Friday, April 8, 2016

kids swords

If you have boys, you're going to love this project.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  If you have KIDS, they are going to love this project. 

I really can't take credit for this idea.  This is one of those projects that just kind of happened.  Dev is involved in a Medieval Fair for our homeschool group.  She was assigned to pick an historical character from that time period.  She really didn't want to wear a dress, so she chose Joan of Arc.  (I would like to say that her reasons for choosing Joan of Arc were more valid, but that would be lying.) 

For her costume, Dev wanted to make a sword.  I gave her free reign of the craft room, and she found a stash of old paint stirring sticks. 

She broke one in half, and taped it with painters tape to the bottom of the other one for the handle.  Then she used dad's pocket knife to whittle the end into a point.  Then she painted it.  She also made a sheath out of an old paper towel tube, although I don't have a picture of that.

Once my boys saw what their sister was doing, they all wanted a sword, too.  Luckily, Dad was home to give advice and help.

 This is a great project to work on while listening to an audio book or to keep little hands busy while you work. 

Homemade swords:
1.  Get two paint sticks
2. Cut one in half
3.  tape the broken pieces together with the whole paint stick between them.  (tape them towards the end of the whole paint stick to form the swords handle.) 
4.  Use a pocket knife to whittle a tip on the other end of the whole paint stick. (this step can be omitted for really little ones.  Jelly Bean didn't whittle his, and we was still really happy with it.) 
5.  Let your little one pick the color they want and paint it.  (I didn't offer any direction on how to paint it.  Just let them be creative!) 
6.  If you want, make a sheath by squashing a paper towel tube and cutting (rounded) and taping one end. 

Have fun!  If you try this project, leave me a comment and let me know how it worked! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

strawberry bed

The weather is finally getting warm enough that I can start the work on my yard.  While I was at the store, I found some strawberry roots for sale for a good price, so I bought some.  Now I just need a place to put them.  I already have one strawberry plant that I uprooted and brought with me when we moved to this house.  It has been living happily in a pot through the winter.  (it even gave us a few strawberries!)  But I want a happy strawberry patch.  I have this spot in my backyard: 
 I'm not sure what the previous owners were thinking when they created this spot.  It's next to my patio.  The black iron thing you see is a doorway trellis.  Like, the kind of thing you would see at the entrance to a garden party.  I don't know why they put it right there.  You can't even walk through it at that angle.  Anyway, so I decided that would be a good place for a raised strawberry bed. 

I'm not going to pretend this was easy.  We really had to put in some grunt work to get that trellis thingy out of the way.  And the overgrown bushes and gravel were no picnic either.  But after a couple hours of work, this is what we've got now:
It's flat. 

This is my plan:  Since strawberries can be a little persnickety, I'm going to make a raised bed so that I can control the soil better.  I am going to haunt craigslist for some more cinder blocks or some bricks that I can stack up in a square about three feet high.  Then I'm going to fill it with garden soil (I mean the bags of garden soil from the store), compost, and manure.  I'm also hoping that building it up a little higher will keep the rabbits out. 

Cross your fingers for some strawberry jam this fall!

Monday, April 4, 2016


One of my hobbies is making word art.  I LOVE making art out of words!  This weekend, while I was listening to General Conference (click here if you don't know what that is), I spent a good 10 hours just sitting and working on this:  

This post was intended to be a tutorial, but I failed.  So now it gets to be a slice of humble pie and a tall glass of lesson learned.  You'll see in a minute why this is a failure.  First, let me walk you through what I'm doing here. 

This is a 16x20 canvas.  You can buy them in a 3 pack at most department stores for 5 bucks or so. I wanted it to say, "God our strength will be, Press Forward ever, called to serve our King."  This is a line from a popular hymn in my church, and the anthem of those who choose to serve missions.  Since my boys are planning on serving missions when they are old enough, I wanted to display these words in a prominent place in our house. 

