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Home Life

Begin a Home Detox With These Easy Recipes

Over the past 3 years, I have slowly moved away from using a lot of common, store-bought cleaning and cosmetic products. Three years ago, I was living in a college dorm doing my best to combat the germs and grossness of living in a dorm with a caddy full of cleaning supplies under my sink. After getting a very bad case of bronchitis my first semester of college, I remember spraying disinfectant cleaners over everything every time someone left my room. I may have been going overboard but I was tired of being sick! After 4 months of a perpetual, killer cough, I was getting desperate. I had several kinds of medicine and an inhaler and nothing was making it go away completely. At the time, my older sister had been doing research on natural substitutes for cosmetics and cleaning supplies to use in everyday living. She suggested that I try making a few of my own things for cleaning and recommended some natural cosmetic replacements as well. It turned out that the products I was using were preventing me from healing. My cough began going away almost immediately after cutting hairspray from my daily ritual. It was such a relief! I believe some of the unexplained health conditions we often have to deal with today are partly due to the toxic chemicals we use in everyday living.

I want to share a few of my favorite recipes for the home with you. I am learning the importance of taking care of my body and making sure that I am using the safest ingredients. Researching all of the ingredients in the products you’re using could take forever. Companies are not required to share the ingredients in their products, so it may not even be possible to find out what toxins are in them. What I have learned is that the fewer ingredients the better. I like to keep things simple, so I have started making some of my own product replacements.

What I found:

  • It can be a big money saver
  • It is actually quick and easy
  • It is better for the environment
  • It is better for YOU

All Natural Laundry Detergent

This recipe is definitely one of my favorites because it is so easy and cheap! Store bought laundry detergent is often filled with harmful chemicals. They often have fragrances, sulfates, and things like petroleum distillates which have been linked to cancer and lung disease. Making your own laundry detergent is well worth it.

Ingredients

4

Time to Make

10 Minutes

Price Per Large Batch

$10

Loads

60

Ingredients

  • All Natural Bar Soap (There are a lot of good options for natural soap. I like to use Dr Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap or some of the soap my sister makes Moyne Naturals).
  • Baking Soda
  • Washing Soda
  • Borax
  • (Optional) Lavender Essential Oil

* High Efficiency Washing machine safe

Instructions

  1. Cut bar soap into small pieces with a knife and grind in food processor. If the bar soap is not completely cured or dry, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of baking soda to prevent your food processor from becoming gummy.
  2. Add ground bar soap, borax, baking Soda, and washing soda in a large canning jar and shake until ingredients are mixed together.
  3. Optional: you may add 20 drops of an essential oil of your choice for scent. I added lavender because it is one of the safest essential oils for all skin types.

All Purpose Cleaner

This spray is great for cleaning kitchens and bathrooms. I like to keep mine in a glass spray bottle because they are better to store essential oils in.

Ingredients

4

Time to Make

5 Minutes or less

Price Per Large Batch

Less than $1

Yields

16 oz

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 10 drops natural dish liquid (I really like to use Seventh Generation Dish Liquid)
  • (Optional) 10 drops of lavender essential oil or 20 drops of lemon essential oil
  • (Optional) 10 drops of tea tree oil

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to 16 oz spray bottle and shake to combine

TIP: If you want a cleaning wipe instead of a spray, you can remove the middle of a paper towel roll and cut the roll in half. Then simply wet roll with mixture and store in an air tight container. Make sure your paper towels are the thick, extra strong kind so that they won’t tear easily when damp.

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. – 3 John 2:2

Watercolor photo from: Dancing Strokes

Home Life

5 Packing Tips For That Next Move

Over the past couple of months, Chris and I have been working on buying a house. I might have mentioned that we were moving earlier, but now it is getting pretty real.  With it comes the packing part. Ya… not anyone’s favorite. It can be quite stressful just keeping up with all the paperwork and adjusting to the soon coming change. For the next month Chris will only be home on the weekends so I figured it was a good idea to get ahead on the packing since I would be doing it alone. Plus, I don’t want Chris to have to worry about it on the weekends. He has enough going on as it is.

Since this is our third move in the last 5 years, I thought I would share some things that I learned that can make packing easier. It definitely will take the stress out of moving day for sure! Anything I can do to make our lives a little less crazy. Here goes!

