Sunday, February 19, 2017

This Week In Pictures

 Sunday evening Aaron and Megan managed to get a brush pile burning that we had wanted to get burned up before the snow was gone. I had tried to start in on Saturday but it went out but they were persistent and got it going. We roasted brats and hotdogs for supper on it.
 Megan made this cute "doily" for a valentine's decoration.
 Waffles with raspberry sauce for breakfast on Valetine's day. Yummy!
 We offered babysitting services to several young families at church for Valentine's day. This was our lunchtime party that we had while the parents were out.
 A fun time was had by all.
 In the evening we had this special nephew of mine come to spend some time with us while his parents went out. I had fun playing the piano with him on my lap. I did that for many hours with his mom when she was that age and younger too. We were going to watch a couple of other kids in the evening as well but one of them got sick so that family stayed home. Ken and I had gone on a date on Sunday afternoon so we decided to have a special Valentine's day in other ways. We did have special meals and then of course a bunch of special company.
 My cowgirl practicing the piano.
 Then we made some baskets. This is just a picture of the beginning stages. I will have a post about my basket soon. I love the way it turned out.
 On Thursday we went ice skating again - Aaron, Megan and I, while the older two kids were at drivers training. It was really warm and lovely out but we also experienced slushy ice.
 A track in our driveway.
 It is fun to hear the water running outside as the snow melts off the roof. Yesterday it got up above 50 degrees!
Our simple supper of Ham and Beans with cornbread and tea. It was fun to see how excited the kids were about this supper.

How was your week? Were there any special memories made?

Friday, February 17, 2017

What Do You Have In Your Hand?

 I suppose it is just human nature to enjoy new things. So when something that we have gets old it is easy to just want to get something new. I believe however that we can do a little retraining of our thinking in that area and learn to enjoy what we already "have in our hand". I have been having some fun with that lately and I thought I would share a few examples with you.
This pair of shoes of mine is I believe around 15 years old. I don't wear them super often just now but there was a time when I wore them most Sundays. The still work just fine but were looking a little shabby (see shoe on right). So I polished them up with some of my new homemade polish. I also cut off a few loose threads. They look much better now (see shoe on left) and I happily wore them to church again. I did this with some of my other pairs of shoes as well.

 This blanket that we received as a wedding gift over 18 years ago had lost the ribbon edging and was stringy around the edges.
 I added a new ribbon (in purple as I had that and we have purple and green in our bedroom) and it is ready to use again!
 This pair of scissors had broken.
 After a little bit of super glue (I like to keep that on hand - it can be very useful) they were good to use again.
 This book was missing it's cover. I added some new cardboard pieces for a cover and then covered them with a wallpaper scrap.
 It looks so much better now and it gave it a new life.
 We had a whole collection of books that were needing attention.

 With cardboard scraps, tape, hot glue and fabric I fixed a bunch of them so they look much nicer again and will last much better.


These are some close-ups of the work in progress.

 The mended books!
I really like some of my new covers! It was a really fun project for me too (and Megan helped me some as well). I was able to be creative, use up various scraps of things and work with something I love - Books!

  As we read through all of our books we are finding more books that need attention so I am mending them little by little as well.

  What have you done lately to use what you have in your hand?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Seeking to Simplify {What about Holidays?}


Since we just celebrated a holiday yesterday I thought that I would write about Holidays and Simplifying in that area. I think that the purpose for trying to simplify in our lives is primarily because we want less stress and less chaos. We want to be able to focus on the things we find most important. Is that true for you?

 I also think that holidays can be a stressful and chaotic time for many people. Is that true for you? They don't have to be that way but somehow they can easily get that way. Holidays are very full of traditions and so often we keep going doing what we have always done growing up just because that seems like what we should do. Then when we get married we have to figure out how to add in the traditions from our spouse's family too. Things can start to get overwhelming if we don't start to make some conscious decisions about what truly works for us and what doesn't. Holidays are tricky too because they involve others. If we could just decide what works for me and maybe my young children (forget about what my husband wants, my parents, my in-laws, my adult children, etc) it could be easy. But do we really want it that way? NO! We want it to be a fun time for everybody and with everybody feeling loved and respected. So it can get challenging. Discussions need to be had at times and sometimes there is no way around it but somebody gets disappointed (or perhaps hurt or angry if that is their nature). But if we can have our discussions with love and respect and a willingness for a little compromise when necessary I think we can have a fun time celebrating Holidays with our family and friends. We can simplify and focus on what is truly important to us and get rid of at least some of the chaos and stress.

