The Woman Next Door {On Building Community}

Photo Source

Written by contributing writer, Trina Holden.

Do you know the woman next door? Or the one across the street?

Chances are, she’s not much like you. Statistics predict she’s not a stay-at-home mom, and doesn’t have more than 2 children–if she is a mother at all. She may not cook like you, dress like you, or read the same books. And she might not even go to church.

So, why would you want to have anything to do with her?

Because we’re called to love our neighbor and we were created for community.

We as believers all-too-often gravitate towards those who are like us, thinking that the more we have in common, the stronger will be the community we enjoy. While compatibility is a significant factor in relationships, I feel we overlook another key factor:

You live on the same street. And that, sisters, is a connection that is often missed in the face of all that makes us different. Yet that one commonality—physical proximity—is another huge factor in building a relationship, and has been the foundation of many life-long friendships.

It was when we left our first home and the trailer park we’d lived in for 3 years that I became convicted that I had not been a good steward of the relationships that had—literally—been right in my backyard. Part of my delinquency was due to the natural inward focus of that first season of marriage, but I also knew I had let differences in lifestyles keep me from reaching out and building relationship with my neighbors.

At our new home, I resolved to be more faithful to God’s commission by His grace. To step out of my comfort zone, to put forth a little effort, and see what would happen when I chose to love my neighbor. We started by hosting an open house that first fall. I made a huge pot of chili, several trays of cornbread, and we had a bonfire and music and invited everybody we knew—including the family that had just moved in across the street from us. In this group setting we enjoyed our first casual conversations with our new neighbors, and watching them walk back over the street to go home, I thought what fun it could be to have a friend who lived that close.

So, I reached out again. First just a hello across the road when we fetched the mail or were both doing yard work. Then a play date with our kids. Then dessert as families when the strawberries were ripe. For the first time in my life, I was experiencing what it was like to have a neighbor. And I liked it.

There’s something about being able to run down the driveway to borrow an egg, or sympathize over the heat wave or have someone near when the weather’s too bad to go anywhere. Opportunities to fellowship are right out the front door, instead of an hour’s drive.

And while reaching out and being willing to deepen the relationship, I discovered that, though she and I were raised differently and our lifestyles were not exactly the same, we did have other things in common–she was a believer! And we both desired to be a better wife, more loving mom, and to grow in our faith.

So, we started a Bible study together. Three or four times a month, while my kids were sleeping and hers were in school, we opened our Bibles, read a few verses and prayed and asked the Lord to speak to us. Despite our differences, the Lord had brought us together, bonded us, and revealed to me the joy He planned when He told us to ‘love our neighbor’.

Lately I’ve been inspired to explore new levels of community that await at the end of my own driveway, and to encourage you to see what relationships God may have called you to in your own neighborhood. God designed us for community, but it won’t happen unless we invest ourselves.  And perhaps, while celebrating what we do have in common—the same street, weather, and postman—we’ll have opportunity to share our love, our hope, and the God that can change lives.

Little {and Big!} Ideas for Investing in Your Neighborhood Community:

  • Time your afternoon walk for when kids are getting home from school or parents get home from work so you can say hello
  • Share extra produce from your garden with a basket or cooler at the end of the driveway
  • Organize a neighborhood garage sale
  • Initiate a book study
  • Plan a play date in the backyard
  • Invite the locals for a bonfire or seasonal summer dessert
  • Plan a family movie night
  • Find your neighbors on facebook and begin the connection in the non-threatening meeting-place of social media
  • Make friends with the kids first–make your yard the fun, hang-out place
  • Send a personal note on a holiday or just to say hi

How have you been able to reach out to your neighbors? What has worked for you? What challenges or successes have you experienced? How do you foster community in a more rural setting? In the City? I’m still new at this and would love to hear what you’ve done! Please share in the comments!

Comments { 42 }

Trades of Hope Giveaway!

One out of seven people in the world are hungry. Women around the world are forced to put their children to bed hungry every night. Many times these children sleep on dirt floors. For most of those children, there is no hope that they can go to school the next morning. Can you imagine your child hungry and lacking hope for tomorrow?

