more slices of bread to get your recommended daily allowance of zinc than you would have a century ago.”

I love how this book doesn’t supply us with a new diet plan! It is just a gentle reminder to return to the way our ancestors ate. A more traditional, whole foods diet of REAL food. As Dr Weston Price discovered in his research studying the diets and health of various traditional cultures around the globe: “The human animal is adapted to, and apparently can thrive on, an extraordinary range of different diets, but the Western diet, however you define it, does not seem to be one of them.” It’s a new look at encouraging readers to avoid processed, packaged so called “food” and return to the basics: produce, dairy, real fat, whole grains and meat.

How do we find real food? Michael Pollan offers these helpful guidelines:

1. Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

2. Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) Unfamiliar, B) Unpronounceable, C) More than five in number or that include D) High-Fructose Corn Syrup. The main idea here is if it has a package, there is a significant increase in the possibility that it is not really food. Always check those ingredient lists. Even “whole grain” products can just be a combination of refined and fortified ingredients with the addition of HFCS.

3. Avoid food products that make health claims.

“If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.”

4. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle. Processed foods dominate the center aisles, whereas whole foods can be found among the meat, dairy and produce.

5. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. Find those local sources in farmer’s markets, CSAs, etc.

Overall, I highly recommend this read, if you overlook some of the evolutionary thought that jumps out here and there. If you are new to the whole foods way of eating, or even if you are like me and been on the journey for a few years, but don’t know all the history and truth behind it, this is a must read for all! It was very fascinating to me!

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PH is Sponsoring a Cambodian Orphan Home! Join Us!

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I spent two months at the age of 18 serving among the orphaned children of Cambodia through the ministry of Children of Promise & Warm Blankets. I observed first hand the awesome work this ministry is doing. The Khmer Rouge massacre of the 1970′s (1.5-3 million were killed) has left many orphaned children and widows. It was a significant devastation. This ministry is seeking to meet these two needs, in addition to furthering the gospel by planting churches across the nation with one unique method: church orphan homes.  Each Church Home has a family atmosphere based on love and compassion that is touched by the word of God. Every home shares a building with the local church. Widows are the principal caregivers in each orphan care facility. They understand the pain each orphan faces, having experienced loss as well. Each home maintain a staff ratio of one caregiver for every five children, so you can be assured that a frightened child will be held and comforted by someone who cares. The Pastor of each church is the father figure for the orphans residing there…making it truly a family atmosphere! Both their physical and spiritual needs are being met.

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Passion for God builds home – Columbian article

I have been blessed with the opportunity to appear in our local newspaper, The Columbian, today! It was a fun privilege and the article was well written and truly caught my vision and purpose in blogging, homemaking, living simply, and our family ministry. If you want to read it, it is online for all to see. ;) Check it out here. All for the glory of God!

I must add though…my husband (although he was not given much acknowledgement in this article) is the back bone behind this blog! He is my tech man that made this blog possible. He is my biggest cheerleader, not only in my blogging, but always encouraging me in my delight for homemaking. I love him and couldn’t do it without him.

P.S. To to clarify about the comment on “affiliate marketing” in the article, I do not receive payment for posts that I write. Being an affiliate means I use and recommend products that I have found beneficial, and earn a small percentage of the sales made through the referral links in the post and sidebar. I only have affiliates with companies that I believe in and personally use. And yes, all our profits are now being donated to support an orphan home! More on this soon!

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Simple Home Decorating on A Budget

Screen shot 2009-10-08 at 4.18.52 PMPhoto by Cottonblue.
Originally published in January 2008 under the title Decorating on A Budget – part 1 & 2.
Updated with current pictures.

Did you know that your home is an embassy of Christ’s kingdom? It is especially designed by God to be a place for others to find refreshment, encouragement, a haven of rest to their souls from the weariness and trials of this world. This haven must be a welcoming place to display the glory of God! This should always be our chief goal in our decorating. How can I make my home more of a testimony to the work of Christ in my life? How can I seek to refresh others as they enter into my home?

Furniture Layout

Make conversational areas. The key is to arrange your furniture so that the line of traffic from door to door is not passing right through the conversation area. You want to keep the furniture facing each other in smaller, intimate conversation areas without having people walk right through the center and taking away from the relaxed setting. You do not want this flow to hurt your fellowship. Arrange your future close enough that you don’t have to shout to have a conversation. The closer the better.

Choose a purposeful focal point. Each room will have a focal point of some sort. Most American homes have the furniture arranged so that the focal point is the television. This does not serve to invite conversation, but only distracts from it. Use your windows and fireplaces for this purpose.

Re-arrange your furniture with the seasons. Re-arranging adds fresh variety and change! It gives the feel of a whole new look without adding anything! For example, if you have a large window in your living room, you might make turn your furniture to make that the focal point in the summer as it is bright and cheery to look at. In the winter, the outdoors may not look so attractive so turn your furniture inwards to your fireplace. I recently angled my dining room table for a change in the corner, and I was amazed how appealing it was.

Keep furniture away from the walls. Arrange your furniture on an angle or in a unique fashion so it is not flat against a wall, or simply pull it away from the wall a bit (if possible). This adds a variety and creativity to your layout! We have placed our bed frame on an angle in the corner of our bedroom. It does take up more room in this way, but it is different and variety is the spice of life.

Have a place nearby to rest the arms or place a cup or mug. It is important to have a coffee table or end table near every seat, so your guests don’t have to stretch too far to relax themselves or place their beverage.

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Simple & Frugal Children’s Bedroom Decor

IMG_6614We have finally completed our decorating of Karis & Titus’ bedroom! What a fun project it was of practicing making my home lovely! My goal was to complete this in August…but hey, at least it was completed before the end of the year. ;)

We started decorating the kids’ bedroom by choosing a gender neutral vintage green color. We added red highlights through the curtains, kid’s table, and rocking chair. We also spray painted our picture frames for a photo collection. These colors were selected from our gender neutral crib bedding set. All the furniture was found on craigslist, gifted, or loaned to us. I don’t think we have ever bought a new piece of furniture as there is so much available through used sources.

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