Hot Cocoa Station

hot cocoa timeAs soon as Thanksgiving is tucked away and Holiday decorations are bursting out of our attics ready for display, we set up a Hot Cocoa Station in our homes that our families always enjoys year after year. The beauty of this little spot is that we tend to leave it up past Christmas and New Year’s and let it linger until the winter weather begins to warm up. As a mom, it frees me up from all the prep of making cups and cups of chocolate. And as a kid, it enables them to make something without assistance. (I will step in with younger ones and help with hot water prep). We sometimes throw in some hot apple cider and tea options too. It is fun to have friends and family come over and feel able to” help themselves” to a warm beverage!

cocoa station

Another trick we find MOST handy in both of our kitchens is a Drink Station. Our families have been using this tool for several years now. When you have multiple kids in your home, the last thing you want during “germ” seasons is for them to drink after one another!! And inevitably, as much as I used to try to catch them before their lips hit a cup that was not theirs…the germs had already been shared. YUCK!

Sooooooo, if you feel me on this one, then you might want to set up one of these in your kitchen:drink stationA long tray works perfectly for defining the space. We have been using this drink station in both of our homes for several years now. It has been great for cutting down all those loads of dishes. I was constantly collecting cups from all over the place and decided enough was enough! By defining the spot in your kitchen, all cups are corralled, and I wash them every day or so now because I know whose they are. This is a simple but very effective way to manage your family’s beverages.

Lately, my boys have been using these mason jars that have a number on them. I found them on a clearance rack and assigned each boy a number (birth order is easy to remember), and they look at it as some form of “secret code”! Win! Win! For All!! kids drinks

You can be as creative/practical as you want on your drink station. You match it to the style of your kitchen and make it personal for your family.  Hope this helps the traffic of cups in your kitchen!

“My cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5

Patience

A couple weeks ago I found a small pathetic-looking amaryllis bulb planter waiting to be claimed in the clearance aisle. The earthy bulb was trapped inside its packaging, yet trying to grow anyway. It had pushed against the paper sack so hard the stalk was bent and forlorn. I adopted it out of a mixture of pity and curiosity. My son helped me plant it when we got home, both of us a bit skeptical when we saw how bent and stunted the stalk was.

“Will it straighten up?” became a common dinner conversation. There were bets on when the stalk would straighten up strong and tall so that it could support its notoriously large bloom. We were all wrong: the stalk remained firmly bent over and remained height-challenged. The bloom, however, was determined.

Amaryllis bent, but starting to bloomAmaryllis ready to bloomamaryllis bloomingAmaryllis full bloom

What had been a dilapidated little plant the week before, turned into a gorgeous bloom…or dare I admit three blooms all squished into one beautiful burst of color. Quite lovely. We just had to wait for it to blossom in its own way.

Similarly, God waits for us to grow in Him and blossom in our own unique way.



“And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18



Patience plate

Life is indeed a waiting game. Our patience is tested with our growth process. Some of us are early bloomers while others are late bloomers.  We may have to wait a little longer than we’d like for an answer to prayer or a specific direction for our lives. We are not alone; God is waiting with us.

Many of the Fruits of the Spirit seem to be qualities we get to experience or savor. Patience is more like a discipline. It requires some intention, having a “game plan” when something goes awry. Many things push at us and box us in. We bend under the weight of all types of stress, but do not break. We often grow in unexpected ways. God is betting on us to be strong and tall in the face of our challenges. 

 

What’s for Dinner??

Every single day we are faced with the dilemma:

“What’s for Dinner??

We’ve each triSlow cooker mealed different menu plans over the years. We’d like to share what works for us…most of the time. I know for me personally that the days I have “a dinner plan” go more smoothly because I can focus my energies elsewhere and tackle the dinner preparations with my designated helper when it’s time to hit the kitchen in the evening.

Menu board ideas are all over Pinterest. I adapted my own a few years ago by combining what appealed to me: flexibility, easy-to-use, and able to be quickly updated for the season.

What's for dinner??

 I used a 12 x 12 scrapbook frame that holds up to 25 pages of paper:

Menu board frame

I loaded it up with scrapbook paper for seasonal background color.seasonal scrapbook paper

I used glue dots to affix tabs for days of the week and mini clothespins to hold menu items. This could be simplified further by using clothespins or mini chalkboards that have days of the week already labeled.

— alphabet stickers for the title: What’s for Dinner??

