Archive | February, 2010

Enviro Cloth: A Simple, Frugal & Natural Cleaning Tool

If you have been around here for long, you know that I love simplicity, multi-purposing, and natural living all-in-one. I love finding items that will help simplify my homemaking to help preserve time and energy, but also good for our health and the environment as much as possible, on top of accomplishing these things without breaking the bank. It is a tall order. So you would imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon Enviro Cloth…and it appears to be the ultimate in meeting these criteria.

The Enviro Cloth is produced by Norwex, a company committed to preserving quality of life while reducing chemical expose in the home and on the body. It is made out of microfiber cloth with an innovative design that uses anti-bacterial silver particles integrated into the synthetic microfiber, ensure (according to their website):

• Single-celled micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, yeast, and viruses cannot survive or adapt in silver exposure
• Surface-to-surface cross-contamination is eliminated
• Rapidly drying cloths prevent bacteria growth in the cloth itself

This material can hold up to 7x its weight in water.  Unlike many other types of cloth that smear dirt across the surface you are trying to clean, the MicroFiber cloths act like bionic sponges removing dirt and bacteria, to leave a highly polished and clean surface. And all this can be accomplished with just the simple use of water. You don’t need any other all-purpose sprays, window cleaners, etc. Sound too good to be true? It sure did to me. According to the company, Laboratory tests have proven that Norwex antibacterial microfiber reduced bacteria by 99.99% in 24 hours! With this simple tool, which can be used dry or damp, you can clean walls, tiles, bathtubs, counters, metal surfaces, car interiors and more. Dry for dusting and damp for all other uses.
I purchased the Basic Cleaning Package which included one Enviro Cloth and one Window Cloth (pictured left). I have used the Enviro Cloth for all my basic cleaning. I even had success spot cleaning carpets with it. I have loved it! The Window Cloth (which is smoother in texture to the Enviro Cloth) especially blew my husband and I away. It produced a beautiful lint-free and clean window with just water!
To clean, simply spray a little water on the surface and polish with a dry window cloth. I found it most effective to wipe down a surface with the damp Enviro Cloth and then dry and polish it with the Window Cloth, especially for windows, mirrors, stainless steel appliances, etc. I never imagined I could get such clean polished streak-free windows. There is absolutely no residue remaining. We have used it successfully for all our windows, mirrors, laptop screens, piano surface, and windows in the car. Pretty impressive for one little cloth. So these basic clothes can replace practically all your cleaning supplies. Simplicity in action! I loved just taking one damp Enviro Cloth and wiping down all our household surfaces so easily and know that they were clean. The only thing I need beyond these closes is a toilet brush and some oxygen bleach for the toilet bowl.

How to clean them?

Clean these cloths by simply wringing them out and hanging to dry. Very fast drying. For slightly dirty cloths, hand wash with a little dish detergent under warm running water. Wring and hang to dry. They also may be laundered with other lint-free laundry. Washing with other items will destroy their lint-free properties.

Where to Buy?

Norwex is a multi-level company, so unfortunately they can not be purchased in store, so you have to purchase through independent consultants.  I recommend purchasing through The Urban Homemaker, a Christian family run business.
At just $14.50 per cloth that can be reused indefinitely, this cleaning tool could save you a lot of money! Norwex offers many other cleaning solutions from mopping, to innovative toilet cleaning tool, in addition to natural body care products. Check it out! All their products come with a 60 day money back guarantee and have a two year warranty. I’m tempted to host a party to see more of these products in action.

Any one else tried these clothes yet?
Comments { 47 }

Joovy Caboose Double Stroller Review

Karis & Titus in our Joovy Caboose

When we were preparing to welcome our little Ty man (#2), I was debating within myself whether I should pursue finding a double stroller. I went back and forth, back and forth. I personally disliked those large caravan type double strollers that took up the entire trunk of the car and was difficult to maneuver in tight places. I also didn’t prefer the idea of a side by side stroller that couldn’t make it through doorways without difficulty, if at all. But I had two little ones, close in age, and we love walking! I could put one in a carrier and the other in a single stroller, but that could only last so long before my back started to break. So, here I am today with a double stroller and one that we love! I did a lot of research and decided to go with a sit and stand stroller. We chose the Joovy Caboose Ultralight Stand On Tandem Stroller and we absolutely love it and cannot recommend it more highly. Why?

