Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eastery Goodness

Poor laptop of mine has a mild case of springtime allergies, or so I hope. Until I can get her fixed, things will sadly be without many pictures. A terrible tragedy considering the cutie, patootie shots of Spring and Easter that could accompany this post!

Nonetheless, here is some Eastery goodness before Sunday gets here...

**A neighbor first introduced us to Empty Tomb Cookies. Much like the Resurrection Eggs in the post below, this is a beautifully visible and tangible way to share the arisen message. I can only hope your kiddos have as much fun pounding the nuts and enjoying the fruits of their labor the next day!

**Some of my favorite Easter books for the younger children include:

I do the devotion just before the cousins' big egg hunt. This year my husband and I decided to give each family a copy of an all time favorite children's Bible.

The writing style, the connections, the way it speaks to us all... young or old. I just love it, and I know your family will too!

**And, of course, there is the joy of those wicker pink baskets. We couldn't get away without doing an Easter bunny inside if we tried, thanks to a book my oldest read at the library (I had to break the news, though, that unlike the book hers would likely NOT be life-sized- ha!) As for their plastic eggs, however, I'm filling those babies with "candy" my girls love... raisins, cranberries, granola, and fruit chews. Don't worry, I'm all about holiday treats, but my extended family loves to spoil with our sadly seldom visits... Easter night tummy aches don't really add to the fun! :)

I also love to add little odds and ends like books, bunny t-shirts, stickers, spring colored markers, Jesus puzzles, sidewalk chalk in bunny and egg shapes, etc... all of these items picked up on last year's clearance or on sale this year. A few dollars and bit of hunting can go a long way and still leave room for the rich foods seven great-aunts and a slew of second cousins will prepare.

Oh and as for the grass... grab some favorite scrapbook paper that fits your basket and run it through a paper shredder. Free and so sweet to nestle those goodies down inside.

I better get to packing. If you have any Easter traditions, tips, or a fabulous post you've written or run across... please share!

Hope your weekend is blessed!

Friday, March 26, 2010


I shopped for their Easter dresses on clearance last year, and I've been collecting little sweet odds and ends for those Sunday morning baskets. But, most of all, I want our girls to understand why we celebrate Easter... one of my very favorite holidays!

New life at sunrise... ahh, I know I said it before, but spring just couldn't be a more perfect backdrop could it?

A new tradition for us to begin this year will hopefully make things egg-citing. If you're looking for a visual, easy way to share the Resurrection story with your kiddos I suggest ordering these eggs. Unfortunately the $7.99 ones are no longer available, but you could likely find something similar at your local Christian bookstore.

Another alternative is to make your own... most of the items could totally be collected from around your home. Love that!


Whistle While You Work

Welcome, friends from Kelly's Korner! Today for the Show Us How You Live Series, it's all about getting down to the nitty, that is.

I grew up in a home where the house was cleaned once a week. The rooms were tidied daily. Toothbrushes and Q-tips were frequent cleaning assistants. If it was a surface (baseboards and windowsills included), we dusted it. If it was a linen (curtains, bedding and pillows included), we washed it. Our house was always clean, always smelled fresh and was ready to visitors at any given time. And that's how, I thought, everyone cleaned.

Imagine my horror when, for the first time as a young adult, I walked into a home with un-dusted baseboards. Or when I realized the "spring cleaning" for most people just meant to clean the house a little more than normal (for us it always meant cleaning EVERY SINGLE surface of EVERY SINGLE room, then cleaning the carpets and walls and the whole nine yards).

Don't get me wrong, I loved growing up in a clean house (note: I said growing up in a clean house...I did NOT say cleaning the house). There was a sense of comfort in it. And then I got married. And then we moved into our 3 bedroom, 2 bath home where the majority of cleaning tasks were left to me, the stay at home wife (another note: hubby helps, I promise!). I realized very quickly that Mom's style of cleaning was not my style of cleaning. I really WANTED my house to be clean all the time, but I was also very realistic in my expectations of time management. Contrary to my belief, sleeping is not as important as wiping every single mini blind with a damp cloth. it didn't take very long at all for me to wake up and realize it just wasn't going to work...but it did take a little longer for me to be ok with it. You see, the OCD part of me really wasn't ready to let go. (If you question whether or not the OCD part of me still wins, checkthis out!)

