Sunday, May 29, 2011

Finding Your Niche


Sometimes I flip through blogs and think, “Wow!  I sure wish I was like ‘so and so’.  She can sew amazingly.  She is so creative.  She is so organized.  She has it all together!”

It is easy for us to look at others’ lives and to see the good - to see what talents they have, and what blessings they possess.  It is not so easy for us to look at our own lives, grab the bull by the horns, and plow forward in our niche, with confidence! 

What is your niche?

You don’t have to be good at everything to be good at something!  Let me say that again… You don’t have to be good at everything to be good at something!… nor do you have to be good at someone else’s talents to be good at something!  God has given you (yes you!) talents that He wants you to use and blessings that He wants you to enjoy and share with others.

What is your niche?



Cleaning and organizing?

Being hospitable?

Being friendly to newcomers at church?

Sacrificing your time and energies for others?


Loving your husband fervently?

Raising your children with tender care?


Being creative?


Being healthful and encouraging others to do so?


Leading a women’s Bible study?



Playing a musical instrument?

Etc …

God has given you a niche.

If you haven’t found it, pray about it!  When you realize what it is, pursue it!  Don’t waste time doing other not-so-worthy things.

Pursue your niche with passion!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Soaked Oatmeal– A Winner Here!

I have seen and read about soaking grains for some years now.  I always thought it sounded good, but never got into it.  Since I’ve been brainstorming about breakfast again, I was trying to figure out how to make oatmeal work better for our family.  Some of the kids have said they don’t really like it, partly because it “hurts their bellies”.  When I came across the idea of soaked oatmeal yesterday, the lightbulb turned on!  Yes, maybe that is the answer!  (God is so faithful!)


“Keeper of the Home”  has a great article that I recommend you read about soaking oatmeal.  In it she describes why you should soak oatmeal:

Soaking is a crucial step, especially for a grain such as oatmeal, which contain more phytates than almost any other grain. If not soaked, over time these phytates can lead to mineral losses, allergies, and irritation of the intestinal tract (source: Nourishing Traditions).

The article also has instructions as to how to soak your oatmeal.  Here is what I did for our family of seven.

In a large pot put:

2.5 cups of rolled oats

5 cups of water

Mix:  ~1/4 t apple cider vinegar with 1 T milk to make soured milk (I usually make soured milk rather than buying buttermilk).

Pour into pot and stir.

Leave pot on the stove overnight.

The next morning, turn the pot on and cook the oatmeal at medium-high heat – a soft, rolling boil – until oatmeal is cooked.  This only took about 5 minutes or so.

Add 1/3 cup of brown sugar and top with whatever toppings you like.  I put out chopped pecans, fresh blueberries, cream, cinnamon sugar, and dried fruit.

The photo above is what the oatmeal looked like after cooking!  It was so creamy!  We loved the texture and taste.  The vote was unanimous!  Everyone liked the oatmeal so much better than “usual”, and it did not cause belly aches.  Yay for soaked oatmeal!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Smoothies–Healthy and Decadent

I like smoothies, especially during the summer, as a refreshing treat.  They are also good as a snack for the family or to give a boost of energy!

The first recipe I am going to share is for all of you health nuts!  If you want to find a way to eat your blueberries and spinach at the same time, this recipe is for you!


I got this recipe from a friend of mine who found it in a healthful book she has been reading since Christmas.  I wish I had the name of the book for you right now, but I do not.

Blueberry Spinach Smoothie

1 cup of frozen blueberries

1 banana

handful of spinach ( I prefer baby leaf… It isn’t as bitter.)

1 scoop of vanilla protein powder

1 cup of water

*optional – sometimes I add vanilla yogurt (I used about 1/3 to 1/2 cup, and it was delicious.)

This quantity makes about 4 or 5 small servings, like the one in my photo.  I add a bit extra of everything to stretch it to make six servings.

The next smoothie is not quite as healthy, but it is extremely decadent!  If you are longing for dessert, you could turn to this smoothie for a healthier option.


Peanut Butter Smoothie

original recipe found at “Keeper of the Home

Serves 4 to 6

2 cup milk (sometimes I need to add a bit more milk when it is blending to thin it out a bit and make it easier to blend).

1/2 cup peanut butter

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

3 Tbsp honey
4 frozen bananas, broken into chunks

Blend all together! YUM!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Summerizing the Closet

I FINALLY got around to organizing and cleaning out my closet to prepare it for summer.  Besides not being able to get to the task very well, it’s always hard for me to “get rid” of the winter items until I’m quite certain winter is over. 

I am a bit baffled and amazed (and some of you are probably amazed too!) that I would share my “before” photo with you.  Of course, it is a bit humbling, but isn’t that how others are encouraged and inspired?  I know I am always encouraged to see how someone gets from humble Point A to marvelous Point B.



