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Chasing Babies... Growing in Grace: December 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Homestead Blessings: The Art of Cooking

This video series has been high on my list of things to own and watch for a long while.  I was just afraid of whether or not they would actually be worth it, so I keep putting off spending the money.  But this year for Christmas two of them appeared "under the tree".


The first one I viewed was The Art of Cooking.  I have to admit that, I was a little afraid it would be a silly waste of money.  Is it really going to be worth it?  I already know the basics of cooking (not that I'm good at it)... and my daughter isn't old enough to get anything out of it yet.  But I watched... wondering if the Candle Making or Crafting or, even Gardening, videos would have been a better first pick.  But I watched.  I figured that if I like the basics premise of how they teach and the "southern charm" everyone keeps talking about, then I could just go ahead and get the rest I don't have.

But let me tell you... I am a visual learner!  I get so lost in reading recipes and hearing how people do things.  These ladies walked me through several recipes for each meal of the day.  And they all look so good.  Best of all, they made it look so simple.  Now, of course, I know they did some time lapse stuff, skipping the longer parts of sifting, etc.  But still, it has encouraged me that I can get in that kitchen and do some nice things for my family!

My favorite part???  They use many of the ingredients we've started using in our own kitchen... fresh ground whole wheat flour (though they use unbleached white sometimes too), coconut oil... and of course the cast iron pans!  I wondered how much of what they taught would really be transferable, but in reality... from homemade salad dressing (which I actually feel brave enough to try now), to apples and onions (a recipes I first read about in the Little House Books), to a new pancake recipe I may just have to try (and many more), EVERYTHING should transfer quite nicely into our home!

I look forward to watching these again and again... and to interjecting what I learn from them into my own kitchen... my own opportunities to bless my sweet family with home cooked meals!

(I'm sure my husband just got excited that I got this video first!!)  :)

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Quilted Table Runner for Fall/Christmas

I mentioned that I've been sewing lately... and especially for Christmas presents.  This particular table runner was on my "to make" list for a while.  I first found my inspiration for it here.  And it grew (in size and ideas) from there.  Her pumpkins are quite a bit smaller... and that was my goal too, but when I got started, they got a bit bigger. 

Then once I had the pumpkins done... I got this idea that Christmas trees would be cute like this too... so I did it. 

Many call it "free piecing", though I had a hard time finding much about the "how to"s of it online.  There is plenty written about paper piecing, and free piecing is the same concept without the paper!  So I improvised.  And I'm so happy with the way it turned out.  It was a bit tricky to get the front and back to line up... and my quilting of it (also an idea borrowed from Pleasant Home) was not without troubles... but I am soooo happy with the results.  And I hope the recipient was equally as happy! 

Happy Fall, Merry Christmas Recipient! (Ahem... my gifts were all late this year, so it's entirely possible this hasn't been opened yet.)  Shhhh... Don't tell!

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Suzy's Back...

{singing} Christmas is over... this goose is getting fat. {singing}

Um.  Ah.

Okay, so I hope that's all because of this babe growing within.  But no guarantee.  Sorry.

The Christmas is over part is true though.  Everyone sigh with me now.  Ahhhhh.

Anyone else feel the need to do that this year?  The sewing, crocheting, gift giving, singing a special, and sick kids in those days right before left me more unraveled than raveled.  At least it feels that way sometimes.  Don't get me wrong.  The celebrating and worship are wonderful.  But I'm glad we can be back to the daily celebrating. 

Still, in those days and weeks before as I sat crocheting, and crocheting, and crocheting (a lot of hats!) I had time for thinking, reflecting and praying.  Time for listening.  Time for talking with My Beloved (sometimes).  And a few things are moving in my heart.  Some are new.  Some aren't.  My heart is heavy.  My heart is stirred.  My heart is excited at the potential!  In large part for my own needs.  In large part for the needs of others.

My point?  I need to bring Suzy back!

Remember her? 

Last Spring I started a series called Suzy Homemaker meets Proverbs 31.  I had big plans... and then I sputtered a bit.  Took some time off (apparently).  Then I got limes.  Got pregnant.  And as you know the rest [of the year] is history!

But that doesn't mean I'm not still in dire need of working on this.  It doesn't mean I didn't completely backslide just about everything we already talked about.  Oh yeah.  Especially when I spent the month of June on my couch being cared for by other people only to start getting my energy back and loose it again to early pregnancy exhaustion and back to back vacations.  Yeah.

I did finally get my energy back in September sometime.  And I did start trying to pick up the pieces.  But still, I flail!

Oh, and I know I'm not the only one.  I know there's at least one of you out there who started with me who needs this as much as I do (Right?  I'm not alone in this right?)

Well, I'm working up some newly inspiring (hopefully) posts to help us pick ourselves up by our boot straps (eh, Mary Janes?)