So, I was ready to move past the perfectly clean, 24 hours a day home and move into a mind set of priorities and reality. At the time, I was working 2 days a week outside the home (cleaning, no less) so I really had to figure out a good system for making it all happen on a regular basis without killing myself. The result of that is a list of cleaning tips. Now, I realize this is not for everyone. I know I'm still a little (a lot some days!) OCD when it comes to home management and chances are that most of you are not. That's ok! The bottom line is to decide what works for you and go with it! You're probably gonna read this list and prepare an intervention and I totally get that. Just know that when you come to take me away, my house will more than likely be clean :)

*Have a (flexible) plan.
For me, it was important to decide just how often I would need/want to clean. Cleaning the entire house every single week wasn't an option. But I also know that waiting more than about 2 weeks to clean led to some pretty scary situations in the toilets. While I wanted to have clean curtains, it was neither feasible or necessary to wash them every other week.

I started with a master list...I listed every single cleaning task (divided by room) that I'd like to accomplish over the course of a year. Then, I marked each according to how often the task needed to be completed (every week, every other week, monthly, every other month, every 3 months/4 months/6 months, once a year). I assigned each task a month for completion while considering how weather may affect completing a task (it probably makes more sense to wash windows when it's warm sunny, rather than snowy).

For me, having every possible thing on the list was important. Even things like change the sheets and water the plants on my list. Granted, those are things that I probably wouldn't need a reminder for, but I'm all about marking things off of a list :) I typed it all up, using cute fonts, of course, printed it and hung it in my office. At the beginning of each week, I decide which tasks need to be completed and add them to my planner.

The best part is this...if it doesn't get done, it just doesn't get done! (Yes, mother, I'm finally in a place where I'm ok with that!) I'll just bump it to the next day or week or month. As with any plan that's any good, flexibility is a must!

*Store cleaners in a sensible manner.
I've found 2 solutions for cleaner storage that seem to work better than anything else:
*Store cleaners where you use them.
I have cleaners stored in my kitchen and in both the bathrooms. The little pull out drawer pictured above is in the kitchen where it holds all the general household cleaners and things that I use to clean the kitchen. The bathroom baskets contain things like toilet and shower cleaner.
*Have a cleaning supply bucket.
Choose 4-5 cleaners that will cover just about any surface/problem throughout the house and store them in a bucket with a handle. When you start cleaning, you can toss in a few cleaning rags and tote the bucket from room to room with ease.

*Whistle while you work...

...or dance or sing. This tip is non-negotiable. I find that I clean much quicker and and am in a much better mood while doing so when I have some good tunes playing. Feel free to pause mid clean to bust out some mean dance moves while singing into the duster...not that that's what I do...

*Top to bottom...Right to left.
It's important to start cleaning up high and end with the floor. Dusting at eye level will cause dust to fall to the floor so clean the floor last. I'm prone to get distracted while cleaning (any excuse to get out of it, right?!), so I force myself to take one room at a time and use a right to left method. When I enter a room, I start on the wall to my right and work my way around the room. I also start on one end of the house and work my way to the other end. This helps to keep me focused and I don't have to wonder if I've missed something along the way.

*Take a break.
I always take a break (or 10) while cleaning my house. It takes me several hours to do so I make sure to stop for lunch or a snack to break up the monotony.

*Be realistic in your expectations.
If you know that you only have 3 hours a week to devote to cleaning, decide what's most important and stick to it. Don't expect to get it all done every single time. Also, know that the world will not end if your to-do list isn't completed. I promise :)

*Reward yourself for a job well done.
Whether you cleaned a picture frame or your entire house, you should reward yourself. It's amazing what a little promise of ice cream will do :)

Do you have any cleaning tips? Share them with us!
Happy Cleaning!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Birthday Blessings..

to our Sarai!
Wishing you a day of gerbera daisies, niece snuggles, label makers, doctored up coffee, and birthday cake with extra icing.
Oh and beautiful spools of ribbon... you gotta see below! :)
Brooke and Katrina

An IKEA treasure...

It seems like all of us simple girls have an idea of an easy way to store and organize our ribbon. I will be honest here, of the three simple girls who post here, I am probably the most organization challenged. I have a hard time wrapping my little brain around how to organize things, but every once in a while I have a pretty good idea. It did not hurt that I had just recently made a trip to one of my favorite stores...IKEA!

While strolling through the aisles, I came across this little goodie. It's official use is a holder for a roll of paper for kids art projects. I looked at this and figured I could transform my ribbon mess into an organized piece of art. And it did not hurt that it only cost $5.99. Totally worth it! Here is my before picture of how my ribbon was organized:

This was certainly not a functional way to use and store my ribbon, which I happen to think is pretty fabulous. After sorting through it for ribbon I used often, for patterns I enjoyed and then scraps that could possibly be used in other ways, I put them on my new treasure and this is the final result.

