Archives for April 2014

Organizing sewing and craft supplies (and a recipe for homemade laundry detergent)

In my laundry room, I am fortunate to have quite a bit of high shelving above the washer and dryer, on which I store craft and sewing supplies.  I’ve been struggling for awhile with my fabric storage.  I’ve tried just folding it and stacking it.  I’ve tried keeping it in clear bins.  But inevitably when the girls or I are hunting for a particular piece of fabric, everything gets jumbled, and (apparently) none of us are terribly good at re-stacking things neatly on a routine basis.  Same with the crafts, kept in bins on the top shelves.   Things get pulled out, put away improperly or not at all, and the longer it goes between straightening, the messier the whole area gets.  Pretty soon pulling out even one tiny thing makes an avalanche of mess highly probable.  (Please tell me this doesn’t only happen at my house??)

Laundry room-- the messy middleAwhile back I’d seen this idea for organizing tissue paper, and realized it’d work perfectly for fabric.  So last week, I pulled all the mess off those upper shelves, wiped everything down, and started folding fabric and threading it through the wire shelving rack. I’m terrible at taking ‘before’ pictures when I do projects– I tend to be way to eager to just leap in– but here’s a picture of the messy middle. Anything would be an improvement at this point, right?

The hardest part about this project was folding the fabric of varying sizes and shapes into fairly uniform sizes, so that it would look nice lined up.  If I had it to do again, I’d probably organize it in the order of the colors of the rainbow– wouldn’t that be just lovely?  I’ve seen books arranged by color on bookshelves and loved it.  But I didn’t have that idea til I was halfway done with the project, so I think I will leave it be as is.  I still think it looks really pretty.

Organizing fabric with wire shelving

You might also be able to see in the photo above that I flipped the lower shelf over so that the lip of the shelf was facing up instead of down.  With the lip up, I was able to use the shelf for gift wrap storage. I’m planning to also add a long wire or a dowel just below that shelf onto which I can thread spools of ribbon, to better organize my gift wrap supplies.

Setting the fabric up this way makes it SO easy to see what I have and grab what I need without disturbing anything else.  I’m delighted with how much better my craft area looks now, and am hoping it will be lots easier to maintain.  And having everything so easy to find makes me want to leap in and use more of my goodies!  Hooray for organizing success.

Organizing craft supplies


Here are other posts I’ve written about my laundry room.  It’s a hard working space and has seen several revamps over the years.

Shelf for a mismatched washer/dryer

School-book shelving in my laundry room

Laundry room organization ideas

soapAnd in case you’re curious about our laundry soap, here’s the recipe:

  • 4 cups of borax
  • 4 cups of washing soda
  • 1/2 bar Fels-Naphtha soap, finely grated

We store it in a 2-quart jar onto which I’ve fitted a lid from a parmesan cheese container.  We put 2 tablespoons of this mixture into each wash load.  It does a good job and is much more affordable than regular laundry detergent.  It even worked well when we had a front loader washer.  (The front-load washer died after working long and valiantly on our behalf.)

If you like this post, I’d love a pin on Pinterest. Next Wednesday I hope to share a very exciting, very affordable project that I’m working on in my kitchen! What’s new at your house?  Have you done any organizing lately?

that adoption video going around on facebook

So there’s a PSA-style video that’s been going around on facebook talking about the intrusive questions that adoptive families get about their families out in public.   The video suggested that those types of questions are akin to asking a female if she’s had surgery to augment a part of her body– totally inappropriate and invasive of a family’s privacy.

I saw the video all over my news feed last week. My very first reaction, to be honest, was an uncomfiness with the word used to describe female anatomy.  (I grew up with a daddy who had a Puritanical streak– he wouldn’t even say the word underwear in public, lol.  And right or wrong, his sensibilities still live on in my first gut reactions to things at times.)