Are you with me???  I spent some time tonight reading through last year's Suzy Meets P31 posts and now I'm ready to go... tomorrow even!  Won't you come with me???  Do you have some extra time this week between holidays??? I'd encourage you to read through some of them and jump back on the band wagon!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Celebrating Christmas

Found this cute tree idea on Pinterest... isn't it fun!

This time of year (at least in recent years) there is some controversy about whether or not we (as Christians) should celebrate Christmas.

To some of you this is a shock!  I don't blame you.  It goes against everything you've ever heard.

There was a time (not too long ago) that I was asking that same question.  If Jesus was really born (more likely) during the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), or even some other time, and if Christmas was really started to "Christianize" a pagan celebration, then should we really celebrate Christmas?

I appreciate what A Quiet Heart has to say about this issue today.  Visit to find out.  And if you want to know where we stand, you'll find it in the comments!  Take a look!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sick kid and laundry (a TMI post!)

 This is what one corner of my couch looks like right now.

It's the remnants of a night with a sick child.  My poor Sweet Pea woke crying last night at 10 (seconds before I was getting in the shower and daddy wasn't home... don't think I'm not still praising God for the providence of His timing on that one!)  I thought it was just night terrors again, but when I got in there to sooth and tuck back in, she said she'd thrown up.  I think she was mostly upset at being messy.

 I brought her in the bathroom, started the water and carefully began pulling off jammie parts.  My sweet girl.  She doesn't like her hair washed in the first place, but when she doesn't feel good, it's just worse!

I was grateful My Beloved got home shortly after this whole thing started and jumped right in to help.  By the time the bath was over, the bed was remade and all the linens affected were in the washer waiting to be started.  We added a couple bath towels and some other things from a few incidences in the bathroom before starting it up.

Then we spent the next 3 hours sitting together on the couch with a bowl, traveling down the hall every 15 minutes or so.  Oh... and of course I and my pregnancy could only handle so much.  Around midnight I had to pass the bowl to My Beloved and went running down the hall myself.  Ugh!

She had such a sweet spirit through the whole thing.  I was blessed by our time together, even if I did keep falling asleep and had my own clothes added to the wash a couple times before the night was over.

Anyway, all this to say... we didn't get much sleep last night, and apparently it's not over.  I'm about to start another full load of laundry from a post lunch (we thought we were better) episode.

Poor girl!

Please pray with me she's the only one to get this and that we won't be passing it around through the Christmas weekend!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Presents! How we handle them ~ Part 2

Yesterday I talked about how we handle gift giving at Christmas time. 

Today I want to tell you a little about how we handle receiving gifts for the children.  And this applies to both Christmas and birthdays.

First I should tell you... I've very hands on!  The. whole. process.

Before the gift receiving event
I start out by making my own list of what the children "want".  Now... take note.  I don't always worry about what they may say they want (not that they say much at this age).  We try to keep things very simple around here.  We don't have a lot of space, so toy space is at a real premium.  We avoid plastics for the most part (other than a few we've checked out and deemed "safe") and electronic toys too.  And best of all, we aim to avoid "twaddle" (not normally a term used for toys, but we've begun to use it across all sorts of things in this house referring to something that will dumb down our children instead of grow them up as we wish.) 

Overall, we aim for the things the children have and play with to be quality, imagination inspiring, long lasting toys (think passed down to younger children) and usable by more than one age group at a time.  A few great things to play with are better than a bunch of "junk" as the case may be.  (Sorry "junk" lovers!)

So... this past summer I had an idea.  It was inspired by my complaint that grandparents would request a list and then not follow it and their complaints that they didn't want to be buying a duplicate of one of the other grandparents looking at the same list.  So what's a picky mom to do?  I'll tell you!

I make the list (we'll talk about what's on the list another time) and I give it to one set of grandparents.  That's right... only one.  A few days later I hear back from said "lucky to be first" grandparent with the item/items they would like to purchase.  I remove those from the list and send it on to the next in line.  And so on.  And it works.  Everyone was happy when we did it for Little Man's birthday in August.  Everyone was happy when we did it for Tornado's birthday earlier this month.  And everyone seems happy now.

Downside???  Of course there are some of these.  First... it just feels weird.  I don't like the "asking" part of making a list in the first place, let alone the demand of "pick and tell me what you're going to give us."  Ewww.  But, that said, these people are asking for a list of what the children would want or could use.  They are planning to send gifts regardless.  And... they all seem to feel better knowing that no one else is selecting the same thing.  So I just need to get over it.

The other downside is that not everyone is jumping for joy about this (ok... disclaimer, not everyone liked the lists I was sharing in the first place, so I haven't even shared this new method with them).  So, we just leave these people out and deal with them in the next step.

Gift receiving time
When it's time and the gifts start rolling in I can, for the most part, rest easy.  I know that we approve of most of the gifts that arrive.  Some come direct from the company and I do the wrapping, others come gift wrapped.  Either way, I already know what is in them and that they are ok for our family.

