The Creative Family: Encouraging Simplicity & Creativity in Your Home

I have been delighted to stumble upon The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nuture Family Connections by Amanda Blake Soule recently. What a fun read it has been. I have been inspired by this author’s creativity and desire to build family relationships through simple enjoyment of nature. Although not written from a Christian perspective, I was inspired to see in a new light how we are all designed to be creative beings made in the image of a Creative God.

Amanda shares, “We don’t have to ‘teach’ our children to be creative – inherent in the very core of children’s beings is the embodiment of creativity…A large part of nurturing a spirit of creativity comes from being mindful, slowing down, observing, and looking around you at the beauty and inspiration all around…The joyful act of creating together can be positively magical and truly a gift for everyone. Much of our cultural energy is spent filling our minds, hearts, and time with things outside our families, as is evident in the smaller amount of time that families spent together at home…The experience of turning inward toward your family for creative fulfillment can be an amazing and powerful experience for the entire family -young and old.”

We really don’t have to ‘teach’ our children to be creative! We just have to supply our children with the tools necessary to apply that creativity! This book is full of fun ideas for simple projects, games, and crafts to encourage imagination in your family. She shares about building your craft closet to have items ready to allow children to explore and draw. She invites you to build a dress up box full of items to inspire stories and performances.

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No-Cook Freezer Jam: Naturally Sweetened

IMG_6155I love preserving my own foods for the upcoming year and jam is a favorite! It is practically impossible to find good jam/jellies on the market that are made without sugar or HFCS, so homemade varieties are the best alternative. Plus, it is superior in flavor and nutrition. In the past I have made canned jam sweetened with rapadura/sucanat with good success, but this year I wanted to go all out and avoid the cooking process. If you are going to put the effort forth, why not preserve as much of the nutrition in the berries as possible right? Surprisingly enough, the no-cook freezer jam method is incredibly easy. It took me about 1 hour to prepare 23 half-pint jars of yummy marionberry jam for our freezer (4 batches of the recipe below from 1.5 flats of berries). They do not take up much space either, especially if you select good stackable containers. I chose to use glass jars and it worked beautifully! You don’t even need any special new canning jars or lids. I had an assortment of lids from various jars I had recycled and they all worked just fine. I prefer sweetening with rapadura/sucanut, but I tried a batch sweetened with honey and enjoyed it. You can use whatever your heart desires!

Pomona’s Universal Pectin is a perfect natural pectin to use, free of sugar or preservatives. It is a low mexthoxyl type pectin derived from citric peels and pulp. It provides you with the freedom to experiment with your own desired choice and quantity of sweetener. You can use whatever sweetener you desire or abandon the sugar altogether! It is available online or at a local health food store (Whole Foods, New Seasons, Fred Meyer Nutrition, Azure Standard, etc). One box made approximately 20 (8 oz) jars for me, so I used just over 1 box. The rest can be saved for another time. Each box includes easy to follow directions. Last year I made the recipe with just 1 cup of rapadura/sucanat and it definitely was not sweet enough, in our opinion. This time around I bumped it up a bit and it was delicious! The recipe is included in the box of pectin, but you can also download it from their website here. There are other recipes included as well for cooked canned jam.

Here is my personal preference:

4 cups berries – I love to use marionberries or blackberries because they are so cheap (if not free)!
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice (optional)
1 cup honey or 2 cups rapadura/sucanat
3/4 cup water
3 tsp pectin
4-12 tsp calcium water (each box of pectin includes the calcium package to make this)

The easiest way I found was to start by boiling the water. While you wait, mash the berries in a blender or food processor. Combine with lemon juice and sweetener, mixing thoroughly. Put berries aside while you pour the boiling water into your blender along with the pectin and blend for 1-2 minutes until thoroughly dissolved. Add the pectin and water to your berries and combine thoroughly. Gradually add calicum water until it gels. I found that about 6 tsp was perfect for marionberries. Transfer to your clean 8 oz jars and cover securely. Make sure to allow 1/2 inch room at the top of the jar for expansion. Freeze immediately. The instructions say that once opened you need to use within a week. I think that it definitely last longer than this. If concerned, simply put it back in your freezer to preserve it longer.

