31: In Christ Alone

We had a nice normal school day today that also included  waxing fall leaves with the kids and this ‘glad-I-finished-it-without-ruining-it’ craft for me. I originally saw it here and was so uncertain of my lettering ability that I went to Michael’s and looked to see if there was some kind of stencil that could help me out.  Finding nothing for a reasonable price, I bought a sharpie maker and just plunged in.  Well, kinda.

First I begged my husband for an old fence board, which he obligingly produced.  It has a dog-ear on one end, and the other end is all ragged with dry rot.  Love it.  I lightly sanded the center of the board where I was going to write.  I wanted to leave the weathering on the wood, but I also wanted to take down the highest ridges in the board so that it’d be easier to write smoothly.

Then I spent a long time looking at every font available on my computer.  I wanted a nice rectangular one for most of the words, and then a pretty scrolly one for the words ‘Christ’ and ‘Hope’.  Once I found what I thought I liked, I printed them huge (like 200-point font, or something along those lines) on several pieces of paper, and set the words on my board to test for fit.

I actually ended up later downloading and using a different scrolly font. But getting it all laid out on the wood got me started. I figured where to place the letters to make them equidistant from the top and bottom of the board. Then I basically just copied the shape of each letter.

I began by doing all the rectangular words, using a ruler and penciling in the straight and diagonal lines of each letter first and then filling in with marker. Once the straight lines were drawn and filled in with Sharpie, it was easier to add the curved embellishments at the corners of each letter. Each letter took many passes with a Sharpie. I wore out three for this little project.

Once all the ‘easy’ words were done, I had to get up the gumption to do the fancy words. I’m not really artistic in this way, and I was really afraid I was going to mess it up. I decided the first font I’d chosen wasn’t fancy enough, and ended up downloading a cute free font called “Shelter Me”, designed by Kimberly Geswein.

Then I printed the words off in an appropriate size, and began copying the design in pencil the best I could, erasing when I goofed, and filling in with Sharpie once I liked the flow of the shapes.  I decided that I wanted to place the two highlighted words at an angle on the board to make them stand out even more.

Although it’s not perfect, I really like the way it turned out.  I ended up feeling like maybe I’m a teensy bit more artistic (in a copy-cat sort of way) than I thought I was at the start of this project.
But the thing I love most about this project– and the reason I decided to attempt this project in the first place– is the message.  So many times in life I feel disappointed with how things are going at the moment.  The garage door breaks.  The kids fight.  My best efforts at all sorts of things don’t seem to be making a difference.

But here’s the truth:  my hope is in the Lord.  Yes, I’m called to be faithful, to carry on to the best of my ability.  But– my hope is found only in Christ.  And no power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hands.

And once this little reminder sign is mounted above my kitchen sink, I’ll have even more reason to be remembering that truth and humming this song.

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31: I’ve been living

The weekend ran away and carried me with it, and it was lovely. Saturday evening the kids came for dinner and it felt like a perfect night to fuss over the table a bit. The previous day I’d found a nice queen sized sheet at the thrift store for $3. I cut it in half lengthwise and sewed two narrow ends together to create a LOOOONG table cloth– I think it’s probably about 16 feet long? I dream someday of having an actual table that long. For now we have a good-sized dining table with card tables at either end, long enough to fit 16 people or so.

We brought in pumpkins and fall leaves, and the girls made us bouquets. Then I lit the candles and snapped this picture of the table just before dinner. I realize looking at this photo that if I was a truly gifted home-decor kinda gal, I’d have ironed my tablecloth before getting that shot. But honestly, I was feeling like super-girl to get chili and cornbread on the table, WITH flowers. And who really wants to iron a 16-foot-long tablecloth when there’s life to be lived and babies to be cuddled?

I keep meaning to get an actual picture during dinner with everyone sitting down. But I keep forgetting. Also, half the time the mommas are nursing babies on the couches, and teenagers are getting up for seconds, and other folks are just milling around. It’s all a glorious jumble of loved ones, but only occasionally are we all sitting at the table at the exact same time.