1. It is compact. It is easy to fold down, takes up hardly any space in the back of our car, and is lightweight. As a mother, I didn’t want to haul around a huge stroller that would kill my back to take in and out of the car. This stroller has been the perfect solution.

2. It opens easily with one hand. With a baby on the hip, this stroller can be opened easily with one hand. It does require two hands to close, but is very simple to do.

3. It fits 2 or more children comfortably. Baby can sit in the front with the car seat adapter compatibility which can be easily graduated to a seat at a later date. The older child can sit or stand on the foot tray behind the baby. The foot tray is large enough that one child could actually sit while another could stand or both stand together. We have used this stroller for three munckins in this manner and it works wonderfully.

Ty man enjoying his ride up front

4. An older toddler can get on or off easily. The older child can easily stand or get down and walk next to the stroller as desired. No fussing about lifting the child in and out or buckling or unbuckling (although there is a seat belt that is easy to use). The padded handles for the toddler to hold are perfect for sitting or for holding on to while walking beside the stroller.

5. It is a lightweight and easy to maneuver. At just 21 pounds, this stroller is lightweight!

6. Large size basket that is accessible! The toddler seat slides forward and backward easily opening up access to the basket underneath.

7. Offers a parent organizer. While this was not essential, it is a nice feature to hold our water bottles, cell phone and keys for easy access.

8. Easy to clean. The nylon fabric is very easy to wipe down for a quick clean.

Honestly, the only thing I don’t really care for on this stroller is the over sized canopy. Yes, it is large but it can only cover one child sufficiently at a time. I don’t think there really is a solution to this, but the canopy can easily be removed. I guess this is where the rain cover would come in handy. ;) Considering we bought ours used and the previous owners had already used it for two children, and it still remains in excellent condition, this stroller will serve us well for many years to come!

Although I think all sit and stand strollers are wonderful alternatives to the standard double stroller, I especially like the Joovy Caboose Ultralight because it is so light and yet incredibly sturdy! The original Joovy Caboose definitely is cheaper and was my first choice apart from the Lord providing a Ultralight for us at a great price off Craigslist. The Ultralight’s only superior feature is the decreased weight. The larger canopy is a take it or leave it feature as is the parent organizer. All other features remain the same. So if you are on a tighter budget, check out the original Joovy Caboose. You can always buy the parent organizer separately.

We also love having a small umbrella stroller for those quick trips here and there. This is especially useful when I might just have one of the kids with me, or if we are in a tight shopping center, etc. That was another awesome $5 craigslist find!

Karis enjoys her ride in the back

I guess its turning out to be a product review week on Passionate Homemaking!

Comments { 34 }

2010 Goal: Cultivating a Radically Thankful Heart

Photo credit

“Gratitude is truly my life preserver. Even in the most turbulent waters, choosing gratitude rescues me from myself and my runaway emotions. It buoys me on the grace of God and keeps me from drowning in what otherwise would be my natural bent toward doubt, negativity, discouragement, and anxiety. Over time, choosing gratitude means choosing joy…” – Nancy Leigh Demoss

We live in the most prosperous nation on the earth. The average family is drowning in abundance, and yet we remain the unhappiest of people. A church leader was visiting the United States from India who had come to the States to study. A gentleman asked what he thought of Americans, to which his guest responded – in polite, Asian style – “Do you want me to be honest?” “Yes, I do,” responded the gentleman. But who could really be ready for this: “You have no idea how much you have,” the man said, “and yet you always complain.”

This has hit home to me as I have recently read it retold in Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh Demoss. Through my recent struggles with insomnia, God has been teaching me many lessons. This has been one of them. I confess…I am a whiner. I complain when I am tired, when the children don’t behave, when my husband doesn’t arrive on time from work and dinner gets cold. It is so easy to focus on the problems, the struggles, the challenges in our lives, rather than actively striving to choose gratitude. It does not happen by chance. It is not acquired in a moment. It is the fruit of a thousand choices.

Why is it important to cultivate an atmosphere of thankfulness in our families?

I love what Barbara Rainey shares: “Because God commands it and we need it. Gratitude takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them back on the giver of all good things, even those things we perceive as bad or unpleasant. Most American families are drowning in abundance and as a result we have the most self absorbed culture ever. The gift of prosperity does not usher in the response of gratitude as one would imagine. Instead it feeds the roots of narcissism and entitlement. Children who tend to be selfish anyway must be trained in giving thanks. We as adults must discipline ourselves in gratitude. It is not natural. But it is necessary as believers if we are to please God and make any kind of impact on our culture. It is the antidote to insanity. It is the pathway to peace. It is the key to a gracious life. It is the doorway by which even unbelievers cope with the fragility of life because it acknowledges faith in the one who rules.”