The total cost for me was about about $1 per 8 oz of jam. Not bad at all!

What kind of jam do you like?

Check out Kimi’s post where she shares about using less honey in her jam!

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Frugal & Natural Pest Control: Fruit Flies & Ants Be Gone!

IMG_6140We have been attacked by an abundance of fruit flies lately in my kitchen. AHH! Don’t you love those little flying insects that seem to find every bit of food in your kitchen and around your trash can? Here is our simple, frugal, and effective solution!

Fruit Fly Trap

1 quart jar
1 piece of paper, rolled up into a funnel
tape
apple cider vinegar
small slice of banana

Fill a quart jar with a 1/2 inch of apple cider vinegar and a small piece of banana. Roll up your paper into a funnel shape (larger at the top) and tape it in place. Place the funnel into your jar and make sure all the edges are secured shut with tape. You may have to adjust the size of your funnel to make sure it fits nicely into your jar. Place the jar where the fruit flies are flying around and let it go to work. You will be amazed at how well this trap works. The fruit flies will smell the fruit and climb inside, but for some odd reason they don’t fly back up the funnel to get out. When you have caught a good supply, place the entire jar in the freezer. After a short time that flies with die and you can remove the jar from the freezer and use it again without even removing the old contents. Use repeatedly until your fruit flies are eliminated.

As you can see in my picture, this easy trap is amazingly effective!

Ant Trap

We are often plagued with ants in the Spring time as well around here. We have various sorts of carpenter and sugar ants. This little concoction does the trick! Last year we had huge carpenter ants all around our kitchen. Many were coming out of our electrical saukets in our kitchen. We were blown away by how quickly they were eradicated with this recipe.

1 tsp. borax (borax is an natural laundry boosting powder available in the laundry section of the store, normally on the top shelf)
2 cups hot water
6 Tbsp sugar
folded paper towel
small shallow cup (like a creme burlee dish)

Disolve borax in hot water. Stir in sugar. Dip the folded paper towel, using tongs, in the solution till completely saturated with solution. Cram the paper towel in the dish. Place in location where you have seen the ants. This solution will be eaten by the ants and taken back to the nest to share with the other ants and thus eradicate the entire nest. Keep away from children by placing on a countertop or cupboard, if possible.

It’s Frugal Fridays!

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Increasing Milk Supply: Homemade Mother’s Milk Tea

IMG_6143-1I have personally struggled with keeping up a healthy and rich milk production for my babies. I have battled with discouragement and failure when not able to satisfy my child’s need. The Lord has done a good work in my heart, calling me to trust Him that He will provide my child with the nourishment required to grow healthy and strong. My responsibility is to do my best in eating nutritionally, nursing as frequently as my son needs it to increase my supply, but ultimately God is in control, to which I am thankful.

Here are a few resources and recipes I have found helpful in the journey of nourishing my babies…

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The Best Housecleaning Tip

Picture 5I read this comment today by a mother named Julia and thought she said it so well:

“Having alot of things–whether it’s furniture or knick-knacks or things you think you might need but never end up using–can make [home maintenaince] an overwhelming, or seemingly overwhelming, task. Clutter or crowded spaces can make even a clean house seem not so clean. When the  clutter is gone, cleaning is easier and the house actually looks clean when I’m done…A neat space is much more inviting than a clean, yet cluttered, place.”

So true! When I am regularly decluttering, housecleaning is so much easier and my home is a more refreshing and restful place to be. Clutter only builds tension in my home and takes so much more time to maintain. Join me in simplifying for the sake of our families, our envirorment, and in order to use our time wisely. As homemakers, let’s not waste our energy on excess clutter-it’s just not worth it! Be aggressive! Don’t hold on to anything you don’t need and think carefully and wisely before each new purchase or addition.