   I will admit when it came to blending families and holidays Ken and I have had it pretty easy. I know many (probably most) of you have it way harder. For one thing - I grew up in a family with very, very limited holiday traditions. We didn't do much at all to celebrate Christmas (my Grandma sent us a box of gifts and sometimes we would be involved in a Christmas program at church - that was it. And that was by choice and I don't think any of us kids felt deprived or unhappy about that.), Valentine's day basically wasn't observed, Memorial and Labor days were celebrated by going to church rallies (which we loved), On the 4th of July we generally went to the parade and once and a while fireworks or we did our own shooting of guns at home, Thanksgiving was a time to have a special meal and invite others over to join us, New Years Eve was very special with a New Years Eve sing at my Grandpa's. We did celebrate Birthdays but never any large parties.

  As far as Ken's family - They celebrated birthdays and Thanksgiving in similar ways to us and Ken didn't bring any traditions from the other Holidays into our marriage except Christmas. Also his parents had always made a big deal about their anniversary (mine didn't) and so that was something he figured we would do to. Christmas was a big deal for Ken (and it wasn't for me) as it was full of traditions from time at his grandparents. What is interesting now is that Ken's parents don't even celebrate it any more and his grandparents are now gone but the childhood traditions remain important to Ken.

   For us too our families live a long distance apart from one another (over 1,000 miles) so we don't have to try to split a holiday up jumping from one house to another. Also if Ken's family has ever been here for a Holiday (and most of my family is here too) than we just all celebrate together. Our parents and siblings are friends too so we can just be one big happy family. That is truly a blessing! Ken's parents could potentially move here sometime and so it is comforting to know that they would just join the party so to speak when it comes to celebrating holidays. If this isn't the case with your family is it possibly something that could be developed? Would that help to simplify your holiday time or only confuse it more - something to think about.

    So, largely we have not had a lot to stress us out concerning our extended family when it comes to holidays which I know is not the case with many of you. But still we have had to be mindful about the traditions that we have created and what we chose to do. It might start out fun  but get overwhelming over time so it never hurts to step back and rethink things and discuss them.
Our table yesterday

   In our family we do enjoy special days. I enjoy decorating and Ken enjoys seeing it he also enjoys helping some at times such as putting lights on the outside of our house. The kids always seem to enjoy any effort that is made to make a day special. Ken is good at gift giving, I enjoy making homemade gifts but going shopping to try to find ones to buy tends to stress me out. Ken loves traditions like a certain meal for a certain time, always going to watch fireworks or going on a walk to gather greenery every year. I am not personally as in love with traditions but I am learning to enjoy them too and to honor Ken by keeping them with him. As we observe what we really enjoy and what just feels stressful to us we are talking about that and fine tuning our holidays to be fun for all of us. 
When we think about clutter in our homes holidays can easily become a source of a lot of that. I know that many families get lots and lots of gifts for Christmas and Birthdays plus gifts at Easter and Valentine's day too. Are there other Holidays that people give gifts at? Early on in our raising kids this was a concern for me that there would be to much stuff which just clutters our home and honestly I feel it can lead to dissatisfied and ungrateful children so we have tried to be careful in that area. Here are some of the decisions we made it that area:


  •  For Christmas we decided to set a limit - that all the gifts for a certain person must fit in their Christmas stocking. As you can see from the picture above that kind of gets stretched a little with things sticking out the top but still over all we abide by that rule. Also we don't exchange gifts with our extended family at this time so that does help a lot.
  • For Birthdays. We do exchange gifts but we try not to be excessive and their are practical gifts (socks, other clothes, etc) given as well. The local part of my extended family does tend to join us in giving presents at birthdays but thankfully my mom is also largely practical in her gift giving and things don't get to excessive. We have never had birthday parties with lots of other children partly because I wanted to avoid large amounts of gifts. I figure we can have fun with other kids at other times. We have held skating parties, etc instead but not centered around a birthday.
  • Valentines and our Anniversary. Ken and I used to exchange gifts at this time. This past year when I was feeling overwhelmed by stuff we visited about it and I requested that maybe we don't do that anymore. We still enjoy doing something special together (taking a trip, going on a date) and a card is fine but I thought it would be nice to avoid more stuff.
  • Mother's Day and Father's Day - the kids tend to fix us meals, make cards, possibly pick a bouquet of flowers and maybe make a small gift but it is usually pretty simple and I love it that way. We do also like to spend time with extended family and I will usually try to give cards/small gifts to our parents.
   The way we celebrate holidays may not sound fun to you and I am not saying you should do it this way. I just think it makes sense to look at the Holidays you celebrate and determine if they are fine as is or if they feel stressful (not simple) to you and if so, why? When you determine the cause, what can you do to change it? Can you stop doing a part of it? Can you work on it earlier and not procrastinate so that it is fun - not stressful? Or is it really important to others and you need to pray for God's help in changing your attitude about it?