  1. Gather newspapers & boxes that others no longer need. I wanted to save as much money as possible with this move, so I started to save the coupon papers that are dropped at my front door once a week for free. I started doing this several months before we even started house shopping. I saved quite a big pile! You can also collect leftover newspapers from friends, work, or, like us, at our store front church. I saved our boxes from our last move so I didn’t have to gather as many this time, but I suggest finding some at book stores, groceries, and keeping any box you get from a delivery (we are Amazon Prime crazy around here).
  2. Sort through the closets, drawers, and hidden places, first. While we were waiting to see if our offer was going to be accepted and were able to sign on the dotted line, I thought I would move the process forward by going through my stuff that I didn’t want anymore.  At the time, I didn’t know if we would be moving in March so I figured that this had to happen either way. Who wants stuff around that they don’t use anyway?
  3. Pack what you don’t use all the time, second. Once we knew we were definitely moving, I started the process by going through each room and pulling out things that I won’t use in the next month or so. I worked my way from room to room, gathering everything into the least used space, like the dining room. I would set out a marker, tape, newspaper, and boxes before hand. Packing items in a different room seemed to help me. Knowing that the bedroom was empty as much as I wanted it to be made it feel like progress, instead of having it all in there during the frustrating task of packing.
  4. Take breaks in between packing. Maybe you already do this, but I find it hard to keep to this. I want to marathon through anything I set my mind to and it is hard to stop. I have found that taking little breaks in between packing during a particular day, helps. Even going a few days without packing has been helpful. I can focus on other things and get up the energy to pack again. It sometimes gives me inspiration of what to pack next and how. I like to keep similar items together in a box and so I strategize the size of a box and what can go in it. If you like Tetris, just think of packing like a game. Ha!
  5. Pack in advance. The first two steps I have done a month before moving. I can avoid just throwing random stuff in some box on moving day. It also helps me make sure the essentials are properly packed so that I don’t have issues locating them once we move. I will let you know how it goes after we move! It might seem overly zealous, but I like to plan these kinds of things because I don’t like to be overwhelmed. I can get easily anxious, so I get pretty determined in lightening the load of craziness. We also don’t have a ton of stuff because of all of our moves so don’t think I have some super power.

For everyone, it is different. These are just ways that have helped me and so I hope they at least spark ideas that work more with your way of doing things. I just have to say that God has been so good to us over the last few years with all of this moving! We have grown and come so close to God through all the changes. Even if it is hard to move, knowing that God is right there with us, helps.

Have any packing tips that have worked well for you in the past? Please share. And what about getting settled into your new home? Do you have any tips that I can try out in the next month?

Home Life

3 Parabin-Free, Non-Toxic, Clean Burning Candle Ideas

This winter is flying by for me, but it also has been pretty chilly! I love to have a good candle set out to bring a little extra warm and glow to the dark evenings. They always make things feel homey and welcoming for people, especially on Friday night when we are winding down from a crazy week.

Recently, I became aware of the harmful affects of parabin wax candles and so I have been on the look out for candles that let off better fumes. All those scents go straight into the brain from our smellers, so it is important to find something that our body recognizes. They can be a little pricey but it is definitely worth the investment!

I thought I would share 3 types of wax candles that are parabin-free, non-toxic, and clean burning! The first two I found at the original Yankee Candle store in western Massachusetts, and so they might be harder to find for some. I just want to give you an idea of the different types of wax that you can look for!

Bayberry Wax

This first one I was pretty excited to find! I am always on the look out for different natural waxes and this one was new. Bayberry wax comes from the fruit coat on a bayberry, which is boiled down until the coating floats to the top of the boiling water. It is skimmed off and then purified by remelting and filtering it. Bayberries, also known as wax myrtle, waxberry, or candle berry, grow on either a tree or shrub. The plant grows in several places along the east coast near the seashore. Pretty neat if you ask me. You can even make some yourself! I bought these dipped candles to have set out on the dining table during a special dinner. I figured that the simple scent wouldn’t deter anyone from eating. 🙂

Beeswax

This one you might know more about. Anytime you go to a historic museum or site, they have candle presentations made with beeswax. They are also easier to find in stores. You can find them at Target or on Etsy. I found this one at Yankee Candle and my parent’s gifted it to me for my birthday! Can’t wait to burn it. The scent is a gentle sweet smell. I would love to know more about whether or not you can get beeswax at a bee farm or not and make them from scratch!

