Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Project Simplify: Pantry/Fridge

Now that we're back in town, I'm jumping back in to the Project Simplify for this week. After the first week of cleaning out our Master Closet, I'm thoroughly convinced. I still get this moment of joy just peeking in to our closet and seeing it organized.

So, this week's project is the pantry and fridge.

I'm thoroughly convinced that the best way to clean out the pantry is ..... just eat the food. Do you realize how much money is sitting in there? How much food just waits from week to week to be eaten?

So, I'm challenging you to join me in doing some .... EATING! and cleaning!

Click HERE for all the info from Simple Mom about the Project Simplify challenge.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Community Supported Agriculture

The daffodils are blooming. The tulips are peeking out their heads. The signs of Spring are all around.

Spring not only means warmer weather and beautiful scenery, but fresh food! This is the best time to get a refresher course on where to find the good stuff!

Have you started to think about how you will seize the opportunity for fresh, healthy produce this Spring and Summer?

One of our favorite places in the past has been the NC Farmer's Market downtown. There are also now markets at North Hills (starting April 16th) and in North Raleigh (starting May 1st), though, you can find them where you are, too. Click HERE to find them across the country.

One of the best times to go is on NC Farmer's Market special days. They have samples of the chosen fruit or vegetable, recipes, and discounts. It's great fun for kids!

If you are more of the rugged kind, you can start planning now to go pick your own produce.
Pick your own NC guides you to farms that allow you to pick your own. It won't be long before strawberries are ready!

This year, we are trying Lee's Produce. This service will be bringing us a box of fruits and veggies each week right to our doorstep. Boxes range in price from $21 to $25. First boxes start arriving April 8th, so I'll keep you posted!

Monday, March 28, 2011

One Thousand Gifts: (For) Saturday, Mar 26th, 2011

With an unplanned trip and funeral in recent days, our days have been busy, but not without their blessings ....

#71: A joy-giving, organized master closet
#72: A healthy bundle of answered prayers in little baby Jacob
#73: Answering machine messages from friends
#74: My loving husband who picks me up when I'm down
#75: The new Whole Foods N. Raleigh
#76: Time with my brother and sister-in-law
#77: Wisdom from experienced friends (Thanks Auntie Linda!)
#78: Being home
#79: Tax returns
#80: Swagbucks

Read about the original One Thousand Gifts list from Ann Voskamp HERE.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Frugal Friday: Swagbucks

One more way that I've found to help our family financially is Swagbucks. Swagbucks basically works on a chain premise. You go through their website to find deals, coupons, etc. and they make advertising and referral dollars that they then pass on to you in the form of points (called "swagbucks").

Swagbucks allows you to earn points that can then be used on useful items like gift cards (restaurants, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Travelocity, Southwest Airlines, etc). By signing up alone, you almost have enough for a $5 Amazon gift card. In just the past few weeks, I've earned enough for two $25 Travelocity gift certificates that I'm going to use for our vacation.

I have earned super Swagbucks by purchasing a Living Social deal, which I would have bought anyway. I've also earned for logging in, answering a daily poll, etc.

I've earned Swagbucks for using coupons that I printed through them from (Another website that I would use anyway).

And yet another way that you earn Swagbucks is by telling other people about .... Swagbucks. When you signup through me, then both of us earn SBs.

All those little points add up to some great ..... FREE stuff!

Click HERE to sign up for Swagbucks!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Francis Chan Videos on Desiring God

Desiring God offers lots of incredible resources to grow and learn in your faith.

Check out this link for all of Francis Chan's talks given in association with Desiring God. (Click HERE)

Sermons offered include:
Think Hard, Stay Humble: The Life of the Mind and the Peril of Pride (Oct 2010)
Prayer as a Way of Walking in Love: A Personal Journey (Feb 2011)
Why We all Need the Gospel (Feb 2011)

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

One Thousand Gifts - Sat, Mar 19th, 2011

#61: Tulip leaves peeking out
#62: Peace between family members
#63: Merciful death for my grandmother
#64: The memory of fun cards received from my grandparents for St.Patrick's Day
#65: Warmer Weather (How many times can I be grateful for one thing?)
#66: Majestic blooming trees
#67: Thoughtful gifts from a great-grandmother to her great granddaughter
#68: Precious memories
#69: Willing friends who jump to help when needed
#70: A God who celebrates even in tears

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Power of the Other Book

Fridays will now be the home of Frugal Fridays!