Throughout Scripture we see the command issued again and again. “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”(Eph. 5:20-21). “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

In every situation...prayer + thanksgiving = peace. Thankfulness results in joy! When we wake up in the morning after a rough night of sleep, children that kept us up, or a long to-do list that bombards our minds for the day, we have one choice to make. We can whine or we can worship! Whining results in self-centered discouragement and depression. Worship results in finding true joy in our Savior!

My Goal:

My prayer and goal for my spiritual life this year: to become a radically thankful woman. I want to be known as a woman who is joyful, peacefully rested in my Savior, and always expressing thankfulness to others. I want to be filled every day with His joy, so that others who see me would have a glimpse of God – in my words, in my affection, in my writing, in disappointments and trials, and even in everyday tasks.

How will I make this a habit in my life?

  • Complete the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge each month (listed in the back of Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh Demoss or available for download here). You cannot have too much repetition when it comes to this!
  • Write 1-2 handwritten thank you notes each week. This is a means of cultivating thankfulness and ministering to others at the same time. Who in your family, church, or even your past have blessed your life for which you have never expressed thankfulness?
  • Begin each day by adding 5 things to my “Blessings” List (also could be two lists titled ‘Gifts from God’ and ‘Gifts from Others’), and thanking the Lord for them. I have this list in my journal to which I refer each day. Once you get started there is no end to the numerous blessings we are recipients of daily.
  • Memorize Psalms 103. Meditating on this passage has brought such encouragement to my life.

Will you join me in cultivating a thankful joyful heart? I believe this is key to strengthening and blessing our families and those around us. Can you see your marriage blossom when you express your thankfulness to your man giving him the respect he desperately needs? Can you see children that desire to follow hard after Christ because their mama has found her satisfaction in Him first? Can you see neighborhoods transformed because they see your joyful countenance and cannot help but ask what makes you smile?

Sally Clarkson, in her new book, Dancing with My Father: How God Leads Us into a Life of Grace and Joy, says it so well in defining the goal: “I renewed my decision…that joy would be my goal, that I would look everywhere I go for God’s touch, his shadow, his signature. I would celebrate the inner reality of his spirit, rather than live as a victim of circumstances in my outward reality.”

Sally’s book is another great title on this subject that I am just diving into and loving already!

“Thankfulness puts us in God’s living room. It paves the way to His presence.” - Nancy Leigh Demoss

“A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

Things to Be Thankful For

Originally published at Revive Our Hearts

  • Be thankful for the clothes that fit a little too snug, because it means you have enough to eat.
  • Be thankful for the mess you clean up after a party, because it means you have been surrounded by friends.
  • Be thankful for the taxes you pay, because it means you’re employed.
  • Be thankful that your lawn needs mowing and your windows need fixing, because it means you have a home.
  • Be thankful for your heating bill, because it means you are warm.
  • Be thankful for the laundry, because it means you have clothes to wear.
  • Be thankful for the space you find at the far end of the parking lot, because it means you can walk.
  • Be thankful for the lady who sings off-key behind you in church, because it means you can hear.
  • Be thankful when people complain about the government, because it means we have freedom of speech.
  • Be thankful for the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours, because it means you’re alive.

Further Resources:

A Week of Thanksgiving – Developing the habit of thankfulness may require some practice! Here are some practical suggestions for devoting one week to practicing thankfulness.
Blessings of Thorns: Family Devotional Plan – This creative family devotional plan corresponds with the “Blessings of Thorns” radio series and CD drama, and will provide your family with an unforgettable Thanksgiving experience together.
Growing in Gratitude: A 30 Day Challenge – Cultivate a heart of gratitude through this 30 Day challenge. Awesome resource to accompany your devotions.