Soy Wax

This one has also become a lot more popular these days. I think you can even find the wax in Michael’s to make your own. This particular candle is the only one in this post that is scented. There are several things you want to look for in determining if a candle is safe: 1. natural wax and 2. essential oils 3. non-lead wick 4. natural dyes. This particular kind made by Root, Seeking Balance, is made with essential oils and soy wax. They come in several different relaxing scents and have a wooden wick that crackles. I have gotten several of them from this big farmer’s market in Massachusetts. You can find them in gift stores or on the Root website.

I hope that these give you a little more info into what is out there for natural candles. No one coaxed me to advertise these and they are ones that I enjoy! If you know of any other candles that are parabin-free, non-toxic, and clean burning please let me know in the comments! I LOVE candles and it would be awesome to know about other resources. If I compile enough ideas and try them out, I will share them here in the future. 🙂

Home Life

Christmas Blessings Tree

The first week of November I decided to put up our Christmas tree (minus Christmas decorations).  The time had changed and it got dark so early, that I wanted something happy in the house.  That’s when I decided to do create a Christmas Blessings Tree or Thankful Tree.

I love Pinterest but I’m not super crafty so I am sure many of you could make this prettier, but if you are like me and have too many things going on, then this might be your kind of project.

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All you need is:

  • Christmas Tree 🙂
  • String/thread (I chose red)
  • Scissors
  • Index cards
  • Pen

Simple, right?  I use scissors to make a hole in the middle of the long side of a card and loop a short section of thread through and tie it in a knot.  Then each night I write the date and what each member of our family (or if we have visitors we add them too) is thankful for, and I write it down. Then we hang it on the tree.

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My son, Edmund, loves to put them on the tree.  Our tree will be covered by the time Christmas is over, and that makes me happy.  He understands what they are and I hope and pray that this will help teach him contentment this holiday season.

This Christmas is the first time I think he really understands the idea of presents.  I personally think it is okay to be excited about presents, but I also want to teach him to be content.  To be thankful for things that God has blessed him with each day.  I believe that by naming our blessings, they will become more concrete in our minds and then we will be able to see all God has given us.

This lesson in contentment isn’t just for my son, it is for our whole family.  We often share what we are thankful for each day, but by writing it down and hanging it on our Christmas Blessings Tree I believe that it becomes more tangible and real.  Plus it is a constant reminder being able to look each day at these little cards on red thread hanging all over the tree.

I hope this idea might be something simple and easy you can do with your family, no matter the age.

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Home Life

3 Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas

I don’t know about you all, but I LOVE a good handmade Christmas gift. They are so thoughtful, sentimental, and they warm my little heart to the core. Unfortunately for me, when it comes to making those types of gifts for others I am afraid that I somehow missed out on a couple of the creative genes necessary for making cutesy things. I kind of like to imagine that if I tried my hand, I could be the queen of Pinterest fails.

Why am I telling you this? Because today I’m going to share a few creative homemade gift ideas that even I can manage! So, if you’re like me and are lacking in the creative-artsy-amazingness genes, this one’s for you. And, honestly, if you are the creative genius who can make Pinterest look like child’s play, this one’s for you too. Because even the creative geniuses sometimes need a little inspiration.

1. Homemade Candy Bags
My husband and I have discovered in the past that it’s easy to go a little crazy with this idea…

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Some of the pretzels were dipped in crushed peppermint candy canes after they were chocolate covered

There are SO many different types of candies that are actually fairly easy to make from home. One that we did for Timothy’s co-workers for Valentine’s Day was chocolate-covered caramels. And in the past we’ve also done chocolate-covered pretzels for Christmas. Both are simple and you can get “fancy” dressing them up by using food coloring in white almond bark and drizzling it over the finished product.

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For the pretzels, simply buy an assortment of small pretzels and large pretzel sticks, melt some almond bark, chocolate chips, or melting chocolate (Ghirardelli’s melting chips are the best!), dip them and lay them out on a wax-paper lined baking sheet to harden. Then refrigerate them until hard, and package as desired.

Caramels are also simpler than they seem. Once you have your chocolate melted, unwrap some individually wrapped caramels and microwave them for about 15 seconds so that they are warm and moldable, but not melting.

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Then cut them in half (or leave them whole), mold them into little balls and dip in chocolate! Lay them out on a wax paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate until hard.

