Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Giveaway

I don't usually do this, but I want to tell you about a giveaway on another blog I follow. The giveaway is just too good to not pass it along to all of my readers. By entering this giveaway, you'll win a year's membership to a website called List PlanIt, which pretty much has any list you can imagine available for printing and download. What a wonderful way to start off an organized 2010. So head on over to Stephanie's blog, read about the giveaway, and get yourself signed up!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Traditions


Can I just say that I love, love, love this time of year?! Each year when summer ends, I keep thinking that fall is my favorite time of year, but then Christmas rolls around, and I remember that I actually like Christmas more! I just love driving around neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights (and I love how my kids are in awe of light displays!), and I love the smell of Christmas with cinnamon and baked goods. I love being able to see my breath outside, and I love snuggling up with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate. There's something that is so relaxing and peaceful about this time of year.

You may be reading that previous sentence and be thinking, "Uh, huh...relaxing and peaceful! Have you seen those lines at the mall?! And I still haven't figured out what to buy for Uncle Bob!" Yeah, I understand because I've been there. But over the last few years, my husband and I have decided to take a very intentional approach to not only the Christmas holiday, but the entire season as well. This has restored peace and joy to Christmas time, and I have begun to cherish every little moment.

What We Do

We do a lot of fun things for Christmas. We see all the huge light displays throughout Oklahoma. We roast marshmallows on the fire. We eat pies. But we also try to add some intentionality to the holiday. As a family, we decided that there were certain traditions that we wanted to add to our Christmas celebration to enhance the holiday. One of these traditions is the Jesse Tree. If you are not familiar with the Jesse tree, here's a great post on the subject. Even though we're already on the 8th day of the month, it's not too late to start. You can double up for a few days, and then you'll be caught up. The kids and I do the Jesse tree together for our Bible time during school. We have a live pine tree outside that we hang our ornaments on (ours are just laminated paper.)

I have also been teaching the kids about various Christmas symbols (tree, stockings, Santa, mistletoe, etc.) In learning about the history of these symbols, the kids have started thinking about which symbols point us to the Lord at Christmas, and which ones really have no place in our worship of Jesus. As the kids learn about each symbol, we add it to the lapbook we're making. I love that we will be able to pull it out each Christmas, and that it involves the kids in how we worship at Christmas.

Our family also enjoys participating in the Advent Conspiracy. The basic premise of this movement is to reject what they call the "hyper-consumerism" that has gripped this country at Christmas. Instead, give yourself to others through your time and effort. Here's a wonderful video about their mission.

So this year, we are having a completely homemade Christmas. My husband and I have enjoyed thinking through what we wanted to give each person for Christmas, and then I make everything. I takes a lot of time and love, which I think is a much better way of sharing Christ's love than handing someone a gift that they don't really want or need.

With the money that we could have spent on Christmas, we are planning to do two things. First of all, we adopt a family in need, and provide them with a Christmas dinner and goodies for each of the family members. Last year, we did this with the kids, and we had only adopted our kids just a few weeks before. They couldn't figure out why we were going grocery shopping for a different family, but you know what? That night that we took all the goodies and food over to that needy family's house was burned into their memory, and they still talk about it all the time. We don't do it for accolades, but rather to show the sacrificial love of Christ to others. When my kids gave that ham to the family last Christmas, they knew that they had given up a toy to buy that. I want my kids to not just talk about helping the hurting, but to be in the trenches along side them. And I think it really helps them battle the "gimme gimme's" that strike children and adults alike at Christmas.

Also, with the money we're saving, we're looking into sponsoring an orphan or two this coming year. This past Sunday, our church was visited by World Help, and we were very touched by the fact that so many people in our world do not have clean drinking water or food. So, we are considering sponsoring a child to help them receive schooling, water, and food.

So, these things have helped to bring a deeper, more fulfilling meaning to Christmas. We don't have to wait in long lines at the store, or wait to sit on Santa's lap, or any of that. By getting back to Christmas without the consumerism, we have found peace and joy in our celebration again.

I'd love to hear from you...what are some fun and meaningful traditions that your family embraces to worship Jesus at Christmas?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Adoption: A Gift of Love

(our family with the judge that finalized all four of our kids' adoptions)


November has been National Adoption Month, and all month long I've been thinking about what I want to post on here about this topic that is very near and dear to my heart. It's the last day of November, so I thought it would be fitting to close out the month with a post on adoption. I have so much in my heart that I want to say, afterall, all four of my kids are adopted. But I will spare you, and just hit on a few of the things I wanted to say. I'm not going to walk everybody through the process of how to adopt. There are many resources on that. The point of this post is to encourage those considering adoption or currently walking through adoption.

Our Story

After being married for about a year, my husband and I decided it was time to have kids. But over the next year, we began to discover that have children biologically may not be in God's plans. After visits to the doctor and much prayer, we decided to adopt. I think for a lot of people, adoption is kind of the "last resort." But for us, it was the first thing we considered. I, in particular, have always had a heart that is overwhelmed by the desire to help the hurting of this world. We thought that through adoption, we could minister to a hurting birth mother who had chosen life instead of abortion. And we could also provide a loving home for a child. So, we started the adoption process, and pretty much 9 months to the day after we started the whole application, we held little Isabella in our arms at the hospital. Our lives have forever changed since we brought that beautiful doll into our family.

(our first glimpse of Isabella, just an hour or so after birth)

When Isabella was about 9 months old, we were challenged at church to not just say that we were pro-life, but to put actions behind it. My husband and I, after much prayer and talking, felt that God was leading us to adopt older kids. Although in the back of my heart I had always wanted to adopt older kids, I had never really thought it would happen. But the Lord called us very strongly to show the world that every kid has worth and value because they are created by God. So, we got our homestudy done, and a week after we sent our application in to the agency, we got our three oldest kids. Our lives have been turned upside down we the addition of the three oldest ones, and while it was more than chaotic at first, we have developed a deep love for the kiddos, and have really enjoyed seeing how God is working in their lives.

So, both of our adoptions have been very different. The adoptions were motivated by different things, and the processes were both very different. But I thank God for my kids, and we can't wait to see what God has in store for our very unique family.