Comments { 46 }

The Family that Reads Together: Recommended Read Alouds

Photo credit

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” - Becoming A Nation of Readers

Families reading together is one of the most splendid traditions and habits you can cultivate as a family. You may find it common to read to your little ones throughout the day, but have you considered scheduling family reading time together? I recall snuggling up around a warm fire and listening to a fun story my Papa would read to all eight of us children when I was a child. These were some of my favorite memories! When you read together:

  • You build family relationships in a unique way. You are sharing an experience of entering the world of the story teller, stirring the imagination as you enter the lives of the characters in the story.
  • You grow together as a family. You can interact together, discuss the contents of your readings, and encourage a learning environment in this way.
  • You share a fun, profitable and frugal activity. Many in our generation consider expensive family vacations as necessary to spend time together, but miss out on the day by day opportunities to invest quality time in a free activity. These are far more significant.
  • Your family strengthens reading, vocabulary and pronunciation skills. Taking turns reading aloud will also help strengthen vocabulary and pronunciation. We would do this in our morning devotions as well. Each person would read 5 verses and then make a comment. It built reading skills but also logic, speech and articulation skills. You can even encourage fun modulation and variation in your voices for varying characters which builds confidence and speech skills.
  • Your family will become better writers. Practically every individual in my family loves writing. It is well known that the more you read the better you will be able to write. Reading the classics is especially important for this.
  • Your family will become lifelong readers. Cultivating a love for reading in your childrens’ youth will last a lifetime.

If you don’t have time to take such adventures together, you need to re-evaluate your schedule. Reading together should be a regular part of the events at your home. Set aside an evening each week for family reading together. Turn off the technology gadgets around your home and snuggle up, and you will not regret it!

I wanted to share a collection of recommended books that are excellent for such times of families snuggling up together and enjoying a good book. This list is compiled because it is highly suitable for all ages.

Little Britches- a series of eight stories based upon the life of Ralph Moody. It begins with Ralph at eight years old in 1906 when his family moved from New Hampshire to a Colorado ranch. Through his eyes we experience the pleasures and perils of ranching there early in the twentieth century. Auctions and roundups, family picnics, irrigation wars, tornadoes and wind storms give authentic color to Little Britches. So do adventures, wonderfully told, that equip Ralph to take his father’s place when it becomes necessary. 

Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance & Tales of Restoration by David Mains – This three volume set is a powerful allegorical story set around the Enchanted City.  Each volume consists of twelve fantasy short stories, set in a city ruled by an evil Enchanter who has usurped the throne from the true King. They draw on the imagery of the kingdom that Jesus Christ Himself taught in His ministry. Under the influence of the evil Enchanter, the people of the Enchanted City prefer darkness to the light, and so sleep during the day and work at night. But the King is at work delivering the city and rescuing the poor and needy and bringing them to the Great Park. Great for meaningful dialog!

Freddy The Pig Series by Walter Brooks – for some fun family reading, you must check out Freddy the Pig. This series of stories follows the life and adventures of Freddy and his fellow farm animals. Freddy is a detective, explorer, and adventurer taking the animals all over the place in their explorations. These stories are hilarious and will definitely keep your family laughing together. Classic stories written from 1927-1958 includes 26 volumes. Reading level is ages 9-12, but I believe all levels will enjoy these.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder – Adventures from the life of a family living on the Prairie in early American. Delightful!

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis - who cannot include this wonderful allegorical series in this list? Need I say more?

Lamplighter Publishing- Lamplighter has republished classic character building stories that have stood the test of time. Many were written in the 1800′s and have powerful moral stories that are well worth reading again and again. They are all beautifully hardcover books. Two of my favorites include: Basket of Flowers & Robbers’ Cave – beautiful amazing stories your kids will be sitting on the edge of their seats especially with Robbers’ Cave. These are my all time favorite family reading materials, but are also great gifts for your children. Many of this collection is available through Vision Forum Ministries.

YWAM’s Christian Heros: Then & Now Series - an awesome inspiring series of stories on historical figures and missionaries. Each inspiring true story of a man or woman who answered God’s call is a testimony to a real-life adventure of faith and determination. I remember devouring these as a child and I believe they had a lasting impact in shaping my life with a heart for missions. These are excellent reading for all ages! These books are also available through Amazon.

I will also add that listening to books on tape/CD is a wonderful pastime for car travel as a family. We listened to many classic stories during our trips around the country and it was a great way to spend the time. Focus on the Family Radio Theater was a huge favorite for this! Les Miserables, Narnia & Anne of Green Gables were classics!

Further Resources:

Why Read Aloud? – Chapter One from Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook
The DO’S and DON’Ts of Read-Aloud – Chapter Four from Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook
Hints for Reading Out Loud – A page from Madame Esme’s Website
Reading Aloud: Tips for Parents and Teachers

What favorite titles do you recommend for family reading?