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Timothy molded some of the caramels around salted cashews and then dipped them

2. Apple Butter 
If you have a crockpot, this isn’t actually that hard to make. And honestly, you can even cheat a little bit and save time by starting with applesauce instead of apples, because that way you literally just dump the applesauce, sugar, and spices in the crockpot and let it cook, stirring it every few hours. It does however take many hours (likely between 7 and 10), but they are mostly passive hours.

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For my apple butter, I use applesauce, brown and white sugar (though less than most recipes call for), cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. When cooking it, I actually cook it on high for the first 4 or 5 hours and I have it mostly covered, but cracked a little bit to allow some of the water to cook off so you get a nice thick apple butter. Then you can cook the remaining few hours on low. If you want an actual recipe to follow for ideas of how much of each spice to add, here are a few: One, two, or three. If you want to can them in a water bath so they last longer, you can do that, or if you don’t have time, you can just refrigerate the jars. To make them look a little more holiday-ish, you can take some thin Christmas ribbon and use a hot-glue gun to attach it around the ring of the mason jar lid. You can also get some holiday fabric and cut small circles to cover the lid; attach it by simply screwing the ring over it while it’s covering the lid.

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I know it’s hard to see, but in the top right corner, there’s an example of the apple butter with fabric covering and Christmas ribbon around the lid.

3. Mini Books
You guys, I saved the best for last… These are amazingly wonderful little creations and I LOVE them.

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My friend has an Etsy shop where she sells beautiful digital prints and mini book kits. If you have no idea what a mini book is, you’re not alone. I had never heard of them before either. But your life will be better now because I’m going to tell you what they are. Basically, they are pre-made mini scrapbooks for the creative-at-heart that you fill in with your own pictures and words. These are great, first of all because they are small, and therefore manageable to create.

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They can also easily be themed since they are so small; like you could do one of your summer vacation, the first year of marriage/dating, your pregnancy memories for one of your children, or a book of encouragement and hope. In addition, they are super affordable, and they have lots of texture and shape. If that doesn’t sound amazing to you, let me help you by showing you some more pictures.

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This is what a typical kit looks like when you receive it.

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Simply add your favorite pictures and some words to make it yours

I hope this has been helpful in giving you some good ideas for homemade Christmas gifts, or maybe it has at least gotten the creative juices going for you to make something else. Either way, I wish you well in your gifting ventures this holiday season. May you find many ways to warm the hearts of those you love!

Home Life

Meal Planning

A couple of months ago, I opened our cabinets and freezer that were packed full of food and bemoaned the fact that there was nothing to cook for supper. I realized that I should have plenty of meal options, but we just had so many little bits of leftover ingredients, many of which had been purchased for special meals that I don’t regularly make. I was getting tired of seeing food, but coming up with nothing for supper.

This led me to approach meal planning differently and I’ve been doing this for several months now with success. Our grocery bill has been lower, our meals have been healthier, and I’ve actually used the food in my cabinets as well as what I’ve purchased.

I’m not going to pretend like this is a quick meal planning process, but it does get easier as you implement it regularly.

  1. Make a list of all the ingredients you have and the amounts. List everything – partial bags of beans, grains, condiments, packaged food, etc. Literally EVERYTHING. Keep this list because you will update it as ingredients are used.pinterest-meals
  2. Make a list of any upcoming events for which you need to provide food. Potluck, company, birthday, special meal requests, etc. I try to plan for two weeks of meals, but look ahead at the calendar 2.5-3 weeks in case I don’t make it to the store before that event.
  3. Brainstorm meals that you can make using the ingredients list. This can take a very short time if you enjoy cooking or days (weeks?) if you don’t. Continually update the ingredients list from step 1 as you “use” ingredients in your meal ideas. Try to come up with meals that use what you have and need the fewest additional ingredients.*I like to write my meal ideas on note cards and list all the necessary ingredients on the card. Put favorite meals on brightly colored cards, so they are easily found to make frequently. This makes steps 4-6 a lot easier!
  1. Make your grocery list. Using your note cards and ingredients list, determine what you’re missing and how much you need. Buy only what you need for the meals planned. I always buy an extra can or two of veggies or jar of spaghetti sauce just in case.
  2. Keep your original ingredients list and update it during each meal planning session and repeat steps 1-4. Except, 20161106_120625this time, you have several meal ideas that you brainstormed already on note cards.Meal planning is an ongoing process. If I think meals throughout the week, I go ahead and write it down. Also, if I run out of something basic (flour, sugar, rice, tea bags, coffee, milk, eggs, etc), I add that to my grocery list as I use it up
  3. Put your note cards or list of meals on the refrigerator. I prefer a list of our meals, so I have it all available at a glance and use the note cards more for planning. I also write recipes on note cards (these are different from my meal ideas cards) and clip those on a magnetic clip beside my list. I personally don’t use recipes often, but when I do, I like them easy to find.
  4. Miscellaneous Tips:
    • If you have meals that use fresh ingredients, find a way to note that so that you will make those meals first.
    • List special meals or event food separate from your regularly breakfast, lunch, and supper ideas.
    • I don’t like assigning particular meals to a particular day, because sometimes you just don’t want pasta on a Monday!
    • Be realistic: At some point you may eat out, eat at your mother-in-law’s, eat leftovers, or just want a bowl of cereal. I don’t plan 14 suppers for two weeks; I probably plan around 8-10 main meals, which last us anywhere from 2-3 weeks.