And the babies….aren’t they just yummy???

Of course we all thoroughly enjoy both of these precious little guys.

This weekend there was also a little brother-torture, with two of the girls proving definitively that Daniel’s hair is long enough to braid. Love the look of amazement and shock on the little nephew’s face as he tries to figure out why the girls are laughing and his uncle is making dying-cow sounds.

At the same moment on the other side of the room two brothers were playing guitar while some of their sisters looked on and/or sang, as the mood struck them. Wanted to get a picture of that too, but didn’t want to ruin the mood. We do have fun! Hope your weekend was lovely too. Go here to see what my daughters — and others of you!– have been doing with their 31 days of Focus and Refresh. It’s not too late to join in if you’re interested!

31: Canning and thrifting

Thursday was a mixed bag.  I did not write.  The kids and I did not play games.  I was on the computer very little, so at least that part was good.  But here’s what did get done.  I started the day crazy-tired so made my specialty– super strong Ethiopian coffee with my little  refillable Keurig gadet.  When that didn’t taste quite kick-ya-in-the-teeth strong enough, I augmented it with my homemade ‘extra shot’ –half a tube of Starbucks instant coffee.  Perfect. Add homemade granola, and it’s the breakfast of champions.

After running our 17 year old to a friend’s house to braid hair for two little girls, my youngest and I went thrift store-ing.  We found all sorts of goodies– shoes for her, a clear vase to for this project (except I used split peas), some cool storage containers for my teenagers’ shelves, a couple of girls’ tops, and an Aeropostale shirt for my son.

The very best find of all was these two cute wicker chairs that I paid a cool $3.85 each for.  They are well constructed and surprisingly un-rickety. I am wondering if I could use a dark stain on them to freshen them up.  Do you think they’d look good dark?



I came back home to can tomatoes (7 quarts) and grape juice (20 quarts).  I listened to kids read while I worked. Lunch was split pea soup and these yummy things, which I made with cabbage, mushrooms, bell pepper, and avocado.  Canning stretched on for most of the afternoon.  I was glad to have help from the teens with dish-washing afterwards. (They also helped me chop tomatoes before school.)

All those new canned goods meant reorganizing the pantry to make more space, then wiping down shelves and adding the new jars.  I think we have around 300 jars canned now, and it is FULL.  That’s nearly a jar a day of food– might be a record-breaking year by the time we can the rest of the tomatoes and do the rest of the grape juice.

In the evening I did get just a bit of sewing done– altered a thrift store top to better fit my twiggy 14 year old daughter, and mended another top.  All in all, a productive day.   How about you?

Check here for updates from other folks.

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31 Days: Beads and Patchwork

The first of Wednesday’s fun and unusual projects was a mending spree. Three pair of holey jeans got turned into shorts, a pair of jeans got elastic added to the waistband (like so), and another pair of jeans got a cool spotty patch (more fun patches here).  I think I’d kinda forgotten just how satisfying it can be to give new (cute) life to something old.  While my sewing machine’s still out on the dining room table, I may just prowl around for a few more things that need fixing.

Next on the agenda was craft time with the little girls.  We’ve done ironing beads off and on for years, so we had plenty of them lurking around the house.  But this time, instead of putting them carefully onto the little pegboards, we just picked our favorite colors and poured them into metal cookie cutters on cookie sheets. How easy is that?

Bake in a 250 degree oven for 15 minutes or until the beads puff up and start sticking together.  Good fun was had by all.  We’re thinking these guys would be fun gift toppers at Christmas time.

Next time, I think we’ll line our cookie sheets with foil.  The shapes peeled off the pan, no trouble.  But some of the shapes ended up with dark bits of cookie-sheet residue adhered to them, something we could avoid with a sheet of foil.   (Or a cleaner cookie sheet!)









Did you do anything unusual or fun this week so far?  We invite you to our linky page to see what the other Focus and Refresh participants have been doing with their time, and to add your own project or focus goals as well.

