Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Pantry Challenge- getting ready

Every January I like to do a pantry challenge (that's when we eat out of the pantry and freezer for as long as we can, getting creative and buying very little).  Over the year stuff has accumulated in the pantry and the freezer, you know, random stuff that got pushed to the back and forgotten.  We're also coming off of the holidays and despite how hard I try.... I go over budget.  It's time to clean out and get the budget back on track!  This works best when I prepare some things ahead of time.  Here's how I prepare for my pantry challenge.

I take inventory of what is in my pantry and freezer.  I check expiration dates.  I want to be sure that I'm using anything close to expiring first.  Go through the freezer and refrigerator as well.  This would be a good time to finish off those almost (or half) empty bottles of sauces, or do something with that piece of meat in the back of the freezer, or the bag of pot stickers you had forgotten about....

I gather everything I really want us using durning the challenge into one place.  All of those odd items that got lost in the back, or that are about to expire; they all need to be in one place.  Either set aside a shelf, spot on the counter, or some sort of bin for all of this (the nonperishable stuff).  If possible set aside a shelf in the freezer and refrigerator for the items you found there.
These two totes hold all of the items we want to use up first.  Open packages and food close to the expiration date (in the next 4 months or so) all get pulled out and put in here.  It's mostly breakfast and snack type items.

I start planning our meals from what I've found.  I do this a week at a time durning the challenge taking a quick inventory each week to see what else we need to get through.

My goal this year is both to clean out the pantry and to get our food budget back on track.  Part of the cleaning out goal is getting rid of the junk that accumulated over the year and get us back on track in the diet area.

Are you going to do a pantry challenge?  If so, what are your goals?  Let me know!

Monday, November 21, 2016

About Santa....

Did you know that the modern Santa Clause has his origins in the life of a real man?  Did you know there really was a Saint Nicholas?  We don't "do" Santa in our home, but we do have fun with Saint Nicholas day...a fun tradition I celebrated as a child.  It's a great opportunity for studying a bit of church history, looking at how other countries celebrate Christmas, and talking about how we get some of our legends and stories.  Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th.

The little red book is "The True Story of Saint Nicholas" and is one of our favorites.  I love all of the Children's books by Voice of the Martyrs including "The Story of St. Nicholas."  This one gives more of the details of his involvement in the early church, which we like.

I love that we can keep this such a simple celebration if we want.  We generally just put a candy cane, chocolate coins, a clementine (or cutie, halo...whatever they're called this season) and usually some Kinder Chocolate in their shoes.  I love hearing my kids list off the things they know will be stuffed in their shoes, it's so simple, but they are still so very excited.  Sometimes we surprise them with some extras too.

In recent years we started doing a big meal with our favorite German and Polish foods.  This is a fun way to celebrate our family's roots as well as those Eastern European countries that claim connections to Saint Nicholas.

We've found that doing Saint Nicholas Day helps our children that had (in the past) struggled with informing other children that "there is no Santa" to understand that there really had been one long ago.  We've also seen other families be able to ease their children out of believing in Santa without the harsh reality that mom and dad had been lying to them.  This reality can be so hard on children, and also cause them to question many truths that their parents have told them.  I love the balance that Saint Nicholas gives in this area and we're able to look at what a blessing it is to be able to give to others during this season too.  This is a season for celebrating the BEST GIFT EVER....Jesus Christ and HIS saving grace!  He gave us so much and we can celebrate by giving to others.

If you are interested in more books about Saint Nicholas here are some recommendations....Saint Nicholas; The Real Story of a Christmas Legend and The Baker's Dozen; A Saint Nicholas Tale are a couple favorites around here.  I'm looking at Nicholas of Myra and The Saint who would be Santa Clause as possible additions for this year (we've not read them yet though).

