Talking about home, children, parenting, homeschooling, recipes, faith and much more. Hope you'll join me!

Friday, April 30, 2010

What's On Your Kitchen Windowsill?

I have always loved my Momma's kitchen windowsill.  It is filled with odds and ends that reflect her wonderful personality.  She loves the outdoors.  She is creative.  She rarely, if ever, tosses anything and yet, her home is neat, clean, and uncluttered.  She sees the beauty in the smallest things of nature and I love that about her. 

What is on her kitchen windowsill?  Small rocks, pieces of wood, birds made from fabric and feathers, shells, coins, and other odds and ends that she has gathered from the outdoors and brought inside to enjoy.  She could probably tell you where each item came from and perhaps even when and where she found it.  That's pretty amazing to me considering the number of years things have been gathering on that windowsill.

You can tell a lot about someone just by looking at the things on their kitchen windowsill (in my humble opinion).  I began thinking about my very own kitchen windowsill and what is there right now.  So, I grabbed the camera and took a photo this morning.

 Here is what I found:
  • A baby photo of our oldest daughter, who is now 10, soon to turn 11 years old.  The frame is one that I received from friends when our daughter was born.  
  • Two-toned miniature vase - this vase belonged to my Grandma Robinson.  I was happy to have it as a remembrance of her and the flowers she always had in her kitchen.  The purple flower in the vase is one that our youngest sweet daughter picked for me.
  • See the colorful little woven bag?  My Julie made that for me for Christmas on her loom.  it is a special token of devotion and love and the fact she made it with her own two hands is even more special.  Love that!
  • The little "jigger" glass is one that my girls spotted at the thrift store and having no idea the purpose of it, fell in love with it and "just had to have it".  For a whopping $.09, how could I refuse?  It now holds our daughters' rings that fall out of jean pockets.  Eventually they look for them and I know right where they are and can surrender them at a moment's notice.
  • The die cast car - that was in my stocking this year!  Love it because it's from my parents!  A few years ago, we made a pact with my parents that we (my husband and myself) would only exchange stocking gifts instead of spending money on things that neither of us need.  It has become a stress-free and fun tradition and we take the opportunity to gift each other things that are sometimes very nice, but also very silly.  It's a great tradition and one that I hope we continue for many more years!
  • My wedding rings and my promise ring - I am one of 'those' wives who doesn't wear her rings at home.  I always wear them in public, but at home, this is where they stay.  Next to my rings, you can often find my favorite pair of earrings, which seemed really big to me on Christmas morning when I first saw them, but now they are just perfect.
  • Coupons - I am surprised there aren't more there, because other than food coupons, this is where I place promotional coupons and information so I am reminded of what I have as I am putting on my rings and heading out the door.
So, that's it for my kitchen windowsill.

What is on yours?  I look forward to hearing your responses!

All my best to you this evening. 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hello - I'm still here!

Good Morning!  Yes, I am still here.  I haven't written in a few days because the outdoors have been calling my name.  It was so beautiful yesterday that I was outside for at least four hours working on the yard.  After mowing both the front and back lawn, weeding, trimming, and pulling out some of the old foliage from the side flower bed, I can honestly say I was a bit 'creaky' last night.  But oh, the rewards of looking out at a newly mowed lawn...well worth any ache to me.

We don't have one of those beautifully manicured lawns.  In fact, I think in the 13 years we have lived here, we've had several lawn care companies come through here just dying to help us out with those dandelions and crabgrass.  When we politely decline their offers of spraying lovely chemicals all over the lawn where our children like to run and play, they seem so disappointed.  I even had one guy get irritable with me! (Not the way to garner respect and business from a potential customer, but then what do I know, 'eh?)  Ah well, it's ok.  It's just grass, right?  Growing up in the country, I was surrounded with beautiful green lawns and gorgeous wildflowers that my parents cultivated and allowed to grow naturally, so I come by this attitude about the lawn honestly. 

To top it off, I have what I am told are 'ditch lillies' in our front flower bed.  They are a junk flower I am told, but hey, the plants were all free and at the time we accepted them, we couldn't afford to deck out the front flower bed with shrubs and perennials as we would have liked.  So, the lilys provide foliage and blooms - voila - done!  In between mowing and weeding, I spray painted some great things for the flowerbeds and even some letter trays for my office.  My friend Tammy was purging her garden shed, so we struck a deal and I returned home on Monday with some great things for the outdoor patio.  I spray painted a pretty 'lil metal house that will hang on a shepherd's hook in the garden.  I also painted a planter and a metal plant stand.  I am quickly seeing the benefits of spray paint on projects, but I still love to sit down with a paintbrush and do it by hand too.  There are still several projects I want to tackle, but all in due time.

The office is a work in progress (more on that later) because I have never liked that closet!  And, I was pulling out stuff for the girls' homeschool portfolios and pulling things for the curriculum sale coming up in May, so as a result, the office is completely and utterly trashed.  Ugh.  But, it will get better!  I now have lovely paper trays to put in there once things are organized again.  These .25 each trays (love garage sales!) were black when I bought them.  Now, they are a snazzy light satiny caramel color.  They're not perfect, as I am still learning the art of spray painting, but I am very pleased with the way they turned out anyway.

