Archives for October 2012

31: Fabric-covered baskets


Awhile ago I snagged 7 of these strange looking baskets at the thrift store for 69 cents each, thinking that surely they’d be useful for something.  Since the wire is so widely spaced, they need some kind of a fabric insert to make them actually hold anything. I’d seen tutorials here and there for covering a storage bin, so finally this week I got out my stash of fabric, and started to experiment with my bins.


I have a snap press (like this one ) for diaper-making that I LOVE, and have become rather fond of making all sorts of things using snaps.  I decided to make rectangular bags that fit inside each metal basket, and opted to use snaps to fasten them to the framework.  I ended up being pleased with how these first two turned out.  Each one took me half an hour or so to make.

I am already scheming about using them to create a gift wrapping station something like this. I’m sure mine won’t be quite as organized as that one, but isn’t that a fun use for the inside of a closet door? I’ll keep you posted!

Go here to see how my daughters and others are finishing out our month of Focus and Refresh.

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Family Feasts on Generations Radio

A couple weeks ago while speaking at a homeschooling conference in Boise, I had the chance to meet Kevin Swanson from Generations Radio.  This ministry  aims to look at life from a biblical perspective, in a way that supports strong families.  I greatly enjoyed Kevin’s presentations at the conference.  He is an extremely lively speaker — all over the stage, full of passion about his message.

Yesterday I had the fun of chatting with Kevin on his radio show about Family Feasts for $75 a WeekHere’s that interview if you’re interested.  And for folks who are here for the first time after listening to the interview, welcome!  Click on the tabs across the top to read more about homeschooling, cooking, and our adoption adventure. Here are links to some of the recipes I mentioned in the interview.


Recipe: Banana Nut Muffins

Adapted from a recipe by Strawberry Creek Inn B&B


Recipe: Banana Nut Muffins

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 15-20 muffins

Recipe: Banana Nut Muffins


    Dry Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup toasted chopped walnuts (or slivered almonds)
  • Wet Ingredients:
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon Creme de Banana (optional, I didn't use it)
  • 3-4 overripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together flour, baking soda, salt and toasted nuts.
  2. In another bowl combine butter, eggs, almond extract and Creme de Banana (if using).
  3. Add banana and sugar and mash with a potato masher til incorporated and fairly smooth.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix til just combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin. Fill each muffin hole with batter almost to the top.
  6. Sprinkle each muffin with a bit of granulated sugar, if desired. (This makes a sweet crunchy coating on top of the muffins.)
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each muffin comes out ALMOST clean.
  8. Let cool just a little and remove muffins from tin, carefully turning muffins on their sides to cool to prevent sogginess on the bottom.
  9. Enjoy!
  10. For more affordable recipes, check out Mary's cookbook Family Feasts for $75 a Week


Go here to see dozens more easy and affordable recipes


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31: What I’ve loved about this month

I find that I’m feeling a little disappointed that this month is coming to an end so quickly. I have a mountain of projects I’d still like to do. One is this soft green scarf that I’ve been working on for the past few days.  I’m using a very thick yarn, so that helps it go quickly. I’ve been knitting while the kids read to me and while I watch TV late at night, and think I should have it done by the end of the week.

I’ve enjoyed this month enough that I definitely want to continue finding time for crafts most days — LOVE that.  I’ve also been doing pretty well getting game or craft time in with the younger girls– not quite every day, but more often than in the past, so that’s good.  I also definitely am going to continue limiting my Facebook time.  A few minutes a few times a day really is enough.  Go here to see what other folks have been doing to Focus and Refresh this month.


Lord we know your ways are not our ways
So we set our faith in who You are
Even though You reign high above us
You tenderly love us
We know Your heart
And we rest in who You are

How to make fairy wings in 20 minutes flat

I’ve never made fairy wings before, so I was thrilled to discover that making two sets took me a mere 30 minutes, cost me the price of some cellophane and packing tape, and utterly delighted my girls.  That’s what I call a win!

Here’s what you’ll need for each set of wings:

  • 2 wire hangers
  • 1 piece of iridescent cellophane  (about 18″x24″)
  • clear packing tape

I left my wire hangers exactly the shape that they came, except for twining the hook portions of the two hangers together and then stabilizing it with a few wraps of packing tape so that they felt sturdy and like one unit.  You can see what I did in the photo below.

Lay the bent-together hangers, centered, on a rectangle of cellophane.

Fold left and right edges of cellophane over the outer wing edges.  The two sides of the cellophane won’t quite meet in the middle.  Use a piece of clear packing tape to secure the two sides of the folded-over cellophane to the center of the wing frame.

Tuck in the bits of cellophane that don’t meet in the middle so that they wrap around the wing ends as I’m doing below.

Then cut a slit in the center of the bottom layer of cellophane from the bottom edge up to the center of the framework.