I will quickly admit that there are some who make frugality in to a profession. I'm not one of those.

There are some who use every waking minute and effort in to pinching pennies. I'm not one of those.

There are some who will sign up for just about anything if you can get something for free. I'm not one of those. * Remember, I'm decluttering my house! *

But, what I can offer is how we save money with little time and relatively little effort.

Like this example from this week ....

Using our Entertainment book, I had a coupon for $15 off my new tennis shoes. The same tennis shoes that I would have walked in to the store and bought anyway. Add in that the employee in that department gave me a $10 coupon and I asked at the register if I could use both ... and I ended up saving $25 on my new shoes. Now, with almost no extra time or effort, I just made my family $25. NICE!

So my tip for this week is ... The Fabulous ... The Wonderful ... Entertainment Book!

If you don't have one, you should get one! It will pay for itself after using one or two coupons, and we use far more than that! We use their coupons on everything from restaurants, jumpin' places for the kids, museums, sporting goods stores (see above), hotels, etc. They are available for a number of different cities and areas around the country.

Right now, they are running a special: Get your book for just $17 with SH&P (Normally, they are $30 but because the  book runs from November 1, 2011, to Oct 31, 2012, they are discounted right now).

They even suggest buying the book if you vacation in a given area because of the great entertainment coupons. Think places like Myrtle Beach, Orlando, etc.

Click HERE to try it out!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Homeschooling: The Why's

Go to fullsize imageWhen we started homeschooling, I kept reading everywhere that you should know "why" you homeschool. At that point in time, it wasn't as important. The longer we have homeschooled, the more important I have learned it is to know your why.

Why do we homeschool?
We want our children to learn and know the world through the eyes of faith. At this point in time, we feel that the best way for us to do that is through homeschooling. In our homeschool, we value faith and knowledge of God and His ways, appreciation for the created world, and knowledge and skills used in His service.

Will we always homeschool?
I don't know. We have talked about putting our kids in school if we lived in other places, but for now, we feel the best choice is to have our kids home. As they get older and our family changes, we will continue to evaluate if this is the best choice for our family.

What is wrong with public school?
I will readily admit that there are some great public schools and teachers in them. Both hubby and I went to public schools and loved them. In our area, at this time, we have some concerns about what our children would be learning. 

Why is it important to know your "why"?
There are a lot of great days, but there will also be days when you wonder "Why am I doing this?". That's when you have to know, from your heart, why you are doing it. That statement, also, provides some anchor when you sense a need in your child or you are evaluating your curriculum and your daily schedule. It proves to be invaluable.

Some great homeschooling websites for you this week:
Confessions of a Homeschooler Blog : Great Blog with all kinds of resources, including a preschool manipulatives curriculum

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine  Another great resource in the magazine and their email newsletters with tips on all kinds of homeschool topics

North Carolina Home Educators If you're here in NC, start with the NCHE website for guidelines on homeschooling in our state and for info on their annual conference in May

Next week ... 

"Let's talk Curriculum" or
"How do you know what to teach?"

Monday, March 14, 2011

What has worked for you?

A dear friend who just had their third baby asked me  recently. She was inquiring about how I was managing to study Scripture.
Having a newborn, no matter how many other children you have, disrupts your sleep, your schedule, your life. This also, though, provides you the opportunity to try new things and get out of that 'ole rut.
But there are other times of sick children, sick spouses, family needs, traveling, dry seasons spiritually, etc.
For those of you going through a demanding season (for whatever reason), here are some easy ideas that have worked for me: 
** Listening to Bible heavy sermons/conferences/podcasts on my Ipod while nursing or in the car or while unloading laundry/dishes ... Some of my favorites are John Piper, Francis Chan, Nancy Leigh Demoss, Focus on the Family, Family Life, etc.
** Memorizing Scripture with the kids over snacks/meals (for us this is also part of school).
** Reading through the Bible in a year - It's more to have a plan and chunks already determined - but just reading what I can when I can from the plan.
** Reading the Bible out loud when at the table with the kids. Whenever, however it happens.
** Letting hubby lead Bible reading time at night with the kids and I'll listen in.
** Listening to worship music that includes Scripture or at the least hymns which have sound theology in them (i.e. Indelible Grace)
Here are some helpful links:
Pray magazine's website has tons of resources
One Place has lots of podcasts and audio shows to listen to