See this planter and blue pot?  I am thinking I am going to "plant" an artificial plant in there for the summer months.  Yes, I know, you're cringing, aren't you?  I know, I know...I would have never thought I would resort to fake foliage, but in the summer when it is 95+ degrees and the brick is radiating the heat, making it even hotter, any plant I have ever tried to have next to the house croaks in a very short period of time.  I still want something at my entrance though, you know?  Something that says, "welcome!".

Any ideas?  Thoughts?  Would love to hear what you think!

All my best to you today,

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stay-cation Ideas

April is almost over, which means the time for wearing my comfy fleece pullover is probably almost over.  When I look at the calendar, summer seems to be right around the corner once again this year.  It seems that each year my husband and I vow to sit down and get a few things onto the calendar so we don't "miss" the summer.  What I mean is that we want to purpose to schedule some fun in the coming months so that when fall arrives and school days are here again, we can look back at our summer and think, "wow, we had so much fun as a family!"

Admittedly, we have not lived up to even our own expectations for a few years which is humbling and sad in a way.  However, the reasons vary as to why we didn't go many places or see all the people we wanted to see.  Ok, I digress...This year, we have once again sat down as a family and discussed things we would like to do this summer.  Pretty much all of the activities are close to home or right here at home.

You've heard the relatively new buzz word, "stay-cation", right?  The concept is of a stay-cation (I put the hyphen in there, don't know if anyone else does) is that instead of planning a long and possibly expensive vacation away from home, you plan short jaunts or day trips from home.  Or, there are many fun things you can do right in your own backyard that are a bit different, but activities that will surely make memories.

I thought I'd share some ideas for stay-cations that you can enjoy at home or close to home.  I'd love to hear your ideas for some fun summer activities that are fun, interesting and inexpensive.  We've discovered that you don't have to spend a lot of money to have a great time together as a family and that's great news for our budget!

Oh, and don't forget the camera every time you do something fun!  

Go to the local beach - fun times without a lot of fuss.  If you're blessed to live by the ocean, then head to the closest spot to you.  Local lakes are fun too and summer is a great time to discover the lakes in your area that maybe you haven't yet visited.  Toss in the water toys, inflatables, camp chairs, a cooler with food, sunscreen, towels, and perhaps a good book to read.  You're set! 

Visit your local zoo - granted, this does cost a little money, but surely not as much as an amusement park or water park.  Ask about yearly memberships, which can sometimes be much less expensive than visiting even twice through the year.  There's so much to see and enjoy at the zoo!  If you're a home educating family like us, you can use it as a learning experience (isn't everything a learning experience?) and even have the children create a photo album of their favorite animals in the days following your trip.  Plan to take along a cooler with lunch, snacks, and water or else you'll blow the budget on this day.  Perhaps plan to treat everyone to ice cream or something once you leave the zoo.  Ice cream is always fun!

Camp out in the backyard - it's ok to pitch a tent in your own backyard!  The children feel as though they are "camping" and yet you have all the comforts of home at your disposal if needed without spending a dime to do so.  Get a fire going and make s'mores or grill burgers and hot dogs for dinner, just like you would if you were camping.  Lie on your backs and count the stars.  Capture lightning bugs.  Tell stories and jokes.  Go to bed late and sleep in!  Sounds great doesn't it?  Um...where did you go?  Are you heading to the attic to get your tent?  Great!

Visit your local parks - we were amazed at the number of parks in our area.  We know of several that we frequent, but have discovered several more that are just begging for a visit!  Make a list of the parks you want to visit and then plan day trips.  It would be interesting to see how many of them you could visit in one summer.

Visit friends and family - it sounds simple enough, but sometimes we don't get to see our loved ones as often as we like during the hustle and bustle we call life.  Make plans to go, visit, laugh, and enjoy being together.  Hopefully you can stay with family while visiting, but if not, it's worth a few nights' stay at a hotel to see loved ones, right?

Plan a craft day - try your hand at paper mache, quilt piecing, pillow making, pottery, finger painting, or any other crafty project you've been wanting to try, but just couldn't get to during the school year.  Make a day of it complete with smocks, art supplies, and lots of drop cloths.  

Hit the bicycle trails - bicycling is free and it's a fun way to get some exercise while spending time together.  Find out what trails are in your area, pack up the bicycles, helmets, snacks, map, and water and go!

Go on a picnic - grab the food and drinks, a few blankets or camp chairs, frisbees, balls, and even kites and head to your local park.  Plan to spend the afternoon just relaxing and having fun!

Photography fun - take the cameras and go find interesting things to photograph.  Ideas might include nature, city buildings, pets, people, inanimate objects of all kinds, etc.  Just get creative and enjoy seeing the world through a camera lens.  The view can bring new perspective to ordinary things.

Movie night - not so original, I know.  But when a rainy day hits, curl up with the children, pop some popcorn or toss in a pizza and watch a few of your favorite movies.  This is vacation time after all!

Cookout and Game Day - invite family and friends over for a cookout and game day.  Ask each family to bring a dish to share, grill out, and organize a few games for the afternoon.  Keep it simple so you can enjoy yourself.  Top off the afternoon with a fire and roasting marshmallows.  Yum!

