Archives for December 2013

Looking back, looking forward


In finishing out 2013, I did a bit of looking back at what was interesting to the most people during the year.  Here are some of the posts that were shared more often or commented on more than average.  Maybe there’s one that you missed?

Natural Tooth Care: Four Changes We’ve Made

My Stuff and Theirs

High School Chemistry: Helpful Links

Six Things I’d Rather Buy at the Thrift Store

Make-Your-Own Pizza

So You Want to Stay Home With Your Kids

Looking forward to a new year with you as well!  I’ve got all sorts of plans brewing!

In January I’ll be writing about our grocery budget.  I’d like to see if we can get by on $400 for all 8 of us in January– kind of a post-Christmas recovery plan, you know?  To make that $400 stretch the furthest, I’m starting my month with a cooking-from-the-pantry challenge, and will see what I can rustle up with all the food we already have. But I also want to emphasize good food and healthy eating.  Think soups and stews and crock pot recipes.  On January 1st I’ll share my meal plan for the next two weeks.  Want in on my $400/month grocery challenge?  Think about what might be a good spending goal for your own family, and stay tuned!

Also in January I am planning on getting more intentional with my computer time, with a focus on having a no-screen-zone during part of every day. I’m converting old home movies to computer files, brewing kombucha and making kefir, working on saying yes to my kids in creative ways, and organizing my wild and crazy laundry room.   I’d love to have you along for the ride in this new year.  Thanks for reading!

Christmas Halleluiah

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Prince Of Peace

Photocredit: InCourage

Wishing you a blessed Christmas with your precious ones!  See you in the New Year!

Little Drummer Boy

Easy Homemade Eggnog

Easy homemade eggnog

This time of year in the grocery store I’m often tempted by eggnog, but it’s so darned expensive! Here’s a super-easy way to make your own, using vanilla pudding instead of raw eggs.

Homemade Eggnog

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 1/2 gallon

Homemade Eggnog


  • 1 3-ounce package instant French vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/2 gallon milk (2% or whole is best)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  1. Whisk together puddling mix and about 1 cup of milk.
  2. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl.
  3. When the puddling is blended and dissolved, add sugar, vanilla, and spices to the pudding/milk mixture.
  4. Pour into a 2-quart pitcher, add remaining milk, and stir well.
  5. Let chill overnight, or at least one hour. Just before serving, stir again to recombine spices.
  6. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream if you wish.


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Conversation Starters for Holiday Dinners

Conversation Starters

Last night we were invited over to my parents’ house for dessert and a few gifts.  While we were visiting, my dad asked everyone to tell about a favorite gift they’d gotten a different year.  It turned out to be really fun going around the table and hearing what was most memorable to all the various people.

My mom and dad both have memories of getting Christmas bikes that were joint gifts to them and a sibling or two or more. One of our kids declared gummy bears to be the best gift ever. :)Of course my fingerprint Christmas was my very favorite, but I also remembered getting the gift of piano lessons one year as a child, with a prelude of dozens of cryptic clues smilingly supplied by my mom, none of which helped me guess a bit. John remembered the lengths to which his dad went to ‘prove’ to the kids that Santa did exist.  (Tape recordings of the jolly elf saying ‘ho, ho, ho’ and rattling packages pretty much seal the deal, right? 🙂 )

Anyway, the conversation was so delightful that it got me thinking about other conversation starters that a family could employ at a holiday meal that would provide interesting conversation and leave everyone knowing a little more about each other.  So I did some thinking and some looking at similar lists and compiled one of my own:

1. Tell us about a favorite gift from a different Christmas.

2.  If you could eat only three foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?

3. What was a job you hated when you were younger?  One that you like now?

4. What is one thing you wish had more time to do during the next year?

5. What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done in your life?

6.  What is one adventure you’d like to have in the future?

7. What is the hardest thing about your current age?  The best thing?

8. What is your earliest Christmas memory?  Your best?

9. What’s the best compliment you’ve ever gotten?

10.What’s one thing you got better at this year?  What would you like to get better at next year?

Have any questions you would add to this list?  I’d love to hear them.  And here’s hoping holidays with your family will be treasured memories!



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Frugality this week (or, the saga of the turkey)

pumpkinThis week I have been finishing Christmas shopping which is our most notably UNfrugal time of the year, so at first I don’t feel like I did especially well with saving money.  But really, I’m still chugging away. Here are a few examples.

We finally fed the last of the pumpkins to our cows. They’ve been getting one a day ever since we harvested them this fall. We joke that we’re going to have pumpkin flavored meat.  We just toss the pumpkins into the pasture hard enough that they break in half and the cows happily gobble away.  For a bigger and more satisfying explosion, our son sometimes climbs up into the treehouse and throws them from there.

Our chickens spend summers pecking around in their moveable pen, but in the winter they are in the barn with only a small outdoor run.  During the winter I always try extra hard to send fruit and veggie scraps out to them every day to supplement their boring chicken feed regimen.  They also get dabs of rice that have lived in the fridge too long, extra pancakes, and heels of bread. I figure every nibble of scraps is a little less store bought feed that they’ll need.

Saturday I cooked a turkey all day in our roaster.  The first night we had turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy.  Sunday noon we had turkey enchiladas, salad and corn when all the kids came for lunch.  Sunday evening I made creamy turkey, potato and broccoli chowder for dinner with Ritz crackers/cream cheese.  Monday noon the turkey came out again  (along with the rest of the enchiladas and a few other leftovers) and people got to choose what they zapped for lunch.  Monday dinner I did French bread pizzas topped with pepperoni, garlic, mushrooms and (yes, again) shredded turkey.