The ribbon fits great, there is a place to hang scissors to cut and I have loved being able to see all my beautiful ribbon in one place. So head over to my favorite place, IKEA and see what treasures you might find!

Happy Day!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Easter Tide

More Easter to come. Until then, isn't Spring the perfect backdrop for this holiday? :)

Wishing you sunshine,

Friday, March 19, 2010

Changing Seasons

This is one of the most simple tips I've ever learned. With Spring officially rolling in tomorrow, I thought it was the perfect time to share it.

When season's change, it's a great time for a fresh start. It's a great time for fresh decor changes, a good deep clean...and new toothbrushes.

Yep, that's what I said...toothbrushes. I've been told that your toothbrush should be changed every 3 months (read more about it here). Since the season's change about every 3 months, it's the perfect reminder to make a change.

Simple Tip. Fresh Start.

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New York... New Yorrrk!

It's been party central around here the last several weeks, and the surprise New York style birthday bash last weekend is right at the top of the list!

All the white-lying and scheming paid off for a night in the Big Apple. The hubby's 40th birthday party honored many of his favorite things... New York City, obviously, along with the traveling he does as his job takes him around the world raising money for African orphans.

There was lots of glam with sparkly silvers and glittering golds along with the bold colors of red, yellow, and blue... "Happy New Year" hats and horns, shredded silver paper, bunches of candles, boxes modgepodged with city maps, and an unbelievable banner handcrafted by a talented teacher helped set the scene.

We used the couple's recent trip to NYC for most of our inspiration. Many of their mementos, brochures, pictures, etc. were framed in silver and black (thank-you, Target dollar spot!) Others were strung along the fireplace and scattered around the house.
The food... mmm, the food! The main dish table was almost transportation themed with the map napkins and plates and Subway subs. Hubby's favorite homemade dips and chips rounded out the menu. To drink was an array of teas from all over the world along with a few cold options. And the dessert table... chocolate pudding cake, cannolis, and Ohio buckeyes (in honor of his home state). I think Baby Girl and I put on a few extra pounds for sure.
While Pandora belted out the "Frank Sinatra" station, the guest of honor got to open a gift that blew his socks off... his wife had collected special words of honor, blessing, and memories; then bound them together in a book celebrating the first forty years! So sweet!

A fun party both to put together and to enjoy... what's your favorite destination? I highly recommend making it the backdrop of your next gathering too!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Simple Storage Tip-Flags & Table Runners

A few weeks ago when I was cleaning out my guest room I ran across a storage solution I had put into practice some time ago that I thought I'd share with you all!

We have several outdoor flags that we cycle through throughout the year in an effort to spruce up our sorry excuse for a front porch. (Right now, we're sportin' some Duke Blue Devil pride! Yay for March Madness!) Those flags can be a pain to fold and store, so I came up with this idea:

Who doesn't have a ton of the leftover pants hangers from department stores? Simply fold the flag in half, secure in the little clips, hang it on the closet rod and you're done! And see how little room it takes up?

If you don't have a guest closet, you can stash these in your own closet, a kids' closet or even a coat closet.

If you don't have a guest closet, you can stash these in your own closet, a kids' closet or even a coat closet.

Did you see that random blue hanger in the mix up there?

That would be my storage solution for table runners. I love being able to change the look of the kitchen table without a lot of work. I learned a few years ago that if changing the look meant finding and ironing a table runner, it just wasn't going to happen. By hanging the runners on a hanger, they remain un-wrinkled and ready to go! Again, they take up very little space!

These easy-peasy storage solutions allow me to make small changes around the house for special occasions and holidays at a moment's notice! Nothing fancy, but I thought I'd share!


Monday, March 8, 2010

Coffee Shower

This past weekend we had the privilege of supporting an amazing family as they prepare to foster adopt four handsome young men. The shower was this fun and eclectic mix of deep purple, turquoise, chocolate brown, green, and burnt orange. Drag some carpets and cafe' seating from all over the church to make it cozy... light flickering tea lights... and indulge in things like almond lemon biscotti and more cappuccino punch. Divine!

A team of us ladies put it together and here are some of the touches which made another super creative friend's coffee idea good to the last drop... :)

The centerpieces...

Long cinnamon sticks (on big time clearance from what I am told!) in tall glass vases. Simple ribbon tied around the outsides. Prayers and/or coffee beans scattered around.

The food...
All we can say is thank-you Food Network... oh and thank-you Paula Deen, which you all know means we must also thank the butter.

The games...