Dive into some great books - most libraries have reading programs for children over the summer.  Take time to get involved in these terrific programs.  Or, if your library doesn't offer one, make up a reading program at home.  Include prizes for reading a certain amount of time or for reading a certain number of books.  Give each child a goal for which to strive and enjoy seeing them get into books.  Don't forget to pick up a few books yourself.  There's nothing like getting lost in a good book!

Keep your eyes and ears open for summer activities in your area too.  Oftentimes, you can find free concerts, fairs, festivals, productions, and more during the summer months.  

Fall will arrive before we know plan to enjoy those lovely months before the snow flies.

Go apple picking and make delicious apple crisp, apple butter, apple pie, apple fritters, and applesauce.  Are you getting hungry?

Visit a fruit farm - enjoy the bountiful harvest of the year.  Pick pumpkins, buy a few hardy mums, and go on a hayride.  Good times!

I am sure there are many more stay-cation ideas that I've missed.

Would you be so kind as to share your ideas with us?

All my best to you today,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's all good...or is it?

It has been a few years now that I have adopted the phrase, "it's all good".  I use it during those times of high stress and during times of emotional and physical challenges because it's my way of saying, "despite what I am going through, my life is so good!".

Out of curiosity, I looked up this phrase to see what meanings it has and the one that caught my attention was this one from the Urban Dictionary:  "used in an optimistic sense to show the lightheartedness of something".  When I use that phrase, it is never meant in a flippant or derogatory manner, but instead, a way of saying to myself and others that I am blessed and whatever it is that I am going through at the time will pass.  The Lord is with me always, I know this.

But this morning, my heart is heavy in so many ways for so many people.

Right now, today, it is not all good for everyone.  There are husbands, wives, children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, friends, sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons walking through (or being carried through) severe challenges and heartbreak.

Right now, I know of at least one family who is praying for the safe return of a wife and mommy.  She disappeared two days ago and has a loving husband and beautiful infant daughter missing her and loving her.  It's not all good for them right now.

I know of at least four families experiencing or going through divorces right now.  This time of heartbreak, chaos, and upset is not a good time for these families.

I know of two other families who have been given devastating news regarding their health and who are trying to make serious life decisions that will affect loved ones.  It's not all good for them today...

So many others are facing surgeries that will determine much for them in the way of physical health.

There are people around the world who are suffering from loss, devastation, hunger, death, sickness, and so many other horrible things.  They certainly wouldn't choose to say that everything is fine right now.

So, how do I justify saying "it's all good" when in fact, it is not?  How can I smile despite my tears and heartbreak over loved ones' trials and difficulties?  Or despite my own?

I can say it because I know that my Saviour lives.  I know that by His blood and resurrection, I am redeemed.  God's Word has promise after promise that tells me He is with me always.  He will never leave me nor forsake me!  No matter what is going on in my life or the lives of others, I know He is in control.

There are times when it is not all "good".   

So, how can I move forward and not be completely crippled by the sadness, heartbreak, loss, and illnesses of the people I love and people I don't even know?  Pray!  Pray hard.  Take His holy Word into my heart and mind and recall it when things are the most difficult.  Praise Him when things are bad and praise Him when things are good.  Sing praises!  Speak praises!  Love others as much as I possibly can, every day, even when I don't feel like doing it.  The Lord will give me strength, if I simply ask Him for it.

God's Word encourages me today with this verse:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39

In light of this verse, I believe I can say, "It's all good".

**Update on the mom who disappeared, she was found and she is safe.  Please continue to pray for her and her family.  Thank you.**

All my best to you today,


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Homeschool Portfolios

As a home educating family, our schedule tends to get a bit interesting around this time of year. I am feeling (like always!) that we probably didn't get enough done, or we have loose ends that need tidied up or...well, you get the idea. It's this time of year that I get serious about putting together our girls' homeschool portfolios.
Over the year, I gather papers, drawings, awards, photos, lapbooks, and other items of interest in a central box for each of them so that I have it all in one place when I'm ready to put it all into a portfolio.

What is a homeschool portfolio? Basically, it's a "picture" of what your child worked on and accomplished that school year. It's a reflection too of who they are and what skills they've gained over the year. We love adding photos to ours so we can see how they've changed - maybe a new haircut, new style of clothes, or the addition of pierced ears.

A portfolio for your child is a record of everything they've accomplished through the year. It will also become a keepsake in years to come. A portfolio is one of the best ways to showcase your child's academic milestones for the year. It's also the perfect venue for highlighting field trips, certificates of achievement, book reports, and summer activities.

Several states require that a certified teacher at year's end assess home-schooled students and a portfolio comes in very handy for this very occasion. The assessor will appreciate looking through an organized and well-prepared portfolio as they converse with your child.

I thought I'd share some tips that I found helpful when I was putting together my first homeschool portfolio (and feeling totally overwhelmed!). I hope these tips are helpful to you too.