Trades of Hope is a unique business structure that helps partner with these women. Some have been forced into the sex trade. Some have been acid attacked. Some are just in the unfortunate circumstance of being born in a desperately poor country. Each of these beautiful women has a gift.

They don’t want charity, they want an opportunity! They have handcrafted unique works of art that Trades of Hope is marketing on their behalf giving them the opportunity that they need to improve their own lives and the lives of their children. It is sustainable, long term, multi-generational change!

There are two wonderful ways you can support this ministry as a business model. You can help support your family, while helping a family in Haiti, Uganda or Peru by joining the Trades of Hope Team of like-minded, motivated women!  Become a Compassion Entrepreneur promoting Fair Trade products by women around the world, and you earn an income.

And secondly, by purchasing any of the lovely assortment of handcrafted jewelry, scarves, journals, bags, candles, and other home decor you are helping to support impoverished women around the world.

Today, we are excited to give away a few items that have been handcrafted by these precious ladies around the world. We will have three lovely winners, one for each of these prizes that are being offered.

1.  Multi strand silver necklace from India (pictured at top of post – $20 value)- This beautiful necklace is simply stunning and classy. Through the sale of these necklaces,  children in three poor villages in India can go to school.

2. Capiz Feather Earrings from the Philippines (pictured just above – $16 value) – I am in love with these earrings. They are beautiful and large, and very elegant. Help abused women in the Philippines gain opportunity.

3. $20 gift card  - the final prize is a $20 gift card for you to use on any product of your choice!

TO ENTER:

1. Visit Trades of Hope and browse their product line. Come back and share your favorite item in the comments below. Also, pick which of the three prizes mentioned above would be your choice if you were to win.

2. For a second optional entry, sign up for the Trades of Hope newsletter (sign up through the link on the bottom of their homepage), and come back and let us know in a second comment. If you have problems signing up for the newsletter, you can also text TRADESOFHOPE to 22828 and follow the instructions there to sign up for the newsletter.

You can also follow Trades of Hope through Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest to stay informed on this wonderful ministry.

Giveaway Closed.

AND THE WINNERS ARE…

1. Necklace: Deanna (dmfitzpatrick16@…)

2. Earrings: Alicia (scrugglenamp@…)

3. Gift card: Jessica (jessicamumford@…)

Giveaway open to US participants only.

Winner will be randomly selected and contacted on the Wednesday following the completion of the giveaway. The end of this post will be updated to announce the winners. 
Email subscribers: You must click through to the original post on Passionate Homemaking to be entered into this giveaway.
No purchase necessary.

Comments are closed

Summer is for Ice Cream

We have been enjoying 10 days straight of glorious sunshine here in the Northwest. It’s a little taste of summer. We are soaking it up before it disappears back to rain. With summer on our minds…we have been thinking about homemade ice cream! Summer is such a fun time of year to whip up some homemade ice cream to serve to your family and friends. It is a fun thing to create in the kitchen with kids and come up with all sorts of yummy concoctions. Here are a few helpful tips and recommendations for making the best ice cream:

- Add more sweetener than you think – it kind of disappears in the freezing processing. You want to make it slightly too sweet when preparing and it will be perfect when frozen.

- The more cream the better- Try to go for at least 1/2 heavy cream and 1/2 whole milk. The more cream you use, the more creamier the results will be. I have also substituted coconut milk many times as well for easy dairy free ice creams. Coconut milk has a really nice creamy texture to it.

- Keep it simple. You don’t need to add egg yolks or cook your ice cream as many recipes call for. Skip the eggs as they really aren’t necessary in the recipe. Some say they make it creamer, but I haven’t really noticed much difference. I just throw all the ingredients in my blender, whirl it around till smooth, and then throw it in to my ice cream maker. Works every time and takes less than 10 minutes to prepare.

- Transfer to another covered container and keep in your freezer for no more than 2 hours before serving. This will maintain the soft creamy texture. If you leave in the freezer too long, it will become very solid and more icy. If you have leftovers, just make sure to give it 20-30 minutes to thaw. But it will always be the best texture if served shortly after preparing.

