Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Parable of the Unwanted Christmas Tree

 I've got a Christmas parable to share. There was a young mom who grew tired of her Christmas tree.  You see, it was very small, very old and very ugly.  And her friend had a tree that was very tall, very beautiful, and very expensive.  She spent a long time looking for the RIGHT Christmas tree to buy at the RIGHT price. But never found it.  So she decided to change her attitude, and this is what happened.

After Christmas last year she went to the post Christmas sales and bought new Christmas ornaments for $2.  Then she bought new (to her) Christmas ribbon from a friend at a nickel auction for 10 cents.  Then she bought new Christmas lights for the tree at half off after Christmas.
So although her tree has not changed, it's decorations and her attitude have.  A terrible picture, but the view from the outside of our house in December. The right side is the Christmas tree, the left side is a regular tree we rescued from it's destination at the dump. (Someone left it on the curb.) 
 The best part is, the tree really is only half as tall as it looks from the outside.  To keep Kent away from the ornaments, we cornered the tree by rearranging a couch.  Then we put the tree up on a box. So to those driving by, it looks like we have a perfectly suitable and beautifully decorated Christmas tree.  And those who I invite into my home who will quickly be able to detect the fallacy? Well, I'm not worried about them.  I only invite friends in! And a true friend is someone who loves you the way you are. (or the way your tree is. Or the way your messy house is.)
Margaret, Bonnie, and Anna, you'll love to know that this is the very tree that you used in your college days to decorate Vilo's basement apartment. (so you know just how pitiful it can be haha!) It is still very much in use in the family. And it has taught me some good lessons along the way.
 Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thankful Tree Tradition

Every November I like to make a thankful tree for us to write things we're thankful for throughout the month of November.  It's a good lead-up to Thanksgiving, and a good way to start the Christmas holidays as well. 

 Here's our 2010 version. Best picture I got of it.  This was the Thanksgiving I literally caught the turkey on fire and was running to the neighbors for baking soda to put it out when the missionaries pulled up for dinner.  Just go on in! It's the one with smoke billowing! We were delayed several hours in dinner, but have laughed about it for years since.

2011. Same house. Pretty much same Thankful Tree.  
I guess I didn't take pictures of 2012 and 2013.  Maybe because 2013 we put it up on a window in the dining room, but in the winter those windows were always frosted on the inside (see window in picture below) because the house was so old.  So it only lasted that one FHE night. 
This year we have a slightly cuter, less elementary-education-ish model.  Thanks to I printed off the leaves, laminated them so that hopefully I can reuse next year, and we'll write what we're thankful for on the back.  The front of the leaf has a Bible verse on each one. Which I think is an excellent addition to our Thankful Tree tradition.  (Dr. Seuss get a load of that last sentence.)

And by the way, that site has other awesome inspirational quotes that you can print off for free.  I'm loving it.  All about slowing down and savoring.  Which we all need a quick reminder in this time of year.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

frugally redecorated stairs

I finally got rid of the ancient brown carpet on pour basement stairs.  Since they lead to the playroom, I thought we'd have some fun with the decorating.  I used a variety ofvleftover ain't from various projects.

First I painted the light purple on the lower walls, then taped off the blue stripe at the top of the wall.  When everything was dry, we had a fun family activity putting our hand prints on the wall. The footproints were a little harder - we did those one at a time, each child sat on the step above while I painted one foot.  Then they placed their foot on the stair and into a basin of water.  I washed the foot and dried it off, then we repeated with the other foot.

On the wall is a puzzle - I turned it over, sprayed it with a spray adhesive
, sprayed a piece of foam board with adhesive, and stuck the two together.  Then a couple of Command strips to stick it to the wall.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Amazing Cinnamon Rolls from Sourdough Starter

So just a quick note to let you know that you can make amazing cinnamon rolls pretty quickly with sourdough starter!  When I want to make cinnamon rolls I mix up a batch of sourdough bread with only white flour the night before.  Then in the morning I roll out the dough and fill it with the filling from this recipe:

4 tablespoons butter
1 1/3 cup brown sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon cinnamon
Then I let it rise again in the pan, and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  When they come out I put this icing on: 
1 teaspoon milk
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
4 tablespoons (or less) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

I never used to make cinnamon rolls because I hated to make the dough and didn't like rolling it out either.  But now that making the dough is already a part of my bread-making routine, it's easy to do.  So these have become my go-to when I want to impress or bless, because I always have the ingredients on hand.  And they freeze great.   The filling and icing recipe is from this site:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Send text messages from your computer, for FREE!