Putting Together a Homeschool Portfolio

Every parent should include what they feel is important in the portfolio. It can be as simple or as creative as you like.
The supplies I use are pretty basic:
  • Binder - 3 to 4 inches thick
  • Page protectors
  • Computer paper with design (for title pages)
  • Dividers
  • Photos of field trips
  • Note what is mentioned below too
Cover Art – Have your child create a cover for her portfolio. It could be a picture she draws or simply a coloring sheet that says "My Home School Portfolio". This gives your child a chance to personalize her portfolio. These are easily created on your computer.

Legal Papers –In this section, I like to include a copy of my state's home school requirements, a copy of my letter of intent to the superintendent of my school district, and the letter I received from him in response (including the envelope because it has the date stamped on it). One quick aside note here: I always send my letter of intent by certified mail and I attach a confirmation of delivery postcard as well. I include these receipts in this section, along with the superintendent's letter. A copy of the teachers' assessment is included in this section too.

Title Page – A recent photograph of your child is perfect on this page. Include also your child's age (at the beginning of the year), grade level, and birth date.

Learning Objectives – For each subject you'll be studying for the year, include a list of goals. Be specific and concise, so you'll have a way of measuring your success in meeting your goals.

Resource List – This list includes any and all curriculum you intend to use for the school year. Include books, field trips, and any other materials you are intending to use. Arrange this list by subject. For your own reference, include the publisher and author of each resource, in addition to the title. Piano lessons, ballet lessons, gymnastic classes, and other outside activities can be listed here as well.

Reading List – Throughout the year, keep a running list of the books your child has read on her own. List the title, author, and type of book (nonfiction, poetry, cookbook, fiction, etc.). This is the section in which you'll present this compilation. You and your child may be really surprised at the number of books read for the year! This is a personal note: I include here the books read through the summer as well! (Include it next year, it's ok!)

Evaluations – Some home school families keep records of grades, whereas others do not. For this part of your home school portfolio, include grades (if recorded), report cards, achievement test results, and any professional evaluations or letters of praise (if applicable).

Awards – Include here any certificates of accomplishment and awards your child received throughout the year. I also include pictures of trophies, ribbons, and other items that can't be physically placed into the portfolio.

Language Arts – Include copies of worksheets and writing projects. Be sure to highlight examples of her work that demonstrate what she has learned in penmanship, spelling, vocabulary, composition, mechanics, and grammar. For each month of the school year, include two compositions she has completed. This will show her marked improvement through the year. Include as well any drawings she completed in relation to this subject.

Arithmetic – Sample pages of her work sheets should be included. Did you engage in other arithmetic-related activities such as logic, consumer math (going to the grocery and learning what is the best deal), or other math games? Be sure to include examples of these in the Arithmetic section. We include Sudoku worksheets completed, speed drills, best test scores, and any drawings completed related to arithmetic. For a younger child, I include work sheets that show how her handwriting of numbers improved over the year.

Science – photos are the key here! Include pictures of science experiments or projects completed both at home and outside the home. Always pick up brochures of field trips taken, because they often have something to do with learning about science. If you belong to a home school cooperative and your child works on a group project with her class, get pictures and include them in this section.

Social Studies/History – Include any field trips taken relating to history (a visit to the State Capitol, historic landmarks, etc.), illustrations or drawings your child completed relating to these subjects. Sample workbook pages and field trip brochures can also be included.

Technology – Think multimedia here. Include such things as samples of work or projects your child completed. Did she take typing this year? Record her words-per-minute at the beginning, middle and end of the year to show improvement. Did she create anything on the computer, such as a spreadsheet or a Power Point presentation? Include photos and other items here to showcase her accomplishments.

Art – There is so much that can be included here, such as examples of art, photographs of art projects (pottery, painting, crafting, quilts, etc.), and anything related to art history.

Music – Include photographs of your child participating in the church drama at Christmas, singing in the children's choir, taking piano (or other instrumental) lessons, etc. Include any awards or letters of praise in regards to her musical achievements.

Physical Education/Health – Include photographs of your child doing physical activities. Examples: bicycling, swimming, rock climbing, hiking, soccer, badminton, tennis, gymnastics, bowling, t-ball, softball, or ballet. Children are naturally physically active, so just capture it on film and include those pictures in this section.

Extracurricular Activities – Socialization is one of the biggest "buzz words" when people talk about home schooling. Include photographs of your child interacting with others in this section. Examples might be attending a friends' birthday party, talking with nursing home residents, helping a relative plant flowers, playing games or reading with her siblings, or cleaning up the neighborhood.  

Additional Thoughts Don't fret if this is your first year. Just prepare for the fall and the following year. By the time your school year begins, have a designated crate or box in which you'll place everything your child does for the year. That way, compiling your home school portfolio won't be so overwhelming at the end of the year.

You may want to include a section for Bible verses your child memorized.

The rules for a home school portfolio are not set in stone, so be creative and add anything and everything you believe will showcase your child and his/her achievements.

The home school portfolio should be neat and well organized. Some parents like to include a brief summary for each section, outlining what was studied for the year. These summaries could be an invaluable tool for the following school year. Include summer activities, such as reading programs completed and vacation activities.

Memorabilia such as ticket stubs from performances, stickers, and other items can be incorporated into your portfolio.

The best time to purchase supplies is during the school supply sales toward the middle/end of July.