- Use a quality ice cream maker - An electric ice cream maker is such a fun summer investment for your family. It gives you opportunity to make yummy ice cream with quality ingredients in just a few minutes. We have been using the Cuisinart Ice cream maker for several years now and we absolutely love it! It takes just 30 minutes to make a fresh batch of ice cream.

- Make sure your ice cream maker bowl is completely frozen for at least 24 hours before using! I have learned the hard way that it just doesn’t work without this time period for the bowl to become re-frozen.

- To prevent freezer burn, make sure to wrap your ice cream maker bowl in a few plastic grocery bags and store in the freezer between uses in this manner.

Here are some of our favorite recipes:

Banana Ice Cream
Coffee Ice Cream
Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Strawberry Ice Cream 
Egg Nog Ice Cream
Coconut Ice Cream 

And our newest concoction (pictured above)…

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Adapted from Just Making Ice Cream 

Ice Cream:
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk (or substitute all milk for coconut milk for a dairy free alternative- yum!)
3/4 – 1 cup sucanat, sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc (use less if using honey or maple syrup)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Cookie Dough:
1/2 cup sucanat, rapadura, sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 egg

For cookie dough: Combine sweetener, peanut butter, and egg and combine until blended. Roll into very small balls and place on a cookie sheet. Place in freezer until frozen.

For ice cream: Throw all the ingredients in your blender and pulse until smooth. Transfer to your ice cream maker, and let it go! Once the ice cream maker has completed its cycle, fold in the cookie dough balls, even if they aren’t totally frozen yet. Transfer to a covered container to store in the freezer for 1-2 hours before serving. Enjoy!

For a whole array of ice cream recipes make with real ingredients, check out Just Making Ice Cream. While I personally don’t feel it necessary to add eggs or cook the ingredients as I mentioned before (I tend to be very simplistic), this ebook has lots of fun inspiring ideas for you and can easily be adapted for your preferences and choice of ingredients.

Comments { 16 }

Dry Erase Menu Plan Display with a Repurposed Frame

This last week, I shared with you all my updated Spring/Summer monthly menu plan. Although I can compile a monthly menu plan fairly easily since I have been following this method for a few years now, I rarely break it down week by week for myself. I haphazardly live day by day more often then not. What’s for dinner tonight? Shoot…I forgot to thaw that meat out. Now what? Recently, I realized I just needed to get something visual before my eyes. I needed a place in the kitchen to display my menu to serve as a gentle reminder to make sure I make necessary dinner preparations for the week.

My solution?

I took an old 8×10 picture frame with the glass inside and printed out a free menu planner document behind the glass. I then hung it up on the wall in my kitchen with a dry erase marker resting on the top of the frame. With this method, I can easily write in my menu for the week and see it clearly every day! I can erase with a napkin, toilet paper, or a rag, and start afresh next week. I like to make a monthly master list of my menu plan, but then like to break it down week by week and chose from the 4 selected recipes ideas for each day of the week (following my daily themes for meals) to see which is most appetizing for our family for the week. This gives us more variety and flexibility each week.

I tried it with both a monthly menu plan printable (pictured at top) and a weekly menu plan printable (pictured just above), and I think I have concluded that I prefer to display one week at a time so that it isn’t as cluttered or confusing. But feel free to use whichever method you prefer! You could also use this same idea with a plastic sheet protector and tape it to your fridge!

There is no end to the ideas for using a repurposed frame for helping you stay organized. You could put your weekly schedule in there or keep track of whats in your fridge/freezer with an inventory sheet. Have fun!

Comments { 17 }

The Beauty of Motherhood

“Who can measure the long-term effects of nurturing helpless infants, supervising wandering toddlers, discipling self-willed children, and counseling self-absorbed adolescents? Of family outings planned, traditions built, memories made, books read, songs sung, Scripture taught? That’s why motherhood belongs under the heading, ‘Engage the World’; no one shapes generations or fashions cultures more than mothers.