When you get close to the center, snip a diagonal bit to the right and to the left. At this point your cut will be Y-shaped, which will create a little v-shaped tab in the middle close to the center of the wing frame.
Fold the flaps you just created outward so that they wrap around the wings.  Secure with tape.

Repeat this process at the top end of the wings, first cutting a slit, then wrapping the cellophane outward around the wings, and finally taping the little v-shaped tabs across the center of the wing frame.

Tie the wings onto your little girl’s shoulders with two ribbons and wait for the smiles!

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Shelf for mismatched washer/dryer

At our house small bits of laundry like socks and washcloths seem to always fall behind the washer and dryer, and for awhile I’ve been wanting to install a shelf something like the photo on the left above the washer and dryer to block that space so that fewer things would fall off the cliff.

The problem is that our washer and dryer are not a matched set.  Our front-load washer has a flat top with the control panel at the front of the machine.  Our dryer has an upraised control panel at the back.  So I’ve been puzzling as to how we could implement this cool idea.

Yesterday we had the repairman come help us unclog the trap of the washing machine  (something that’s needed doing several times on our Whirlpool Duet).  In the process of working on it, once again we discovered lots of things that had fallen behind the machine.  (Don’t you just hate it when appliance-moving reveals you to be a less-than-stellar housekeeper?  Or maybe that’s just me…)

My wonderful husband decided now was the time to solve this problem, and here’s what he came up with:  a two level shelf custom fitted for our mismatched washer-dryer pair.  Bonus: now we have a perfect place to set the pencil sharpener.

Here’s the view of the washer-top. I don’t think we’ll be losing socks back there any more!

And here’s the shelf again from the other side of the room. I love small fixes like this –ones that make the most of what you have, instead of leaving you pining for what you don’t have.

I’m thinking about staining all the wood in this room a darker color, but that’s a project for another day! Here’s another post about our laundry room if you want more details.  It’s not always the neatest room in our house, but over the years I’ve been able to figure out how to make the most of the space, which is important when you’re doing three loads of laundry a day like we do.

Go here to see what other folks have been doing during our October Focus and Refresh Challenge. And tomorrow I’m hoping to show you fairy costumes!

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I will give it to you

It’s been a rough few days with one of our teenagers.  Nothing that we haven’t seen before– just lots of unpleasantness and not much luck encouraging her in the right direction, which tends to leave me feeling discouraged. I had a talk with my mom, which is always therapeutic.  She’s full of perspective and Godly wisdom– I’m really blessed to have her as both my momma and my friend.

I so much want to grow the relationship with my daughter that I’m always reaching out to her, wanting to talk and interact, but often am pushed away.  We’ve talked about why she does this.  We’ve given chores, taken away privileges, prayed with her and for her.  But due to hard stuff in her past, she just has a hard time responding kindly to me.

Mom suggested that I not try so hard to reach out — just back off and give her space. Honestly, I so much want to listen.  But I feel like if I didn’t reach out, there’d be almost zero interaction, and that feels to me like giving up on the relationship.  I’ve never been a quitter;  how can I quit on my daughter?

As much as I wanted to hear my mom, the closest I could imagine doing that day was to renew my determination to be less reactive to rudeness and to use fewer words in our interactions.  A baby step, that’s all.

Then on Sunday, our pastor told the story of Abraham being asked by God to leave his country and go to a new land that God would show him. There were enemies in the new land, but here God said a really amazing thing to Abraham. “I will give you this land.”

Not ‘make a battle plan, fight tooth and nail, and never give up’ but:  “I will give it to you.”

Hold your hands out in a state of expectation and I will give it to you.

Go to a new land, where you’re not battling, and fixing, and trying to make things happen.

Hold out your hands.

“I will give it to you.”

And here still I sit, hands clutched.  Heart doubting the wisdom of giving up and stepping back.  Not sure if I can really release this precious child and just back off, have faith, see what happens, trust that she’ll come around.

But still that promise rattles in my brain, dovetailing with my momma’s words the other day.

Step back.  Wait and see. I will give it to you.


“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Your well project!

Long-time readers may remember that almost two years ago on this blog we began a fundraising project with Charity: Water, a great organization that drills wells for people in empoverished countries all over the world.  Our fundraiser total was  $6207!   Seriously, people– that number that still amazes me!!  Thanks so much to each of you who contributed to that total. The pictures below are of the water project that we funded fully, in far northern Ethiopia, in the Tigray region near Eritrea.  One hundred fifty people are served by this well.

Our fundraiser also gave partial funding to two other wells in northern Ethiopia.  If you scroll to the bottom of each well project page, you can see where your own donation ended up being used.  (Some of you donated anonymously, but if you remember how much you gave, you might still be able to see where your own money went.)

I was so touched to see the pictures of our well, and so thankful that so many of you got behind this project with us.  John and I on our own would only have made a tiny difference.  But by God’s grace and through your generosity, together we all truly have done something. Thank you!