The Process

Adoption looks different for everybody. Whether you do a private adoption, a DHS adoption, or international. There are loads of paperwork, and it feels like you have to reveal every little part of your life to a stranger in order to have a child placed in your home. If you are considering adoption, I want to encourage you that while it seems discouraging to have to go through such a long and tedious process just to get a child, it is a season that will pass, and soon you will have a beautiful child to raise as your own. It is a sacrifice financially, emotionally, and with time. But it is a model on a small scale of the tremendous love and sacrifice of Christ so we could be adopted as God's children.

But I can't adopt right now...

Maybe some of you are really longing to be able to adopt, but there is something standing in the way. Maybe you don't have the money to do it right now (although there are financial resources out there if you dig around, afterall, all money is God's!). Maybe it is not a good time for your family. Or maybe you don't meet all the requirements yet (age, years of marriage, etc.). When you really want to add on to your family through adoption, but God seems to have you in a holding pattern, it is hard. I know. I've been there before, and I am there right now. Right now, we'd like to add to our family through adoption, but financially it just doesn't seem to be the right time. We know that if God wants us to adopt, he will have to open the doors financially and give us the green light. But we seem to be on hold right now. So, what are we to do?!

Well, for me, my heart is aching to adopt one (or two or five!) of these beautiful little ones. I sit at the computer and weep when I see their faces and read their heart wrenching stories. My husband knows how much it hurts me to want so desperately to save these kids and be powerless. So, he wisely suggested that I print off their names and faces, and then spend time praying over each of them each day. So that's what I have started to do. I may not be able to do anything right now except pray, and that is what I must be faithful to do. Maybe you've seen an older child that you wish you could adopt. Pray for them. Pray that God would burden the hearts of people all over this world to give loving homes to these beautiful children. And pray that God will open the doors to use you to adopt as well. That's the best we can do when God has us waiting.

Helping Others

Perhaps your children are grown and out of the house, and you don't want to adopt more. Or perhaps you have 10 kids already. Let's face it, not everyone is called by God to adopt. And that's fine. But we are all called, as Christians, to take care of orphans--however that looks. For me, it undoubtedly is through adoption. But maybe for you, it is through giving money so others can adopt. Did you know that we were only able to adopt our three newest kids because the day before we got "the call" from the agency, someone sent us an anonymous donation of $4000?! Our adoption was made possible because someone obeyed God's calling of helping orphans by giving us money. Maybe you are supposed to start an orphanage. Or maybe you're supposed to start a ministry at your church. Who knows....it's different for everybody. But we're all supposed to be involved.

How will you be involved?


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just in Time For Christmas Shopping!


Okay, so I know I must sound like a paid spokesman for My Memories Suite (the digital scrapbooking software.) In reality, I'm not paid...I'm just a huge fan and I want to spread the word about it. That's why I joined their Creative Team. I use this blog as a means to get the word out, since I think digital scrapbooking goes well with the theme of my blog. It is good stewardship of time and money...but it is convenient as well!


That said, I want to remind all my readers that you can purchase the software for 25% off if you click on the banner on the right column on this blog. (You'll have to scroll down a little to see it.) By going to their website through that banner, you get the discount. But now, you can get an extra 10% off just in time for Christmas shopping. So, you can save 35% off an already good deal! Who doesn't love that?! Just enter the coupon code HOLIDAY10OFF when you check out. The coupon is good through the end of the year.

If you have any questions about the program or purchasing the program, just leave me a comment and I'll get back to you!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Emily (emand2@). She is the winner of custom designed Christmas cards!


Be sure to join us for the next My Memories Suite blog train....coming soon to a blog near you! :)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Happy National Scrapbooking Day!!

Note: This giveaway and the blog train is now closed. Please join us for the next train coming soon!

I am such a huge fan of digital scrapbooking. If you read my blog on a regular basis, you probably already know that! Digital scrapping can be quick and easy, very cost effective, and very clean, since you don't have any piles of paper and glue to clean up! It seems only appropriate that there is a holiday dedicated to this wonderful new world of scrapping. So Happy National Scrapbooking Day to you!

You may be wondering at this point what the Christmas tree has to do with all this... Well, to celebrate, I have a fun giveaway for you. If YOUR name is drawn, I will personally design a Christmas card especially for you and your family! I will design a rectangular or square card with pictures that you supply, and I will send my design to you so you can have it printed off and ready in time for the holidays! I will also supply you with a coupon code that will allow you to receive discounted printing services for your cards. So, this year you can send all your friends and family a beautiful card that is uniquely YOURs!


Here's how to enter my giveaway. You will get one entry for each of these completed. Please leave a separate comment letting me know what you have done. (example: I became a follower of your blog)

1. Leave me a comment telling me what is your favorite thing about digital scrapbooking OR if you are not yet a digi scrapper, leave me a comment telling me what you think would be the best thing about digital scrapbooking.

2. Become a follower of my blog.

3. Peruse my blog and let me know what topics (in keeping with the theme of my blog) that you would like to see me cover in the future.

I will leave comments open all weekend, and I will draw a winner on Monday using random.org. Please make sure you leave me some way of contacting you in your comment, in case you should win! Good luck!

And don't forget... If you don't yet own any digital scrapbooking software, you can receive a 20% discount on My Memories Suite by purchasing it through the banner in the right column on this blog. It's a fantastic deal for your money!!

Now, head on over to Mary's blog by clicking here to continue on the blog train!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Feelin' Scrappy

Two weeks from now is a big day for our family. On November 7th, it will be a year since our three oldest kids joined our family. What a whirlwind of a year it's been! It's really hard to believe a year has passed. In order to celebrate, I've been working more on the kids' lifebook (which I've talked about on here before) that celebrates their first year in our family. My hope is that I can have it done by the anniversary on the 7th. So, I've been scrapping my little heart out lately! :) I don't think I'll print out the book at this time. One of the nice things about the scrapbooking software that I use is that it can be saved as an interactive scrapbook that can be viewed on the computer or TV. That's what I'm trying to do.


In honor of such a beautiful fall day today, I thought I'd post the layouts that I made for Thanksgiving last year. The pages were made with the Autumn Allure pack by Dana Zarling.



Saturday, October 24, 2009

Recipes



So...I've decided that consistent blogging really isn't my thing. :)
How's everyone doing with the Matthew 25:35 challenge? Next week is our final week, and I'd love to hear what you have learned through this challenge. I know there are a few of you following along with me, and I'd love to hear from you. Also, I've heard from several of you who are actually on food stamps, and I would love to hear about the recipes you use! Let's all share and help each other out! This week, I came across some fantastic, frugal recipes that I want to share with you.