~ Jeff Purswell, Worldliness, (edited by C.J. Mahaney, p. 159). (HT: GirlTalk)

Dear Mother, your work to love and nurture your children is a beautiful task. It is your worship. To raise up children that love and serve Jesus is a glorious mission. To faithfully discipline, train, guide, and nurture them is the work of the Kingdom. Jesus welcomed the little children, and so by welcoming them, getting down and dirty with them, washing off their bumps and bruises, and seeking to be present for them, and loving them as Jesus did, is the most beautiful thing you can do.

“How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the rule of three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No. A woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.”

- G.K Chesterton

It is hard. You won’t have much free time. In fact, you may seem to have none at all. But each moment that is invested with joy and grace will bring such glory and honor to your Maker. Every little moment invested reading a story, wiping a nose, changing a diaper, teaching a child a chore or task, making messes together, is Kingdom building work. Don’t neglect filling up your own cup in the presence of your Lord so that you can freely pour out for them. He designed you for such a purpose…and together, we can change the world.

Be blessed! And may the joy of the Lord be your strength!

“A mother…by her planning and industry night and day, by her willfulness of love, by her fidelity, she brings up her children. Do not read to me the campaigns of Caesar and tell me nothing about Napoleon’s wonderful exploits.  For I tell you that, as God and the angels look down upon the silent history of that woman’s administration, and upon those men-building processes which went on in her heart and mind through a score of years;—nothing exterior, no outward development of kingdoms, no empire-building, can compare with what mother has done.  Nothing can compare in beauty, and wonder, and admirableness, and divinity itself, to the silent work in obscure dwellings of faithful women bringing their children to honor and virtue and piety.”  Henry Ward Beecher - Gene Fedele, ed. Golden Thoughts of Mother, Home & Heaven, pp.75-76.

Happy Mother’s Day!

“The world may not applaud us for wiping running noses, driving in carpools, or talking with our teenager into the wee hours of the morning. And until they are trained, our children might not thank us either. But as we set aside our own selfish desires and glorify God by joyfully serving our children, we are pursuing true greatness according to the Bible. Let us do so with tenderness, affection, and with a smile!”

– Carolyn Mahaney

Comments { 14 }

2012 Spring/Summer Monthly Menu Plan

Our favorite fish tacos!

Spring is here and time to refresh the menu! Here is my updated menu plan for the Spring and Summer months for May through September. I have a few new recipes to try that I am excited about, including making my own homemade gyros and pizza on the grill! Can’t wait! For more information on my strategy for monthly menu planning, visit here.

Mondays – Main Dish Salads

1. Cobb Salad
2. Macaroni Ham Salad
3. Chicken Caesar Salad
4. Bacon & Blue Cheese Steak Salad 

Tuesdays – Sandwiches 

1. Grilled Veggie Sandwiches (an awesome vegetarian frugal meal!)
2. BBQ Beef or Pork Sandwiches (throw a roast in the crock pot with soy sauce and your favorite BBQ sauce and let it cook on low all day! Shred the meat and serve with additional bbq sauce on hamburger buns! Yum!)
3. Eggplant Sandwiches – (this is a new recipe to try! I love goat cheese, so may mix and match with this recipe)
4. Beef or Lamb Gyros - this is on my new list to try and experiment with this summer! I am a huge fan of gyros and want to learn how to prepare them myself!

Wednesday – Italian

I like to use brown rice pasta for all our pasta needs – it’s yummy, more easily digestible than wheat, and far more nutritious than white, and still light and flavorful!

1. Pasta Presto (twice a month)
2. Summer Squash Chicken Alfredo (with homemade alfredo sauce and substitute with raw cream)
3. Penne w/Chicken and Asparagus (or in season produce – summer squash, bell peppers, etc.)

Thursday – Mexican

1. Grilled Stuffed Burritos (We love to put all the ingredients in a tortilla and wrap it up and grill on all sides on the stove)
2. Fish Tacos (twice a month)
3. Chicken Fajitas (sliced chicken, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, black beans, and corn, sauted together with taco seasoning mix! Serve with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.)