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Project Simplify Challenge #1: Master Closet

Well folks, I have to say that both hubby and I are both very pleased with the result of some work during the week and quite a bit of time today.

We decided to introduce a new way of organizing our clothes. Previously, we had stored clothes based on season. Since we both have gained baby weight, we realized that we have multiple kinds of clothes and multiple sizes. We decided to go ahead and group our clothes by size and not by season. So, I have a box of "Medium - size 8-10ish" clothes, "Large 12-16ish clothes" and then what is hanging in the closet right now is "XL size 18+". I have a separate box for maternity. I'm only allowing myself one extra bed box of each size. This will make it so much easier as I drop the pounds to pull out what fits and only keep in my closet those items.

So, *drum roll* here are the BEFORE pics for you ....

AFTER ....

room enough for the kids to play
Room enough for the dresser, too!

If you're interested in joining in this week on the next challenge,
click HERE for the Simple Mom website. The new challenge will be
introduced on Monday for another area of your house!

One Thousand Gifts - Sat, Mar 12th, 2011

#51: Sun  and warm weather in the forecast for the next 7 days
#52: A healthy premature nephew born to a friend
#53: A healthy sister and new Mom (goes with #52)
#54: A little notebook where my little girl shares her heart with me
#55: Masking tape
#56: Coupons for free Krispy Kreme
#57: Hopes and dreams for the future
#58: A blog reader from Pakistan (REALLY? You're kidding me!)
#59: A cleaner closet
#60: A growing, healthy baby

Lent Resource from John Piper

If you are looking for an activity to do as a family, check out this resource by John Piper for the Sundays in Lent called Lenten Lights devotionals .

If you're interested, here also is a peek into the Piper's house to see how they prepare for Easter with a post entitled Preparing for Holy Week.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Homeschooling: Our Story

In starting to share with you about homeschooling, I have to start by telling you our story.

Emily and Logan with cousins Shanna and Lauren (2009)
Even before we had children, Bert and I felt pretty certain that we would homeschool. Bert was very close with his cousin's family, who had 5 children (at the time). They were the most wonderful, mannered, polite, intelligent little people we had ever met. We only hoped that our children might turn out like them. We thought that homeschooling was a big part of it.

(Note: These kids are still homeschooled and are still turning out to be pretty wonderful young adults, I have to say. Kudos to Mark and Rachael for their great parenting and the grace of God!)

Emily working on spelling(2010)
We started Emily a year early in preschool, honestly, because we didn't have anything else to do. She was eager to learn, I was eager to figure out what this homeschooling thing was. Then, we followed with a year of kindergarten, then first grade. This year, we are doing first grade again because we changed curriculum, and I wanted to move Emily back to where her peers are in grade. We also added a new preschool student, Logan, to our school. Oh yeah. And we had a baby!

Here  are some of the questions to answer in coming weeks:
Why do you homeschool?
What is wrong with public school?
What curriculum do you use/have you used?
How do you organize yourself?
What does your typical day look like?
What about personalities?
What do you wish you would have known?
Has it been hard?

If you have other questions, I would love to answer them!! Just comment or email me!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday ... the start of 40 Days of Water

From Blood:Water Mission ...
 [Please let me know if you are joining in during Lent so we can encourage one another!]