I am not skilled at free styling my own words yet, so I got on the computer and picked a couple fonts that I liked.  I played around with the sizes a little.  I wanted the "Press Forward" part to be big block letters.  I never really found a font for those words that I liked.  So I finally decided to measure out out the space and draw the block letters myself.  (block letters are easy)

When I finally got the lettering the right size, I printed them out, cut them out and taped them to my canvas.  (pictured above.)

I have to admit that I was so excited to get to the painting of this project, that I didn't take many pictures.  Now I'm kind of glad.  My humble pie is already a big enough slice.  Let's not make it bigger.

Anyway, after I taped the lettering onto my canvas, I just traced around them lightly with a pencil.  Once I could see the basic outline, it was easier to fill in the spaces with the loops and the twirls.  And then once I got it penciled in, I untaped everything, measured off my block letters, and drew them in lightly with the pencil too.

Finally, I could get to the painting, which, we all know, is the best part. Here it is half way done.  (Can you see my major mistake?)

Honestly, there is not much of a tutorial to give from this point on.  I painted it the colors I wanted, following my pencil lines.  I used an extra small brush for the skinny lines and a fat brush for the bigger lines. In the picture below, it's still not quite done.  I still want to paint the bottom line a darker color like maroon.  BUT, this is the point where I realized my major mistake.  Can you see it?  I didn't see it.  Not even the 20 or so times I wondered into my craft room just so I could admire it.  I didn't notice until I got this text from my sister-in-law:  "Ok, I don't get it.  Why did you spell it foward instead of forward?"  (how precious.  She thought I did it on purpose!)
I am cringing.  Can you feel me cringing?  Oh. Holy. Cow.  I totally spelled forward wrong and didn't even notice.  I think what hurts the most about all this is that I pride myself on my correct use of grammar.  I proudly say that I am a student of the English language, that I love grammar and punctuation and reverence it.  I gripe about the grammatical mistakes I find that pass into print, and I roll my eyes and say things like "kids these days" when I see the incorrect use of to, two, or too.  Sigh. 

Humble Pie time.  I feel like an idiot.  But I'm trying not to.  Everyone makes mistakes.  And since my kids have been frustrated about their mistakes in the past, I made sure to call them over and point out my big mistake so they would see that Mom messes up, cleans it up, and moves on. 

I think I can fix this.  I will try.  That will be another post.  Today, I failed.  But I'm going to see it as a beautiful failure. 

Moral of the story:  if you try this project, and I really think you should, make extra sure that everything is right before you start painting.  Painting it is the fun part, but if you are painting on faulty lines, then you're doomed to repeat the process later.  That's where I am.

Saturday, April 2, 2016


Last week when I planted all my seedlings in their little indoor greenhouse box, I was careful to plant and then label everything in groups so that I would recognize them when they sprouted. 

Every morning when I check on my little garden, I am happy to see the ones that have decided to make an appearance.  I think just about everything I've planted has sprouted.  Except my peppers.  I'm still waiting on those.  I'm trying not to worry since it takes about 2 weeks for them to germinate, but...come on, guys!  Everyone else is already sprouted!  Out of bed, sleepy heads!

Today, I had to do one of the jobs I HATE to do.  I had to thin the seedlings.  In case you're not sure what that is:  I plant several seeds in each pellet to ensure that at least one will grow.  Sometimes nothing grows.  And other times, everything grows.  I have enough pellets that if I just got one plant from each, I would have enough in my garden.  Sometimes 4 or 5 seedlings sprout in one little pellet.  I have to pull out the smaller ones and let just one grow so it's not competing for soil nutrients or sunlight.  It is better for the garden in the long run, but I still hate to do it.  I feel bad pulling out this happy little plant that has only ever done everything I've wanted it to do.  Ugh. 