Friday – Pizza

Friday is family night, so it is usually our traditional homemade pizza! I make a batch of 4 crusts at one time and stick them in the freezer for easy pull-out on Friday nights.

1. Homemade Pizza Supreme on Homemade Pizza Crust - one of the things I want to try this summer is pizza on the grill! (twice a month)
2. BBQ Chicken Pizza
3. Pepper, Onion & Feta Pizza (add humus underneath ingredients)

Saturday – BBQ

Saturday is Daddy’s opportunity to have fun on the grill and give Mommy a break! ;)

1. Pork Chops
2. Hamburgers 2x
3. BBQ Chicken, Steak or some other special meat

Sundays

We like to try to intentionally keep Sunday as a day of rest at our home, so one way we have found to make it fun, simple, and intentional is to often eat out as a family on Sunday evenings. Otherwise, we eat leftovers, baked potato bar, nachos, etc.

For further inspiration, check out Real Food Meals for Summer and Busy Seasons.

What are your favorite summer recipes?

Comments { 38 }

Spring Bucket List – Family Fun for the Seasons

A glimpse of spring at our house shown above includes reading stories in the sunshine on our front doorstep with green smoothies in hand and bare feet romping around the lawn. Any time we get a glimpse of sunshine we bring it all outdoors. One of my goals this month has been to compile a seasonal list of fun doable family activities that we would encourage family togetherness throughout the seasons. I have been inspired in various lists around the web, but wanted to adapt for our own season of life and to what’s also available in our area. I need simple and easy activities that we can do together to build our family and encourage a heart of service as well. My list includes various giving opportunities that are relavant to the season as well to keep our focus on being a blessing to a needy world around us.

Check out this fun colorful Spring bucket list printable to help get you started.

What are your favorite family activities for Spring?

Comments { 9 }

Springtime at Our Home

It has been awhile since I have shared a family update with you all, so I thought it was high time. Spring has been gradually peaking through the clouds here in the Northwest. We have had a few days of glorious sunshine which is a blessing after months of indoor cold rain weather. Spring brings beautiful colors and allergies all in one. The springtime has included celebrating my son Titus’ third birthday, hosting a baptism at our home in our backyard hot tub, hosting Easter dinner with family and friends, celebrating Lent and Easter in our home with passover and other fun readings and activities, starting some flower and veggie gardening in our backyard, spring walks, and a weekend getaway to the Oregon Coast to rest, walk on the beach, play games, and simply be together as a family.

We are in the final stages of launching my husband’s new business, but I believe the end is in sight. We can finally tell you all what he has been working on! The business is called Bourbon and the mission is to provide mobile websites for small businesses – restaurants, retail stores, etc. Aaron has set up the launch page for the business, which you can view here. We are super excited and praying fervently that it would take off over the next few weeks. Our prayer is that it would be able to financially support us and give our family more freedom to start serving more actively in our church and missions. It has been an intense 4+ month period as he has been working days and most nights. It has certainly been taking its tole on our family, but by God’s grace I am holding on and trying to enjoy the ride.

We have been prioritizing our family and keeping our schedule pretty free and simple. My blogging has been minimal as you might have noticed. ;) I have felt bad for all the times I have had to say “no” to various invitations, but I know it is paying off in the long run.

During this transition, I have really been seeing the value of just being a helper to my hubby. As wives we play such an important role in keeping our men going strong. We can tear them down through discouraging words, or we can help them flourish and succeed through loving support and cheering them on in our words and actions. Guys seem to be pretty simple. They need us to believe in them. I have been amazed at how just a simple text message or email expressing my love or telling him how proud I am of him sometime during the day can make a world of difference on his spirits. It’s easy to forget about our men while taking care of the little ones around us…but honestly, when we plant those seeds of expressing love and admiration, our love will only grow and flourish all the more. Write him a note, make a love message board that you can update regularly, plant post it love notes in his car, on his desk, or wherever he visits frequently. Let him know you are behind him…and you might just be surprised at the results. Care to join me in striving to just write or speak one little message each day to encourage our men?

