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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Making Your Home Lovely

Screen shot 2009-10-06 at 11.48.53 PMPhoto by berly816

Lately, as we have been finishing some final decorating touches on our children’s bedroom, I have been pondering the idea of making our homes lovely. We have each been fashioned uniquely by a creative God in His image and likeness. We likewise have been made creative like He is! I don’t feel naturally creative myself, but I do know that when I set my mind, thought and heart to it, I can definitely express creativity in beautifying my home. It may take a little extra effort, but as you practice it becomes more natural and delightful. It is one of my favorite aspects of homemaking because I feel God’s pleasure when I take delight in the domain He has assigned to me!

Nicole at GirlTalk says it this way, “Little touches of creativity in our home can create an atmosphere of beauty, worship, love, and care. This God-glorifying atmosphere can promote a shared joy and conversation. And that communication can strengthen our relationships.”

Nicole also shared this insightful quote from Edith Shaeffer,

“I feel very strongly that this modern fear of the home becoming non-existent can be countered only if those of us who want to be sure our little spot is really a home take very practical measures to be sure that it is just that, and not a collection of furniture sitting in some sort of enclosure being protected from wind and storm. Of course, human relationships make a house into a home: either the relationships within the house, or the welcome and understanding that guests find. Human relationships depend on communication. But this communication takes time. It is also helped by atmosphere, and the atmosphere is helped by the ‘things’ which are arranged with love and with an expression of creativity in a visible form. p. 99

I love how June put it in her article titled The Making of a Home, “One of the most rewarding endeavors a homemaker can partake of is making her home lovely for those who live in it…Know that it is not perfection we are striving for–instead we are doing this to bless and be attentive to those we love. It doesn’t have to be glamorous, just practical.”

Making our homes a lovely place to be is not only a blessing to our families, but is an effort to provide a place of rest, refreshment and joy to all who enter! It makes our homes more welcoming for conversation, building relationships, and growing our love for one another. It does not have to be extravagant…just simple expressions of creativity!

Stay tuned for some home decorating posts this week!

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Homemade Pizza Supreme – Tips for the Best Pizza

IMG_6099Pizza is a family favorite at our house…especially when you load it up with lots of delicious, fresh and hearty toppings! Here are my favorite tips for the best pizza:

Pizza Stone

I must say that I love my Pampered Chef pizza stone (thanks to hosting a PC show, I got this for free!). It makes the best crispy crust. It is never soggy or undercooked. It is easy to cut on and clean (no soap is necessary or recommended). Stoneware gives it a fine even baking to your crust. No burning your pizza here! After several uses, stoneware becomes non-stick as well, but until then, a thin layer of olive oil does the trick. Although a pizza stone is not essential, it is a nice addition! I highly recommend it if you like pizza at your house! Amazon also sells one, but I cannot say how good it is.

Sauce – Less is more!

The more sauce you put on your crust the more soggy your dough will become. A very thin layer will do you just fine (about 1/4 cup is all). Just remember…less is more! You don’t need any fancy pizza sauce either. Just some simple spaghetti sauce pureed in the blender will do. Spread it thin it spatula.

Cornmeal

Dust your pizza stone or pan with ground cornmeal before laying our your crust. This helps give it a nice crisp crust!

Combine your Cheeses

I use a combination of mozzarella and white cheddar cheese on my pizzas, with a final thin topping of Parmesan on the very top. It gives the pizza a ton of flavor. A sprinkling of Parmesan on the top gives it a yummy crunchy texture as well!

Spice it Up!

Sprinkle a good layer of Italian seasoning and garlic salt or basic garlic powder on the top of your pizza. Yum!