— a line of ribbon for color

— two mesh index card holders with small chalkboards labeled Entrees and Sides

— cork board attached by spray adhesive; this area gives you a place for extra food cards or new recipe ideas

I made pockets out of folded index cards to hold individual menu items, loosely organized by food group categories. **Adding the page number and name of cookbook for specific recipes is helpful to you later!Menu pockets - entreesMenu pockets - sides

In each category pocket, there is a card with a specific food item. Some have been personalized by the family member that made the card or who is the “author” of the dish.

Menu pockets - fruits

Menu pockets - veggies

My kids take turns being my dinner helper. When we are discussing the menu plan for the week, they each get to pick what they would like to help make for dinner on their helper night. This helps their motivation tremendously!

Menu planning - kid helping

I encourage them to choose an entree and two sides. Since there is only one card for each item, this is an easy way to get a variety of fruits and veggies throughout the week.

When I began this project I used paint chips to add a splash of color. I now have blank index cards pre-cut into strips to make additional labels as needed.

Start with your favorite foods and add as you go.

Although I’ve been using this system for years and making a grocery list each week, I just recently had the insight to keep track of weekly menus that have worked for us to use again in the future. #duh!

It takes a bit more time to make a menu plan and coordinated grocery list, but I think it will be worth it next month when I can pull out a weekly menu and head right to the store!  I even did myself a favor and grouped the shopping list according to sections of the grocery store (produce, meat, dairy, frozen, canned/dry goods) and made a copy to use as a checklist, keeping the original in a menu planning binder.

You can personalize your menu board however you like. Pick the basic elements and streamline to your family’s needs. You can make it as simple or sophisticated as you want.

Menu planning - grocery list
Menu planning & shopping listGive yourself a break and include cards for “Take out,” “Dinner Out” and “Scrap Night” (aka: Leftovers) as well as some simple themes such as “Soup & Sandwich Night” and “Pizza Night.” Adapt what works for you and your family now. You can always tweak it later.

I’m off to “test” my shopping list with 3 boys…I may rip my list in sections and challenge them to see who can locate all their items first. Since I’ve drug them to the store provided them with ample shopping opportunities before, they know to search for store brands and sales items first. They may grumble a bit now, but their future college roommates will be impressed with their grocery skills, right?

apples and pears

fun veggie display



So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” I Timothy 6:8



Yes, menu planning is a chore. It does take time and effort. Every once in a while I need a reboot. When I freshen things up, I get a little more enthusiasm behind the process. 

What's for dinner - Jan
January menu board, prepped for the week
What's for dinner - Feb
February menu board ready to prep

Ready, set, go!     Let us hear how YOU are doing!

What's for dinner?? menu board update
February menu board, prepped for the week

 

Marshmallow Tag

Dinner is over. Boys are in the kitchen messing around doing dishes. Dad and I sneak out calmly walk out of the kitchen and down the hall. The boys’  voices escalate to fever pitch blend in cheerful unison to their blaring peppy playlist. We look at each other knowingly: it’s time.

We kick off our shoes and I toss off my hoodie.

Taking a deep breath, we rip open two bags of large marshmallows and load up. Armed with handfuls of sugary fluffballs, we are ready

Marshmallows

We pad in our socks stealthily approach the boys unaware and we begin to bombard them with marshmallows. Shrieking erupts as boys duck behind counters and hide behind each other.

We fire off as many marshmallows as we can before they have time to retrieve them and return a barrage at us. Soon they are pelting each other with marshmallows, then ganging up on us. Giggles break out between shrieks of delight and whispers of strategy.

I get a brief reprieve as I corral our golden retriever to put her outside; she’s enthusiastically smacking her lips from the mouthful of marshmallows she’s already snagged.

White blobs blur by my head and soft splats echo as marshmallows find their wriggling targets.

Marshmallow tag

Alliances form and my husband guards my back as I gather up more soft ammo, now sticky from all those sweaty hands. We emerge back-to-back and throw jet-puffed balls at whatever moving targets we can see. The tide turns quickly as our conniving loving offspring smush the marshmallows into large balls and throw at us rapid-fire.

We duck, breathing heavily gazing at each other with laughter…and my husband eventually calls a truce the finale when he sees that more marshmallows are sticking to cabinets than bouncing off the floors.

During arsenal reloading clean-up, the boys swap stories and exclaim excitedly as they find marshmallows in curious places.

indoor snowball fightIt’s a wrap: another no tears and nobody got hurt successful indoor snowball fight is in the books.

It’s cheap inexpensive family fun that allows parents to act silly crazy  wild like kids and to bring a little outdoor experience inside when winter days are stretching long.



Marshmallow tag is a win-win!!