    I would love to hear your thoughts about celebrating holidays while seeking to live a more simple life.

  Also, quickly - my simplifying report for the past week. :-)
I got rid of 72 items. I cleaned out my e-mail inbox every day! I went through 5 pictures files every day. I did not sell anything. Also I still have been keeping a clean desk and that feels super good. A music student saw my office today and her comment was "You keep your office so clean!" That felt really good as that has been true this year but it wasn't true for many, many years. I have struggled with having a messy desk since I was a young child. At that time of my life I would move everything from my desk to my bed in the day so that I could work on it and then from my bed to my desk at night again so that I could sleep. In college I still struggled with a messy desk and then that followed me into my marriage. So, I am so happy that I have had a clean on for the past month and a half. It seems like the habit of keeping it clean should be truly developed now so I will just work at maintaining that habit. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

God's Plan for the World

 I was hoping to add a picture to this post but my computer isn't co-operating with me this evening. Sorry. :-)

 Today I wanted to share some thoughts on God's plan for the World. Though some may think that life on earth has just happened haphazardly without any great plan that is not what the Bible teaches.

  God has had a plan throughout the ages to bring salvation to mankind. Right at the beginning of Genesis there is a prophecy that points to Jesus Christ coming to save the world: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." Genesis 3:15

  There were many, many years before Jesus came down in human form to be our Savior. But God wasn't without a plan in those years either. Those years led up to Christ and we can see that throughout scripture. God called Abraham out to follow Him in a special way. God told him that He would make him a great nation and would bless him. He said: "And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." Gen. 12:3. God had planned for Jesus to come through Abraham's bloodline. That is explained in Galatians 3:16 "Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds,"as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ."  This promise was repeated to Abraham's descendants throughout the generations. God told Isaac "I am the God of you father Abraham; Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you, and multiply your descendants, for the sake of My servant Abraham." Genesis 26:24. He also did this for Jacob (Gen. 28:10-15).

   We might think that this family would live a blessed life in that they wouldn't have any major troubles but we know that isn't so. Abraham's grandson Joseph was sold by His brothers to be a slave in Egypt. But truly that was all part of God's plan too as Joseph was then in a position to make sure their family didn't starve to death throughout the time of famine.  Then the Israelites became  slaves in Egypt. But God, using Moses, rescued them from that and started them heading toward the land that He had promised them.

   God helped them to get settled in that land and blessed them in many ways. But did they always follow Him wholeheartedly? No! God sent prophets to them with His message of hope and love and calling for Israel to repent. Finally God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for His Son, Jesus Christ. "Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way; The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight." Mark 1:2 & 3

   While Jesus was on earth He trained men to be His messengers to carry the good news world wide.  Jesus died, was buried and rose again - all a part of the plan for our salvation. "Now I make know to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures..." 1 Corinthians 15:1-4  Jesus came to bear the sin of the whole world - those who were alive before He came, during His time here and after. " All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." Isaiah 55:6

   Jesus died for us but He did come back to life again - death could not hold Him. Acts 1:3 says: To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God."

   Jesus, before He ascended into heaven, had a task for His followers:
"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying. "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20

"And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believe and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned." Mark 16:15 & 16

In the Old Testament the Israelites/Jews were God's special people. Others could follow Him too but they were not His chosen people. But Jesus broke down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles and we can all be brought near to God through the blood of Christ. 
"Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by the so-called Circumcision," Which is performed in the flesh by human hands - remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.."
 Ephesians 2:11-14

So the those that Jesus trained to share the gospel (Good news!) went forward and shared the Good News about Jesus Christ and the salvation we can have in him throughout  much of the world and they in turn encouraged others to share it who shared it with more people - down to us. It doesn't matter who you are or who your parents are - God loves all of us and wants us to be saved. He wants us to believe and be baptized, to obey everything that He commanded us. And if you have done that He wants you to share the good news with others. That is God's plan for the world!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