We asked each guest to self-address a homemade thank-you card with the inscription, "Thanks a latte'..." That way all the guest of honor has to do is write her sentiments and send the cards on their way. We drew out envelopes and six guests won a pick from a basket of gourmet coffee candies, Starbucks chocolates, and tea cookies (all scored for a buck a piece at Big Lots!)

Our other game was a collection of coffee and tea related accessories (more Big Lots and Target)piled into clear containers (all scored from the Dollar Store!) Guests guessed the number in each one and the closest estimates won the containers full of Peaceful Mama tea, hazelnut creamers, Sugar in the Raw packets, and coffee filters.

The activity...
Mostly, we wanted the mama to be to have time to share with us all about her family's great adventure and to fellowship. Afterwards we took time, however, to pray verses and promises over each boy. You can imagine that made the tears fall!

The favors...
After coffee mints wrapped up in favor boxes with ribbons used throughout the shower. A tiny square of photo tape held each ribbon in place.

A sweet time for a sweet family! Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they continue this great journey. Don't some people simply inspire you to live and serve more boldly?

Me too!

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Gift of Another Ordinary Day

Welcome to all those popping over from Kelly's Korner! As a bit of a change-up, we thought it might be fun to participate in a handful of "Show Us Your Life" Fridays. Even if you don't leave with any crafty ideas or simple tips... maybe it will just be fun to get to know us a little better!

I tried to pick a "normal" day... a day where we're at home doing our winter thing together, nothing fancy or earth shattering perhaps. Our sacred time together nonetheless.

And so it begins...

7:15 am... I wake-up to the happy sounds of M (1.5 yrs.) jabbering away and playing in her crib. Soon H (3 yrs.) drags her white wicker stool in there to climb into Sissy's bed. For at least half an hour they giggle and play. Ideally I like to be up before the kids, but these days I have a big (and I mean b-i-g) reason why that doesn't always happen when we have no where to be! :) When I start to hear the beginnings of a sisterly spat, it's up and at 'em time. I whisper a prayer for strength and wisdom.

I think M's working her, "What-chu talking 'bout, Willis?"

There are morning hugs all around. We take care of wet bottoms, and I notice M's nose running! Aww, bummer! The healthy streak meets a speed bump. We get dressed in play clothes and head downstairs with great cheers for breakfast. M's in her tennis shoes and "hat" (headband), while H just has to have her bedroom shoes.

8:15 am... I make the quick oatmeal since they are evidently starving. Add raisins and maple syrup since we're out of honey. Need to get a call into the local honey guy. Serve up sippy cups of milk and extra D3 with vitamins on the side... take that, runny nose! Prayers are barely uttered before they start digging in; these girls love breakfast just like their Daddy.
I decide I need a Monday treat, so I whip up a simple frappucino-- light on the coffee and heavy on the milk, just the way I like it. Fix some peanut butter and jelly toast. Grab a handful of raisins. Also need to get some more fresh fruit because I really want a banana. We do our almost always requested daily devotion. There's praying, reading, and singing. A little grumping too... that poor drippy nose!

9:00 am... I wrangle everyone upstairs to brush teeth. M could literally brush hers and splash in the water all day long. Remembering H went through this stage too, except that she couldn't get enough of washing her "hans! hans!"
Mostly unM-like she has a fit when I finally tell her we need to head to the playroom. It's for certain; she's feeling under the weather. H and I quietly go on in to work on ABC's. That girl just loves to learn! Thankfully M soon joins us while needing lots of extra hugs and kisses. I am most happy to oblige.

Afterwards I turn on some music and the girls play while I get in a load of laundry... my one or two loads each day is helping my sanity tremendously! Some sharing over Little People gets out of hand, and we have to review these right then and several other times throughout the morning.
A few consequences are to be had and discussions about making good choices. I need my coffee. Whispering a few more prayers doesn't hurt either.

A bit later, I hear it. The beautiful sounds of playing together, taking turns, learning from bad choices. Everyone gets a marble in the jar. Shouts for joy! We've almost met our first goal.
10:30 am... Snack is served, as usual, in the family room while the girls watch their reading video. Water with a splash of juice and a trail mix concoction of Joe's O's, granola, and raisins hit the spot. I add some peanuts to mine and take a prenatal vitamin. Wash up breakfast dishes and get painting supplies ready.
11:10 am... Messy time! How the girls love that. We're headed to a big aquarium soon, so it's all about ocean life. The girls sponge paint a seal, some eels, and whales. We add them to the kitchen mural and count how many of each creature there are. I look around and paint is everywhere. We clean bodies and tables and walls and floors, but it's worth it. Almost always is.