Enjoying our first passover meal

My sister, Christa, and her fiancé Dan

My younger sister got engaged in early February so we are in the preparation process for a wedding in mid-June. I’m so excited! We are all involved in the wedding, so I have been searching high and low finding appropriate attire for all of us. In my spare time, I’m planning a shower and will also be hosting the rehearsal dinner. It has been a joy doing some spring cleaning here and passing on some household items to help my sister get started well.

Eden girl has an awesome army crawl mastered and is cruising around all over the place at 9 months of age now. Karis is starting Kindergarten work, and my Titus man is my sweet helper watching out for his sisters (amidst some challenges with his potty training :( ). They all keep busy taking walks with Daddy, unloading the dishwasher, reading lots of books, playing dress up, and romping around outside as sunny days start peeking through the clouds. We are looking forward to a full summer with my Karis girl turning 5 this week (which we are celebrating with a small mommy/daughter tea party), Aaron and I celebrating our 6th anniversary this month (which will include a day outing to the Columbia Gorge – yah!), my sister’s wedding, summer outreach projects in our community, and a family vacation to the beach! Praise the Lord. He is good.

Springtime Reading

What have I been reading lately?

Books on my nightstand over the last few months have included: Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Letter, and Madam Bovary (which I am currently reading) as I continue in my goal of reading more classics to further my own personal education (thanks to inspiration from The Well Educated Mind). I have also been inspired to more intentional generous living through the life and testimony of Katie Davis in her book, Kisses From Katie and her adventures in her early twenties adopting and caring for children in Uganda. I want to be active in the care of orphans and children around the world. I want to be able to live a radical life of generosity in all that I do. Such an inspiring story!

I also have been reading off and on Comforts From the Cross and Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety, which are both by one of my favorite authors, Elyse Fitzpatrick. She has such a powerful way of turning my heart and mind back to the truths of the gospel. Highly recommend her books! Aaron and I are reading The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller and this book is by far the best marriage book we have ever read. It is so rich, meaty, thought-provoking, and challenging us in the truth of the beauty of God’s design for marriage.

The Thankfulness List continues…

I am continually working on my thankfulness list…one by one God is continuing to draw my eyes to focus on the beauty around me. I forget about it here and there, but each time I come back to it, my soul is encouraged and lifted up to rejoice in the goodness of the awesome God that I serve. Here is a sneak peak at some of my recent blessings…

1151. The delicious meals concocted from leftover ham
1156. The delight of bare feet on sunny days
1158. The warmth of socks on freezing toes
1162. Diapers drying in the sun
1164. Overflowing laundry baskets displaying we are well clothed
1165. The blessing of one stop shopping at consignment sales to cloth all the kids for the next season
1167. Baby girl sleeping in my arms
1169. Daddy cuddled up with kiddos reading the Bible
1170. My daughter’s delight in reading The Boxcar Children together
1172. Tickling fest with little underarms, feet, and bellies
1176. A good classic movie to enjoy with the kids
1178. Creating a garden space for my little ones
1180. Spring robin birds created from sweet foot prints
1186. The simple joys of making new friends through hospitality
1188. Buttoning up three little jackets

Thank you so much for all your continual support of this blog! I want to give a hearty thanks to our faithful sponsors – Paula’s Breads, Sweet Bottoms Babys Boutique, The Fertility Flower, Savvy Teas and Herbs, and the Willow Store. These companies have supported us for multiple months at a time and it has been such a blessing working with these awesome people! Check them out!

May the Lord richly bless you all!

Comments { 19 }

Unique Blessings of Every Season

This season of young motherhood with three lively little ones under foot is incredibly full and unbelievably tiring. I’ve realized that the reality is I will likely be tired for quite some time to come. Each season of our lives will have its own unique challenges but also its own unique blessings. Blessings that we may not see again in the next season of our lives. Each season will have its own trials and joys. It is easy to be in this season of busy motherhood to three young children and get stressed over the unending neediness of my children. Can I sit down for a minute, please? But what might happen if I seek to simply embrace my tiredness and focus on the passing unique blessings before me.