Comments { 41 }

January at Our Home

I am re-introducing a monthly update post that I used to maintain regularly…I cannot remember the last time I did one, but I want to use this report to share all that God is doing in our lives as a testimony to His grace. I will also be highlighting the books I have read each month here and chronicling process on our 2010 goals.

God has been so good to us! How richly blessed I have been over the past few weeks to enjoy good rest and sleep. A small glass of wine before bed has really assisted getting my sleep patterns back on track (and it has helped increase my milk supply too or maybe just getting sleep has!), in addition to cutting back and simplifying our lifestyle quite a bit. I stopped teaching piano, backed down from a few leadership/organization positions I was maintaining, and refocused my priorities on three things: my relationship with the Lord, loving my husband, and training and nurturing my children.

Aaron moved his web developing business out of the house this month and began renting an office space. This has been a very good adjustment for our family. I am no longer tempted to bother him throughout the day. We have both increased our productivity. The children and I could distract him so easily because he loves us so. This move has also helped us establish our morning routine. We are now waking up by 6:00am and how wonderful it has been. We treasure our times together so much more… absence makes the heart grow fonder! It also means we get to figure out how to live with one car!

Karis and I have begun using the Before Five in a Row curriculum for some fun learning activities using classic children’s books. It is designed for 2-4 year olds. Some of it is beyond Karis’ abilities at 2 1/2 years old, but it is also fun having a little structured learning time each day. We sit down for 30 minutes or so and read and discuss the book and materials. We also are using Learning for Littles, which is a fun little ebook from Graham Family Ministries, teaching basic numbers, letters, days, months, etc. Karis loves the colorful pictures and making her own preschool notebook! Beyond this, she has a lot of creative play time, including sand play, painting, and play dough.

Ty man is growing like a weed. Ty is rolling around and getting up on his hands and knees and diving forward, but has yet to start actually crawling.

We began hosting a community group at our home once a week. This is a small group of sorts that is focused on reaching out into our community together. Everyone that attends lives within a 5 mile radius of us and we are eagerly praying, planning, and working together to be salt and light to our neighborhoods. We eagerly anticipate all that God will do in and through us. We are using The Story of God, a powerful evangelistic tool chronically the Bible from start to finish in simple stories that encourage awesome dialog. They even have a Story of God for children that would be a great tool to use for family devotions, if you are looking for something like that. These tools are free for download here.

I am participating in the Bookin’ It Challenge over at Life as Mom for the accountability and fun in sharing all that I am reading this year. You can check out my 2010 Book List for my full reading goal. Here are my January reads:

The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life. Aaron and I read this book and found it very helpful in learning how to manage your time effectively, focusing on your priorities, establishing your three most important tasks, and learning how to establish and accomplish goals. I found it very practical although slightly repetitive.

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters by Tim Keller was a powerfully convicting book. He helped open my eyes through the use of Scripture to see the hidden idols we set up in our lives, things from which we strive to gain our satisfaction and security. He had incredible insight into the lives of Abraham (and his idolatry with his son Isaac), Jacob (and his idolatry of Rachel) and Jonah. I believe this is one I will need to read again and again.

The Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle is an awesome book for Biblical parenting. It is a short, easy read (just 51 pages), and yet so rich in solid biblical parenting advice that has withstood the test of time. Aaron and I read this together and found it very convicting. It is no longer in print but you can purchase an e-book version from Graham Family Ministries for just $3.95. When the Mahaney girls at GirlTalk said this was their favorite book on parenting, I knew we had to read it and now I am so thankful we have!

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh Demoss was a life-changing read for me. I have come to realize how quickly and easily I complain through the struggles and trials of life without first reflecting on the glorious mercies of Christ in my life. Choosing Gratitude was a challenge to change from “whining to worshiping” in all areas of life. Have I considered thanking Him for all the little gifts He has provided for me in addition to all that He has protected me from? I made a “blessings list” through her challenge and each day I am seeking to add 5 things to that list and to thank the Lord out loud for those gifts. It has greatly enriched my walk with the Lord. She has an awesome 30-day devotional challenge in the back of the book that I have been working through and plan to repeat several times throughout this year as I seek to become a radically thankful woman this year. More to come on this book and goal…

Thank you all for your wonderful support, encouragement and prayers during this season. The Lord has used this trial of insomnia to teach me so many things, including identifying idols in my heart as previously discussed in regards to my marriage and pursuit of natural living. It has been so rich! Blessings upon you all!

Comments { 29 }