***I'm an Amazon Affiliate.  If you shop through my links I'll get a itty-bit of extra cash that I'll likely use to buy another book for my kids.  The books I've linked to are ones we either already own, or would like to have.***

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Teaching character and honesty

I was asked recently if we have any books that we use for teaching character and honesty.  Whew, that one is a tough one!  This is one of the most important jobs a parent has, to teach these things.  I think it is really one that must be lived out as we talk to our children about the choices we are making in life.  As we live our our faith.  Even as we model these things for our kids (and share our failures and the consequences as well) outside influences and their own sin natures come into play.  Our children will struggle and fail in some way or another; just as we have.  These are opportunities to grow and learn.  As parents we are responsible for our own obedience to God in teaching and training the children He has given us.  We are not responsible for their salvation, only the Holy Spirit can do that work.

Our first resource in teaching our children should always be the Bible.  Reading through the Bible as a family is HUGE.  I highly recommend reading through the Bible as a family chronologically.  We've been using this plan for about 7 years now.  For help on specific topics, walking through The Gospel, and character building I really like The Child Training Bible.  I use it in our circle time regularly to just go through the verses to remind us of what the Bible says about various topics, but also when dealing with specific issues privately with a child.

As parents we must consider what is going into their hearts and minds.  What are they watching, reading, and what games are they playing.  Who are they interacting with?  Who are their friends, teachers, etc?  All of these things contribute to the condition of their heart. If you feel that you must remove some of those influences I highly recommend finding something good to replace what you are taking away.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.  Matthew 15:18

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things. Philippians 4:8

As for book recommendations....the best I can do is recommend some books that we've enjoyed that reenforce honesty and good/godly character.  Pilgrim's Progress is a great one; there are many versions including children's and updated easier to read ones.  We've loved so many Lamplighter Books all of them have reenforced some character trait that we desire to teach our children.  They can be rather expensive, but Amazon does have some at lower prices than if you but directly from Lamplighter.  Some great Lamplighters to start with would be Teddy's Button, Tom Gillies,  Basil (Or, Honesty and Industry), Little Sir Galahad, and The White Knights.  All of these books make great family reading books, but many of my kids have read them on their own as well.

If your child is not so excited about reading old time books and would like something more contemporary I highly recommend the many books by Chuck Black; there's The Kingdom Series, The Knights of Arrethtrae Series, and the Wars of the Realm Series (this series is for more mature children...they recommend 13+ years).

I also highly recommend reading biographies of those that have gone before us.  Heroes of the Christian faith, we love the YWAM ones.  Reading about how others have run the race and some of their struggles can be very encouraging.  The story of John Bunyan could be a very encouraging one to a child that is having a rough time, to know that a great man of God struggled greatly.

This is hardly a complete list, but hopefully it provides a good start.  Often we find great books by looking one up on Amazon and looking at the recommendations that follow (it doesn't always work out, but it's a great place to start looking for more).

*I'm an Amazon affiliate.  If you shop through some of these links I'll make an itty bit of a commission on the sale which I'll likely spend on more books. ;) 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Thanksgiving reading

We spend the month of November reading about the Pilgrims.  I love that we've just finished our Reformation reading which is a GREAT lead in to our Thanksgiving reading.  Understanding a bit about the Reformation and the circumstances that lead to the Pilgrims making that voyage to settle in America helps us to better grasp the great work God was doing.  As we understand their risks and hardships we are better able to be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy and the gifts God has given us.
I think it's been discontinued; but if you can find them the Fisher Price Little People Mayflower and Thanksgiving sets are great sets to have for this time of year.

We start with this basic board book.  Its a great overview for the little ones.

I love that The Landing of the Pilgrims gives a great amount of background and detail to better understand their motivations and what they went through to get to America.  I'm thinking it's about 6th grade level, but we use it as a read aloud.

 I absolutely love the book by Eric Metaxas Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving.  It tells how God took something evil and (through His providence) brought Squanto to the Pilgrims to help them survive.