I love Google Voice.  For a couple of years now, I have used it to coordinate my business phone calls.  I give out the Google Voice number, and it is set up to ring both my home phone number and my cell phone.  If I'm at home, I know instantly that it's a business call (because both phones are ringing), and I can pick it up on the landline - which doesn't cost me any minutes.  If I'm not at home, I don't miss the call!

I only just recently discovered that Google Voice also does text messages.  This has been wonderful, since I have to send a lot of text reminders to my cub scout den.  Now, I can type them in on a full-size keyboard!  My cell phone is a pay-as-you-go, so this also saves me a lot of $.  Sending texts through Google Voice is free, and the replies go to my cell phone (as text) and to my gmail account.   I can even reply to text messages using my gmail account (I haven't found a way to initiate them from gmail, however)!  The only drawback is that I can only send a text to 5 people at a time, but that's still better than my cell phone can do!

If you already have a Google account, signing up for Google Voice is quite easy.  Just go to and select your account.  You will be prompted to choose an phone number for your Google Voice, and then you just have to select your options.  You can look at some of the many features here.

My husband also has a Google Voice account.  One of his favorite features is the email transcription of voice messages - all his voice messages show up in the email inbox!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Southern Living: Lessons From a Decade Ago Part 1

It's taken a decade, but I've finally made it back to the south! With our family's recent move from Ohio to Virginia, we're experiencing life deep-fried again, and I'm remembering some lessons from my Southern past that can enrich a Westerner, Easterner, or Southerner alike.

1. Hills
The South is chock full of 'em.  Which makes everything more exciting: biking, jogging, walking.  I have a love-hate relationship with hills.  Going up I hate 'em.  Coming down I love 'em.  On the uphills I try to remember some good advice my friend and running buddy, Jenni (Holmes) Hirschi in Tennessee would tell me.  When you're going up a hill, just look down at the ground and keep moving.  Don't fix your eyes on top of the hill..  Just keep looking down and keep moving, and you'll make it.  Then you can enjoy the view from the top.  Jenni even had some little song we'd sing on the way up a hill, but since it's been ten years, I can't remember it now.

Scott and Eric putting the just-look-down-and-keep-going in to action. 
Guess you can get so caught up in that, you don't realize your pants are falling down!

The South ain't the only thing full of hills.  Life is too.  In church lingo you might hear them called trials, tribulations, challenges.  In practical terms I might call it the moment my baby is crying to be held, my 3 year-old is streaking poop across the floor as he tries to potty himself, and my oldest two are fighting over ninja toys.  That's the moment that I'm biking uphill and it ain't easy.  But do I throw down the bike and scream at the hill "How can you be so inconsiderate! I'm just trying to bike here, and you're making it so difficult!"  Hopefully not.  And hopefully I don't throw down the baby and scream at the kids, "How can you be so inconsiderate! I'm trying to mother here, and you're making it so difficult!"

Because it isn't until you've made it up the hill, that you get the splendid view from the top.
View from the top of a 2 mile uphill hike

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Man Toy Project Ideas

I just came across a great website called  The site is run by three Dads, who have created 61 (and counting) do-at-home Man Toy projects.  Things like mini crossbows, binder clip catapults, golf ball tops, paper airplane launchers.  You get the idea.  Best of all, these projects are made from inexpensive things you probably have around the house already!

The most basic projects - SimpleSonic projects - are free.  To get plans for the others, you need a paid subscription ($3.99 for a single project of $24.99 for a year of use), but at the very least, you can get some great ideas from some very creative Dads!

(These pictures are taken directly from - check them out for a whole lot more!)

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