My seasons and categories were getting way out of hand!
















I organized my clothing with the spring and summer items towards the front of my closet and piled by type of clothing – shirts, capris/shorts, pants, lighter long-sleeved items, and heavier long-sleeved items.

I also decided that I would pull my spring and summer skirts from the back rod of my closet and push the winter blouses to the back.  Before, I had all of my skirts along the back, but it seems to make more sense to put the skirts with the proper season as well.

Have you prepped your closet for summer?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Discouraged or Encouraged?

As you sit and read this post, are you feeling discouraged or encouraged about your life?  Think about it for a moment.

There is much in life that can discourage us, but there is also much in life that can encourage us.  We can give our attentions to the disheartening news we hear about others each day, harbor bitterness in our hearts towards someone, carry the weight of the past, present, and future in our souls, and feel utterly overwhelmed.  OR… We can bask in God’s presence, bless a friend and cherish her friendship, pour all we have into our families and communities with joy, and be thankful in all things.

For me, I admit, it is much easier to become discouraged.  I think that is probably true for most people.  However, God is doing a work in my heart, and I am trying to become more encouraged by life.  I want to live a joyful, abundant life in Christ.  Life will always be filled with hardship and trials, but God’s goodness still remains. 


Yesterday my son was discouraged.  He had a pouty face on, and nothing good was coming forth from him.  I turned to him and said, “There is no reason to be discouraged.  It will do you no good.  You will not be productive.  You will just make yourself miserable”.  When I said it, I felt like I was talking to myself.  God was using that moment to remind me that I should work hard to fight discouragement.  It only brings defeat.  It causes all sort of negative emotions and situations to arise.

What can you do to encourage yourself?  What blesses you?  I am evaluating that for my own life and trying to do more of these things:

  • Spend time with God
  • Get more quiet time to myself
  • Bring order to my home whenever possible
  • Spend time with friends
  • Read good books
  • React positively to pressures
  • Speak kindly, with patience, to my children
  • Think and do good things

May we learn to dwell upon the good things of life.  May they fill our minds, hearts, and souls, pushing out the darkness that waits to envelope us.

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

It is interesting that this Scripture follows the verse that reminds us to “be anxious for nothing”.  We need to get rid of all that weighs us down and move ahead in the Lord!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Our Anniversary


Today is our 14th wedding anniversary.

I am so thankful to be married to my wonderful, God-fearing husband.  He is truly a gem in my life!  God was so gracious to give him to me as a companion for my days here on earth.  I thank HIM!

We went out for a lovely date last night to P.F. Chang’s Chinese restaurant.  Today God has blessed me with a precious day so far.  Truly, the eye of the Lord is upon His children.

Bless the Lord, O My Soul!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal

In my life this week…

Another busy week!  Mother’s Day was nice.  My family treated me very nicely with gifts, breakfast from Einstein Bagels, Chinese food with my mother-in-law, and a surprise gift from my hubby – a night to plan at a bed and breakfast! 

My baby’s tooth has finally emerged, so things have been a bit better.  She actually slept a seven hour stretch for a few nights in a row – something that has not happened regularly since she was a few months old!! 

I’m continually evaluating, paring down, and trying to bring more focus and order to my life…. day by day…

In our homeschool this week…

I took some time to “survey the land”.  I actually created a survey and asked the kids to fill it out.  I wanted to figure out, in their minds, what was going well and not so well.  Then I could adjust accordingly.  Their answers actually surprised me a bit, and it was helpful to see how they are thinking.

We also had a discussion about how we want the summer to go.  We school all year round with summers being lighter and less with more time off.  That gives me freedom throughout the year to be more flexible and also keeps my kids’ brains fresh throughout the summer.  I don’t really think my children need nearly three months of “lazy” days every day, so school and other planned activities provide some general structure for us.  The kids expressed how they would like to have some free time, of course, and also some time to do some fun projects and crafts.  I am hoping we can set some goals for ourselves!  I know I have some projects I would love to do!

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

We went rollerskating on Friday with our church’s school.  The kids enjoyed that.  Yesterday we celebrated Mother’s Day with my mom and sister and the rest of the crew.  Today we had our last core group (potluck) at church.  My oldest son was supposed to have a soccer game today but it got canceled due to the pouring rain and drenched fields.

My favorite thing this week was…

I went out with a friend to Starbucks Friday night, and that was very enjoyable.  We hadn’t had a good talk in months.  It was refreshing, relaxing, and encouraging.  I hesitated to go out with my friend because of my busyness, but my husband prodded me to go.  He reminded me that I need to protect my time with friends since it doesn’t always come so easily.  He was right!

