Friday, March 27, 2015

Having Fun With Centerpieces

Today I am going to talk a little about decorating for company. This is something I love and find extremely fun - However this is something that some people can find extremely stressful. So if you think decorating is fun too or would enjoy trying to decorate a little more than please join me for this post - check out my ideas and leave some thoughts or ideas of your own in the comments. I would love to hear from you. If the idea of decorating extra when company comes seems overwhelming and unnecessary to you then please feel free to skip this post. Decorating is not a necessary part of being hospitable. It is simply a fun part for some of us.
Today we are going to specifically talk about centerpieces. Since many times our hospitality is centered around the table I think it is fun to dress it up a little. I think this can be done in many ways and does not need to cost an arm and a leg - in fact generally I don't spend anything on this. I just try to creatively use what I already have. Now I am blessed to have a wedding flower business so I fairly regularly have extra flowers around so that does make it so I can use flowers in lots of centerpieces which is fun. But you can also pick flowers (wild or from your garden) and there are lots of other centerpiece ideas that don't involve flowers.
  Here are some ideas that I have shared at earlier times on my blog. Below each picture is a link to the post that will have more information.

A bowl with floating Zinnias and Bachelor buttons from the garden with a little greenery.
Cost: $0
Candles and Doilies Cost: Free 
Colorful Swiss Chard from my parents garden. cost: $0 
A little basket, apples and gourds with moss. Cost: $0 
I put these together for a political banquet as we wanted something on the tables but didn't want to spend a lot. I already had vases, candles, ribbon and Epsom salts and then I made the fabric flowers for some cloth and beads I had on hand. It was a fun and simple project and added something to the tables at our event. 
Another winter centerpiece with evergreen, a candles, pine cones and a bow. 
A line up of various bottles with flowers stuck in them randomly can made a pretty fun centerpiece.
Other simple centerpiece ideas:
  • A bowl or basket of beautiful apples (or other fruit).
  • A basket of pine cones.
  • Floating Candles in a bowl or vase. Other visual interest like branches, rocks, etc. can be added to the water.
  • A bunch of Indian corn tied with a bow.
Something to think about with centerpieces is that you want to make sure that it isn't in the way of people trying to visit. So it is best if they can either be low or skinny and really tall (they can then get bigger at the top).
 I would love to hear any centerpiece ideas that you have! (Especially frugal ones.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Life Out Our Window

 Lately we have greatly been enjoying looking out our window towards the river. We have discovered there is a whole lot going on our there. The thing is in the past few weeks the ice melted in the middle by our house. Our neighbor just to the East of us still has ice (though I think it will go in the next week) but for the last week or so the open river has ended at our house. There are a lot of birds coming through that love the open water and so we are very privileged to see them. The kids have been busy naming them and coming up with their life stories. We are not actually sure that we are seeing the same birds each day but it makes life more interesting to think that we are. :-)
The other day there were two Canadian Geese out by our house. They were just waiting around and doing various odds and ends. Their names are David and Elody (Mara's been doing the naming lately). Then all of a sudden two swans (Edgar and Rosalie) came swooping in. Just in time - the two couples had a lunch date up river. Off they went.

 The swans can go pretty fast. They started to leave the geese in the dust (or is that water?).

 Oh that wasn't very nice, we had better slow down. So good to see you again old friends.
 A rather gray day isn't it?
 David and Edgar got to visiting and Rosalie and Elody came along behind visiting too.
They have been back many times. We did our stretches with the swans the other day (we were watching from the inside and the swans were out on the ice) - the kids found it much more fun to follow their antics than they like to follow mine. The swans bob their heads and stretch their necks in such funny ways before they take off flying. Flying didn't work so well for us when we tried.

   The kids say there is another gander that is trying to get Elody's attention but the crow is on David's side. They have their home site all picked out for them. We shall see if they use it.

 I hope you enjoy the pictures that Mara took for the swans and the geese and all or our silly imaginings as we have fun watching them.

Monday, March 23, 2015

House Building Update

 I planned to write this post on Saturday but sometimes time gets away from me and it was too late so it never got written. I just thought I would share an update on some of our progress this past week.
Something that the kids and I found pretty exciting is that Ken got all the internet cable boxes working and so now our computer was able to be moved up and out of the basement. It is now in my office which is so handy as it is is right off our our great room. The kids do their math and foreign languages on the computer this year and of course I use the computer for blogging and also my wedding flower business. I am trying to get a new website finished and get switched over to it (for my business) and having the computer in a handier location will really help for being able to use little bits of time that I might have (while cooking supper or waiting for a music student to arrive and being available while my kids work on schoolwork) to work on my website. Ken was also able to move his office stuff up to his office upstairs.

    After I get my business website finished then I am dreaming about doing some updated on this blog (the look of it). Any suggestions for making it more usable for you?

 While Ken worked on wiring the phone and internet boxes the rest of us got all of the outlet and switch covers on. That is a really nice thing to have accomplished. It looks so much better with them on.

On Saturday I finished the tiling!!! I had thought I was done back in February but then remembered I hadn't done the trim in our bathroom closet. Now it is done! I got all the grouting done today. I just need to get everything cleaned up a little better and then sealed. It is a very nice feeling to have that project done!