Here's how to begin:
We’ve put together this handy website for you to:
  • Create your unique profile page
  • Track your progress
  • Share your experience with friends
  • See who else is doing Forty Days of Water
  • And, to eventually donate your savings to clean water projects in Uganda
Be sure to register and activate your account, so we can send you a Forty Days wristband in the mail and a physical scorecard to keep in your pocket. Remember to confirm your email after you register to be able to log in.
It’s a big commitment to not drink anything but water for Forty days. But from March 9 to April 23, that’s exactly what we’re asking you to do. By giving up what you'd normally drink in exchange for the water from your tap you can save that money to help build clean water projects for communities in Uganda. Imagine it this way, because $1 can provide a year of water for 1 person in Africa, with each drink you give up each day, you'll be providing years of water for someone else.
Be sure to visit the webstore to order a new Forty Days of Water bottle to remind you to head to the tap! By giving up what you’d normally drink in exchange for the water from your tap you can save that money to help build clean water projects for communities in Uganda. 
Also, in case you are wondering why there are actually 46 days between March 9 & April 23, Forty Days follows the traditional Lenten season calendar which consist of 40 fast days and 6 rest/feast days. You get to enjoy your favorite beverages one day out of the week, which will remind you just how much you miss them the other 6 days. most people take Sunday off. How you choose to observe Forty Days is up to you.
Ditch the morning coffee and o.j., leave out the lunchtime soda, and cancel the evening beverage in lieu of clean water from the tap. By sacrificing your daily routine, you will make a difference in the life of a person in Africa. If you’ve registered on the website and created a profile page, you can track your beverages online.
Also, if you’re the mobile savvy type, we’ve created a mobile site for you to track your beverages on the go. Visit from your smart phone to sign in and start tracking.
During your Forty Days, there are a number of ways to get the word out about what you’re doing:
  • Tweet and Facebook your friends. (Use the hashtag #40Days when tweeting to @bloodwater)
    Another great reason to follow us on your social network is to share the daily 40 Days Water Fact.  
  • Blog or video moments from your experience. You may choose to keep a journal or record your thoughts or experiences along the way. Be creative. We’d love to share some of your stories to help inspire others. Tweet, email or facebook us -or- Share your story  here.
  • Print these info cards to give out at places when people ask you why you’re drinking only water. It’s easier to do this with friends. Ask those you spend the most time with to take part with you.
  • You can also ask people to donate to your efforts by directing them to your profile page on the Forty Days website and have them click on “Support my Forty Days”.
  • After April 23rd, your donations can be handled online by clicking Donate on the Forty Days website, or you can send a check to: Blood:Water Mission, c/o “40 DAYS,” P.O.Box 60381 Nashville, TN 37206   *Be sure to write “40 Days” in the memo of the check.
We hope that through this experience you’ll be reminded daily of the privilege of having safe water at your everyday disposal, and that you gain a sense of solidarity with your neighbors in Africa. We also expect that your heart will be filled with hope that something can be done about the water crisis – and that you’re a part of actually doing it.
So get started... Head to the tap so they can go to the well.

Project Simplify: Week 1 - Master Closet

I hope you're jumping in to the Spring Cleaning spirit and trying out the Project Simplify.

Can I tell you that I already LOVE this! I worked on Monday afternoon for about an hour on our closet and I can tell a big difference already. I actually LOVE going in to my new cleaned out closet. Yes! Really!

I will post here my BEFORE pictures.

A fabulous reader asked me,"What are you doing with the stuff?"

Clothes that are worth anything I'm giving to Goodwill. A few  items I will try to sell on Craigslist. Some things are just going in the trash can.

 It's been a work in progress that I put things in the trash can. You see, I have a default that says that somebody, somewhere must be able to use "X" and I'm going to try and find them. OR, I was going to try and find them. Now I've realized that I live in a world where almost everybody has not just what they need, but also what they want. I don't have the time or energy to find that perfect somebody for my stuff, and I do a disservice to my own family by wasting my time finding them.

Purge and move on!

Here are the BEFORE pics!

Behind the door

Can't wait to show you the AFTER pictures this coming weekend!

If you're interested in joining Project Simplify, it's not too late! Click HERE for the info!


Monday, March 7, 2011

Killing Sin

 " ... choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin...Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you. Your being dead with Christ virtually, your being quickened with him, will not excuse you from this work."

                                                                         From Mortification of Sin, by John Owen

Be killing sin


it will be killing you.