I am encouraged today with this wonderful tip!

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Blogging Break

We will be out of town for the greater part of this week, so I am using this oportunity to take a blogging break!
We’ll see you here next week for more recipes, tips and encouragement!

I will leave you with this lovely quote…

“Homemaking is an art, and you have the privilege of expressing and developing all your talents there in a little place called home. You get to build…beautify… organize…create…fuss…express yourself. You get to read and study and grow and master nutrition, finances, horticulture, design, wardrobe, etc. And you also get to shape your children, to give their precious lives a bent toward God. To nurture their souls with the good things of God. To pass on the truth about Jesus to one more generation. And to do so means you’ve got to be dedicated, organized, and a woman of purpose. And you’ve got to have the spunk and energy to follow through on all the dedication, organization, and purpose that answering God’s high calling to homemaking requires.”

–Elizabeth George, A Woman’s High Calling

Have a blessed week fulfilling you high calling of being a homemaker! It is an art that must be passionately pursued and patiently learned!

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Tips for Maintaining a Simple Peaceful Home

simple home

Home, the spot of earth supremely blest, A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.
Robert Montgomery

I’m curious to know what a day’s schedule is like for you. You really have such great priorities and I’m wondering how you fit everything in each day or week? Between taking care of your kids, husband, spending time with the Lord, serving, planning, buying food from different sources, cooking, cleaning…How do you do it? Any tips on some of the best ways you organize your time while maintaining a simple, peaceful home?

This is a question I receive frequently. I am not perfect. Things can get a little distorted on the blogosphere and it is almost impossible to give a complete and accurate picture of what day to day life looks like at our home. There are different seasons in life. There are times when the schedule goes out the window (like when we welcomed #2!), and other times when God draws us back into a period of rest and reviewing our lives to eliminate anything that might be causing stress or mixing up our priorities. It is important to seek to make your home a haven, but it must not be pursued before maintaining peaceful relationships in your home. Keep are some thoughts the Lord has graciously taught me…

1. Keep your relationship with the Lord first and rise early.

We strive to wake up each day between 5:30-6:00 am so we can have some refreshing times in the Word independently. We get far more accomplished in our day when we start early enough. Lately this has definitely been rough to maintain with a little guy that is keeping us up late into the night, or when I struggle with insomnia, but it is our goal. I personally cannot pursue a wise management of my home apart from my relationship with the Lord. I need to cry out to Him daily for the ability to faithfully complete the task He has called for me. Even if I can just take a few moments to pray, pick a verse to meditate upon throughout the day, I am strengthened to complete my homemaking responsibilities with a joyful countenance. May the Joy of the Lord be your strength! (Nehemiah 8:9-12).

Eliminate physical clutter. More importantly, eliminate spiritual clutter. ~D.H. Mondfleur

2. Keep your priorities in the right place. Maintain regular date nights & family nights.

Make a list of your roles. Wife, Mother, Christian, Homemaker, Writer, Manager, whatever they may be. Then prioritize them. What are your three most important roles? My list is: Follower of Jesus, Wife, Mother, followed by Homemaker, Writer, etc. In order to maintain a simple, peaceful home, I need to guard against my role as a homemaker coming before my role as a mother. It’s so easy to keep going down the list for the day, and side track those teaching and nurturing opportunities the Lord gives with your children.

I need to make sure I am always growing and nurturing my relationship with the Lord in order that I might be able to joyfully fulfill my other roles – even if it is just 10 minutes each day in His Word! I have learned the importance of scheduling in an amount of time for just quality time with my little ones. This is on my to-do list every day! Each day, Karis and I sit down for an hour to do various learning activities together. This helps keeps my priorities in the right place. Relationships are first! When I keep this in balance, by Gods grace, everything else falls into place.

Make your own personal mission statement to help guide you in these times of evaluating your priorities.

3. Take time to rest.

Acknowledge Sunday as the Lord’s appointed day of rest. Take time to be a family and enjoy each other’s company! If you can take regular prayer retreats to just get away for a few hours, or a whole day, it does wonders for maintaining a God-centered perspective in your calling.