We have several other books that are greatly enjoyed as well.  They range from educational to devotional and even just plane silly.  The educational ones are The Pilgrims' First Thanksgiving, A Light Kindled; The Story of Priscilla Mullins, and Three Young Pilgrims.  This book is new to us and I'm looking forward to going through it with the kids...Thanksgiving; A Time To Remember.  For myself I like to pull out Choosing Gratitude every year; I seem to need it. ;)  The Night Before Thanksgiving is just a fun one that sweetly captures the feeling of excitement as family gathers to celebrate.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Feeding the independent baby; silicone feeders

I posted not too long ago about teething and first foods.  Baby is a bit older now and is turning out to be quite the independent eater.  She doesn't want to be fed from a spoon.  Nor does she want to pick up little pieces with her fingers.  Oh no.  She wants it all in a mesh feeder.  She's a silly eater.  Those are handy for some things, but are quite a chore to clean up with most foods.  I started looking into options.  Here are my reviews on the several that I ordered....

This one arrived first; it is the Fresh Food Baby Feeder.  This one is size "Large"  I ordered it knowing my baby is older and would want more food.  She can also handle slightly larger chunks (just incase the holes ended up being larger as well).  On our first try I filled it with (homemade) butternut puree.  When that ran out we switched to jarred baby food peas (all would be a stage 1 consistency).  She LOVED it!  The purees were a bit thin for this and it ended up being messy, BUT it worked and more food ended up in her than if I'd tried to spoon feed those to her.  I've since used this with thicker homemade baby foods and it's worked wonderfully.  This also came with a cover which will be handy we are on the go.

The next set to arrive was a set designed for pureed foods, but will also hold liquids.  It has a slit on the bottom (in the picture it looks like it also has holes, but those are just bumps for texture).  They really only let food/liquids out when baby sucks on it.  I put beef broth in it for her to try.  I refilled it 3 times.  I think this would have been great a couple of months ago and I'll use it a bit now too.  It came in a set of 2.  My plan is to fill one with expressed milk and freeze it.  This will be helpful for teething or if she's sick.  I'd recommend it more for 4-6 month babies are just starting on foods, but we'll find it useful now too as she's not interested in a bottle or sippy cups.


I was super excited about this Kidsme feeder.  It comes in a size large and you can purchase replacement sacs for it.  The "sac" is a bit larger than the others and the holes are larger too.  It'll be great for pieces of fresh fruit etc.  I put homemade baby food in it for her first try.  It was veggies and beef, and a fairly thick mix.  None of it came out of the holes while I was filling it, but it seemed to come out nicely for her when she chewed on it.  The mess was no bigger than it would have been had I tried to spoon feed her, but she was much happier eating this way.  I do have one concern with this design.  The hinged latch for securing it closed.  It may hold up just fine, but if any part is going to give out on this I'm guessing that's the part.  Just something to consider.

The Boon is the last one we tried.  I ordered it with intention of using it with fresh fruits.  We were out of the softer ones like bananas and blueberries when it arrived though so we gave it a try with fresh homemade apple sauce.  She loved this one too!  I did notice a couple of small things that makes this one not-my-favorite, but it's still good.  1)the silicone portion is bigger and the holes go farther up...she can't get it all in her mouth so it makes a bigger mess.  2)I like the straight handle to help teach motor skills, but there is no place to attach it to a chain to keep it from falling on the floor 3)the base and sac are not attached making refilling more difficult/messy 4) when she dropped it on our tile floors it opened every time. 5) it has no cap/cover making it a bit harder to use on the go.  Baby loves this one and I'm glad we have it, it also costs less than any of the others.  I just noticed more issues with it.  It was certainly worth the $4 I spent on it.

Bottom line?  All of these were much easier to clean than the mesh ones we had been using.  All of them are more versatile in the types of foods they hold.  Baby LOVES them all.  All but the Boon are also great for on the go.  None of them hold more than a tablespoon, some less.  Each one is slightly different and I do like having several as they need to be refilled throughout our meals.