If you didn't compile everything this year and still want to create a portfolio for your child, go ahead! Get together the basics and do the best you can. Then, start fresh at the beginning of a new school year.

All my best to you,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Kreative Blogger Award - Wow, Thank You!

I'm so excited and couldn't be more pleased to discover that Susie B. Homemaker
has bestowed upon me my very first blogging award!  Thank you Susie!  I am very new to the blogging world, but I can honestly say I am hooked on meeting other amazing women, learning new craft techniques, finding delicious recipes, and discovering the faith and compassion of so many other women of faith.

I actually meant to post this yesterday, but couldn't seem to find the html code for the button.  In response to my query, Susie B. graciously pointed out that she saved the button as a photo and it worked great.  Now why didn't I think of that?  Thanks Susie!

To read about the origin of this blogging award, go to Simon Food Favourites.

The rules for accepting the Kreativ Blogger Award are:
  1. You must post the award.
  2. Thank and mention the person who awarded it to you.
  3. Pass on the award to 7 other blog owners who you think embody the spirit of the Kreative Blogger Award.
  4. Name seven things about yourself that you think others don't know about you.
  5. Be sure to notify the 7 winners that you've chosen them to receive the Kreative Blogger Award and  post a link to their blog.

Seven things people might not know about me:

I will cry like a child when our cat Toby dies...he has been with Jeff and I since we've been married and is the best lap (snuggle) cat ever!

As a freshman in college at Ohio University in Athens, I declared a major of Journalism.  I allowed one professor to completely scare me away from writing for a living and ended up graduating with a degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management.  And now, look at what the Lord is allowing me to do - write!  I love when He gives us the desires of our heart.

I'd love to learn how to throw pottery on a real pottery wheel.

7 things?  Seriously?  Ok, still thinking...must go get a mug of coffee for brain stimulation...

I sing the loudest in the shower when no one is home or in the van when I'm by myself.  Granted, those times are few, but boy are they fun!

I'm in the choir at my church.  You know where it says in the Bible, "make a joyful noise"?  Well, I'm not the best singer in town, but I can say I make a joyful noise for sure.  Praise and worship speaks to my very soul and I am blessed to be part of such a talented group of folks.

That's goodness this is challenging

Thanks to my parents, I've seen most of the United States (even if we just drove through on our way to another destination) parts of Canada, and Prince Edward Island.  My favorite place, hands down, was the Rocky Mountains - glorious!

Talking and being heard is not my weakness...being quiet is my greatest weakness and one on which I am working every day to improve.  I need to talk less and listen more.

I cherish my family.  They are everything to me.

Whew!  Now that that's over, it's time for the fun part (but oh so difficult, because there are so many of you that deserve this!).  I'd like to bestow upon the following amazing women the Kreativ Blogger Award:
Denise at The Cottage Chick
Amy at New Nostalgia
Mary at Mary Potter Kenyon
Rachel at The Cupcake Sprinkles in Life
Kathy C. at Blessed Beyond Imagination
Janet at Frugal and Focused
Nicole at The Two Savvy Sisters

Thanks again Susie B. Homemaker!  You've made my day! 

All my best to you today,

Friday, April 16, 2010

Vegetable Pizza

Graduation parties, bridal showers, baby showers, family get-togethers, summer reunions...these are all special occasions that call for delicious food! Wouldn't you agree? Vegetable pizza, or veggie pizza as I like to call it, has always been a hit with friends and family in our house.  It's not necessarily a quick appetizer, but it is colorful and delicious and will bring instant and instant "yum factor" to your table.

The veggies listed in the recipe are ones I use most often, but feel free to toss any veggie you have on hand into this pizza. It will work!

My recipe is based on the original, but I made a few changes to make it less expensive to make and, in my opinion, taste better too. I will say that the brand name crescent rolls are the best. I tried a store brand of the rolls and they didn't work as well for this recipe.

You'll need the following ingredients:
  • 2 tubes Pilsbury Crescent rolls (8 ounces each)
  • 8 ounces sour cream (store brand)
  • 1 envelope Ranch dressing mix (dry, store brand)
  • 1-2 teaspoons horseradish (to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced or diced (your preference)
  • 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli florets, bite-size
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup peppers - use one color or a mixture of green, red, yellow, orange
  • Olives, sliced (optional)
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
You'll also need a large rectangular jelly roll pan or a round cookie sheet with sides.

How to Make Vegetable Pizza

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Separate the crescent rolls into long rectangles and lay them on the bottom of the greased pan to make the crust.  Pinch together the edges to make the bottom crust.  Bring the dough up the sides of the pan about 1-inch. 

Bake the dough for about 14 to 19 minutes, or until it is golden brown.  *Every oven is different, so keep an eye on it, especially the first time you make it.*

While the crust is baking, prepare your vegetables.  The tomatoes can tend to be a bit juicy, so instead of the large tomatoes, I use cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes.  Or, you could skip the tomatoes altogether and add another vegetable of your choice.

Mix together the dry Ranch dressing packet with the sour cream for the sauce.  Next, add the sea salt, horseradish and pepper to the sour cream mixture.  Once you have a creamy, smooth consistency, spread the sauce evenly over a the cooled pizza crust.