I know the video creator’s intent was simply to educate people– to help them think about why these types of questions feel intrusive to adoptive families.  And he’s right– we do get tired of explaining our families over and over in the midst of buying eggs and milk and jeans in Wal-Mart. (My personal most-hated question is: ‘are they real siblings?’  Ugh. Yes, they’re real.  Yes, they’re siblings.  But is their particular DNA a Wal-Mart Stranger’s business?  Didn’t think so.) A lot of my discomfort with such questions is how those questions feel to my kids– like we’re constantly needing to say what they have is real– a real mom, a real dad, real siblings. No, not the first, but real nonetheless. Does that question always have to be there, needing addressed over and over?

I’m guessing the video creator was hoping that making people think about this might inform the public in a way that could spare all our kids pain and discomfort.  But there are two things that the video overlooks.  Comparing a child to a part of the female anatomy doesn’t feel so comfy to adoptees.  Here’s an article on Lost Daughters that makes that point much better than I can.   Particularly searing is the comment from Samantha about the way the video objectifies adopted people, comparing them to objects to be purchased. Though I can’t ever fully understand the adoptee experience, I do NOT want to be a clueless momma who never imagines life through my child’s eyes. It’s vitally important that we seek out the viewpoint of adult adoptees.  Adoption has a much greater (and often more painful) impact on people’s lives than I ever understood when I was a brand new adoptive momma. Oh, I pray that I can always be a listener, even when (or especially when) someone’s thoughts feel uncomfortable to me.

The second thing that the video doesn’t quite address is the amazing opportunity we adoptive families have to engage the public in a child-honoring, God-honoring way in those exact moments of questioning.  We don’t have to go into depth about our kids’ DNA or past story, nor should we.  And the occasional person approaches questions so ham-handedly we may at times just need to shut ’em down and walk away.  But the majority of the time folks are honestly curious.

My first responsibility, always, is to my children– to answer in a way that protects their privacy while also affirming their priceless worth and their legitimate place in our family. Sometimes I do a little debrief after a nosy stranger walks away, to talk about how I answered, why a person might ask such questions, and how the child might respond when he gets a similar question.

But as a redeemed child of God, I want to extend grace to the people around me too.  Some folks may be considering adoption themselves.  Others might be trying to better understand the adoptees in their own lives. If we can be grace-filled and God-honoring in our responses to those questions, while also affirming the precious value of our children to those people — right in front of our children– we might just be planting a seed, or watering a sprout, or helping to advocate for another child who needs a family.

So often in life our attitude powerfully influences our effectiveness in a situation. Though I still inwardly wince when I get a silly question, these days I also try to see those questions as opportunities to speak for my children, and to advocate for children elsewhere who are voiceless and in need.

Completely done

What You complete is completely done.

Frugal Friday- please join in!

Our $12 MonitorFrugal stuff that happened at our house this week:

  • I cut my husband’s hair.
  • I cut lots and lots of lilacs to decorate our house this week.  So lovely.
  • I found potatoes, apples and oranges for a good price at the grocery outlet.
  • I hunted with my daughter for a prom dress at thrift stores.  No success yet, but we still have two weeks so we’ll keep looking.
  • I spent some time sorting my fabric stash so it’d be easier to see what I have.  In the process I found the cut-out pieces for several more of these sweet little bags, which I’m planning to finish next week.
  • I found 15 boxes of cereal in different stores for 99 cents- $1.49 a box.  Since we only eat cereal on Sundays, and for the occasional snack, this should last us at least 2 months.
  • I set aside a few new items from a relative’s de-cluttering project to use as gifts for kids and friends in the future.
  • When the screen died on one of our laptop computers, I bought a ‘new’ flat screen monitor.  For $12.95 at the thrift store.  It’s bigger than the one on the laptop and has much better picture quality.  $12.95.  Yeah, I already said that.  But wow!  🙂
  • When my son needed a belt to go with his new work pants, I nixed the $25 one at JC Penneys, and instead bought one that was just as nice at a thrift store.  For a buck.

Not so frugal:

  • That $1 belt?  It got lost.  Pretty sure it’s somewhere in the house, but my son ended up wearing an old one to his new job.  Ah well.
  • The miles I’m putting on the minivan, mostly driving kids to work — 157 miles in two days alone.  So tempting to go looking for a car that gets better gas mileage than our 20 mpg minivan.  But then we’d have insurance and repairs on yet another vehicle.  We should probably stick with the minivan for now.  And I did combine grocery and thrift shopping with all that driving.