Do you have a silly eater?  This book is one of our family's favorites...The Seven Silly's about a large family of silly eaters and how they figured out a meal they all like and could work together on it (instead of mom wearing herself out trying to make her silly eaters happy).  I'd recommend the hardcover as you'll have to replace the paperback one a couple of time if you get that. ;) 

*I'm and Amazon affiliate.  If you shop through the above links and pictures (of products) I'll make a tiny bit of $$$ off of your purchase.  It's a nice way to say "thank you for taking the time to type this up."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Teaching about the Reformation

A friend recently asked me what we use to teach about the Reformation.  I thought while I was going about answering her question that I may as well make it a blog post.  We certainly do not go too far in depth, but it accomplishes our goals.  I suppose I should start with our goals...

1. We want to teach church history.

2. We want the kids to know about those that have given so much in obedience to God so that we may be able to read God's word and freely live out our faith.

3.  We want them to know and understand that following Christ is not easy.  Following Him involves suffering and sacrifice.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

But even if you suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  "Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened." 1 Peter 3:14

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.  Pilippians 1:29

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you Matthew 5:12

While many went before him and many after as well, Martin Luther is considered by many to have started the Reformation.  We've enjoyed these two simple books about Martin Luther.


We've really enjoyed reading the book Courage and Conviction: Chronicles of the Reformation Church.  They are short chapters focusing on one person in one point of time during the Reformation.  The book can be read as a whole to give a bigger picture, or pick and chose the chapters to learn of individuals.  I've used this as both a read-aloud or assigned it to individual children.

There are a few DVD's that we enjoy this time of year as well.




We do have other books, many historical fiction that help bring the time to life.  Maybe I'll do another post another year?  For now this is a great jumping off point.  Many of these books and DVDs were found simply by searching for one book that lead to another, and then another, and another....

*I'm an Amazon Affiliate.  If you shop through the links (and images that are links) above I'll make a tiny bit of $$ off of your purchase.  It's a nice way of saying "thank you" to me if you appreciate the time and effort it took for me to post this. :) 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Graze snacks

So, I've been hearing about Graze for a few months now.  I decided to give it a try and received my first box (which was FREE!!!) today.  After batting away the masses that were trying to get at it, I was able to give one a try.  It was their "Pumpkin Spice Flapjack" which is basically a granola bar.  I liked it, and so did everyone else that managed to get a couple of bites.
This first box was free!  It has 4 snacks in it.  After this my boxes will have 8 snacks and will cost $12 including shipping.  If you follow my links you can get a free 4 pack too AND your 5th box is supposed to be FREE!  What a deal!

The box itself was cool and easy to open.  Unfortunately my teens were the ones that pulled it out of the mail box.  The box caught their eyes right away.  Now they are hovering waiting for me to try another one.  I guess they like the looks of the Grilled Cheese, Raspberry & Coconut Muffin as well as the Cranberry & Hazelnut Toasts (with a rich cocoa dip).  I'll have to tuck these away and munch on them while I'm out running errands, or while the kids are in their co-op classes.  That was sort of the point of getting these anyways.  I wanted some healthy, easy to grab snacks that were outside of my usual go-to-snacks for my busy days out of the house.

Graze is a subscription service.  They have a list of snacks that you go through and mark with your level of interest (from "trash" to "love it") and they send you a box of snacks based on your input.  It's a bit like a Stitch Fix only cheeper and it is food instead of clothes.  I loved the surprise of a box full of snacks to try that all looked interesting to me.  I've got mine set to come once a month, but you can have the boxes come once a week or every other week too.

***If you follow my links and sign up for a Graze box I'll earn $1 towards my next Graze box!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Teething and first foods

Our littlest one is six months old.  It seems like she's been teething for months and she's starting to show quite a bit of interest in what we're eating too.  I thought I'd share some of our current and past favorites on both the subject of teething and first foods since some of it overlaps.

Most baby toys are good for teething of some sort since they are all made to go in mouths, but here are some of our favorites...

This Raz-berry has been a favorite for the last 2-3 babies.  It is easy to grab and has a few textures depending on what part makes it in their mouths.