12:00 pm... Back upstairs we go as I notice I am still in my pajamas. I also realize I've had little water today, so my Camelbak gets a fill up while I'm at it. Gate the girls in the playroom with the happy sounds of more music. I fold some laundry in our bedroom and put the wet load into dry. Someone (cough... H!) lets the gate down and I hear M in the bathroom; I catch her just before her baby goes to the potty in the real potty where I also notice H forgot to flush last. Send H back to the bathroom to finish business and wrangle the babes down the stairs again and into the car. So proud of our big, potty trained girl-- getting there was no walk in the park!

I forgot my chicken yesterday at Publix, which put a real kink in the gyros I was craving. Notice in the car that I'm getting pretty nauseated. At 27-weeks this doesn't happen too often, but when it does it's truly yuck. Tell them one requested story after another and sing a little before feeling totally green. Get sick in the parking lot once we arrive and then feel lots better. We pick up our chicken along with some yogurt and other essentials for our upcoming trip. The girls go wild with a free sugar cookie from the bakery.

1:40 pm... Get back home later than I had hoped. I have to work to keep M awake in the car. A quick lunch is in order so doctored up green smoothies and pepperoni-cheese crackers are on the menu. Hope gets hers after a time-out for behavior on the way home, and she is happy to come back to the table. Even asks if I'll forgive her for the way she spoke. Sweet girl.

H gets to pick a 30-minute video to transition to rest time, while I spend that time reading and doing flashcards with M. Put M down for a nap, thankful for the cuddle bug she still is, and then work with H before she has rest time. I really enjoy these one-on-one opportunities during the day.

The nauseated feeling is back again. Ick! I load up in my bed with some water and a granola bar. Catch up on a few e-mails and bills, write to growing Baby Girl in her journal, read for our Tuesday parenting class, and have a quiet time. This really helps me feel better, even if H has to be redirected to her bedroom a couple of times in the process. That girl can come up with some creative stuff, I tell you, as she doesn't want to miss a thing! But she's getting better, and only occassionally worse, all the time. :)
4:00 pm... MIRACLE! Both girls are still sleeping soundly, so I head out to the mailbox where I find a letter from my mother-in-law. She is so gifted at old fashioned correspondence. I barely make it back in the house before pouring over her words about how healthy avocados are and encouragement about having the three kiddos so close together. I set out some carrots and popcorn for our snack, unload the dishwasher, and try to return some much needed phone calls. I have turned into a horrible phone person these days, and I need to work on it.

It's confirmed again. The girls are plain old pooped! They never sleep this long, and I'm especially grateful they are able to get the rest they need. I go ahead and prep dinner while trying to use up all our fresh stuff before we travel. Bake some tilapia with a little butter, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, and Italian parsley. Saute mushrooms, make a small pasta salad with pesto and tomatoes, and heat up leftover sweet potato. Am I the only one who feels so blessed to have groceries?

5:30 pm... Finally M is stirring! We actually have to wake up H, which M loves to do, and both girls are excited to eat. We go ahead with dinner. We hate to eat without Daddy, but sometimes we just have to. He works so hard just so we can have days like this.

It warms my heart when I see the girls hold hands for our blessing. Sometimes they even burst into spontaneous song. Sometimes, oh sometimes, they do not.

This night they did.

My cup overflows.

That extended rest was a God-send... they are angels! We laugh and talk; no whining to be found, and I love when I don't feel so frazzled at this point in the evening. The phone rings and Daddy says he'll be home soon. We clean up dinner dishes, sweep the floor for no less than the twenty-fifth time that day, and wash up ourselves. The girls get in monkey PJ's and brush and floss their teeth. Humidifiers are filled, favorite blankies and babies and books are found, and water bottles are placed by bedsides.

7:00 pm... Every one's favorite-- Daddy's home! We pick up the playroom, and I leave them with hugs and kisses to play and wrestle until bedtime. I head to our nearby Super Target to help with an impromptu shower planning meeting (for a family foster-adopting FOUR beautiful kiddos!) and to pick up some saline drops for that sad, little nose.

On the way home it's official, I'm feeling really pregnant. Some might even say waddling. I hope they don't.
9:15 pm... When I walk in the door, both kiddos are in bed reading more stories to themselves after such late naps. Daddy says they were great with their nightly ritual of bedtime reading and prayers. H gets out of bed to give Daddy "one more hug and kiss" and then sees me so we both get showered. I am most happy to oblige.

All in a day's play. All in a day's work.

All in the gift of another ordinary day given to us to live!

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