What went well in the frugality department at your house this week?  Did you have some not-so-frugal moments too?  I’d love to hear about it all in comments, below.  Or if you blogged about it, share a link to your frugality post here.

The summer of driving

Photocredit: The Guardian

This may be shaping up to be a busy summer at our house.  Two of our teens are getting their 50 hours of student driving done, so to get all those hours accomplished in 6 months, John and I are being chauffeured EVERYWHERE we go.

In the past we’ve had kids wait to apply for jobs til they actually had licenses in hand and could drive independently.  But both boys are eager to save up money for cars.  And with the numbers of soon-to-be driving teens we have, I have to admit that sharing the ‘teen’ minivan between 3-4 teens would get challenging, especially with multiple jobs and all the college classes they have planned.

So we’ve had a steady stream of job applications heading out of our house.  One son has started a job-shadow at a local business, and another just got hired (! 🙂 !) at an awesome Mexican restaurant in our area.  Very exciting! Two of the kids are also working for their grandpa, doing maintenance work at the various properties that he owns. We are going every which way, and will be all summer, most likely.

Another exciting bit of news is that our daughter who graduates from high school next month just got accepted into the dental assisting program at our local community college.  Come fall, she’ll be a busy gal!  She’s hoping to get a job this summer as well, to supplement her hair-braiding business.  It is exciting to see the kids heading out and doing new and interesting things.

I’ve got a few bloggy changes planned as well.  I’ve decided to aim for a Monday/ Wednesday/ Friday schedule for awhile, and have come up with an actual editorial calendar! 🙂  On Mondays I plan to write about parenting and adoption.  Wednesdays I’ll share either a recipe or a household/craft-type project.  Then Friday will be my day to talk about frugality, and give you all an opportunity to link up or comment and share details of your frugality adventures during the week.   I find that writing about frugality regularly helps me keep thinking about it, and I always enjoy hearing about your successes too, so I’m looking forward to having a plan to talk on my favorite topics in a regular way.

How is your spring and summer shaping up?


Making a Spring Banner

How to make a banner

When preparing for Easter last week, I decided it would be nice to have some kind of spring-like festive banner in the living room. I dug through my fabric stash and found a variety of bright scraps, which I cut into diamond shapes that were about a foot long and 5 inches wide. I folded each diamond in half (with the pretty side of the fabric facing out) to create a triangle, and zig-zag stitched each triangle together, leaving a channel at the folded end of the triangle, through which I could string a ribbon. (You can see in the photo of the pink triangle where the stitching ends– that allows you to string the triangles together.)

StitchingOnce I had a few dozen diamonds sewn into triangle shapes, I laid them in a row on the living room floor and experimented with color arrangements to see what looked prettiest. Just like with a quilt, the pieces all in a heap looked haphazard– you can see I’ve got a lot of different patterns happening– but once I figured out a pattern, they ended up looking really nice together.

PinkSince each triangle still has two raw edges, they may eventually unravel and look a bit ragged. But I think if I treat my banners gently, I should be able to get quite a bit of celebrating out of them before they fall completely apart. If you want, you could cut out the shapes with pinking shears so that they would be less likely to unravel.


I strung my banner with plain old curling ribbon, the kind you use to decorate a package, because that’s what I had. You could use a fancier ribbon or even twine if you prefer. I’m thinking the banners I pulled together  (I made three) will be fun for spring and summer gatherings, as well as birthdays anytime.

You could make a similar banner with fall colors or Christmas colors to display later in the year. It might also be fun to pin or hot-glue alphabet letters on each triangle, spelling out Happy Spring, Happy birthday, or the name of a birthday kid.  This type of banner would also be adorable as decor in a child’s room.  So many possibilities!


Sunshine and family and fun

Yesterday turned out to be a perfect day to have a crew of 52 over for Easter. We had so much fun! Here are a few photos from the celebration. Hope your Easter was lovely too.