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31: Front porch refresh

So. Doing only 30 minutes of facebook/day for the last two days felt easy. Except– problem–  I was mostly just wandering over to Pinterest instead. I’ve decided for the rest of the month I’ll allow myself 30 minutes a day on Pinterest and Facebook combined.  I’ve also decided to do Facebook/Pinterest ONLY after doing my serious writing. Both days I put that off til last, and it needs to be higher on my list.  Also– the playing–I am SO bad at that.  Must put play with kids higher on my list too.  I’m such a do-er that just-for-fun stuff doesn’t happen enough.  (Except – in what universe is Pinterest actually ‘doing’, I ask?)

So today I’m planning on doing a bead craft with my youngest daughters. I’m also thinking about doing some ‘cute’ mending. I’ll write more about that tomorrow. But for now I’ll show you my project from yesterday. For quite awhile I’ve been sick of the way the front porch usually looks. Ratty rug, dirty cat food bowls, cobwebs, and always, always a bike or two leaning on the steps.  The spiffy new paint on the front door really deserves better.

Yesterday I decided to spend half an hour making the first look at our house a little nicer. First on the agenda was a good sweeping.  The pet food was moved to a less visible spot around the corner.  Then I pulled together a nice big bundle of the cornstalks that my handsome son had picked for me from the dying garden.  He also collected pumpkins for me to add to the arrangement. 

The final touch was the rug that Eldest had coaxed me to buy the other day.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one who’d noticed that our other one was getting a bit threadbare. As you can see, an hour’s work, some garden goodies, and an $11 rug from Costco made a big difference on our front porch.

This project was part of our Focus and Refresh series.  Click on over to see what my girls are doing.  And by all means join us.  You don’t have to blog every day to join up.  Just set a goal or blog a project and share it using the linky on Erika’s page.  Then we can all come over and see what you’re up to.  You can also see a list of our projects here on Pinterest. Join us?


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How to do yarn braids

Here’s another project I’d been meaning to try for awhile.  Actually I did it a couple days ago (and it took lots longer than 31 minutes!) but since folks asked about it on yesterday’s post, I’ll show it to you now as part of our month of focus and refresh. 

I’d seen yarn braids on other little girls before and thought they were cute.  So a few days ago with the very capable help of our teenage daughters, I finally got around to doing yarn braids in our two youngest daughters’ hair.   Sure enough– it’s not too hard and gives hair a really fun and different look.  We were all happy with the results.

You use plain old Red Heart yarn, the kind you can get at any Wal-Mart. Begin by combing out and sectioning your daughter’s hair. I usually begin with a criss-cross part, first making a part from ear to ear, and then take another from center front  to the nape of the neck. Ponytail each of these segments off. Then working with one section at a time, gradually divide the hair into more sections, braiding as you go. We probably did at least 8 braids per section, and just for fun, we made our sections triangle-shaped.

Once you get the hair divided and detangled, cut a bunch of pieces of yarn that are just a little more than twice the length of your child’s hair.  My daughters have fairly long hair, so our yarn pieces were a bit more than 2 feet long. The next step is to take two pieces of yarn, fold them in half, and interlock them, as is shown in the photo below.

Grasping the yarn in one hand and a sectioned-off bit of hair in the other, set the looped part of the yarn on top of the section of hair.

Begin under-braiding, using all the hair as one portion, and the long tails of yarn as the two other portions of the braid.  Braid two or three turns with each tail.  At this point it won’t look like a braid, it’ll just look like the yarn is wrapped around the hair close to the head.

Then comes the tricky bit.  What you’re going to do is to divide the hair into three portions, adding yarn to each portion.  Since there are four yarn ‘tails’ and only three portions of hair, two of the hair portions will have one yarn tail in them and one of the hair portions will get two pieces of yarn.  We found that the yarn showed up best if we put a little less hair in the portion that contained two pieces of yarn.

Once you get the hair and yarn divvied up, it’s smooth sailing.  Braid as normal. You’ll find that the yarn shows up really well in some of the braids, and not as much in other braids, depending on the amount of hair in each braid.