Here is our favorite collection, topped in this order:

Homemade Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (soaked or regular as you desire)
Spaghetti/Pizza sauce, 1/4 cup pureed (I like to freeze my homemade sauce in small portions to pull out for this purpose.)
Mozzerella, sliced (about 1/3 cup)
Cheddar Cheese, grated (about 1/3 cup)
Pepperoni (Applegate Farm’s Nitrate Free pepperoni is wonderful! 1/2 package covers one pizza.)
1/2 pound Chicken Sausage, cooked & crumbled
1/2 (15 oz) can olives, chopped
1/4 cup onion (red or yellow), chopped
1/2 Green/Red Pepper, chopped
Mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Dipping sauce: 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 tsp garlic powder. Melt together in a pan over low heat. We love to dip our crust into this sauce! Just like Papa John’s.

Bake at 475 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Enjoy!

This post is a part of Kitchen Tip Tuesdays.

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Motherhood: My Only Gems

Screen shot 2009-10-05 at 8.11.27 AM“She came tonight as I sat alone, the girl I used to be…
And she gazed at me with her earnest eye and questioned reproachfully;

Have you forgotten the many plans and hopes that I had for you?
The career, the splendid fame, and all the wonderful things to do?
Where is the mansion of stately height with all of its gardens rare?
The silken robes that I dreamed for you and the jewels in your hair?

And as she spoke, I was very sad for I wanted her please with me…
This slender girl from the shadowy past the girl that I used to be
So gently rising, I took her hand, and guided her up the stair
Where peacefully sleeping, my babies lay innocent, sweet, and fair.

And I told her that these are my only gems, and precious they are to me;
That silken robe is my motherhood of costly simplicity.
And my mansion of stately height is love, and the only career I know
Is serving each day in these sheltered walls for the dear ones who come and go.

And as I spoke to my shadowy guest, she smiled through her tears at me.
And I saw that the woman that I am now, pleased the girl I used to be.

- Author Unknown
Quoted in Womanly Dominion by Mark Chanski

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Training Children to Be Included in Church

Screen shot 2009-09-30 at 6.40.27 AMWelcome back for part two on our discussion about the why’s and how’s of including children in church. If you missed part 1, read it here.

Training my little ones to sit with us during the church service definitely takes some work. Sometimes I only get to hear small snippets of the sermon. But this has motivated me to be more purposeful during the week and listen to the weekly sermon or download various podcasts to encourage and strengthen my faith (Revive Our Hearts is my favorite!). Aaron and I try to watch a sermon together (Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church offers video feed) while the kids are in bed or napping some other time during the week. Currently our church service is in the afternoon, so we do this on Sunday mornings. This gives us time alone to really focus on the Word and discuss it together. This allows us to continue to grow in our faith even if we can’t get the whole sermon on Sunday. We realize that it can be a sacrifice, but it is worth it!

1. Begin at home. Training my children to sit with the church service always begins at home. We started with small increments of time sitting quietly and listening to a sermon. We would let Karis look at a book while we listened together. If she refused to sit still, discipline was in order. We began with just ten minutes and worked up from there. When we have family devotions, we have Karis look at a little picture Bible while we read together. This is practice time as well. We started this process around 1 year of age after she stopped napping during the sermon.

2. Train baby to nap during sermon. I always try to time the baby’s nap to take place during the sermon time. I will either bring a pack n play and lay the baby down in a back room or bring a baby carrier (my favorite moby or Ergo) and rock them to sleep in the back of the sanctuary. This way I can listen to the sermon with a sleeping baby. I know of others who have trained their babies to just sleep in a stroller, car seat, or on the pew next to them during this time as well.

3. Bring a snack. We like to bring raisins and nuts with us in a small baggy for a quick protein snack during the service.

4. Don’t push it. Give your children room to be kids! We require Karis to worship with us during the worship services and then sit quietly with us for 30 minutes of the sermon. At 2 1/2 years old, I don’t really feel it is necessary to push it longer than that (others may have varying opinions). After 30 minutes or so when she starts getting restless, we take her to the back and let her quietly walk around in the back of the sanctuary or lobby and occasionally play with some of the other little children that also may be present there. As she gets older, we will stretch the amount of time she is to sit with us.