Happy Meal Planning!!

Home Life

Is Creativity Essential?

Sometimes I ask myself, “Does the world really need more art?” I make art (music) for a living, so this question nags me on my low days. There is a frivolousness attached to art at times, causing my mind to question my reasons for being a creative.

Well I’m tired of waiting for the next time the question will nag me. Instead, I want to answer it.

Desert Island Non-Essentials

Have you ever played the desert island game? Basically, a group of people shares what they’d bring to a desert island if they were hypothetically stuck on one indefinitely. When forced to choose only one thing, most people name practical items:

“I’d bring a raft or a boat so I could get back to shore.”  

“I’d bring a fishing pole so I could catch fish and not starve.”

It’s a silly game, but the results are telling: true necessities are things that contribute to our physical survival. Yet my heart screams, “The world needs art too!” Maybe we just need art in a different way than we need food, water, and a roof over our heads.

IMG_6014 Our Lives, A Creative Essential

Can we survive without art? Technically yes. But without it, a part of who we are as beings created in the image of God is lost. Ewin Mcmannus in The Artisan Soul says,

“We will never create anything more powerful or more significant than our lives. The complexity is that we are both works of art and artists at work…He who is the creator God is the creative God, and he created us in his image and likeness. He created us with imagination and curiosity, with the capacity to hope and dream, and he place within us all the material necessary to live an extraordinarily creative life. The proof is that soul is the divine material with which we are made to create. The difference between humans and every other species on this planet is that humans are artists. This is our uniqueness–we were created to create. Somewhere along the way we forgot this. We became convinced we were something less. It is time to become more.”

In the desert island scenario we may not have brought a favorite piece of art or a guitar, but we brought our lives; both the greatest tool with which we create, and our greatest creation. Without our creativity we may not have the gumption to use the raft to get back to shore or the fishing pole to catch our food.

So, is being a musician, or some other artistic endeavor, a “real” job? Yes! If creativity is essential to who we are as human beings, then the people who model this bring value to our culture by teaching that it is less about what we accomplish and more about how we accomplish it. Even people who don’t consider themselves creative are creative just by living out their lives, and allowing God to shape their lives; you are a creative testament to who He is!

Home Life

Spring Cleaning Ideas

Spring showers bring may flowers? Maybe in other parts of the world, but here in Michigan it’s not spring showers, it’s spring snows. Regardless of how cold it is outside, the spring vibe still manages to pervade even the gloomiest Michigan days: the birds are beginning to sing again and some flowers are beginning to brave the frost.

I don’t know what it is about spring, but it makes me want to clean things. Here are my best spring cleaning tips that will leave you feeling refreshed.

Start Small

Not everyone gets giddy about cleaning like I do. If you get easily overwhelmed with cleaning or organizing, try starting small. Start with one drawer in the kitchen or one drawer in your dresser. Like magic, big tasks can feel small when broken up into manageable parts.

Have a Cleaning Party

Maybe you have kids, or a husband in the house. What if you made a game out of cleaning and got everyone involved? Tackle a project together, but do it in a fun way; play loud music, order a pizza, or do something special to celebrate cleaning accomplishments.