There is salvationary grace for sin that is once-and-for-all. 
And then there is the everyday life of conviction, repentance, and restoration. In pursuit of the kingdom on Earth, I seek to mortify the sin and exercise kingdom power over it. That is where the rubber meets the road. Where life starts to change.

If I really took my sin seriously, I would realize the weight of just one act against God. It's enough to separate me from God. And yet, all day long, I stray.

John Piper's recent seminar at Bethlehem College "I Act the Miracle" is profound and instructive on dealing with your daily sin and moving toward killing it.

Click HERE for the video (approx. 40 min).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

One Thousand Gifts - Sat, Mar 5th, 2011

#41: Tiny fingers wrapped around mine
#42: "Mommy, I love sorting laundry!" Emily
#43: The smell of my husband's deoderant
#44: Daffodils blooming
#45: My grandmother doing better in the hospital
#46: Honest words with my Mom
#47: "Lo4 loves you" Logan
#48: A Saturday outing with my family
#49: A phone call from a dear friend struggling.
#50: Gathering with good friends who love and serve well together

There is much to be grateful for today!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Introducing Project Simplify

As I've been working on clearing out our house this year, I've realized that even when you're highly motivated, it can be hard to know where to start. Once you make progress in one corner, you realize the 10 other places that could use an hour or two as well. There is always another "hotspot".

When I saw the Project Simplify challenge on a Blog that I follow, I was instantly thrilled. Here's the basic premise ...

Each Monday, a hotspot is selected and posted. You take a "BEFORE" picture of that area. Then, over the week, you work on that one specific area. Declutter. Clean. Maybe ... decorate?? Then on Friday, you post your "AFTER" picture. Then, sit and revel in progress and accomplishment.

This could be a great way to get a few specific places tackled.
Here is the original post introducing Project Simplify. Check it out!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Forty Days of Water

FORTY DAYS OF WATER | March 9 - April 23 | *no ark necessary
Whether you're excited or anxious, it's that time again. This Lenten season we're inviting you to again choose to make tap water your only beverage for 40 Days. Ditch the morning coffee and o.j., leave out the lunchtime soda, cancel the evening beverage, and especially cut out all the bottled water, drinking only clean water from the tap. By sacrificing your everyday routine, you will make a lasting difference in the life of a person in Africa.
By giving up what you'd normally drink in exchange for the water from your tap you can save that money to help build clean water projects for communities in Uganda. Imagine it this way, because $1 can provide a year of water for 1 person in Africa, with each drink you give up each day, you'll be providing years of water for someone in need.
All funds raised this year will benfit water projects in northern Uganda. Watch the video below to learn more about the restorative work in Lira, Uganda that needs your help.
Drink from the tap, so they can go to the well.

Thinking Love download

"How a Seven Year Old Sees Van Gogh" Silas K.
Silas, Age 5

I feel so privileged to get questions about homeschooling from friends. I remember asking some of the same questions when our kids were smaller and we were thinking about school.

How do you know what to teach?

What do your days look like?

What about discipline issues?

What about differing personalities?

And then, there were things that I didn't even know to ask about that I have learned over the years. Yes, we are now in our 4th year of homeschooling!

Over the next few weeks, I hope to answer some of these questions on the blog on Thursdays.

To start you off, I'd like to direct you to this free e-book from Simply Charlotte Mason - "A Thinking Love"

Here is the description from their website ....

Join Sonya Shafer as she explores what “a thinking love” means and contemplates the various ways that Charlotte Mason encouraged thinking mothers to show their love to their children.
  • Encouraging—The short, practical chapters will both challenge and equip you in your role as a thinking mother, dealing with topics like
    • The need for boundaries in our children’s lives,
    • Teaching our children the meaning of must,
    • A reminder of some simple laws of health,
    • A description of true education,
    • A caution against playing favorites,
    • Giving our children the best of Mother,
    • Dealing with faults,
    • Encouraging our children’s relationships with God,
    • And more!
  • Christian—As was common in her writings, Charlotte’s comments grew from a strong love for her Savior and respect for God’s Word.
  • Inspiring—More than seventy Charlotte Mason quotes on different aspects of being a thinking mother.
Click HERE to download the free E-book! Hope you enjoy!