This year, I tried to approach it more like American Idol.  The short ones just didn't make the final cut.  If I pretend I'm just sending them back home to their families, then it's not so hard.  Luckily, (or unfortunately, you decide) my kids hate thinning day, too.  They usually swoop in and take up some of the discarded seedlings (as many as they can manage) and plant them in anything they can find.  (incidentally, we had a watermelon plant one year that grew up ONTO the front porch [people had to step over it to get into my house] because my daughter "rescued" it as a seedling and planted it there.  Good times)  So 5 tomato plants and 3 cucumber plants were rescued today.  The rest were "sent home." 

Enter Fighter.  

This is Fighter.  He's a cabbage plant. (Yes, I named him.  What's it to you?) I didn't plant Fighter.  I accidentally dropped him in the the tray while I was planting his brothers and sisters.  He fell near the pellet that was growing dill.  He sprouted and put in roots at the bottom of the pellet, and I didn't realize my mistake until he was two inches tall.  It made me happy to see Fighter growing.  He's a reminder to me that nature finds a way.  He makes me think all kinds of courageous thoughts about pushing through adversity and thriving against all odds. 

So today, thinning day, when I had a thumb and forefinger around FIghter's stem, ready to detach him from the dill pellet and toss him in the reject pile, I just couldn't do it.  I couldn't bring myself to deny life to this little living thing that fought so hard to live against all odds.

 I gave him his own pellet instead.  And welcomed him to the team.  I'm not even sorry.  I don't have room for one more cabbage in my garden, but I have a feeling I'll make room for him somewhere.  I can't wait to watch this one grow!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

This makes me happy

Look at all my pretty babies!  I'm excited to watch them grow.  It's hard to believe that some of these little guys will be taller than me in few short months.  All living things start out tiny and fragile.  I'm  grateful for the chance to be a nurturer!

My garden in miniature

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How to use it all up

I read a few years ago that 40% of the food that comes to us (either through the store or to restaurants or other various places) is thrown away.  Forty percent!!! That means almost half of the useful things God has placed on this earth for our benefit gets thrown away.

The Hubby and I went through a time when attaining those necessary things was extremely difficult.  I mean, really difficult.  For a little while, we could only budget about $50 a month for groceries.  You read that right.  We had only $50 a month to buy enough food to support a family of 4.  In case you are wondering, that's about enough for some vegetables, some chicken, and some milk. How did we do it? (that's another post)

First, I have to acknowledge that it was only through the grace of God that we made ends meet some months.  I remember many times laying in bed puzzling over our financial situation and not sure how we managed to pay everyone that month.

The experience taught me not to waste food.  I HATE to see food wasted!  It didn't grow and I didn't spend money on it just so that I could throw it away!  I've been working on a system of not wasting food for several years now, and I do still have to throw things away here and there.  But for the most part, we don't waste food in our house.  If I had to put a percentage on it, I would estimate that we are able to eat about 98% of the food that comes in the house.  I like those odds much better. Here's what I do:

I kept a food journal:  not for eternity, just for three months.  I wrote down everything we ate and how much.  I had a chart that I just filled out at the end of the day.  The information this gave me was very valuable!  By doing this, I realized that we eat a lot of the same vegetables.  By keeping track of what we ate for three months, I could project about how much of each thing we would need for a month. 

I make a menu:  In case you didn't know, making a menu is hard.  It's hard not to put the same things on there over and over.  It's hard to coordinate with what is in season, what's on sale, and what you already have.  When I kept a food journal, this helped me know what we eat the most of.  (like Spaghetti.  We love Spaghetti.  And Tacos.) When I am getting ready to go grocery shopping, I start by making a menu of dinners for the next two weeks.  (Hint: it's a lot easier to come up with dinner ideas if you're hungry.  Be hungry when you  make the menu, be full when you go to the store.) I also keep each menu I make.  Then it's easier to pull out a new menu every two weeks.  Here is a sample of what my menu looks like:  