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have…

This week I am going to simplify and focus as much as possible for the kids by reviewing their curriculum and see what I really want them to learn over the next couple weeks before we, hopefully, take a chunk of a break.  All of us need it!  In schools everywhere, they are winding down and having fun a bit – field trips, watching movies, and not finishing every ounce of the curriculum.  I am trying to do similarly without feeling so pressured to be perfect.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…


Blueberry smoothies make great detective mustaches! 


The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Homeschool Curriculum Review: Spelling Power and Spelling Workout

I have used Spelling Power for the past few years with my oldest son.  We started it in 3rd grade, which is actually when Spelling Power recommends starting this program.  My son was a good speller, which he mainly inherited from his avid reading habit, so I didn’t worry about tackling it as a separate subject early on.  Plus, I do not like to overwhelm young children with too many subjects.


The main thing I like about Spelling Power is that it eliminates twaddle!  Rather than having my son study words over and over that he already knows, he can test out of those words and study only the ones he needs to learn.

The Basic Procedure:

*Test your child for placement into the right level to start out the year.

*Review the rule for the current list.

*Test the child with the list words.  Stop after 5 minutes or once the child gets three words wrong – whatever comes first.

*There is a method your child will use to review the misspelled words that involves dwelling upon the word, “tracing” the word, writing the word, and using it in a sentence. 

*Many additional activities are provided for further reinforcement, but we have not had to use them in general.

Another thing I really like about Spelling Power is that I can use it for my son’s entire spelling career.  One purchase.  One great price.  Many years of use!

The one challenge we have had with my son is to fight discouragement.  He is a perfectionist, so he feels like a failure when he gets a word wrong.  Obviously, if he were studying the words ahead of time (like most spelling programs), he may not get some of those words wrong.  I haven’t given up the program, but instead used it as a tool to help my son with his perfectionism.  I remind him that we are not perfect and will get things wrong.  I also tell him that the object of the list is to figure out what he doesn’t know so he can know it!

Spelling Workout

My daughter, unlike my sons, is not a good speller naturally.  She is reading more and more these days, so that is helping her.  However, she just doesn’t have the same learning personality as the boys.  I realized that she needs some handholding in spelling, so I wanted to boost her a bit.  I purchased Spelling Workout about a month ago.  I remembered Susan Wise Bauer had recommended it in her book, The Well-Trained Mind


I thought this program would probably appeal more to my daughter, and sure enough, it did.  Rather than the fairly monotonous method of testing and drilling that Spelling Power uses, Spelling Workout provides more interesting and varied activities to learn words.  It may be seen as twaddle for some (and is for my sons) but it really isn’t for my daughter since she needs quite a bit of help in spelling right now!  She has gone through the first couple lists well, and I am so proud that she is progressing.


As you can see from these photos, there are various copywork, word clue, word search, proofreading and writing activities involved.


I would recommend this program for someone who is doing poorly in spelling and/or a child who likes bookwork or more variety.

My other reviews:

Homeschool Curriculum Review: God’s Design for Science
Homeschool Curriculum Review: First Language Lessons
Homeschool Curriculum Review: Bob Jones English
Homeschool Curriculum Review: Horizons Math
Homeschool Curriculum Review: Math in Focus

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Baked Eggs

I made baked (broiled!) eggs for breakfast last week and for lunch today.  They are delicious!  My niece remarked how flavorful they were.  She thought it was merely the baking that does it, but there’s more than just egg and baking to this trick!


Original recipe found here.  I am not so priviliged to have fresh herbs on hand all of the time, so I made up my own version.

*Note:  I have 5 inch ramekins.  They seem to be a bit big for this recipe.  The smaller, individual-sized portion would work better.

Start preheating the broiler and place the oven rack about 6 inches below the heat.

Carefully crack an egg into a small bowl, without ruining the yolk.  Top with parmesan cheese and dried parsley.


Place one empty baking ramekin per egg on a baking sheet.  Put 1 teaspoon of cream and 1/3 T of butter in each ramekin and place under the broiler for a few minutes, until bubbly.  Remove from oven and quickly pour an egg into each ramekin, topping with salt and pepper. 

Place the ramekins back under the broiler for about 5 or 6 minutes until the whites are cooked.  You can test them by poking a fork inside.

Take out of oven and let set for a minute.  You can eat this alone or scoop it atop toasted, buttered bread!  YUM!


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Appreciation Celebration

Years ago I got the idea to set apart a time to celebrate my husband, not because it was Father’s Day or his birthday but “Just Because”.  The kids enjoy blessing their dad in this way.  I had been thinking recently that it was time to throw another party for Brian, and it was on their minds too.  We picked out a good day and set forth!

We always decorate!


We set the table nicely and

hang some streamers and signs too!