Dare to ambush surprise your kiddos with some spontaneous fun. If you’re feeling especially naughty brave, go for the jumbo-sized marshmallows snowballs!

 

 

 

Kindness

Kindness plateHolding the door open for a stranger

Picking up a piece of trash off the floor and throwing it away as you head into a meeting

Returning a grocery cart to the store for a young mother with toddlers in tow

Reaching an item off of a high shelf for a person in a motorized chair

 

These are all acts of kindness, many of which we do each day out of instinct or because these little gestures were drilled into us as children. Now as parents we encourage our children to be kind to each other — to share, to take turns, to do something nice for a friend or neighbor, to be helpful to their teachers.

When we made our Fruits of the Spirit plates several years ago, my son drew over-sized Helping Hands. In fact, we do typically view Kindness as an action, something we do with our hands.



“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32



What if we take kindness a little deeper?

This verse in Ephesians clearly links kindness and forgiveness. I hadn’t thought about this connection before. Stick with me here…this verse stretches our usual idea of Kindness a bit.

Forgiveness is an internal act of kindness that’s verbally expressed and offered to another person to accept or reject. That has a lot more at stake than offering a helping hand, but potentially can be so beneficial.

As children we’re told  “Say you’re sorry” when we’ve said or done something to hurt someone else, but we weren’t necessarily taught how to respond to an apology or how to forgive that other person (especially if it’s a pesky sibling!) for whatever slight we experienced. It’s awkward. It’s messy. We try to push through and move on without trying to still look grumpy.

Forgive

Forgiveness involves softening our hearts toward someone who has hurt us in some way. We may bristle at a half-hearted apology or one that comes too soon that we aren’t ready to accept yet. Forgiveness involves mutual discomfort and vulnerability. This reciprocity is delicate.

When we have said or done something gut-wrenching that hurts a loved one and then offered a sincere apology, the sweet relief of receiving forgiveness is very healing. Forgiveness restores closeness; it preserves the relationship. Forgiveness puts us back at ease with one another, even offering a deeper connection that we’ve had before. It is kind.

Forgiveness is an Act of Kindness for the soul.

At this point in my life, I think I’ve got the simple acts of kindness pretty well in place and see multiple opportunities to offer kind gestures to others I encounter in my daily activities. Now the challenge is to move Kindness deeper within my relationships. Join me?

snow on pine tree

Legacy

 

quilts

 

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

A neighbor that our family holds dear in our hearts just said goodbye to a mother of 90 years. Such a good, long life, but still hard to lose at any age, always.

As he reflected on his mother, this is what I heard:handpicked

she loved her children dearly

she worked hard in life

she poured into her family

she stood up for us, and stood by us in every circumstance

she knew how to make each person feel important; special

I never met this woman, but I listened to this son’s heartfelt sentiments and I began to think…

Feelings trump Actions a lot of the time. The memory bank cements the details with the years added; but the feelings infused to the spirit stay long and hard in our minds. Our heartstrings are attached to those feelings.

This is good news to the daily grind of life!! But a strong, powerful and important lesson to pay attention to…

whatever the event, circumstance or situation, be it good, beautiful or ugly; you can CHOOSE to end each well. There is an enemy that would really like to keep this a secret, but oh what a great Godly weapon against such one!!!

 

teacup

Listen: God can restore anything when we choose to give to to Him. Every time that we show LOVE, KINDNESS, GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL... we are ending it well. The people around you- Family, Friends, Strangers, God-orchestrated People will remember how they felt in your presence long after any event or meeting.

I know that I strive to point to the Lord with my life. I want to look like a big, beautiful, messed-up, imperfect, redeemed, restored person that ended things well because the Lord showed me how. And then that irritating enemy can’t replay any tapes to confuse me later, because God stops him, and reminds me how we ended even the hardest things in life well; together.

reflection

 

Embrace every moment you’re given. Time flies and moments are fleeting, but as you give the very best of you,  then our Lord can use that to be part of your legacy.

Mercy Me has a song called “In the Blink of an Eye”

 

 

shamrock

Here are parts of our Legacy:

This shamrock plant is in my house and my sister-in-law’s because it reminds us of our mother-in-law who loved this plant. We both have quilts that go back to great-grandparents in our lives that we wrap our children in. We share stories about loved ones that have gone on before us, and we cook with the recipes of cherished women in our past. All of these simple things implant feelings on our hearts; they are an evolving legacy…

Each transition that we take hold of will add another layer of texture to our lives and our children’s memories of home.

 

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children. Psalm 103:17

daily life transformed by God into extraordinary tapestries

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