5. Bring 1-2 simple activities. We usually bring an etch-a-sketch with us to church. No mess and it allows Karis to draw a bit during the sermon. We usually have a mix of sitting quietly and then doing some coloring/drawing. Our church also offers a coloring page that is related to the sermon for some of the older children to use. There have fill in the blank questions and cross word puzzles that correspond with the sermon as well. This helps the children listen carefully for the answers. (If your church does not offer something like this, talk to the leadership and see if it is something that could be developed). Growing up, my mom would keep a special church bag for the little ones. It was a small plastic manila folder container that had a elastic strap that kept all the contents in. It contained a bag of coloring pencils, a coloring book, and a few other small items. Each of the younger children had their own special container and we would just keep them in the car throughout the week.

6. Be willing to ask for help. We are blessed to attend services with extended family and they are always willing to hold a child if needed, but there are often older ladies or young single gals who would love to hold a baby for awhile. Don’t be afraid to ask for an extra helping hand. If the child needs discipline, carry them to a quiet place to discipline or talk with them.

Now for some tips from the other ladies on our panel…

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Why Children in Church?

Screen shot 2009-09-30 at 6.40.27 AM In the past I have mentioned that Aaron & I like to keep our children with us in church. I have received several inquiries as to why and how we go about this. I have finally gotten around to addressing this topic here today. I know it may be controversial, but I pray you would hear my heart and our family’s vision in this area.

I was 12 years old. Our family was taking a family vacation around the United States, expanding our knowledge of history, geography, and most importantly building family relationships. It was Sunday morning. We decided to visit a church where an old friend of my mom’s was pastoring. The moment all eight of us children walked into the sanctuary we were quickly stopped by a lady. She kindly directed us to the multiple children’s services taking place down the hallway. There was one room for each of us. We were not allowed in the service. What would you expect went through my 12 year old head? Children were not wanted. Children were noisy. Children would get in the way. Children need entertainment. They cannot sit quietly for a sermon. Children would not understand a sermon.

Statistically, as many as 88% of teens who profess Christianity walk away from their faith by the end of their freshman year in college. Could this be one of the reasons? The question begs to be asked. If children are quickly escorted off to Sunday School to be entertained from birth through high school, can we really expect them to be able to adjust well into the adult services after youth group? Families are immediately separated at the commencement of services for each to go their own direction. Sally to nursery. Thomas to youth group. Is this really helping build family relationships?

As a mother of small children who knows the challenges of training infants and toddlers to sit quietly, I definitely think there is a place for having a nursery or child care for small children. As we are involved in a new church plant, we are hoping to establish a nursery for children under five. I believe this can be very valuable, especially for new moms (whether newly saved or not) coming into the church or people just acquainted with this idea and need help adjusting. It is nice to have this option for a mother (like myself) who would like to be able to hear the sermon every once in a while. ;) In the meantime, Aaron and I often listen to sermons during the week if we are not able to catch the full sermon on Sundays while juggling the little ones. I will also add that not all Sunday school programs are watered down, entertainment based, but those that are solid and doctrinally based are few and far between.

My husband Aaron and I have been blessed to have been raised in a church where children were gladly welcomed in the services at all times. It was actually age-integrated and did not offer any Sunday school programs. I have asked a few ladies to share their thoughts on the why’s and how’s of keeping children in church.

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Purposeful Planning for the Holidays

Republished from October 2008. I absolutely loved this resource last Christmas and we enjoyed the Advent readings immensely! Highly recommend it again as the holiday season is coming upon us.

Are you overwhelmed with the thought of yet another holiday season? Do you desire a peaceful holiday season and yet purposefully Christ centered? How can you begin now to pray and plan how God might have you and your family invest in making this a profitable and God-glorifying time of the year?

It might seem a little early to start thinking of the upcoming holidays, but what better way to keep the holidays simple but through a little planning and foresight!