Sprinkle the veggies across the entire pizza so that the color is well distributed and looks appetizing.

Cut the pizza into bite-size pieces or dinner size pieces (your preference) and display on a pretty serving tray.  Be prepared for friends and family to ask for the recipe!

Do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share?  I'd love to hear about it. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dogwood Tree Blooms

When I was 8 years old, we moved to a brand new house that my Dad and Mom designed and helped to build from the foundation up.  Given that I was an outgoing social type, I wasn't thrilled at that age to be moving out the country where there weren't any other children living a stone's throw away.  Little did I know then that in later years of my life, I would long to live there forever!  Especially now that living in the suburbs, I can't escape the fact that my next door neighbor hears me sneeze if I'm outside.  Anyway, I digress.

My Daddy loves to plant trees and flowers.  In an effort to make me feel more "at home" in our new house, he planted a dogwood tree just for me, right out in front of my window.  I remember growing up over the years and loving springtime because that was when the dogwood tree would bloom.  The one in front of my window has beautiful white flowers.  It was then, and is still now, my favorite flowering tree.  Whenever I see a dogwood tree, I think of my Dad and Mom and the Mountain Top (home).  I am still blessed to be able to visit my childhood home and see my tree whenever I want to - just one more blessing the Lord has chosen to give me.  Why, I have no idea, but I'm thankful.

This photo is not of my tree, but one I took at a local gardening center.  Due to the loss of many of my photos on our computer, I don't have a current one of my tree.  However, this is one of my favorite dogwood flower photos.

Did you know that the meaning of the dogwood flower is, "love undiminished by adversity"?  I just discovered that today.  Love that.  There has been speculation for years that perhaps the wood of Jesus' cross was from a dogwood tree.  Although there is no biblical basis for this assumption, it is a humbling thought...that my Lord and Saviour's cross may have been fashioned from this tree...and that long before I was saved by His grace and sacrifice, this was my favorite tree and flower.

What meaning does your favorite flower have?   

If you'd like to see more great nature photographs, hop on over to MyCup2Yours for Talkin' About Thursdays with Genny. 

All my best to you today,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Painted Flower Pots

We have had such fun painting flower pots the last few days! Spring seems to bring forth the desire to get creative, doesn't it? I've been staring at the boring plastic pots on my patio for some time now and finally decided to put everything else aside for a bit and paint pots with our girls.

We've had the same plastic and terra cotta pots in our back flower beds for a few years now. A couple of them for at least four years! It was time for a real change. As you can see, we did spice things up a bit with color.

The plastic pots looked like this when we started.

When we finished with our projects (it took us two afternoons altogether), the pots, watering can, and a few other odds and ends looked like this.

I think the brown flower pot and the purple/green flower pot turned out to be my favorites.  I wasn't sure at first if the brown one was going to work out, but after a few coats of spray paint, it turned out nicely. 

We used both acrylic paint and spray paint for these projects.  Here is a list of the supplies we used to turn these plastic flower pots from boring (yawn) to colorful and fun.

  • Plastic flower pots, terra cotta flower pots, metal containers
  • Sandpaper (just look in your husband's tool box!)
  • Acrylic paint - we like the Americana brand best, but any will work
  • Rust-Oleum American Accents Smooth Satin Finish - Green Apple
  • JoAnn's Craft Essentials Crafter's Edition Color  Spray Paint - Spice Brown
  • Design Master Super Surface Sealer #383
  • Krylon Low Odor Clear Finish
  • Paintbrushes
  • Drop cloth (to protect the grass or surface on which you're using spray paint
Once the flower pots were painted, I continued to look around and see what else might need sprucing up.  Our oldest daughter made the comment, "for men it's duct tape and for most women it's clothing, but for you Mommy, it's spray paint!"  Ok, so I may  not be a "fashion plate", but hey, I think I have the prettiest flower pots in town!

All my best to you!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hello to My Newest Followers!

Sending a big "thank you!" to my three newest followers. Won't you go by and visit these wonderful ladies?  The Smith Family and Sweetpea Blogs are both beautifully done and are packed with encouragement and fun things to learn.  Thanks also to nicole21cooper for following my humble 'lil blog. 

All my best to you!

Not Badminton, It's "Fun-minton"

It's been about three years now since my Dad and Mom gifted our youngest daughter Heather with a fun outdoor game set for her birthday. Included in the set was a net, badminton racquets and birdies. We have put up the net every summer since then. We all agree that set was one of the best gifts we have ever received.

Our favorite time to play is in the evening after the hottest part of the day has passed and we've worked hard all day. It's as if the net is just calling us to come and have fun!

When we play as a family, it's as if all the cares of everyday life just fall away. We giggle, laugh, talk "smack" (it's always nice, but fun!) and fancy ourselves great badminton players during those short times of playing the game. I know as a mom and wife, those times of playing badminton have been some of my favorite family times.

Just last night, my husband told me that he and Julie, our oldest daughter, have now dubbed our backyard badminton games, "fun-minton". How appropriate!

Does your family enjoy a certain activity together? I'd love to hear about it!

All my best to you today,

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Ultimate Blog Party 2010 - I'm Fashionably Late, But Here!