The first is for goulash, which might as well be called a "dump-it-all-together" meal. It's super easy to put together, and tastes fabulous. Even my picky little daughter ate it! So here's the recipe:

Goulash (this makes 6-8 servings)

Brown 1 lb. ground beef. Add chopped onion and minced garlic (or just use dried). Salt and pepper to taste.

Fill crockpot with 1 can tomato sauce, 2 cubes beef bouillon (try to get one that doesn't have MSG in it if possible), and 6-8 cups water (depending on how soupy you want it). Stir to dissolve everything.

Add ground beef, 1 cup frozen corn, 1 cup frozen peas (you can add more if you wish), and brown rice or elbow macaroni (however much you want to use.) I personally like the brown rice. See...there's a reason I said that this should be called "dump-it-all-together"!

Let it all cook until the liquid has been reduced and the rice or pasta is tender. And there you have it...a super easy dinner (and it makes fabulous leftovers, too!)

The other recipe I want to share comes from my friend Emily. I made a big batch of these earlier this week, and they are almost gone. My family loves them and my kids even beg for them for breakfast! They're easy, cheap, and quite nutritious as well.

Freezer Bean Burritos

1 onion, diced (or you could use dried)
1 bell pepper, diced (I left this out since my family doesn't really like peppers)
1.5 c. quinoa + 3 c. water OR 2 c. Rice + 4 c. water (I used brown rice and made it however the bag says for 2 c. rice)
4 cans black beans
3 cans pinto beans
2 c. frozen corn
1 can rotel or diced tomatoes (I used 2 cans of the mild rotel...it added just enough flavor, but not too much that the kids couldn't eat it.)
20-30 tortillas (I used the burrito size)
4 c. cheese, shredded

Cook quinoa or rice. Saute onion and pepper, add corn and let thaw. Mix rice, pepper, onion and corn with beans, rotel and cheese. Put about 1/4 c. mixture in center of tortilla, roll up. Wrap each burrito in saran wrap or foil and put in freezer bag. Freeze and reheat as needed. Microwave 1 burrito 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Also good to put in baking dish and cover with enchilada sauce and cheese and bake.

These burritos are loaded with fiber (especially if you get a whole grain tortilla, too!) My family finds that one burrito is more than sufficient for a meal because they are very filling.

I hope you enjoy these recipes!

Friday, October 16, 2009

This week's update


Sorry to my readers for getting so behind on blogging!! My son is doing fine now after his surgery, but I just got so behind on housework, schooling my kids and everything else that I just haven't had much time to blog this week. I promise I didn't really fall off the face of the earth. :)

This week, we have been following our food stamp budget, and we did quite nicely with it. In fact, I still had a lot of pantry staples like beans and rice and flour that I was able to use in meals. I actually didn't have to go to the grocery store until last night. This week has been a little chilly, so we have enjoyed soups and stews this week, as well as baked chicken.

If you've joined me on this challenge, I'd love to hear what you've been cooking for your family! And next week, I try to post the menu for the week early on, so you can see what we're eating!

~Beth

Monday, October 5, 2009

Off This Week

Blog Friends,


I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be taking this week off from my Matthew 25:35 challenge. My son had surgery today, and we've had to eat out today since we're up at the hospital, and he will require a special diet this week, too. Mainly, though, I just need to focus on him instead of menu planning and grocery shopping and blogging. So, join me back here next week for Week #2 of the challenge!

~Beth

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Matthew 25:35 Challenge, Menu Plan



I wanted to post my menu plan for our first week trying to live on a Food Stamp Allotment. Since the challenge was to go the whole month of October on a food stamp budget, I went ahead and started this week, since there are few days of October this week. Before I share my menu plan, I just wanted to say that it's not too late to join me. I know I have talked to several of you readers in person or on facebook. If you decide that you will join our family this month, please leave a comment on this blog so I will know for sure! Thanks!

First of all, I have to say that this has been a real challenge for me already. I have a hard time trying to think of a good variety of recipes that would meet my family's varied dietary needs (my kids cannot have anything with any form of milk in it) as well as palates. I have found the web to be an invaluable resource as I planned this menu. However, I don't think that many people who are truly destitute have access to the internet whenever they wish. That's why I think it would be so wonderful to accumulate a bunch of very frugal, yet nourishing recipes to make into a cookbook of sorts that can be distributed at food banks and church food pantries. That said, if you encounter a great, cheap recipe that you would like to share for my "cookbook" project, please post it in the comments section.

And now to the menu:

I am going to need to make homemade bread and several quarts of homemade chicken stock (which will also leave me with a lot of shredded, cooked chicken) this weekend.

Monday: Carrot, lentil and rice soup with homemade bread (I may end up adding other veggies to the soup as well.)

Tuesday: Tuesdays are always rushed around dinner time, so something in the crockpot is always in order. We're going to have goulash.

Wednesday: 1/2 sandwiches with a veggie salad

Thursday: Chicken and rice casserole (with homemade cream of chicken soup)

Friday: Warm red potato salad and sandwiches

Saturday: Chicken and black bean enchiladas (I will be doubling the recipe so we can have a freezer meal for next week after my son has surgery.)

Sunday: Veggie omelets and shredded potatoes

For breakfasts, we'll be doing things like eggs, oatmeal and fruit.
For lunches, we'll have simple sandwiches, fruits, veggies and leftovers.

So, what is your family going to eat this week? Please remember to sign up if you wish to join me in the challenge, and also remember to post frugal, nourishing recipes--whether or not you will be joining me! Thanks!