4. Maintain a right perspective of the home.

What is the purpose of your home? My purpose is to maintain a peaceful restful home. I want it to be a haven for my family and those I welcome in hospitality. This provides me good Biblical motivation to keep it maintained in an orderly fashion. Simplifying allows for more time to focus on relationships with your family and others. You may want to consider developing a mission statement for your home.

A good home must be made, not bought. Joyce Maynard

5. Eliminate the clutter. Have an annual/bi-annual re-haul of your home.

This is my number one means of keeping a simple home. I am continually seeking to de-clutter. When my home is organized and simple, there is peace. My goal is to have a place for everything and everything in its place as much as possible. More stuff means more things to maintain, clean, organize, break and replace! At the beginning of every year, I progressively work through each room in our home and thoroughly de-clutter. I mean thoroughly! Be aggressive! Don’t hold on to anything you don’t need. If it hasn’t been used in a few months, it is removed. I then take a load to charity (i.e. Pregnancy Resource Center, charity clothing store) or sell items on craigslist. Once you do this, each following year becomes easier! I complete an extensive cleaning spree just prior to Summer and also clear out any excess. These items then get stored for a summer garage sale.

Another idea is to include one daily task of de-cluttering a certain area, drawer, cupboard, closet, each day or week. Just chose one area to work on that week. Part of my weekly planning is asking the question: what area of my life needs simplifying this week and how can I pursue that? This may very well be that kitchen drawer that needs my attention!

6. Complete a daily to-do list (but keep it flexible!).

Each week during my planning retreat, I map out a master to-do list for the week. It is from this week that I select 3-6 tasks to complete each day of the week. Every night before I retire or before I begin the day, I try to compile a brief list of tasks for the upcoming day. This helps me plan in advance and get a good start on the next day. Writing it down helps me sleep better! My list is never more than 3-6 items in length. Keep it manageable, especially if you have children around. I strive to remind myself that even if nothing on my to-do list gets done for the day (we all have those challenging days), as long as my husband and children are nurtured and fed, then it has been a productive day! As long as I have spent quality time training and investing my children, loving my husband, and the kitchen sink is clean, I am happy!

7. Hold a weekly family planning meeting.

This was a habit developed when I was growing up. Every Sunday evening, our family would gather in the living room to discuss our schedules for the weeks, transportation needs, etc. Now, Aaron and I take a few moments each Sunday evening and sync our schedules for the week. Helps keep us organized and communicating well.

8. Take a weekly planning retreat.

I cannot express how much adding a simple weekly planning and prayer retreat has assisted me in maintaining a joyful heart in my homemaking! After feeling completely overwhelmed, physically exhausted, and being prone to be quick tempered with my children, I knew the enemy was trying to attack my joy and make me unproductive. I am realizing more and more how he seeks to attack me by discrediting my role and tempting me to compare myself with others. I asked my husband about the possibility of getting away by myself on a regular basis for just an hour or two to help pray, plan, and prepare for the week. I was so blessed when he supported me in this and it has made a huge difference in our family. Planning in advance definitely helps maintain our simple and peaceful home. Learn more about this routine here.

9. Make a regular schedule for cleaning/house maintenance.

How can you peacefully maintain housecleaning? Map out a simple schedule for your home maintenance. One load of laundry a day, bathrooms on Tuesday, Kitchen on Wednesday, or whatever method suits you. Write it out and place it in a visible spot that you view most frequently. I rarely get to indepth cleaning at this season of my life. Things are picked up, bathrooms cleaned, kitchen floor mopped, dust, and vacuumed throughout the house. These tasks are spread out throughout the week, but the majority are completed on Wednesday morning (which is my housecleaning focus day). We leave those deep cleaning projects for our annual spring cleaning spree.

10. Work quickly.

It seems basic but it is important to set your mind to a task and stick to it! Whatever you hand finds to do, do it with all your might! (Eccl. 9:10) Set a timer if necessary and try to work quickly around your home. Can you get those dishes done in 15 minutes? Set the timer and go!