It sounds like a lot of turkey, but  because I presented it in so many different ways, it didn’t feel like the very same meal over and over.  I still have a tiny dab of turkey left that most likely I will use today for a veggie ramen noodle soup.  My kids LOVE it when I make ramen, even though I add lots of veggies to make it healthier.  Today I’ll probably use cabbage, shredded carrot, and the last dab of corn from Sunday noon, and then the turkey will be gone.

I don’t always do so many turkey meals in a row. Other times when I cook a turkey, I immediately package some of it up and put it in the freezer.  I LOVE having cooked meat to pull out of the freezer on busy days, because it automatically means we’re at least 20 minutes closer to dinner than if I have to cook the meat still.

On Tuesday we were having sugar cravings.  Ben, 15, asked for fudge, which sent me on a Pinterest search where I discovered that a lot of recipes call for unsweetened chocolate (the little squares) or sweetened condensed milk, neither of which I had. Finally I decided to make my own sweetened condensed milk, which turned out great.  The recipe I ended up with called for 3 cups of chocolate chips, a cup of sweetened condensed milk, half a cup of heavy cream, a dab of vanilla, and 1/4 cup of butter, all melted gently and spread in a 9×9 pan lined with  wax paper.  (Except I didn’t have waxed paper, so we used foil, which we rubbed with butter.)  The butter ended up melting in an odd-looking way, leaving an unsavory looking film on the edges of the fudge.  But it was salted butter, and it added a surprisingly yummy salty flavor to the edges of each bite.  We much enjoyed it, and I was pleased we’d managed to handle chocolate cravings without having to run to the store.

I’m sure I did more than that, but that’s about all I remember for now.  What about you?  What did you do in the frugality department recently?

Book Giveaway: How We Love

Today I have a giveaway that I’m really excited about.  I’ve told you about the insight I got from The Whole-Brain Child and Parenting From the Inside Out by Daniel Seigel. The books I’m giving away today dovetail beautifully with Seigel’s, offering even more insight into how we naturally relate to people, and how to move forward in a way that improves all the relationships in our lives.

How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage is the book Milan and Kay Yerkovich wrote to help couples figure out how their natural relational ‘type’ (honed by childhood experiences) affects their current ability to love each other well. How We Love Our Kids: The Five Love Styles of Parenting explains those concepts again, this time in relation to how we tend to parent.

According to the books, the relationship style that is most associated with good relationships is called the ‘secure connector’.  Here’s a checklist to see how close you are to being a secure connector.  And here’s an audio talk where the couple explains this list in great detail.

However, since we are humans who were parented by humans in a less-than-perfect world, we all have tendencies that are less-than-healthy.  Here’s a brief summary of those five personality types.  See which sentence most resonates with you.

  • Avoider: “I like people, but I’m not very comfortable when they get emotional. I like to keep it simple… it’s so much easier when people just take care of themselves.”
  • Pleaser:“I work hard at making those I love happy, and I’m not great at saying “no” or keeping boundaries. But anything is better than having people upset with me.”
  • Vacillator:“I long for relationships and connection, but people always let me down. Sometimes I wonder if its even worth it anymore.”
  • Victim: “I keep my needs quiet, and honestly, I’m not even sure what my needs are. It’s safer when I just go with the flow… there’s less opportunity for a blow-up.”
  • Controller: “I don’t like being outside of my comfort zone, so I always make sure I’m the one in charge. That way I know for sure that I won’t be taken advantage of.”

Even folks who had relatively happy childhoods usually tend in one or more of the directions described above. The books explain how some of these personality types interact with each other, and how we each can grow in ways that will allow us to ‘earn’ emotional and relational security as adults.  Fascinating stuff!

This week I am giving away a copy of both How We Love and How We Love Our Kids

To be entered into the drawing, please comment below and tell me which book most appeals to you.  If you’re brave enough, you can also tell me which personality type sounds most like you.  I think I’m a pleaser, with a dab of controller tossed in there, which (I half-jokingly told my husband) means I want to MAKE everyone be happy.  He chuckled and said, “That sounds about right.”  Thanks to these books, though, I’m also working on becoming a secure connector.

If you would like a second chance to win these two books, you may also share the link to this contest on facebook or twitter, then come back to comment a second time.  I’ll announce a winner on Friday.


This post contains affiliate links, which means if you buy any of these books by clicking on the links here, I will receive a small portion of the cost of the book as a commission.  This doesn’t increase the cost to you, but those pennies do add up and go to support all the free content here.  I appreciate your support.

Wayfaring Stranger


Why I am…

Candy Houses

From the candy house party this week

ditching nightlights in bedrooms

brewing some kombucha  (here are directions and safety tips)

writing postplacement letters this week, with lots of pictures

thinking about my motivations for Christmas gift giving

The winner of Cooking for Crowds is commenter #24, Dawn!

And here are a few more pictures from the candy house extravaganza.  One of my sons managed to make a candy house that was eight stories high!  I didn’t know that was even possible.

What thoughts are perking around in your head these days?


28 kids, 24 feet of candy goodness

Dripping with sweetness

Dripping with sweetness



The kids think it’s the best homeschool craft all year



The beginning stages

The beginning stages of Ben’s Tower

The master at work

The master at work


Sweet creations, all unique

OK, so I didn't get a picture til after he'd started eating it.

OK, so I didn’t get a picture til after he’d started eating it.