Edit: I went grocery shopping and I think I did a good job. My goal was to spend only $104 to feed my family of 6 for one week. I ended up being a dollar over, which was my fault since I added one impulse buy to the cart (cider! Seriously, it's not fall unless you've had real apple cider!). I didn't buy anything processed--I stuck to whole foods, and I was able to get some good whole grains like brown rice and stone ground whole wheat flour for my bread. I bought lots of veggies and fruits--both fresh and frozen. And I was able to get 1 lb. of lean ground beef and 2 whole free range chickens, plus several other things. So, overall, it wasn't that bad. I usually try to buy a lot more organic and local things, and I wasn't able to do it on my budget, but I think I came out with a good amount of high quality food. Here's the receipt from my trip to Wal Mart (you should be able to click on it to make it bigger):

Okay, so there you have it. Week one's shopping trip was a success. Stay tuned for more throughout the week. And remember, you have a few days left to sign up to take part in this challenge with me. Would you consider joining my family in blessing needy people this month?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Matthew 25:35 Challenge


I have to admit it, I'm a sucker for helping the hurting. When I see a hurt or scared dog, I want to bring it home and feed it. I have even been known to cry when I saw a bird with a broken wing try to get off of a fence, with no success. (Just ask my husband about that incident!) But don't get me wrong...when it comes to helping the hurting people of this world, I am no sucker. Yes, when I see a person hurting for whatever reason, it does pull at my heartstrings. But it is far more than that since people are created in the image of God. It is a calling that I have on my life--a calling to comfort those who are hurting, a calling to feed the poor, a calling to bandage the wounds of the brokenhearted.

Guess what?! It's your calling, too, if you are a believer. We are supposed to all take care of the poor, the widows and the orphans. You don't need a special calling on your life to do it. Matthew 25:35 says that when we serve the poor, or take care of those who need help, we are actually serving Jesus with our labors. "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." So, while I believe that God does call certain people to serving the poor and needy, the widows, and the orphans at a different level (I think my husband and I have this calling on our lives), we don't need a special calling to help others out. As believers, it just comes out of our love for Jesus.

I was recently reading an article about people who live on food stamps. When I saw the chart that highlighted the allotments per family member, I was shocked. Basically, it comes down to somewhere around $15 per person per week. I had no idea it was that low! Now, I am not saying this to start a political argument about whether we should have welfare or anything like that. What I am saying is that there are some genuinely suffering, hungry people out there. They need help, and they need the love and compassion of Jesus shared with them.

Could your family live on a food stamp allotment? When I saw the maximum allotment for a family of 6 (my family's size), my first thought was "there's no way...my kids have food allergies and we try to eat as little processed food as possible." But I'm always up for a good challenge.

So, here's my challenge! I am challenging myself and all of you readers to live on a food stamp budget for 1 month. Try to be as creative with your recipes as possible, and try to eat as healthy as possible. You could even blog about your journey. I will be blogging on this site regularly about our journey. And then, at the end of the month, consider donating the extra money from your grocery budget that you didn't use to a local food bank or church food pantry. While you're at it, consider printing up the recipes from the inexpensive but healthy meals you made, and give them to the food bank so they can pass them along to others. I think this would be a wonderful way to be able to empathize with the plight of the poor while still making a difference in others' lives.

So, would you consider joining me for a month (or longer as you feel led)? Would you join me for the month of October in spending only a food stamp allotment on groceries and then donating the rest of your grocery budget to feed the poor? I know it's a big decision, but if you wish to join me, please leave a comment on this post so I can know who is joining me!

I'm excited! To figure out your food stamp allotment for your family size, please click here. It will walk you through the instructions on finding how much money you would receive if you were on food stamps. If your income exceeds a certain amount, then you will find that you would actually get a negative number when figuring your allotment. So, our family used a fake income of $36,000 to figure it. So, we will be living in October with a grocery budget of $412. If you have questions about figuring your allotment, you can just leave a comment.

Keep checking back on this blog regularly, as I will post at least weekly on the progress my family is making, and I will also post some recipes.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sam-e Keeps Me Smiling


Whenever I discover a product that really makes a true difference in my life, I'm eager to tell everyone about it. My newest "discovery" is a product called Sam-e. I have seen commercials around advertising for a certain brand of Sam-e for a while, and when I saw a video put out by Above Rubies that praised Sam-e, I thought it was time to look into what all the buzz was about.

Sam-e is a nickname of sorts for a naturally occurring molecule found in all living things called S-Adenosylmethionine. (It sure is easier to say Sam-e!) This molecule has been shown to be quite useful in helping to ease depression and joint pain. And it appears to be promising in some other areas of treatment as well. Basically, it is supposed to help lift your mood, and it has the added benefit of relieving aches and pains as well as Tylenol or Motrin. Since I'm not a doctor or biochemist, I have a link here to read more about Sam-e.

I have personally found Sam-e to be very useful in helping me with my mood. I am often very stressed out and worn down due to a variety of things such as children with special emotional needs and a very hectic schedule. I find that often it causes me to have a grumpy mood. I started using Sam-e to see if it would help to regulate my mood better. And I was very surprised to find that it, indeed, did work! My husband noticed my mood was better in the evenings, and he has even taken it a couple of times.

I have also taken Sam-e to regulate my mood when I have PMS. I am a complete emotional wreck the week before my cycle, and it really helps me out a lot. It even has the added benefit of pain relief, and it gets rid of my cramps as well. I also have pretty severe joint pain. I have multiple food allergies that went undiagnosed for quite some time, and the doctors think that the inflammation from the allergies is what has torn up my joints. When I am taking Sam-e, I feel so much better. The only thing I don't really like about it is that you have to take it on an empty stomach. I have a hard time remembering to take pills between meals, so it is hard to keep up with sometimes.

So, if you are looking for a natural option for pain relief or mood support, Sam-e could be worth it. I have to end with the disclaimer that I am not a physician, and obviously, you'll want to talk to your doctor before using it if you're on other meds or if you have medical conditions.

Tell me... have any of you used Sam-e, and if so, did it help you?

Making Memories

This past weekend my husband went out of town, so after the kids went to bed, I had some time for scrapping fun! I'm currently working on a special kind of scrapbook called a "Life Book," which documents the life of an adopted child. Since I have 4 adopted children, I have my work cut out for me! :) Here are a few of pages I made using My Memories Suite. Note: These pages are a little grainy because they were saved at a low resolution. The real pages are nice and crisp and easy to read! :)


Above: This is one of my favorite pages because I totally love my kids' facial expressions! I used elements from the "Magical Memories" pack by Ettes & Company to create this page.