Easter baby

Amazed by bubbles

She kept being surprised when they popped in her face

Blowing bubbles


Retrieving high treasure

Little hunter Yummy Hunting Showing mom Someone swiped his fun dip Easter sweetness Helping our littlest one hunt Getting some help from mom The cousins with their grandma

Easter fun


FlowerGirlSmThis week we’ve been preparing to have family over to our house for Easter. Along with our kids and grandkids, we’re having both sets of grandparents plus John’s and my brothers and sisters. Between tables in the family room, dining room, and patio, as well as kitchen counter seating and patio furniture, we should be able to find space for everyone.

We’ve been planting flowers and sprucing up around the house.  The flowers on the tables will eventually end up in the flowerbeds, but I thought I’d keep them indoors for the weekend to add more of a spring feel inside. And of course there was some egg decorating.

FlowersSmThe really crazy (and nice!) thing is that all I’m cooking is potatoes and ham.  Everyone else is bringing every blessed thing, right down to cups and plates and oodles of dessert and lots of eggs for the kids to hunt. Should be a lovely time!

I hope you have a blessed Easter as well.  I saw this amazing video on facebook and wanted to share it here in case you haven’t seen it yet.

Our Redeemer lives!  Halleluiah!



Frugality this week


Here’s what I did in the past week to save money:

  • I found five pairs of shorts and several shirts at the thrift store for my kids instead of buying them new.
  • When doing yard work this past weekend, instead of buying new wood to replace the rotted-out wood edging around our play area, I repurposed wood that we already had.
  • When I wanted to add new mulch in the play area, I priced it at four stores and chose the cheapest per-yard price.  Other years I’ve often bought bagged bark for simplicity, but it is lots spendier and takes ridiculous numbers of bags to cover anything.
  • I bought two gallons of milk for $1.88 each with ‘points’ at Paul’s grocery store.
  • I went to Albertson’s early in the AM so I could buy the previous day’s ground beef at $2.49/lb instead of the $3-$4 a pound I’ve been seeing it lately.

One not so frugal that we did: having an electrician install a new ceiling fan.  We are huge DIY people normally, but this ceiling is 16 ft tall and the fan needed a bigger junction box AND the electrician was able to fix a broken light fixture over the sink while he was there.  My hubby considered it money well spent to have someone troubleshoot the connections for everything and wrestle the new fan into place.  Sometimes it’s very nice NOT to have to figure out things on your own.

How about you?  How’d your week go?


Hairstyle ideas for curly hair

Hairstyle Ideas for Curly Girls

Hairstyle Ideas for Curly Girls

  I thought it might be fun to share some photos of hairstyles our girls have had over the years.  I’ve captioned each photo with a short description of the hairstyle.  It’s definitely been a learning experience over the years, and some of my early attempts were a little rough.  I was inexperienced, and my girls were wiggly, and had very thin hair.  But I’ve gotten better at it over the years, and my girls are lots more tolerant of sitting still these days too.

Some important tips:  Make sure your kiddo has something to do while you work.  We usually do movies and snacks.  Make sure the hair is wet and well conditioned.  Also, don’t be afraid to break up the work into sections.  We often wash, condition and pick out the hair one day, afterward braiding it quickly into two braids, then do a more elaborate hairdo later that evening or the next day.  You have to do what your child will tolerate.

If this post is useful or interesting to you, I’d love a pin on pinterest!

My baby, age 1, playing with the hair goodies

My baby, age 1, playing with the hair goodies

Puff ponytails

Loose twists with lots of conditioner — works well when hair is fairly short

Wedge parts fanning out from the top of the head. Clips on ends of straight braids

Wedge parts fanning out from the top of the head. Clips on ends of straight braids

Left- 4 braids. Right- cornrows

Lots of braids!

Lots of braids!






Yarn braids. Blue – straight braids. Red – cornrows.

Nubian knots

Nubian knots with lots of triangle parts

Two ponytails with twists

Julianna's wedding cornrows were done by Lidya

Julianna’s wedding cornrows were done by Lidya

Cornrows with an angled part

cornrows with an angled part

Straight braids to triangle parts

Straight braids to triangle parts

Cornrows with beads and an angled center part

Cornrows, half-braided, half-twisted

Cornrows, half-braided, half-twisted

Cornrows with an angled part

Cornrows with an angled part

My baby is getting big!



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