11. Conquer your distraction.

We all have them. Too much of anything can be a bad thing. Too much computer, phone, email or even reading. My weakness is too much computer time. I submitted my weakness to my husband and he has set up parental controls on my computer (they have these settings within the System Preferences – Parental Controls on my Mac). I now have a limited 2 hour time frame for computer time within the hours of the kids’ afternoon naps. This has been incredibly helpful for preventing the temptation to check my email in the morning when I have more important things to do. This has been a huge blessing to guard my time! Sometimes the Lord calls us to take drastic action to help re-focus and guard us in maintaining our priorities. Ephesians 5:16 says, “Make the most of your time for the days are evil.”

12. Make a simple schedule with morning and evening routines.

For our family, having a simple schedule is very beneficial but not completely necessary. Rather than mapping out hour by hour how our day will transpire, I work around a model of “themes” or focuses for each day of the week. This gives me more freedom to not get overly consumed with my to-do list as it is much more simplified.

For example:

Mondays: Organizing for the week, Finish laundry (if necessary)
Wednesdays: Housecleaning (one week I clean the upstairs, the following week I clean the downstairs) – I also do one housecleaning task each day.
Thursdays: Baking Day (Karis and I like to make one or two recipes of muffins, coffeecake, etc. for the upcoming week – this is our morning activity together)
Fridays: Errands, Outing day (I have simplified our lives a lot by doing a monthly shopping run based upon our monthly menu plan and a monthly errand run, on other weeks I do some bookkeeping for my dad, visit family, etc)
Saturdays: Laundry day
Sundays: Weekly Planning Retreat

That being said, a day in our life looks something like this:

Morning Routine

5:30-6:00 am – Get dressed, personal devotions, make to-do list for the day
7:00 am – Make breakfast, nurse Titus
7:30 am – Family breakfast
8:00 am – Aaron leaves for work, get kids dressed (bath on Tues, Thurs & Sat), kitchen cleaned
9:00 am – Dinner prep, fill water bottles, Housecleaning task for the day
10:00 am – Karis time (learning activity, baking, tea, etc)
11:00 am – Walk with kids

Evening Routine

After dinner:

Pack Aaron’s lunch
House pick up
Family devotions
Lay out clothes for tomorrow
Personal shower (Tues, Thurs & Sat)

That’s about it! I love the simple life…

For further inspiration for simplifying in many aspects of your home, check out my Simple Living Series. Join me in the nitty gritty aspects of simplifying my home.

Simplifying in the Bedroom
Simplifying Menu Planning
Simplifying in the Bathroom
Simplifying in the Kitchen
Simplifying Your Wardrobe
Simplifying Your Purchases
Simplifying the Toy Collection
Simplifying Your Home Office

Further Resources:

Managers of Their Home by Steve & Teri Maxwell – this is a helpful resource especially for home school mothers for managing your homes. My mom used this constantly growing up in order to manage all the different schedules of a household with eight children.
Shopping for Time: How to Do it All and Not Be Overwhelmed by Carolyn Mahaney – my favorite read on maintaining a proper balance of being wise users of time, keeping Christ first, and still maintaining your home. Read my review here.
Confessions of an Organized Homemaker – a great practical book on home organization.

What tips can you have to share?

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Nutrimill Grain Grinder Review

Question: What kind of grain grinder do you use?

I have been using a Nutrimill for several years now and love this machine!

PRO’s: It has a very trim design and is not huge and awkward making it easy to store on my kitchen counter tucked in the corner for easy access. It produces fresh flour very quickly providing me with a nice batch of flour in a matter of minutes. It actually stays relatively clean while grinding flour and does not have a huge off spray, thus providing easy clean up. Its works very well for grinding fresh flours for all your baking needs. It has a twenty cup bowl capacity, so you can prepare a lot of flour at once or any smaller amounts as well. The Nutrimill keeps your flour at temperatures (typically around 118 degrees) that protect the nutrients in your grains. Its new airflow design makes it the world’s coolest-running impact mill. Customer service is excellent. My machine actually broke in a month’s time and the company paid to have it fixed and shipped back to me. It hasn’t had a problem since. It has a lifetime warranty including the stainless steel blades.