These next few pages were made using the "My Little Monster" pack by Corina Nielsen. I think they are perfect for my kids! :)




Do you ever wish you could scrapbook but feel that you don't have enough creativity? Did you know that you can buy pre-made templates for your pages through My Memories Suite? They are professionally designed pages, and all you have to do is drag and drop your pictures onto the page, and voila! You'll have amazing pages in little time!! If you go to the My Memories Suite store, you can check out all the templates. Can I just say that I love, love love the new designs by Ettes and Company called "Wonderful World." It's probably my new all-time favorite! You can bet you'll be seeing me use some of their designs on here soon! :)

Also, just a reminder, through the end of September, you can get an additional 10% off the price of the software. If you click on the banner to the right on my blog, you can get the software for 25% off, and if you use the code B2S10OFF when you checkout, you'll get the extra 10% off as well. So if you are looking for a great Christmas gift, or if you've been secretly wanting to purchase My Memories Suite, you can now do it for 35% off! How fabulous!! :)





Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Adventures in Soapmaking

I am so excited about my latest homemaking adventure!! As I've led my family's journey toward leading healthier lives and more self-sufficient living (by that I mean, not relying on commercially processed and mass produced items), I have become increasingly intrigued by the art of soap making. I say "intrigued" because it looks interesting and fun, but it has also been quite intimidating to me since it involves so much chemistry and math if you want to go above and beyond just a basic recipe.


Although I have been a bit intimidated by this craft, I decided that it would definitely be worth it for me to master this skill. So, I ordered my lye (you have to buy in bulk online since it is no longer available in stores. Thank you meth labs!) and bought the necessary oils. And this weekend, I finally ventured out into that great unknown world of soap making. I have to admit, I was quite nervous the whole time. I didn't pay enough attention in chem lab in college! :) The first batch actually didn't turn out well at all, but I was able to figure out how to rescue it. After "fixing" the problem, it turned out very well! It has dried enough to be cut into bars, and now they are sitting out to dry enough for hand milling. Here's the picture:

I am by no means any expert on soap making, but despite by anxiety concerning the math and science behind soap making, I really enjoyed the process! There's just something so special about getting to see and use the fruit of your hands. I have had several of you readers tell me that you are interested in starting soap making for your family as well. Here are the resources that I have found very useful:

  • This video series has been most helpful for me as I have begun my soapy journey. I basically just followed her step by step.
  • This website has some good recipes as well as ideas about colorings, scents, etc. should you want to venture past plain lye soap.
  • This is the website that I used for my recipe. I used the "Cocanolive II" recipe, since I already had those oils on hand.
  • Note: the kind of soap I made is called "Cold Process" soap. So you can search the web for a good cold process recipe. There are lots of great websites with recipes out there! And there are even some recipes that help you make your own recipe and calculate the right ratio of lye to fats.
So, I'd love to hear...Have any of you made your own soaps before? Do you have any good resources to share with this slightly intimidated newbie?! :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Christmas Gift Ideas

Last Christmas, when I first laid my hands on the My Memories Suite software (you know, the digital scrapbooking software that I totally love!), I immediately realized that with all the great designs and the easy-to-use program, I would be able to find a million uses for the software. Sure, I love digital scrapbooking! But I also love all the other fabulous things I can do with the program. The possibilities are really endless.

I've recently realized that there are a couple of big holidays are just right around the corner. I love giving and receiving truly thoughtful gifts, so I have really tried the past few years to make a lot of my gifts. If you are like me and like to make your own Christmas gifts, or if you just like to add a little bit of flair to your purchased gifts, the My Memories Suite software can really help with that! And I’d like to show you an idea that I’m going to use this Christmas.

I enjoy canning foods—you know, things like pickles, jams, pumpkin pie mix, cider, pie fillings, etc. This year, I’m going to be giving homemade canned treats to all the friends, teachers, neighbors, coworkers, well…you get the picture. We’ve all seen the jars of different mixes at Christmas that have the pretty fabric and the bow on top. While those are pretty, I was trying to think of a way that I can package my goodies and express my personality as well. Then I thought, What about making fun labels?!

I’ve made some jar labels to show you, and I’d have to say that making them was fun and incredibly fast. To make a jar label, simply create your design, print on regular printer paper, cut out, and glue to the jar. I used a glue stick, and that worked very well. (Hint: if you have an ink jet printer, consider spraying the paper with a light coating of clear spray paint to keep the ink from smearing with the glue.) In no time at all, the jars were transformed into cute gifts. And there’s really no need to measure anything, because you can cut it down to size. I printed my designs out as a 6x6” square, and they worked great for the quart sized jars.

Here are some jar labels I made. I used StoryRock’s “Twilight Fanpire” to create the pickle label, and I used Corina Nielson’s “Totally Eclectic” pack to create the marinade label.


I enjoyed my jar labels so much, I realized that making labels for jars doesn’t have to be limited to Christmas only. I got to thinking that a cute jar full of pumpkin pie mix or cider mix would make a great hostess gift at Thanksgiving or a fall party.

"Autumn Allure"


"Harvest Blessing" by StoryRock

So, there you have it….an easy and simple way to give your Christmas gifts some “oomph” and personality! It doesn’t have to end there, either. Think of all the other great things around your house that you can label with beautiful labels made with My Memories Suite! You could label not only jars, but gift boxes, kids’ toy containers, buckets, etc.

You know how much I love digital scrapbooking, and how much I want everyone to have the opportunity to try it for themselves. As I keep saying, it is soooo much more economical than traditional scrapbooking, and I think it's even more fun! To get everyone off to a great start with Christmas crafting, I've got a couple of great offers to share with you!

  • Go on over to the My Memories Suite blog (link on the right). There you will find this same blog post, but there will be a link to the free giveaway for the week.
  • If you click on the My Memories Suite banner to the right, you can get 25% off the software. It's truly a great deal, and you can only get the discount by going through that link. Here's a special bonus for you: Now through September 30th you can enter in the promo code B2S10OFF and receive an additional 10% off. So if you click on the MMS link from my blog you get 25% off and then by adding the code you get an additional 10%. How great is that?!

Happy labeling!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Latest Scrapbooking Pages




I wanted to post a couple of my latest pages that I have made. Now that school has started back, I haven't had very much time to scrapbook. But whenever I get a spare moment, I will work on a spread or two because it is just so much fun!


I recently got a design pack from the My Memories Suite store called "Chugga Chugga." It's a darling pack of train themed digital papers and embellishments. When I saw it, I immediately thought of my son, Malachi, who is obsessed with trains. Here are the pages I've made with the "Chugga Chugga" pack. (Note: they are a little grainy because I saved them as a lower quality photo.)