The 12 Week Holiday Planner for Christian Families by Sheri Graham (mother of five) is a great tool for any family desiring to keep the Christ-centered focus in the holidays without being overwhelmed. Filled with practical and useful charts, planner pages, the Jesse Tree Devotional and other useful information, you will be equipped to keep your light shining this season!

Sheri says, “My desire in putting together this eBook is to provide a tangible way for you to plan out your holidays so they are enjoyable, less stressful, and more filled with the things that really matter.”

This 146 page e-book includes:

*Weekly plans for the 12 weeks prior to Christmas

*”Sheri’s Tips”- tips to make your holidays meaningful, shared throughout the ebook

*Thanksgiving Ideas

*Christmas Craft, Gift, Decorations and Menu Ideas

*Memory Making Ideas for the Family

*Ideas for Baked Items to Share/Give Away

*Ideas for Meals to Freeze for Use during the busy weeks

*Supplies to stock up on ahead of time or when on sale

*Ideas for a Holiday Baking Schedule

*Kids’ Gift Idea List

PLUS!!! “The Glorious Coming: A Jesse Tree Celebration of Advent” – Jesse Tree devotionals which include devotionals, ornaments, and instructions to make your own Jesse Tree!

I am so thrilled to share this resource with you all and am finding it very helpful already as I start taking simple steps with the use of these materials for planning our purposeful Christ-centered holidays!

Click here to view more details!

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True Woman Conference 2010

Screen shot 2009-09-28 at 3.31.47 PM

On October 9-11, 2008, over 6,300 women gathered in Chicago, Illinois, to answer the question, “What is a true woman?” They were encouraged to:

  • Discover and embrace God’s created design and mission for their lives
  • Reflect the beauty and heart of Christ to their world
  • Intentionally pass on the baton of Truth to the next generation
  • Pray earnestly for an outpouring of God’s Spirit in their families, churches, nation, and world

I was able to listen to the messages from this conference and was so challenged and inspired in my pursuit of becoming God’s true woman. These messages are solidly built upon the truth of the Word of God, and struck a powerful cord in my heart and passion to continue passing on these messages to other women.

I am excited to share that Revive Our Hearts has announced three more True Woman Conferences in 2010:

Listen to the messages from True Woman ’08 and be inspired! They are free to download here.

Lord willing, my sisters and I are heading down to Fort Worth, TX next fall to participate in this conference! We would love to meet any of you who would like to join us! I pray you would prayerfully consider attending one of these conferences and be renewed in your vision for godly biblical womanhood.

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Homemade Natural Diaper Cream & Lotion

Raw shea butter - Photo courtesy of Mountain Rose Herbs

Raw shea butter - Photo courtesy of Mountain Rose Herbs

Coconut oil and raw shea butter are the perfect combination for a safe, natural and simple diaper cream or hand lotion. Shea butter is wonderful for its natural healing and moisturizing properties. It is rich in Vitamins A, E, and F, which help to soothe, hydrate, and balance the skin. Make sure to select raw shea butter, because many companies use bleaches, deodorizers, or chemicals to alter the scent and appearance of shea butter. These processings deplete the product of its healing and medicinal properties, and also destroy the vitamins and minerals present. You will know if it is raw by its distinguished nutty smell. Coconut oil is also very nourishing and moisturizing to the skin and has great anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

This is definitely a powerhouse for defeating yeast infections as well. We love it now! I used to have to switch my babies over to disposables when a rash hit, but with this salve, it heals wonderfully even when wearing cloth diapers. I recommend using a thick doubler/liner when applying this salve if you use cloth diapers to protect their warranty. My dipes are out of warranty, so we use it directly on their bum with the diaper and it has not caused any repealing issues. It washes out beautifully. This recipes works for a awesome natural lotion as well, helping to sooth dry and cracked skin. You may want to add some lavender (or other) essential oil for fragrance for use as hand lotion because shea butter gives it a nutty smell and may not be preferred if you like a real fragrant lotion.

IMG_6459How to make your own?