This Week (and Last) in Pictures

 Mara is taking an online Chemistry class for college this semester. It has been interesting for her and we find it humorous to see her in goggles and gloves.
 Megan enjoys her large collection of dolls (many of which she has purchased herself). She had some of her China ones out last week, fixing them up.
 After homeschool co-op last week some of the kids (and I helped some too) tried out some acrobatic stunts that we may use at our Science Circus in May.
 Jonathan is carrying quite a load. :-)
 Last Saturday we were down in Saint Cloud for Jonathan's robotics tournament. Their robot had troubles and didn't do real well but we had fun there anyway. I think this is a very cool learning program for kids!
 For Family night this week we played Jenga. It is a fun and suspenseful game.
 Then Ken and I played a couple of games of pegotty. He beat me both times but I gave him more competition then he was expecting so that is good. I made this game board for him years ago. This was a game that he had loved to play with his dad and Granddad but didn't have a board to play on so I found out how his dad's was made and made one for him (with the help of my dad teaching me how to use a drill press).

 This is my youngest daughter. :-) And this face is the result of her trying to read all the books in the house.
  I came home on Wednesday afternoon - (I had left to take our two oldest to drivers training - we will be having more drivers in this household soon!) - to find Megan busily researching how to make plaster masks online. She had been reading in a craft book and found some instructions but didn't think we had either plaster of paris or petroleum jelly (we had both) and was figuring out what she could substitute them with. She was wanting to make a mask. She just needed a little assistance from me. I didn't have time that day but said that if she got her schoolwork done right away the next morning that I could help her.

So she did. It gives her quite the interesting look! She has painted it some now too and enjoys wearing it around some of the time.
 Thursday afternoon Aaron, Megan and I found time to do a little skating while the other kids were at Driver's Ed.
 Our friends that live by the skating rink joined us for a little while too.
 It was fun to get out.
 Then I took Aaron to his 4-H shooting practice. Megan and I watched him shoot.

A violin picture. We have had a lot of music going on around here. I love it!

What did you have going on this week?

My New Desk {From Tree to Furniture}


As I sit here at my new desk using our computer I am super thankful for this lovely place to enjoy and use for some of my work. I feel very blessed. Above you can see a sneak peak of it but I thought I would then tell you the story of the making of my desk....
The Tree, My Dad and his Chainsaw.
When we were clearing our land to build the house there was one lovely tall pine tree that needed to be cut down. It was so big and tall that the guys elected to have my dad (the most experienced at cutting down trees) do the cutting of it. After it was cut down it was so lovely and straight we thought it would be nice to make some lumber out of it. So Dad hauled it over to his house on his big trailer.

 To Dad's sawmill it went.
 Dad cut it into boards while the boys and I helped in any way that we could.
 We had to take the lumber and stack it neatly in a pile with little sticks in between the stacks so that the lumber could dry.

It dried for around a year. Then we used Dad's planer and planed the boards to a uniform size and made them smoother.

Now they were ready to go back to our house.
We had wanted to make a desk to go in this bump out in my office. I had been thinking about how it could be done. I then discussed it with my dad (the carpenter that I am thankful to be able to consult with!) and he drew up a rough idea of how we could do it.

And then Ken and I got to work. This sort of project is not really Ken's expertise but he did a great job of figuring things out and cutting things for me. I then got to do a bunch of sanding! I also varnished all the pieces.

Then Ken, with Jonathan's help, put them all in place.

We left the raw edge (well I did sand it some and then varnish it but still you can see the bark colors) on the front of the desk. I love that rustic touch! I have a shelf for storage underneath my desk.
It is so lovely to get things organized!
We put shelves above too. I like having all the space to store my vases! The shelf brackets were a good deal because I was able to get them free after rebate from Menards.
I love being able to look out the window while I work on the computer.
My homemade baskets fit perfectly on the lower shelf. These baskets were made out of paper grocery bags, you can see my instructions for making them at this post.
A full view of the desk. It is nice to have room for both the computer and sewing machine at the same time.

  This desk is obviously very simple but it is very special to me because we made it ourselves from a tree that was on our property. I love having natural simple furniture like that and I feel super blessed to get to enjoy this desk.

  Have you ever made furniture? Or do you think it would be fun to try? What have you or what would you like to make?

  By the way - The desk was obviously pretty inexpensive. All we had to buy (other than the brackets for the shelves which we got the money back on) was varnish. We bought a gallon for around $30 and used about 1/3 of it.

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