I have gotten a lot of questions from friends wondering what I use to create my scrapbook layouts. I only use My Memories Suite! I don't have photoshop, and while I bet photoshop could help me create even better layouts, My Memories Suite can create everything you need without any outside help! Rarely do I like something enough to advertise for it, but this is one of those things that I love! It has really streamlined my scrapbooking--it's faster, cleaner and much cheaper than conventional scrapping. If you are interested, I have put an ad on the right column on this blog. If you click on it, you can check out more about the product. I really think it's worth every dime if you enjoy scrapbooking!



Saturday, August 15, 2009

Yummy Bread!



This is a post I've wanted to do for quite some time, but I just now was able to get to it! My kids have milk allergies, and if you've ever read ingredient labels for bread, you'll see that EVERY single bread they sell at the store has milk in it! So, I have started making bread for the family each week. Not only is it milk free (at least the way I make it), but it is so much cheaper (less than $.50 a loaf) and is healthier without all the chemicals and preservatives.

I tried many different recipes for whole wheat bread before stumbling on this one from a vegan cookbook. (Since vegans eat milk-free, it has been very helpful for me to look at vegan resources.) The first time I made the bread, it came out so wonderfully soft and delicious, I seriously thought it just a fluke. So I made it again, and it came out just as well. So I've been making it ever since. My family loves this bread so much that it is really hard to keep up with the demand. I make the dough into dinner rolls, sandwich loaves, and I even will make smaller, hoagie type loaves with it, too. So it's a very versatile dough.

Okay, here's the recipe! This recipe is enough to make 1 loaf or 3-4 hoagie loaves. This bread does take quite a while to make, since it is a double-rise bread. So make sure you don't wait til the last minute!

  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (I use the bread machine yeast)
  • 1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 3/4 cup warm milk or milk alternative of your choice (I have always used almond milk with great success, but cow milk would be just fine, too)
  • 2 Tblsp. brown sugar, maple syrup, or sweetener of choice (I have always used sucanat)
  • 2 Tblsp olive oil or vegetable oil (I have always substituted with coconut oil which gives the bread a sweet, slightly nutty flavor that is amazing!)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups bread flour
In a bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit until it is foamy. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the milk, sweetener, oil, salt and 1 cup of the whole wheat flour and mix until creamed. Add in the yeast mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour. Mix well. Add the bread flour, a little at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Remove from the bowl and knead the dough for about 5 minutes--until smooth. You can add more bread flour to the dough if the dough is getting too sticky.

Oil a bowl (I love Spectrum's non hydrogenated palm oil shortening for this) and then put the dough in the bowl. Slide it around in the bowl and then turn the dough over to coat both sides with the oil. Then cover with a clean towel and put it in a warm, undisturbed place to rise. It will be ready when it's double its starting size. I usually use my microwave to store my dough while it rises.

Once it has doubled in size, punch the dough down and form the bread loaves or rolls, or whatever shape you're wanting to make. Then place the formed dough into well oiled bread pans (again, I use the spectrum shortening, and I love pyrex glass bread pans.) If you are unsure of how to properly roll up the bread dough to form a pretty loaf, there are a lot of good resources out there. So just search for the shape of loaf you want to make, and I bet you'll be able to find a good tutorial.

Cover the bread in the pans again with the towel and let it rise again until doubled. Once the bread is nearly done, then you can preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the bread for 25-40 minutes (depending on the size of the loaf and how dark you want the crust.) I usually bake mine for 30 minutes. You can brush with butter for a crispy crust, but I never do, and it still is great. Once the bread comes out of the oven, remove it quickly from the pan and transfer to a wire cooling rack so the bottoms won't get soggy.

This bread takes several hours to make, but it is so worth it. Because I'm strapped for time, especially now with homeschooling the kids, I make big batches. I usually make 6x the recipe every week. You have to get quite creative when doing 6x the recipe because that much flour certainly doesn't fit in my kitchen aid mixer bowl! So, I add the bread flour to the mixture by mixing it all together on the counter top. (I saw Ma Ingalls do it this way on Little House on the Prairie once. That's where I got the idea! :) ) It makes a mess, but it works very well. Usually, I can get 4 sandwich loaves and 6 or 8 hoagie loaves out of the recipe. I bake half of them right away, and then I wrap and freeze the others for use throughout the week. That way, we have fresh bread all week long, and I don't have to spend the time again.

A couple tips about freezing the dough: I learned the hard way how to freeze bread dough. The first time I did it, I just formed the loaves like normal, and then wrapped them in plastic wrap and froze them. When I got them out to thaw them in the bread pan, I found out that they were too long to fit in the pan! I had forgotten to check to see if they fit! So, please make sure they fit first. But also, remember that the yeast is still active until it is frozen. So, between wrapping the dough in plastic wrap, and the time that it actually freezes hard, the bread is still going to be expanding. That brings me to my next tip that I learned the hard way: make the bread loaves too small for the bread pan before you freeze them, that way they will be able to expand and still fit in the pan when you are ready to thaw. To thaw the bread, just unwrap the dough and place it in a greased pan. Cover with a towel and let sit for several hours until thawed and doubled in size. This can take quite a while, so what I do is put my bread out to thaw after dinner, and by morning it is ready to be baked. I'll bake it before breakfast and that way I get to enjoy the smell of fresh baked bread throughout the house all day long!

I really hope you enjoy this bread as much as I do. I'd love to hear what you think about it if you try making it!


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sensational Saturday

For this episode of Sensational Saturday, I'm just going to post some photos of things that have brought joy to my senses lately.


(this is a storm rolling in around sunset. I love stormy Oklahoma skies!)

(What's sweeter than a sleeping baby, right? She wasn't feeling well, but she looks so peaceful. I could just sit and watch her sleep all day.)
(These are some cage free eggs I bought. The yolks were the brightest orange I have ever seen. Those chickens must have been eating some awesome bugs, which translates into some really healthy eggs for my family!)

(I made a bunch of loaves of bread. I'll be posting this recipe soon because it is awesome. I find it difficult to keep up with the demand for this bread.)

(We finally got our homeschool room put together. I think it turned out great. I am really thrilled with how the chairs turned out when I painted them.)
(The seat cushions and the curtains are toile. I'm just slightly obsessed with toile right now!)