Ultimate Blog Party 2010
I'm so glad you stopped by!  The Ultimate Blog Party 2010 is hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom.
I came across the information for UBP10 a few days ago, but am just now joining the party.  I'm excited!   I am brand new to blogging, but am truly enjoying it.  Allow me to introduce myself...

I'm married to the most wonderful man in the world, Jeff.  He is my best friend, my fabulous husband, love of my life, and loving father to our girls.  We've been married 15 amazing years and I am still discovering things about him that I love.  We've known each other for over 24 years total!  It's a pretty incredible how the Lord brought us together too (more on that another time).

We have been blessed with two beautiful girls, Julie who is 10 years old and Heather who is 7 years old.  They are the best little girls!  Ok, not always, but hey, we all have our days, right?  They each have a wonderful way of blessing us and everyone else around them.  

Home educating is where the Lord seems to want us right now.  We felt a conviction from the Lord about keeping our girls home back when Julie was 3 years old or so.  Had it not been for the incredible friendship and encouragement of my friend Tina, we probably wouldn't have even looked at homeschooling.  But, as the Lord would have it, she kept talking about it with me and showing me how great it was and it didn't take long for us to realize that she was who the Lord sent our way to tell us about home education.  Loving it now!

I have collected lighthouses for a few years now.  I want to visit as many as possible someday and photograph them too.  

In all my "spare" time, I piece quilts for friends and family.  It's a real joy for me.  My Momma has given me tons of tips and has shown me a lot.  I have learned a lot by trial and error too (mostly error, I'll admit), but still love diving into a quilt, tote bag, or pillow project when I can.

You won't see many photos of me because I am more of a shutter-bug, meaning I am mostly behind the camera instead of in front of it.  Photos of nature are my favorite and if I could, I'd spend hours wandering and snapping photos.  Someday...

I work from home as a ghostwriter for a small group of clients whom we believe the Lord has provided to us for so many reasons.  I love my job and am blessed to write for some amazing moms who are also working from home to make ends meet (and go further sometimes too!)

I'd love to go to Ireland someday!

I was adopted when I was 10 days old and blessed beyond belief by my parents, Larry and Gloria and my brother Mike (also adopted).  I couldn't love three people (other than my husband and girls) more than I love them.  But the Lord wasn't done...six years ago this July 5th, my birth mom called me.  She's an amazing lady.  I am now blessed to have a third family - my birth family!  I have a sister too!  I always wanted a sister...isn't it lovely how the Lord gives us the desires of our heart?  It's been quite the journey getting to know these wonderful Christian people and the journey has really only begun.

Coffee and chocolate are two of my favorite things.  

I also love to bake and try new recipes.  It's not unusual for me to try a completely new recipe when friends or family are coming for dinner.  For the last 15 years however, my husband and I think there were only two meals that just didn't pass muster...I guess I find good recipes. 

I do believe I have gone on long enough.  I look forward to meeting you!

All my best to you today,

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Welcome Susie!

I'm so tickled to have Susie from Susie's Homemade
joining us here at Busy 'Lil Homemaker.  If you want to know how to make it or bake it, go visit Susie's blog. 

Welcome and thank you for stopping by!

A Beautiful Ohio Day

We had such a great day outside!  We hiked Clifton Gorge just outside of Yellow Springs, worked outside doing some spring clean up, visited Tom Cloud park and then came home to grill out burgers, hot dogs and s'mores for dessert.  What a blessed day!

Here are some photos of Clifton Gorge.  It's such a great place to hike!

In some areas, the river rushes and it's such a neat sound as the water rushes through the rocks.

In other areas, the river is more calm and quieter.

There are interesting and amazing rock outcroppings on both sides of the trail.

This is a special species of trillium flower - beautiful!

One one side of the trail is the river and on the other side, these amazing cliffs.

This is the bouquet I created from the branches my husband trimmed from our ornamental pear tree.  My husband has terrible allergies, so I didn't want to bring these into the house.  But, they were just too beautiful to toss.  Now I can see them from our dining room and living room.  The pitcher was a fun find at a garage sale several years ago for 25 cents!  Love that.

I hope you're enjoying the spring weather in your neck of the woods!

All my best to you,

Friday, April 9, 2010

Garage Sale Shopping Tips

I was driving along the other day heading out to do errands and all of a sudden my oldest daughter says, "hey mom, there's a garage sale down that street!"  I must say, after a very long winter here in the Midwest, it was all I could do not to slam on the brakes and turn around!  But, errands called..

Garage sale season has begun!  I don't know about you, but we've been shopping garage sales, yard sales, and estate sales for going on 15 years now.  We've outfitted our girls from day one with beautiful clothing for so very little money.  We've found books, great movies, home decor, games, organizational items, furniture, toys, and so much more over the years.  I must admit that some years it was almost an obsession for me to get out every Thursday morning by 8 a.m. and start shopping.  We are really blessed to have so many sales in our area.

I thought since garage sale season has arrived yet again, I'd share a few tips that have made my garage sale days a bit easier and a little more organized (and FUN!).