These teethers that look like various foods put a big smile on my face and the rest of the family's as well.  Baby likes the texture and that it sometimes looks like the foods we are eating. ;)

These silicone spoons were a gift from my mom.  Our baby likes chewing on them, both because they feel good and because I think she knows they are similar to what everyone else is using at the table.  She's enjoying getting to practice feeding herself and is quite proud of her accomplishment when she gets the bowl of the spoon in her mouth.

We keep all of these fun teething/food related toys right by the dining room table where we can easily grab them during the meal for baby.

Because we've had some food intolerances with the last few babies I wanted to re-examine the way we did first foods.  This article on Mommypotamus was very interesting and helpful.  I'm going to be extra cautious this time as we introduce foods.  For right now the baby just seems interested in what we are eating, and not actually eating it herself.  I think it'll still be a while before she really gets into foods.

I've used these mesh teethers for several of my babies.  They are great for first foods and for teething.  Win! Win!  I've be putting bone broth ice cubes in one of these for my little one.  Bananas, blueberries, and many other fruits or veggies have been very popular in these with past babies.

What about your little ones?  What are their favorite teething toys or first foods?

****I'm an Amazon Associate.  That means that if you shop through my links above I'll get an itty-bit of $$$ from Amazon which I will end up spending at Amazon on my kids. ;) ***

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Fall Fix

Last month I got another box from Stitch Fix.  I'm finally getting around to posting about it 'cause you know, life....

Something I noticed with this Fix and REALLY appreciated was that my stylist tried hard to stick to my requests.  I made color requests but also asked that accommodations be made for my post baby figure; in that I'm nursing and (slowly) losing weight.  Every item sent fit within those parameters.  Given their limited (but fairly good) inventory I really appreciated that such an effort was made.  She also sent items that worked together; something else I really appreciated.

We were a bit busy the day my Fix came and didn't manage to take pictures of everything.  I can't quite remember what 2 of the items were.  1 item gave us all a good laugh.  The polka dot pants with the black ribbon down the sides just didn't do it for me.  They reminded me (and my mom, who was here) of my brothers' marching band pants.  I'm sure they'll look great on someone else, but I just couldn't get past the stripe down the side.  The fit was perfect (elastic waist) and I loved the color.
Looks like someone else in this picture was having some pants problems too! ;)

I LOVED the skirt that was sent.  The style, colors and fit were perfect.  I so appreciated that a top was sent that went with it.  While the studs on the top were not something I would normally choose I like the accent and since I don't usually wear jewelry it adds that nice touch.  I like that this outfit will transition nicely into fall.  Worn as is it is perfect for our warmer fall days, but I can easily add boots and a jacket to carry it into our cooler (and sometimes COLD) days.
These are the two items I ended up keeping.

Stitch Fix has been such a fun treat for me to add just a bit of extra fun to my wardrobe.  It can be hard for me to get out and shop for myself at this point in life, let alone thinking outside my "box."  If you're interested in trying this service I'd LOVE it if you followed my links and signed up that way.  When your first Fix ships I get a credit, that's what helps me pay for this fun! :) 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What we're reading- September

I thought I'd share some of the books that are being read around here this month...

I've got several books I'm in the process of reading, here's a couple-

For Bible study I'm reading this one-

In my free time (Ha!) I'm reading the last for the Lord of the Rings series.  I started it the month before baby was born....she's now 6 months old.

My oldest child is reading this one which was assigned by Daddy.  I'm hoping to get to it some time too.

My oldest boys have been reading through the Wingfeather saga, this is the first one.

My little ones have been enjoying good 'ole The Little Red Hen  though Mothergoose Nursery Rymes is brought to me regularly as well.

I'm going through this one for reading lessons with my beginning readers.

What are your favorite books right now?  I'm always looking for GREAT reads for any age.

***I'm an Amazon associate.  If you shop through my links above I'll make and itty-bit of $$$ which will promptly be spent on more books, toys etc on Amazon. ;)***