1/8 cup coconut oil (extra virgin is preferred)
1/4 cup raw shea butter
3-4 Tablespoons talc-free cornstarch or arrowroot power (optional, to thicken) -Learn more about avoiding talc here.

Combine coconut oil and shea butter in a small bowl with a hand mixer or stick blender. You may have to soften the shea butter just slightly over very low heat in order to incorporate them well together, but it should combine well with a mixer. Add cornstarch or arrowroot a tablespoon at a time until you achieve the desired thickness. It will look similar to a whipped icing.That’s it! Transfer to a small covered container and place at your changing station. Keep a small portion in the diaper bag as well. Apply liberally with each diaper change as a preventative and rash salve. There are many more complicated homemade varieties out there, but this simple recipe has done the trick for us! Makes about 1 cup.

We buy our extra virgin coconut oil and raw shea butter from Mountain Rose Herbs. You can use refined coconut oil on the skin as it is a cheaper variety. Unrefined is preferred for eating.

This post is a part of Fight Back Fridays.

Passionate Homemaking is an affiliate of Mountain Rose Herbs and will receive a small percentage of sales purchased through our links. Thank you for your support!
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Basic Cloth Diapering Supplies

What supplies do you need for cloth diapering? Here are my recommendations.

Cloth Diapers - I recommend anywhere between 18-24 diapers in a rotation. I believe we have 24 diapers and that has worked for diapering two little ones at a time (with diaper changes every 3 hours unless we have a poopy – pockets hold it all in!).  This will enable you to wash every 2-3 days.  We already shared how we love the one size pocket diapers.

Detergent – There are many different recommendations for natural detergents, but make sure you choice one free of any additives, softeners, whiteners, brighteners, and the like. We use Charlies Soap for our diapers. Other popular brands include Allen’s Naturally & Country Save. Check out a recommended list here.

Cloth Wipes – 2-3 dozen wipes. I recommend flannel wipes, but don’t go for the cheap ones because they wear out quickly. Try making your own.

Screen shot 2009-09-10 at 2.40.20 AM

Wipe container at the changing table

Old Wipes containers – We use a large plastic wipes container at the changing station and a small one in the diaper bag.

Wipe container for the diaper bag

Wipe container for the diaper bag

Diaper pail & liner – A basic large plastic trash can will do. You don’t need anything fancy. Just makes sure it has a lid! Two washable liners are very useful for keeping the smell in the pail and you can dump all the contents into the washer at once with the bag. For small places, another excellent option is the Doorknob Diaper Pail.

Doublers - These are nice to have on hand for overnight use. Just stuff the diaper with an extra insert. We love the hemp/fleece doublers or BabyKicks Hemparoo because they help keep the moisture away from the bum, are super absorbent, and are rash resistant (when you put the hemp side directly against their bum). We also like to stuff the inside of our diapers with an extra infant prefold diapers or micro terry inserts for doubling at night.

1-2 Washable Wet bags – This are wonderful to keep in the diaper bag for diapering when you are out and about. We have a Planet Wise wet bags or you can make your own (Michele made me a wet bag as pictured and we love it!). It’s nice to have two to rotate when one is in the wash.

That’s all that is in my diapering collection. Simple and basic!

Additional tool (convenient but not necessary)…Diaper Sprayer. If you don’t like the thought of dunking your diapers, check out the diaper sprayer. I have not used it myself, but it looks useful. I personally leave the infant stools on the diaper and they are sufficiently cleaned out in the washer. When they begin solids, I do a bit of dunking or let the stools roll off into the toilet. Another alternative is Flusable Liners. We have used them on occasion ourselves and liked the convenience but not the extra cost. These tools make cloth diapering a breeze! No more excuses. ;)

For an excellent selection of diapering supplies, including all the recommended items above, I highly recommend Kelly’s Closet. Excellent customer service and they reward you with points from each purchase you make towards future gift cards!

What diapering supplies do you have or recommend?

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