(Check this out...this is my uber picky two year old eating what she thinks is a pancake. What is it really? A shredded squash fritter. It is very rare for me to be able to make veggies in a way that she will eat. I was proud!)
(Yesterday was my anniversary. These are the flowers my husband gave me. Does he know me or what?! I love blue hydrangeas--I had them at the wedding, and I have them all over my house. But he also bought a potted plant so I can plant it after the blooms die. He knew I really don't like getting expensive bouquets that just die and waste money. These made me quite happy!)

That's all for now, folks! See you around for the next post!



Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Favorites



Today I read a post on my friends facebook page that listed all of her favorite household products. I thought that was such a great idea, because you get a real sense of what truly works for people and what doesn't.

I also have to point out that everyone has their reasons for buying what they do. Some people value time, others think about safety and health, etc. So every recommendation must go through your "filter," if you will, that helps you decide if the product is right for your family. Things that work for me may not work for you for whatever reason, and vice versa.

At this point, you may be wondering what my "filter" is--what do I look for in household products? Well, I want to be a good steward of my life (and my family) with the products I buy. For my husband and me, we are concerned about the harsh, manmade chemicals that are in a lot of products. A lot of the cleaners on the market today are made up of neurotoxins and other very unhealthy chemicals that entered the scene as a result of weapons research during WWII. So it's like you have to choose to expose yourself and your family to neurotoxins, carcinogens, and endocrine disruptors (like the ever-present parabens) to have a squeaky clean house. These chemicals may do a decent job at cutting grime, but all the research I have read seems to point to the fact that they are nasty for our bodies (especially young developing children), and they are nasty for the earth (the one we have been charged with taking care of.)

The question I typically get is, "well what about money. You're supposed to be a good steward of that, too." Yes, I agree. We're supposed to be good stewards of our money, but just because safe and natural products cost more doesn't mean that they are a bad use of my money. More expensive is not equal to bad stewardship. My husband entrusts me with his hard earned money, and I feel that the products I buy are a good use of money. I do try to find good deals when I can, too, though.

So without further ado, here are my favorite products around the house. It's not an exhaustive list, but these are the products that make our family a little happier! :)

KITCHEN

Counter cleaner--Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day. At our old house, we had tile counters, so I used the counter spray. But at our new house, the counter spray leaves streaks on the solid surface counter tops, so I use the window cleaner for the counter tops.

Cutting boards/sanitation -- Good, old fashioned tea tree oil. It smells great, and sanitizes well. I have used this for quite some time in place of lysol and am happy to report that we have never gotten sick from food borne bacteria! This stuff is also great for keeping dish sponges sanitary--just keep your sponges in a bath of water with a few drops of the tea tree oil.

Old rags--we rarely use paper towels. A while back we bought some cloth diapers for Isabella, and it came with a set of microfiber bottom wipes that we didn't need. So, they became our kitchen rags. We just use them as we would use a paper towel, and when we're done with them, instead of tossing them in the trash, I just put them in a bowl on top of our dryer. I toss them in the wash when the bowl gets full enough. No problems, no hassle--contrary to what Bounty would like you to believe.

Swiffer--My house has a ton of tile floors, so I have to say that I LOVE my swiffer sweeper. I bought a package of cheap microfiber cloths at Sam's. I attach them to the swiffer just like the swiffer cloths, and they work just as well. Again, I can just pull them off and toss them in the wash.

Coconut oil--My kids are allergic to milk and milk products, so we use coconut oil in place of butter or margarine in recipes. It tastes great, plus it has a multitude of great health benefits. This is a highly underrated oil!

Spectrum Non-Hydrogenated Shortening--this is made from palm oil, and it's really quite a fantastic shortening. Again, we sometimes use this in baking in the place of butter. But I use this primarily to oil down by bread pans (since I make all of my own bread). I pretty much use this as a replacement for non-stick sprays (to avoid all the propellants, etc.) and I have had a 100% success rate using it. The breads always come out perfect on bottom.

Cloth shopping bags--My husband's company sells the big rectangular, flat bottomed cloth bags for $1 each, so I got a bunch of them. Yes, they are better than using up plastic or paper bags. But they are also great for carrying things to and from the car. They're terrific for grocery shopping because so much more can fit so much more in each make. That translates into much faster loading and unloading!

Dish Washing Soap--I usually use either Ivory soap or Biokleen's dishwashing soap (whichever I can find cheaper per ounce.) Biokleen's is much more concentrated and comes in bigger bottles. It costs more usually, but you get so much more out of it. But at the same time, I really like the smell of Ivory soap.

BATHROOMS

Counters, Sinks, Showers, Tubs--I use the shower and tube and tile sprays from 7th Generation. They smell decently okay, and they do a good job cleaning.

I also use a mop to clean the walls and floors of my shower, and the bottom of my tub. My tubs at my new house are very deep, so using the mop saves a lot of back breaking work. It's effective and time saving!

Odor Eliminator-- I'm a huge fan of Biokleen's Bac-Out. It has natural enzymes and bacteria in it that "eat" away stains and smells. It's perfect for getting rid of stinky odors that can happen in the bathroom. (Have your little boys ever made a mess all around the toilet, and the bathroom smelled like urine for days?! Put a little Bac-Out on it, and it will be much better!) I also use it for soaking soiled clothes until I can get around to washing.

Beauty--Coconut Oil! That's our biggest secret around here (not a secret anymore, really.) My kids are bi-racial and have dark skin and curly hair that is always dry. We use coconut oil in the place of lotion. (We have a separate jar we keep in the bathroom, so don't think we coat our skin with the same stuff we cook with!) The oil is great for dry skin, and has really improved the condition of my kid's skin! It's loaded with vitamins and healthy fat that are great for skin. We also use it in place of hair oil for my daughter's super curly hair. Her hair stays soft and moisturized, and it smells great to boot!

Makeup--I use mineral makeup. I try not to use the mineral makeup they sell at Wal Mart because it's still loaded with unhealthy chemicals. Although, I have used it in a pinch. I use the real mineral makeup, and it is fabulous. I've never met anyone who wasn't in love with it once they switched. My skin, which has been prone to breakouts since I was 10 or 11 cleared up dramatically. It's a little pricier at the front end, but it lasts for a rediculously long time! Not to mention, you are not exposing yourself to those endocrine disruptors that are oh so common in makeup. Check out the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database for more info! It was a huge help to me!