When I plan the event, I try to think of  special foods my husband REALLY likes, possibly something we haven’t had in a long time or even something the kids may not even like.  One year I made Peanut Butter Pasta.  My husband loved it, even though it wasn’t a hit with the kids and me.  The party is for my husband, so I try to cater to him!

This time Mel’s Kitchen Café came to the rescue once again.  When I received her blog posts in my email inbox with scrumptious Indian food, I knew what to make!  Brian loves Indian food, and I have been hoping for years to get some good Indian recipes on hand.

I made Indian Butter Chicken and Naan Bread.  They turned out absolutely wonderfully.  We felt like we were eating at an Indian restaurant, for a portion of the cost!  My husband couldn’t believe I had made the Naan all from scratch!


For dessert I made Peanut Butter Fudge Treats.  Brian loves peanut butter and chocolate together, so I knew he would love these!


Of course, we made the event a Surprise!  That is half the fun of it!  This time Brian was supposed to be out of the house for the first half of a Saturday.  When his event was canceled, we had to do things very secretly at home.  Fortunately, he had a lot of computer work to do, so he was hiding out in his “man cave” for a good portion of time. 

Besides decorating and making good food, we create and write cards for Brian, telling him how much we love him and appreciate him.  Again, the purpose of this appreciation celebration is for him to know how much we cherish him.




We love you dearly, Brian!

Thank you for all you do for us and our home!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal

In my life this week…

The baby has been cutting a tooth and my five year old has been sick with a cold and a hacking cough.  This has caused even more interruptions and less sleep for me.  I’ve felt very fatigued.

I’m still getting used to the fact that my husband’s job consumes our lives and my husband so much.  It’s not an easy transition for me, but I trust God will continue to help me.

On a positive note, we planned a getaway for my mom’s 60th birthday.  We will be spending a handful of days together near Traverse City, MI, renting a lovely home together.  I am looking forward to a vacation.  (I think I have forgotten what a vacation is!)

In our homeschool this week…

I think our homeschool has caught a bad case of spring fever.  The kids have had a hard time plodding on with their schoolwork.  The sunny days make them want to do other things, I guess, and the dreary, rainy days cause them to be unmotivated.  Can you relate?!  I’m trying to figure out the best way to move forward with vigor!

My favorite thing this week was…

I would have to say my favorite thing is that it is the weekend right now.  I am looking forward to regrouping and am hoping for a better week next week.

What’s working/not working for us…

My pom jar system still seems to be one of the best motivators around here.  If we are having a sluggish day or week, I will give out extra poms if schoolwork is done by lunch or extra chores are done.  It helps!

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…


All in all, I am trying to keep perspective.  Our children sure are precious blessings!

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cereal Steal at Kroger!

If you shop at Kroger and like to buy wholesome cereal, check out this deal for the week!  I bought 10 boxes of “Mom’s Best Naturals” cereal so I could get them for 99 cents each.  The original price was $2.49.  The deal lasts through Sunday, May 8.


Baby Shower

Over the weekend my mother-in-law and I hosted a baby shower for my new niece.  It was a lot of fun and went super well!


My mother-in-law worked hard to set the tables very nicely, and she placed a cake pop (ordered from Starbucks) in the middle of each napkin as a favor for each lady.  I had run across these cake pops recently and thought they were so adorable.  The pink one worked out perfectly for the shower!


For lunch we served a large salad bar.  I grilled chicken the day before and basted it with a yummy marinade while it was cooking.  My mother-in-law also prepared strips of ham and cheese, other vegetables, toasted walnuts, along with a combination of lettuces and dressings.  Each person could decide what she wanted on her salad, which worked out wonderfully!  We also served croissants to help complete the meal.


I made these adorable “Cute and Contented” cupcakes.  The original recipe is found on  (Please don’t compare my amateur cupcakes with theirs!)  I came across the idea at “Mel’s Kitchen Café”.  I used a vanilla cupcake recipe for the actual cupcake.  You could use whatever recipe you like!

We played a few games:

Candy in a Bottle – Guess how many chewy Sweetart candies are in the bottle.

Don’t Say Baby!Everyone wears a necklace with a safety pin(s) attached.  If you are caught saying “Baby”, you lose a pin.  The person with the most pins wins!  NOTE:  We had each player start with one pin, but I think it is more valuable if you start each person with multiple pins, between 3 and 5.  That way the person still has to be cautious about saying “baby” or could lose another pin!

Dirty Diaper Game – This game is a lot of fun.  We played this at the baby shower I helped host in February.  You melt a different candy bar in each diaper and participants have to guess which one is inside.  No tasting or moving the contents allowed!  Only smelling!  I would post pictures here, but my husband thinks they look a little gross.  ~Smile~