  Tomorrow the electrician is supposed to come to get all the wiring done in the basement. That will be pretty nice. Our contractor might be here to finish up our kitchen window trim as well. Things are still moving forward.

  What sort of things did you do last week?

Why I Believe Jesus is the Only Way

The only way to know God and have a relationship with Him, the only way to salvation and the only way to heaven.

  I believe we simply must know Jesus and here is why:

John 14:6 "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Colossians 1:21 "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation-"

John 10:9 "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and out and find pasture."

Ephesians 2:18 "For through him we both have access to the Father by the one Spirit."

Hebrews 10:19-22 " Therefore brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water."

Romans 6:3 & 4 "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

There are so many more verses on this subject but I think you get the idea. :-) If you have a verse that you would like to share that goes along with this topic I would love it if you would put it in the comments!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Some Fun (and Educational!) Books

We recently discovered a new author at our place: Holling Clancy Holling (can you imagine naming your child that!?) It started when I was looking around for books about the Mississippi. Now that we live next to that great river I really have been wanting to learn more about it - the history that transpired on it or it's shores, what life is and was like all along the Mississippi, the animals that live around it and so forth. It is my new area of interest so when we start thinking about a subject like that we start reading all that we can about it.

   When looking for books I read about one called "Minn of the Mississippi". It is the story of a snapper turtle that starting at the headwaters ends up going all the way down to the gulf in her years of life. It is fictional but has a pretty fun storyline along with all sorts of facts about snappers, facts about the Mississippi, history of the Mississippi and helps with geography (H. C. H. likes to use little memory joggers in his writings like showing you that the Mississippi river is shaped like a baited hook on a line. The top part is the baited hook with a few different lakes being the bait -you should look at a map and check it out- we live in the hook area). There are many illustrations in the books done by Holling and his wife and they are very well done and detailed and factual.
I do have a hesitation with these books as H. C. H. does not seem to have a biblical world view and so will talk about an old earth (billions of years!) and also seems to like to throw in a little bit about native religions at times. For our family I didn't find the problems worthy of not reading it- I just sometimes edited as I read aloud or we discussed it.

  I also read Pagoo aloud which follows the life of a hermit crab and in the book you learn a ton about sea life. Very interesting and well researched!

  My favorite that I read was "Paddle-to-the-Sea" which is about a little wooden boat with a wooden man carved in it that an Indian boy made and then put in a river that would go into lake Superior and then his hope was that it would make it all the way through the great lakes and to the Atlantic Ocean. So in the book you follow the little wooden boat on it's journey. In it we learn about currents, logging (a little), the geography of the Great Lakes and so forth. This one was the most entertaining of the ones that I read.

   I did not read the other two books but the kids did and enjoyed them. I guess Seabird is about whaling ships.

  These books are divided into quite a few very short chapters and there are pictures on every page. The content has something that every age group (including me!) can learn from.

  Have you ever read any of these books? What are your thoughts on them?

Hosting Guests with Food Allergies

 Do you or your family have any food allergies or sensitivities? It seems to be pretty common anymore. Our family doesn't have any so we are grateful but we do have friends and family that we enjoy having over from time to time that do have foods that they can't eat. I also try to remember if we are having someone over that we haven't hosted before to check and see if they have any foods we need to avoid.

  Dealing with food issues can make cooking for company a little more challenging but try not to let it stress you out. It sometimes become a good opportunity to do a little experimenting. :-) I have found that people with food allergies are usually pretty grateful that you have made the effort to cook something that they can eat and generally not to picky (maybe I have just been blessed with some pretty nice company!).

   I have found the Internet to be a pretty valuable resource when finding recipes without certain ingredients. I simply start googling Gluten free recipes (or bread, or dessert or pizza, etc) and there is a wealth of information out there. Or I might search for "Egg free recipes" or "Dairy Free Recipes". Often I have found that people have multiple allergies and so the recipes also tend to be lacking a lot of the common food allergies so often you will find a recipe that works in many ways. Otherwise you might have to do some substituting.

  We have some friends that we like to have over every so often and between two of their children they have allergies to Eggs, Dairy, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Coconut and Tomatoes. So cooking for them does cause me to need to do a little bit of thinking. The mom always tells me not to worry about the allergy foods and she can just bring something along for the kids that have issues but I don't want her to have to do that (though if the idea of specialty cooking stresses you out then maybe you would be wise to accept an offer like that).

   This last time I made Chicken and Noodles over mashed potatoes with veggies made without adding butter (I just caught myself on that one!). I made homemade noodles without eggs and the chicken gravy I made with just broth and no milk. I had to remember to mash the potatoes without milk or butter too. It is interesting how much you need to notice what sort of things you often just throw in without thinking about it.

   We also made cookies - most of them were chocolate chip but thankfully I checked and there was milk product in the chocolate chips so I left them out of some of the cookies and put in raisins instead. Here is the cookie recipe as it is a good one for several allergies and we just like it anyway. Maybe you will find it useful... (I usually triple the batch as it is pretty small)

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 cup sugar (you can substitute honey if you like)
1/4 t salt
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 t molasses
1 1/2 t vanilla
1/4 cup oil
1/3 chocolate chips (or raisins)

Stir together (dry ingredients first with this one) . Drop by spoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven until done. (maybe 8-10 minutes?)

 Do you have any tips for dealing with food allergies when having company? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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