I keep track of the variety of meats on the left side.  (we eat mostly chicken and hamburger, and then there are four meals that are "other"  where we eat fish, pork, something new, or even vegetarian.)  On the top, I keep track of the carbs.  We usually have potatoes, rice, pasta, or bread.  This is just to make sure we have variety (and aren't having potatoes every day).  Next to the title of the dinner, I have written the things I need to get that aren't usually on my grocery list.  #4, for example, is fajitas.  I need limes to make the sauce.  So I wrote it down to remind me to put it on my grocery list.  The chicken, peppers, onions, and tortillas are all part of my regular shopping list.  The chart at the bottom is just a calendar that tells me what I am making each night.  L stands for "leftovers."  I want to emphasize that the chart is just a guideline!  I give myself permission to stray from the schedule.  If I've got fajitas scheduled, but I didn't have time to make the sauce, then I choose something else from the list.  It's great to have a plan, though.  Half the battle of making dinner is trying to decide what to make. 

I buy the same produce every trip: There are some things I just know we are going to use because they are part of our diet.  Potatoes, for example, are a big seller at my house.  I buy 20 pounds a month.  Celery, carrots, peppers, apples, bananas...these are all things that are omnipresent in the house.  They have several uses, and I can use them up in different ways to make sure they don't go bad.

We have leftovers for dinner every Thursday:  Any leftovers that are um, leftover (ha ha!) need to also be taken care of.  If there is enough for another full family meal, I freeze it.  Then on those inevitable days that I don't feel like cooking, or we don't have any time, we can thaw something from the freezer instead of heading for McDonalds. If there isn't enough to freeze, then it's time to get creative about using it. ( See my post here for garbage soup) My kids love garbage soup (aptly named because it's basically whatever is left in the fridge thrown into a pot and simmered into a soup.) If there is leftover garbage soup, I freeze it.  (by the way, freezing leftovers is a great way to serve others.  I can't even tell you how many times I've taken dinner to a sick friend just by pulling the soup and some bread out of the freezer.)

The day before I go grocery shopping:  I clean out my fridge and my freezer and my cupboards.  I wipe the fridge out with hot soapy water so everything is clean when I come home with new groceries.  Doing this also forces me to take care of the older things before they go bad. Everything in there is preserved somehow.  This is usually on a Thursday, so leftovers are eaten for dinner.  Here is a sample of this weeks leftover vegetables and fruit:

we've got a couple of pears and some oranges, a bag of carrots (they were on sale, so I bought two.), a couple onions, some spotty bananas, and some celery.  Also, not pictured is a small bunch of cilantro and some green onions.

I am blessed because I have a commercial dehydrator.  I will be blogging about what you can do with each individual thing, but for today, it's just the short version.  I would grate and dehydrate the carrots.  I would chop and dehydrate the onions, and green onions, and celery.  I would dehydrate and then crush the cilantro.  The pears I would probably just feed to my kids for lunch, but if that didn't work, I would either freeze or dehydrate them as well.  (Dehydrated pears taste like fruit snacks!)  The oranges would be a challenge, since they don't dehydrate well.  I could peel them and freeze the slices for smoothies.  Or I could chop them and serve them in a salad for dinner.  Oranges keep for a long time, too, so depending on how they look I might just put them back in the fruit bin for another round.  I might also use the peel to make candied orange peel ( link coming) or pot pourri (link coming).  The bananas I would either make banana bread (link coming) banana pancakes (here) or freeze for smoothies.  (both banana bread and banana pancakes freeze well, too, although they don't last long in my house).

I take a list to the store with me.  I shop the sales.  I buy more of what I know we'll eat.  When I get home, I put the food away right away (including wrapping, labeling, and freezing meat.) and during the two weeks, I keep a close eye on what's in the fridge.  And honestly, I don't keep a lot in the fridge anyway, because I know once I make it, it will need to be used.

Any kitchen scraps (carrot peels, apple cores, orange rinds, onion skins, etc) can be tossed into a compost or a worm bin.

Keep track of what you're eating!  Don't let anything hide in the dark, dank places of the fridge!  The food that comes into your home is a blessing, don't waste it!

If you found this blog helpful, or if you have any questions, please leave a comment.  Maybe your question will inspire another post! 

Use it up! Wear it out!  Make it do! or do without!