CON’s: It has various settings to adjust the fineness of the grind, but I have not found them to be very effective. It produces a fine grind rather than a course grind. The only things I found it difficult to grind included whole corn, and oatmeal. In these cases, I recommend grinding it together with another smooth grain such as wheat/spelt/kamut/brown rice grain. Mixing them together made it grind perfectly. I wouldn’t say this machine is quiet, but it is definitely not as loud as my mother’s old fashioned grinder. It is not cheap, but is definitely a worthwhile investment for all the nutrition value of grinding your own grain!

To read more of the benefits of grinding your own grain, check out these posts:

Is buying whole grains cheaper?
The Value of Soaking Your Grains

Where to buy a Nutrimill? I recommend Paula’s Bread as an excellent Christian family small business.

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Quinoa: Creamy Quinoa Porridge & Other Recipes

quinoaQuinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a member of the goosefoot family and is grown in the altiplano of the Andes in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, and some in Chile and Argentina. It has historically been the staple food of the Andes. Quinoa is a cute, light, curly grain that cooks up in approximately 20-25 minutes. It is rather nutty in flavor but is delicious in place of rice in many dishes. Quinoa is one of the most nutritious grains due to its high lysine and protein content. It is gluten-free, providing another grain choice for the gluten intolerant. It can effectively boost milk supply for nursing mothers as well. It is one of the most expensive grains, but due to its valuable nutrition we make an effort to include it in our diet.

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Lovely Linkage – Happy 4th of July!

Picture 4Have a happy 4th of July! Here are few highlights I wanted to share with you all.

Food Preservation Classes – Vancouver, WA
I wanted to let all my local readers know that my aunt, Molly, is teaching another set of food preservation classes this month (July 16 & 23 and then again on August 1) and thoroughly covering the topics of canning, freezing and drying of fruits and vegetables. You will be supplied with a hands on demonstration, and a great packet of information to take home with you. It is an excellent class if you are interested in saving money and preserving local foods for the year. For more information, check out her website here.

Natural Living Articles for your enjoyment:

How to Make Soda Pop from Kefir Grains – I love this! What a great alternative to the sugar filled drinks available on the market and for a refreshing summer drink.
Study Finds Cheeseburgers More Nutritious than Baby Food - another reason to make your own homemade baby food! Not only is it far more nutritious, it is also far more frugal and you know exactly what is going in it.
How Much Sugar Are You Really Consuming?- Stephanie shares an very insightful website that gives visual comparison of some popular food items with how many sugar cubes they contain.
Raw Berry Freezer Jam - Kimi shares how to make freezer jam sweetened with honey. I found that using rapadura/sucanat is my personal favorite for sweetening jam (as honey tends to be a little powerful), but we love Pamona’s for a natural pectin. I am looking forward to making blackberry jam later on this year with the free blackberries that grow around our house.

Food, Inc – the Movie – There has been a lot of talk lately about this documentary that highlights the current problems with our food industry. How much do you really know about the process of bringing food to your table? It looks fascinating! Kimi talks about it here as well as Kelly shares her thoughts here. Check out the trailer here. Here is a crazy quote that Kelly passed on from the film:

“We’re spending less on food than anyone in history, only about 9% of our income, cheaper than anyone else in the world.  So we’ve got lots of cheap and abundant food, but…it’s making us fat, we have this tremendous problem with obesity and Type II Diabetes, and as it turns out, cheap food has many many hidden costs.”

For the Garden:
Homemade Fertilizer Recipe – Frugal Granola shares a all natural fertilizer for your garden with nettles! I am making a batch of this today for my container garden!
Natural Weed Killer Recipe – Another awesome natural method for the garden.

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