As Susan Yates in her book, And Then I Had Kids, so beautifully put it, “Seeing life in seasons enables us to get some perspective in our lives. In every season there will be trials and joys. Hardly anything lasts forever. We need to see our life in seasons and rejoice in the season at hand. As we relax and begin to soak up the unique blessings of this particular season, we will begin to experience and to enjoy the incredible richness of life.”

Today I am enraptured in cuddling on the couch and reading stories, exploring with paint and crafting simple creations. Moments enthralled in wonder listening to the birds in the trees and making our own garden space for my little ones. Sweet moments with these little hearts that are eager to pray for the needs of others. Or the precious time of  simply walking hand in hand with my 3 year old son. His precious kisses and telling me he loves me. His fascination with cars and all things moving. His sweet surprise expressions of “that’s awesome”. My 5 year old girl delighting in tea parties and toe nail polish.

Even with stressful moments of calming sibling arguments, settling overly dramatic expressions, madly vacuuming floors repeatedly to prevent my crawler from eating every crumb or dirt piece in sight, and multiple pee-pee accidents in a little boy who is struggling with staying focused…God is giving me grace to remember that this is only a season. These things will pass and my littles ones will grow and may not be as eager to kiss me or hold my hand in the future. I know in the next season of my life, I will truly miss kissing boo-boos, wiping sweet bottoms, and putting on multiple pairs of little shoes and coats, so why not see the beauty in it now? Lord, give us grace to embrace the season you have placed us in and take time today to enjoy the blessings.

I’m going to go kiss some sweet baby cheeks right now!

Comments { 40 }

My Favorite Things: Natural Recommendations for Your Home

I frequently get asked, “what’s your favorite natural detergent? what’s your recommendations for cloth diapers? What homemade products do you still make and use?” Since I have been experimenting and reviewing various natural products for the last several years since I began my own journey to sustainable living, I have certainly bought, sampled, liked and disliked numerous things. I want to save you some trouble today by offering a list of my personal tried and true products in the natural world. You will discover that I keep things very simple in my home to the best of my ability. I don’t like several different cleaning products – I want one tried and true that can do it all! I don’t like numerous options of body care products – I want to stay frugal and sustainable with one or two products to get us by.

Body Care

Deodorant – my homemade recipe has withstood the test of time (except when you use old baking soda – keeping it fresh seems to be pretty important)! When I’m lazy, I keep Tom’s of Maine aluminum free deodorant on hand.
Shampoo & ConditionerTrader Joe’s Nourish Spa line (this is the cheapest and most conveniently accessible product I have found at just $3 per bottle at Trader Joe’s. Sorry, Amazon prices are definitely higher, but I wanted to give you a visual of the product). We made our own homemade shampoo for awhile until we just didn’t like the texture, lack of lathering ability, and smell. I dilute the shampoo with baking soda to make it stretch further. I have found 1 Tbsp baking soda to 1 Tbsp shampoo to be very effective in cleaning my hair, removing all problems with itchy scalp and allowing me to go 3-4 days between washings. The Nourish line is made from mainly organic ingredients and essential oils and works really well to clean our hair naturally. It just feels good! Another good backup option, is to use the subscribe & save feature on Amazon for Kiss My Face shampoo.
SoapGraham GardensI absolutely love Graham Gardens soap bars. They are so wonderful for the skin and natural and safe for the whole family. Graham Gardens offers buy 4 get 1 free sales with flat rate shipping making it affordable to stock up on soap for our family. I’m not into have a special separate products for the little ones, so we all use these with great results. This is all we use in the shower and for shaving. I use this soap bar to shampoo up the kids’ hair as well. Our favorite alternative is Dr. Bronner’s lavender or unscented soap bars.
ToothpasteTrader Joe’s fluoride free toothpaste (this is so nice and mild and not hot for the kids like most peppermint flavored toothpaste) – at just $1.99 per tube at Trader Joe’s this natural toothpaste is much more simple to purchase than make my own. If TJ’s was not accessible, I would likely use Tom’s of Maine children’s toothpaste
Lotion – My all time favorite lotion and moisturizer are  the Graham Gardens lotion bars. They work for all my skin issues and I don’t use anything else. This works on all of us too. Otherwise, coconut oil alone would works as a backup although more greasy to the touch naturally.
Hand soap – I have really been enjoying the foaming hand soap from Jenuinely Pure…it is certainly the best refillable natural hand soap option I have found. I also have used and love Mrs. Meyers hand soap refill packs. A great way to save on packaging waste. Mrs. Meyers is my favorite natural household product line for the wonderful scents, texture, and effectiveness of their products!
Makeup – I currently use Everyday Minerals base and face powders for my makeup with a touch of mascara. I love mineral makeups and this company offers you the ability to test any powder shade for free with the cost of shipping. The samples lasted me forever! I was formally using Bare Minerals but found over time that they irritated my skin. Everyday Minerals has been a perfect non-irritating product!
Sunscreen- I only apply sunscreen if we are going to be outside for several hours or outside in a pool/lake or something when a lot of skin would be exposed. Otherwise, I just put sun hats on the kids. I personally think that it can often do more harm than good on our skin the way it absorbs into our bloodstream. But if you are in a hotter environment, you may need to use more. It’s pretty mild here in the Northwest. When we do use it, I use Avalon Organics Baby sunscreen. I also recommend California Baby, which is also available at your local Target.
Bug Repellent – Graham Gardens Bug Bar and Apple Valley Natural Soap Bug Spray are two natural bug repellents that work equally well. We used both extensively in the Philippines last year and highly recommend them. Graham Gardens is a rub on lotion and Apple Valley’s is a spray…so chose whichever you prefer.