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Get Rid of One Thing A Day

Go through your closets and find things you haven’t used in over a year. I paired down half of my closet last year with this simple method. And guess what? I don’t miss any of the clothes I got rid of! Why? Because my tastes dramatically changed and I only kept the clothes because they were expensive or in good condition. There’s no reason for us to have “good” clothes or things if we are not using them.

Reward Yourself

Like having a cleaning party, try rewarding yourself to make cleaning more manageable. I have a really hard time getting rid of old clothes for example. I make deals with myself that if I get rid of 7 things I don’t wear, I can buy myself one that I love.

Sell or Repurpose

There are things you just can’t fathom getting rid of because you paid good money for them or they have sentimental value. For valuable items, try eBay or craigslist. You will be surprised how good it feels to sell something you never use! If you have sentimental attachment to the item, try making something out of it that won’t take up space in your drawers, shelves, and closets. I’ve seen great blankets made from t-shirts, greeting cards made into books, etc. Pinterest holds a plethora of ideas!

I hope this get’s you started in your spring cleaning endeavors. Happy cleaning!

Home Life

Want To Get Organized? Let’s Do This!

Want to get a jump start on that spring cleaning while it is still winter? Feeling cabin fever and kind of claustrophobic by all the stuff in your house? No? Maybe it is just me that does.

I am an organizaholic. I am also not a spender. One of my favorite things to do is downsize, clean out, and utilize what I have.  I know not everyone has the drive to clean out constantly (I am always weeding out the filing cabinet). I also know that most people don’t really find it exciting to clean. So, what can I offer you in hopes that you will feel better despite the apprehension of tackling the basement?

Organizing is not just about rearranging your goods, it’s also about figuring out how to utilize everything that you have and getting rid of unnecessary belongings. Here are a few tips and encouraging words that will have you downsizing and organizing in no time!

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  • If you haven’t used it in a couple years give it away, toss it, or best yet sell it online. Money in your pocket!
  • When the whole house overwhelms you, start in a small space, like the bathroom medicine cabinet. It’s a small room and you are bound to find a few expired items to throw out.
  • For items that are seasonal or not used too often, purchase see through bins so that you can see what you have for later use.
  • Consider this when you still feel overwhelmed in that small room, the more you get rid of, the less you will have to clean up later.
  • When out shopping for decor, pick things that will also serve a purpose. Like candles, throws, bookends, frames, dishes, etc. There are a lot of funky items that serve dual purposes.
  • All of those manuals that you think you have to hold onto can be found on the internet in a PDF format. I use the online Nikon d610 manual on my phone all the time when something goes haywire with my camera.
  • Put like-items in a place that makes sense to you, so next time you know where it is and will be more likely to put it away.
  • You aren’t alone when it comes to feeling burned out. I always just think about and tackle what’s in front of me (ex. one drawer, box, or closet), instead of thinking about the piles looming around me.
  • Make your bed. For such a large surface, just doing that will help to cut down on the anxiety of tackling your drawers or closet space.
  • A lot of times when I am going through boxes in the basement, I find things that have been lost for a while. Also, going through everything you own and knowing where it is, helps to prevent purchases that are unnecessary.

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So what is the point of all this? Why keep your house organized or filled with less? For me, it means spending my energy on other things even though I love to clean. We are also in a transition right now and know that at some point we have to move. Who wants to move a bunch of junk? Not me! Another reason for going through these moments of downsizing and such is that it makes me appreciate what I do have. Being content is a pretty awesome feeling!

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. – 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Home Life

How To Create An 18″ Boy Doll

A lot of the time, parenting means being creative – whether that means making a cowboy hat for your six-year-old or coming up with innovative ways of trying to have your toddler keep her bib on during meal times. Shortly before Christmas, I had to do just that: think of a creative way to make a faux American boy doll for Camden.

You see, you can’t buy an American Girl doll that is a boy. (The AG company does make a twin boy baby) They don’t make 18″ boy dolls and neither do any of the other faux brands sold at Walmart or Target. I looked on Amazon and various other websites to see what I could find and nothing turned up. It wasn’t until I read an article online that got me thinking. It was a mother who had the same problem I had: her son wanted an 18″ boy doll, but she couldn’t find one, so she decided to make one.

Of course! Why hadn’t I thought of that? So I quickly got to work and started looking on YouTube for inspiration.