When you get to the end of the hair, tie a knot in the braid at the very end of the hair and trim the yarn just a little longer than the length of the hair.

Repeat lots more times and you have a hairdo!

You may be able to see that Julianna (in blue) has a head full of simple braids.  Emily (in red) has cornrows in front and simple braids in back.  Either way works well. They love their fancy braids and have gotten lots of compliments on them wherever we go.


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31 Days- 30 minute skirt

I’m so excited about our October Focus and Refresh challenge! I think it will be a really neat chance to get in the habit of doing some things that I’ve been wanting to fit into my life, and a good reminder to spend a bit less time playing on the computer.

My first project of the month is one I saw awhile back on Pinterest and wanted to try.  It’s a little girl’s skirt that you can make in 30 minutes or less using only half a yard of fabric.  Even taking time to snap photos for you, mine took only 35 minutes to make.

Here’s the fabric I started with — it’s just a half-yard remnant of simple cotton fabric.  I got it out of a remnant bin at WalMart after Christmas last year– paid probably $2 or so for it.  Half a yard was a great length for my 7 year old. For a little girl  in the 3-5 year old range you could probably get by with 1/3 of a yard.  An 8-10 year old might need 2/3 of a yard.  Just hold your fabric up to your child and decide on a length that is good for her.

In the photo below you can also see the stretchy 1-1/2 inch fold-over elastic that will form the waistband.  You can buy this kind of elastic in really cute patterns– polkadots, etc– with diaper-making supplies at JoAnns, or online (here’s one place).  For my smallish 7 year old (she weighs 52 pounds) I used 20 inches of elastic for the waist, and could have easily done with only 18 or 19 inches.  The waistband turned out just a little loose, and the skirt turned out long enough that it should fit her for a year or two.

The first step is to form a tube out of your fabric by folding it in half, right sides together, and sewing a seam in the selvage edges (the finished edges) of the fabric, on the side of the fabric opposite from your fold. Here you can see my seam with the selvage edges pressed open.

Next step: hem the bottom and top of your fabric. Here’s where it really helps to get out the iron–sometimes I don’t and then am less than pleased with my results. I did about a 3/4 inch hem in what was going to be the bottom edge of the skirt, ironed it, then tucked the cut edge in under the fold and pressed again so that the edge would lie nice and flat when I went to sew it.  Below you can see the pressed edge, and how I sewed my hem right next to the folded-over edge. I repeated the same thing at the top edge of my tube so that all the edges were finished and would not get loose threads in the wash.

Once both the top and the bottom edges of the skirt were finished, it was time to pin on the elastic. I’d already sewn the two ends together so that it was one continuous piece. Then I pinned the elastic to the skirt first at both sides and then at the front and back. Pin so that the skirt fabric is on the outside, and the elastic is on the inside of the skirt, with as much elastic as possible sticking up above the edge of the skirt. If this is your first time using elastic in this way, you’d probably be wise to pin it in more than 4 places to make the sewing easier.

Now it’s time to sew the elastic to the waist of the skirt.  I used a straight stitch. Stretch the elastic out so that it is as long as the section of waistband onto which you are sewing it. Then begin sewing, going slowly and making sure that you’re catching both the elastic and the skirt fabric with your stitches. I set it up so that as much of the elastic as possible was above the edge of the skirt.  It feels a little tricky at first, but go slowly and you’ll get the hang of it. And really, more pins are better for your first attempt at this project. Just be sure to remove pins when you come to them, so that you don’t break a needle.

Here’s a closeup of the finished top edge of the skirt after it was sewn. As you can see, there are two rows of stitching which I tried to keep parallel as I sewed the second. One is the hem, and then the other is what attached the elastic to the top edge of the fabric. If I had sewn a little further from the edge, and sewn my second line of stitching directly on top of my first row, I’d have gotten more of a ruffled effect.

And here’s the final project on my little girl. As you can see, I wasn’t the only one delighted that I’d finally gotten around to this project.


Like this project? Be sure to see what my daughters are doing this week. And we’d love to have you along for the ride this month too. So blog a project and join in!