Garage Sale Shopping Tips
  • Map out your route before you leave the house.  Laminated maps are really great for marking out garage sale routes each week.  Using a dry erase marker, I would circle the street to which I was going and put a number beside it so I knew which one was next on the list.  As I visited that sale, I erased the mark.
  • Always take the newspaper or printout from the computer with you that lists the garage sale addresses and the blurb about what they're selling so you can remember why you wanted to go there in the first place.  This is especially handy toward the end of the morning or afternoon when everyone is hot and cranky and ready to go home.  Was there something at that last sale you truly had to have?  
  • If you're shopping with little ones, always take snacks and plenty of water along.  A small cooler is perfect for traveling around to garage sales and keeps everything fresh.  Toss in a few toys, books, and music tapes to keep everyone happy.  If you think you'll be out during the lunch hour, pack lunch too.
  • Older children can be a big help when shopping too.  Put them on the lookout for items you want and perhaps they can help you find them before someone else grabs them up.  
  • Don't be afraid to haggle on prices!  There are two types of garage sales - ones where people are looking only to make money and don't mind pulling everything back into the garage at the end of the day if it doesn't sell.  The other type is the one where the folks would like to make some money, but their primary goal is to get rid of the clutter and stuff and not take it back into the house.  These are the sales where offering a bit less than the tagged price could save you a bit of $$ but still give the seller a fair price for the item.
  • Be courteous, always.  You're being invited onto someone else's personal property when you visit a garage sale.  A smile and a greeting goes a long way.  Keeping your children with you and under control (everyone does that, right?) goes a very long way as well.  Many sales we've been to will post signs that say, "you break it, you buy it".  It's very much like visiting a store.  When we leave, even if we purchased nothing, we thank the seller and tell them to have a good day. 
  • YES!  You can walk away from a sale buying absolutely nothing.  It's ok!  If this is especially difficult for you, keep in mind that if you spend a few dollars here and there on things that you buy simply out of guilt, you may not have enough on you when you finally see "the thing" you've had on your wish list forever!  Just keep walking...
  • Get out and take a look, no matter how small or sad the sale may appear from the street.  I've learned my lesson on this many times over.  I'll pull up, see the sale and think, "seriously, that's all there is and your ad said "HUGE sale!"?  Granted, sometimes you'll hit a real stinker of a sale and find absolutely nothing.  However, sometimes you'll find gems that are completely unexpected and you'll walk away thinking that you are so glad you stopped.
  • Look under the tables!  I shop garage sales and I've hosted garage sales over the years.  Toward the end of the time you're putting things out and discover there is just no more room, the logical place to put items is under the table (to keep walkways clear).  Look under the tables.  Root through boxes.  There could be real treasures awaiting you...
  • Try to bring small bills and change.  So many times people zoom through the ATM and head to the sales only to find that the seller hadn't prepared enough change and there's no way to buy that small item because there's no change to be had.  Believe me, the seller will be so thankful to see smaller bills earlier in the morning.  This may not be an issue later in the day however, so if you've gone through your cash stash in the a.m. and have to make a run through the cash machine, go ahead!
  • If you see a larger ticket item and don't have all the cash on you right then, approach the seller and ask them if they'll accept a deposit to hold the item for 30 minutes.  I've done this many times and usually people are agreeable to do so.  However, if the item is in great demand and they have several potential buyers, the seller may politely decline your request. 
  • Keep sanitizer in the car and use it every time you get back in after visiting a sale.  
  • Most of all, have fun
Do you have garage sale shopping tips that you'd like to share?  I'd love to hear them!  

All my best to you today.  Happy garage sale shopping!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Welcome Denise and Mary

Welcome to Denise of  The Cottage Chick.  I am so blessed by this amazing lady!  Denise is not only a blogging and home educating mom, she owns and operates an amazing cottage decorating website. You can visit her at Cottage Home Decorating.  Psst - I'll share this just with you - she just surpassed Better Homes and Gardens and HGTV in Google rankings and now sits at #1 for "cottage home decorating"! Go visit her site, you won't be disappointed.  (Can you tell we're friends?)  :)

Welcome Mary of Mary Potter Kenyon! Thank you so much for stopping by my humble 'lil blog. I have been wanting to tell you how much I enjoy your posts. I also love your header! We are a book-loving family around here too.

Won't you go and visit these ladies today?

My best to you!  See you soon.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Love Never Fails Us...

Good Morning,

This song has touched my heart many times this week. I am sharing the lyrics only at this time. I hope to find a way to share the actual song by Brandon Heath. Hope the words to this song bless you today.

Lyrics to Love Never Fails by Brandon Heath:
Love is not proud
Love does not boast
Love after all
Matters the most

Love does not run
Love does not hide
Love does not keep
Locked inside

Love is the river that flows through
Love never fails you

Love will sustain
Love will provide
Love will not cease
At the end of time

Love will protect
Love always hopes
Love still believes
When you don’t

Love is the arms that are holding you
Love never fails you

When my heart won’t make a sound
When I can’t turn back around
When the sky is falling down
Nothing is greater than this
Greater than this

Love is right here
Love is alive
Love is the way
The truth the life

Love is the river than flows through
Love is the arms that are holding you
Love is the place you will fly to
Love never fails you

[ Love Never Fails Lyrics on ]

All my best to you today,