Sunscreen--Last year I read up on sun screen, and I have to say it was quite the eye opening experience. There is quite a debate over whether or not we even need sunscreen, but I won't get into that. For my fair skin and my daughter (who is also fair skinned, yet able to get an awesome tan), we use the Jason Naturals Mineral Block sunscreen. It's just minerals--that's it. Minerals like mica are natural sunblocks and they don't have the nasty side effects of regular sunblock. We love this sunscreen!

Soap--Guess what we use...soap! We don't use store bought detergent body soaps. We use good old fashioned real homemade soap. We actually use lye soap. Although it does contain lye, it is balanced out by the lard in the soap, which makes for an incredibly gentle soap. Everyone in our family uses this soap in the shower, and the kids wash their hair with it, too. I'm hoping to learn how to make my own soon, so I can keep our family stocked up! As an added bonus, lye soap has the ability to cut through the scent of natural skin oils, leaving you invisible to bugs. I haven't had a single mosquito bite since I started using lye soap!

LAUNDRY ROOM

Detergent/Softener--if you've read my previous blog posts, you'll already know the answer to this one! We no longer use detergents or fabric softeners. We use Soap Nuts. You can read my previous posts to find out more info. We LOVE soap nuts. They do a fantastic job cleaning and leaving clothes fresh with no residue!

Bleach--I'm not a fan of chlorine bleach for many reasons, so we use oxygen bleach. You can buy many different brands of oxygen bleach. I've found that OxyClean does work but it has so many additives. I use other brands that are about the same price, but are just plain oxygen bleach without the additives, and it works so much better in my opinion.

Okay, so what do you think? Do you use any of these products? Do you have some you'd like to recommend? Let me know!




Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Schooling


A while back I mentioned that I was going to start a unit this summer that highlights music and art. We got a bit of a late start, but we finally jumped in. The kids are loving it!


We are loosely following this lesson plan, in which kids learn about Mendelssohn and Monet. I didn't really have much Mendelssohn on hand, so I switched it up, and we're doing a study on Bach. The kids really love the Brandenburg Concerto discs that I have. We have started listening to them in the car and at home. It's sweet when I ask, "Who are we listening to?" And my little ones will say, "Tach" since they can't say "Bach."

We are, also, still studying Monet. Today we pulled the paints out, and the kids tried their hand at making an impressionist painting. I think they did pretty well! My 4 year old's painting looked more like Van Gogh than Monet, but he still enjoyed it.

On top of the art/music unit, we are doing catechism and Bible verse memory. Honestly, until fairly recently, I thought catechism was only for Catholic families. I wasn't aware that there were protestant catechisms available. I was told about an awesome book for little kids called Big Truths for Little Kids, and it's basically the Shorter Catechism with a few words changed to make the vocabulary easier on little ones. It also has great stories that highlight the points in the catechism. We've found that our kids really enjoy memorizing the catechisms, and it has been a great way to dive into theology with our children. We usually memorize Bible verses that have something to do with the questions they have been memorizing.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Revisiting My Favorites

I've been so busy lately doing my projects (and eating watermelon!) that I have fallen behind on writing posts for this blog. I have some great ideas that I want to share on here in the near future. But today, I thought I'd revisit some of my favorite natural living posts that I have written in the past. Keep reading to the bottom, because there is a surprise!


Soap Nuts


I wrote about soap nuts about a month ago, when I first started using them. These little dried berries have made a huge difference in my wash. My clothes come out smelling fresh--not chemically "fresh", but clothesline fresh. And the clothes are all really soft--even things like jeans or towels that usually are a bit "crunchy" with no fabric softener. They are quite cost effective--out to about $.09 per load if you buy them in bulk. The commercial detergent we were using was about $.12 per load, and then you have to add the price of fabric softener to that, too! Frankly, I'd pay more for them just because it's nice to know that I've gotten rid of the harsh, nasty chemicals from my laundry room. But since they're pretty cheap, it's a great deal! I mentioned in my last post about Soap Nuts that I liked the added bonus that my kids can do their own wash now, since there are no chemicals to measure or pour. This has been very nice, and since my kids are fascinated with the little "berries in a bag," they have actually wanted to do their laundry. Yay!!

Homemade Cloth Pads
(these are my latest batch of pads--made out of old plaid PJ pants, and an old baby blanket)

If you are new to my blog, you may not remember this past post. But, needless to say, I got many comments from people intrigued by the fact that I make my own cloth sanitary pads. You can read the original post here (it's on my old blog). I go into the reasons why I use cloth pads, as well as how to make them. It's been almost 2 years now since I switched to cloth from the commercial paper/plastic variety. While it seemed a bit awkward at first, storing them, washing them, etc. has just become routine to me (and to my family). I'll interject a funny story right here: Recently, I was folding laundry, and I had my clean pads on the couch. I went out to an appointment and my mother in law watched the kids. When I got home, my mother in law told me that my daughter had held up one of the pads and said, "Grammy, Momma told me what these were for, and trust me you do not want to know!" Of course she knew what they were, and we all had a great laugh. But the point of the story is that cloth pads are just a normal, everyday part of life around here.

I've found that the one thing that makes life so much easier with cloth pads is having a bottle of BacOut on hand to add to the storage water. It elimates odors and the pads come out really clean in the wash. So, that's the one thing that I would add to my previous post.

Since my previous discussion of cloth pads, I have had conversations with several women from my church about them. The women usually start by saying "Eww...isn't that gross?" But I'm happy to say that several women have "converted" to cloth pads. The yuck factor does go away as it becomes routine, and if you have chemical sensitivities like I do, you may find great relief from cramping by switching. I surely did!

And Now The Surprise!
To celebrate my favorite two favorite things, I am holding my first ever giveaway!! If you win, you will receive your choice of either a starter pack of soap nuts, or 3 homemade pads/inserts. The winner will be drawn at random next Wednesday, July 15th. To enter, please do the following:

  1. Leave a comment telling me which item you would like to receive, and why.
  2. Make sure you fill in the blank with your email address so I can contact you!
  3. You can receive two additional entries by signing up to be a follower on my blog.
Good luck!