It was only a four-step process for creating a boy doll and it was very easy. I first bought a girl doll at Target for about $20. I took her outfit off and wrapped it up to give to my daughter for Christmas for her 18″ girl doll that she already had. I then cut off all of the doll’s hair and took her lipstick off using rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip. I bought a boy wig off Amazon.com and also ordered a jogging outfit for the new boy doll I was creating. Once everything came in the mail I just put it all together and glued the wig on to ensure it wouldn’t come off.

While I was in the process of looking up stuff online, I noticed that you can buy an 18″ boy doll fully dressed on Etsy – but for $200! They used the American Girl brand and did the same thing I had done. I wasn’t about to pay $200 for a doll, though!

So, all in all, I’m so glad my son can experience playing house and “parenting” his boy doll. One day it will be neat to see it all comes together as I see him develop into the man that I know God wants him to be – whether that is him being a stay-at-home dad taking care of his children or driving a dump truck.

Home Life

Affordable DIY Holiday Gift

I would call my husband a semi-professional photographer. In my humble opinion, he takes amazing photos and has even done a few weddings. He really enjoys shooting just for fun and as a hobby. So with all my husband’s skills we have a lot of incredible photos he has taken, not only of scenic landscapes, but of our children.

I needed some way to display this wonderful art, but in a less expensive way than ordering pics and frames and matting from MPIX.com (great company by the way; quality and timely with delivery). So this is what brought about my DIY photo canvas idea (technically, it was an idea taken from Pinterest, where all great DIY projects come from these days it seems).

So here is a list of things you will need to get going with this project:

1. Canvas (pick a size you can get a picture printed in)
2. Mod podge
3. Black paint and paint brush
4. Picture

Now let me go into further detail about the materials needed. For the canvas I purchased a pack of seven 12×12. I used a 50% off coupon that craft stores basically hand out like candy if you are on the mailing lists, or text msg, etc. Don’t go to a craft store without a coupon! With the coupon it made each canvas like $1.76.

I bought a very small – 2 fl oz to be exact – bottle of acrylic black paint. The paint will cost anywhere from one to two dollars. Instead of using a paintbrush, which you might have hanging around your house, I decided to use sponge brushes. You can buy these in a pack of five or ten for one to two dollars. I was going to be doing several canvases and wanted to have a variety of paint brush sponges to choose from.

For the picture I chose to print mine at MPix because their quality, as stated before, is amazing and they have great customer service and fast delivery. I also chose to print mine in “true” black-and-white as opposed to just black-and-white (not sure what the difference is but that’s what I did). I was doing seven canvases at the time (some were given as gifts), so ordering all the pictures at the same time really cut down on the $7 flat rate shipping they charge. Each 12×12 picture printed in “true” black-and-white was about $7. So all in all I was able to make one canvas print for just about $10, which is way cheaper than you can even get at Walmart.

So here is the how-to part. Paint all four sides of your canvas with black paint and a little bit of the top part of your canvas. You don’t want any white showing. (Note: you can buy black canvas but they tend to be in limited sizes and are not sold in packs, making your canvas more expensive.) Let your paint dry.

I used a flatte finish mod podge and applied it to the top of my canvas with my sponge brush. Once I had a thin-to-medium coat of mod podge, I laid my picture down on it. I then flipped the canvas over on to a clean and clear surface so that my picture was face down to press the picture gently on to the canvas more securely. I then let it dry for five or ten minutes, then applied one to three coats of mod podge onto the top of the picture. I chose to do only one coat. I used clean straight strokes going in the same direction across my picture and made sure to cover every area thoroughly and made sure to get the corners. Then, I simply let it dry over night. (Note: the mod podge will dry clear over your picture. Picture below is of wet mod podge on top of picture. ) The canvas is so light you can hang it on the wall with one thumb tack!

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The picture at the the top of this post is the finished project. These three canvases have been hanging in my living room for the past year, with no sign of wear or tear. I have another pack of canvas just waiting for me to do more this winter.

I made two different sets of photo canvas prints for family members last year and it was truly one of the best parts of Christmas to see them open them. I made four 12 x12 canvas prints for my sister-in-law – of each of her four children – and one large 24 x 36 canvas print for my in-laws of all their grandchildren. (The 24 X 36 print I would not do again: it was very big and challenges came with it). All the photography, of course, was done by my husband earlier in the summer.

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Best wishes as you find that perfect holiday gift or DIY project for those you love as we celebrate the real reason for this wonderful time of year – Jesus’s birth.