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Fit some fun in your life

My daughters Erika, Amanda and I (inspired by the Nesting Place) have been cooking up a scheme for October, and we’re hoping you’re interested in joining us.  Each of us has some projects we’d like to do, and some ways we’d like to be better focused in our lives, and so during October, we thought we’d work on some of those things and blog about what we’re doing.

Here are my 31-minute goals for October:

  • CRAFT MORE -Spend 31 minutes/day organizing OR crafting. (I’ve got lots of Christmas craft ideas– so much fun!)  Too often I don’t start projects because I know I don’t have time to finish that day.  But I’m betting that committing 31 minutes a day will help me make some headway. I’ll post my progress at least a couple times a week.
  • WRITE MORE– Spend 31 minutes/day writing something non-bloggy. Remember that e-book I promised you last spring winter? Yeah, I almost forgot it too. Then there’s the adoption book I’m writing.  I’ll set the timer for 31 minutes and see how far I get.  Repeat the next day.  And the next.
  • PLAY MORE–Spend 31 minutes/day playing games with or reading stories to my kids. Lately I’ve been bad at playing.  We do usually play cards a couple times a week, and my hubby always reads to kids at bedtime.  But I’ve gotten out of the daily story-reading habit lately and I want it back.
  • SURF LESS –Spend NO MORE THAN 31 minutes/day on Facebook.  Erika’s going much more hardcore, but my plan will be hard enough for me.  I will easily find an extra 93 minutes a day to do the first 3 activities on this list by cutting back on Facebook.  (Yikes– the truth hurts.)
  • FOCUS DAILY ON TRUTH — I’m going to choose a new Bible verse each day and write it down on the whiteboard in our kitchen as our thought for the day.

SO– that’s my October plan, and I’m thrilled that Erika and Amanda are in on it with me.  Erika will be hosting a link-up on her blog on Monday, for anyone who’s interesting in joining our FOCUS/ REFRESH challenge.  I hope that you’ll consider joining us.  Set whatever goals will be helpful in your own life.  Then each time you write a post about your progress, go over to Erika’s page and link up.  That way we can all keep up with each others’ progress.  Are you in?  What would you like to improve in your life? Think about it.


(Pssst:  The Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit is live streaming today with Steven Curtis Chapman scheduled to speak this evening.)

Writing with Gypsy Mama this Friday.  Join us?








Sometimes the real, the very best core of life gets lost amid the stuff to clean and the to-do’s to check off and the errands to run and the things to buy and the appointments to keep.  There’s hurry scurrying and there’s doing and things are always happening.  But it’s not the real stuff, the best stuff, the stuff that makes children feel treasured and motherhood a joy.  And that’s when you have to take a deep breath and release the stuff, yes, let it fall to the floor in a disordered heap. Yes, walk right past 5 or 10 or 15  other things that need to be done.

Instead grab your kids and a pile of books and maybe a deck of cards.  Go and curl folks snug in the nest of pillows in the middle of your bed.  And read and play cards and joke and laugh and point at pictures and ask their opinion, and beat them at cards and get beat at cards and make your own rules to the game.  Because that’s what you’re doing just now in these moments, making new rules, and adding new bits to your story, moments that are better.  And there’s the real, right there in your grasp after all.


Twirling in a sunny square of  morning light with a black kitty in her arms, my little girl looks up at her daddy with a smile.  “Daddy, did you know that Nomi shines in the light?”

I smile and vow to see more myself this day:

  •  New month, with spring three short weeks away.
  • Kids gathered around a big griddle cooking their breakfast eggs.
  • Hot coffee in my mug.
  • Grammar lesson planned for after breakfast.  (It is a mystery how I came to enjoy teaching grammar, but I truly do.)
  • Kids beginning to smile again after a bout with the flu last weekend.
  • Plans to go watch HGTV do cardio and weights at the rec center later today.
  • Plans to try some Chilean recipes from the cookbook my daughter gave me.

Life is good.


PS– Wanna win a $100 gift card?  Go comment on my  La Crème coffee creamer review.