This is honestly all that we use on our skin! For my hair, we use a few not so natural options…but they work well to give us the results we desire. I use Foxy Curls to maintain my natural curls otherwise I also like to straighten my hair for variety, and my hubby uses Tigi’s Men’s Workable Wax.

Baby Care

Diaper Cream - I use my homemade salve for any problems with yeast infections and Graham Gardens diaper cream for any standard rash when I need a quick healing together with a disposable diaper. Graham Gardens is such an effective cream that lasts forever!

I occasionally use Burt’s Bee’s Buttermilk Lotion to give my kids massages after bath times as well.

Household Items

Laundry DetergentCharlies Soap (while I still love Soap Nuts, Charlies’ Soap is wonderful and simple because it works great for our cloth diapers and regular laundry. I love the subscribe & safe option through Amazon.)
Stain Remover – I’ve tried a lot of natural stain remover options without much success. The one product that I have found that really works the best is OxiClean Stain Remover spray. It is made from oxygen bleach so definitely superior to regular chlorine bleach.
Dishwashing Detergent – Bright Green Dishwasher Powder (Bright Green natural products are available at Safeway), Green Works or Seventh Generation (whichever is most convenient or frugal). Green Works product line is available in most every grocery store now giving us all a frugal natural cleaning line. They all work equally well.
Dish Soap – Again, any of the above mentioned product lines for dishwashing detergent works for finding dish soap.
Cleaning Product – Mrs. Meyer’s All Purpose Cleaner - I love this concentrate because it lasts forever! I dilute it in individual spray bottles and use it for cleaning everything in my house. I place small spray bottles with a rag in each bathroom under the sink for easy clean up of messes. I also use a homemade window cleaner, made from vinegar and lemon juice. My final cleaning product, is baking soda in a shaker for dusting inside the toilet. My cleaning bucket has literally 2-3 items in it!. Jenuinely Pure’s all-purpose cleaner is another great option.

I am a firm believer in the concept of less is more and that is why we use very few products in our home. Our skin doesn’t need tons of products to keep it healthy. I don’t use any sort of face wash, toner, etc. I personally find them unnecessary. It also saves money to keep your product choices to a minimal.

I may have missed an item or two in this list…so if you have a specific question for a product recommendation you don’t see discussed here…feel free to ask! What are your favorites? 

Please note: There are affiliate links in this post which we only use to share products that we truly love and recommend for your family. We receive a small percentage of each sale made through our links which we use to help support an orphan home in India and other ministries. 

Comments { 58 }