But what about the other times?  What about those gifts that come that I don't know about???  And there always are some.  There are loving, well meaning people who want to send the things they want to send.  There's nothing you can do about that.  And we appreciate them and their desire to make our children happy.  Sometimes you can just keep them quiet.  No one has to know.  They disappear and no questions will ever be asked.  But then, sometimes, you also can't always do something about that one rouge gift giver who announces on the phone to said child that a package is coming.  There is no sneaking this one out of existence.

So what do I do?  I peek.

I do... and I don't feel bad about it.  I know the track records of various people.  I know they are going to send things into our house that we aren't going to let stay.  So I look.  Sometimes it's ok... sometimes it's not.   Sometimes part of the gift stays and part doesn't.  If we can exchange something, we will.  If we can't, we just let it go.

And for those times that the child sees it before we can get it out???  We've started explaining to our oldest (he's the only one to notice so far) that there are certain things that we don't want them to have, read, play with, etc.  We explain the reasons for the particular item, help him understand, and he seems to do pretty well with it so far.  Perhaps because he's never known any other way.

Sometimes there is disappointment, but we've most recently been blessed with such a teachable gift.  One of the gifts that came to us this month wasn't our first pick, but we decided to let him have it.  Nothing really wrong with it, just not one we wanted in the house.  Then when the batteries die, we'll say good-bye to it... like a disposable gift.   Turns out it was even better than that (this sounds terrible).  The little items (more than one in the box) began to break and we were having to throw them away.  When Tornado would ask why they were breaking we had the opportunity to explain that some toys aren't made very well (took this chance to teach doing your best work) and that this is the reason why we don't like them to have all the toys they see in stores.  That when we say no to something, it's because it is this sort of toy.  (Secretly hoping this will help with future explanations.)

Is it worth it?  What's the big deal?
We (ok... sometimes it's me that cares the most) think so.  Yes, it's more work.  Yes, it can be a pain.  But when I think about the work and the pain of keeping toys, books, and videos we do no want our children to have, it's well worth it.  

So there you have it... you now know my shameful secret!  Anyone else have tips and ideas of how you handle the receiving of gifts for your family???  Any other "peekers" out there?

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Presents! How we handle them ~ Part 1

This time of year brings one thing to the forefront of our minds more than any other.  Sadly, it's often not Jesus as we wish it were.  At least not for all of us... and probably not for most children. 

Sure, we focus on Him.  We worship him.  Talk about Him.  Sing songs about Him.  But how much time do we spend doing those things compared to the time we spend on presents? 

And I'm not saying it's all bad.  Nor am I saying I'm not in the loop with the rest of "everybody".  Not all of our focus is on the getting.  All the weeks leading up to Christmas are filled with shopping, crafting, baking and deciding what to do about "so and so's" gift.  Right?

In past years we took the "we don't give gifts" approach.  Yep.  Pretty lame.  We still did a little something for the guys at the office, and if my mom was in town, we'd find something for her.  Otherwise, nothing.  The idea of spending money we had little of on something we were buying just for the sake of sending a gift didn't sit well with us.  So we didn't.  I hated it because I love giving presents... but we didn't just the same.  And it was great.  No stress.

Last year we tried something new.  We sent gift boxes from Cherry Republic (Yum... and with $5 gift shipping!) to each of the homes where Christmas would be celebrated.  We figured that would cover most parents and grandparents and extra people as well.  Sadly, with extenuating family issues, it backfired on us.  Oh well.  We tried.

This year we decided to try something different.  And, sadly, I can't tell you anything specific.  (That's the pesky part of having family read your blog.)  What I will share is a bit of my gift giving philosophy (for this year anyway.)


Here we go.

If we're going to give a gift, it must be special or it must be useful!

Oh... and it must not be expensive.  That part just goes without saying in this household...  we kind of need a new car that will fit 6 in the next few months.  Or the oldest will have to be strapped on top of the car for family outings.  And he doesn't want to.  (Kids!)

Sooooo... this year I've been busy.  And, just say yes to stress, I've been hand making most of our gifts (except the ones My Beloved is doing.)  And I've been loving it! 

Ok... a few more thoughts:

  1. We don't give to everyone we know.  Family and a few select others.  
  2. I'm not baking this year. (Like I have time for that!)  No cookie plates or candy tins.  No.
  3. I'm learning new skills while I work.  Each gift I give is something I'm working toward learning.  This means it's either crochet or free motion quilting for this year's Christmas list.  (Any of you have little themes like that?)
  4. In as many cases as possible, we've chosen something that will be helpful in the event of hard times ahead. 

Gift Giving for the Children:
Gifts for our children is another matter entirely.  Over the years we've only gifted a few select things to them that are specifically "from us".  They get so many things from grandparents, and they are still so young, that they don't notice what is from whom and don't care for that matter.  A few times for birthdays or Christmas there has been something that I wanted to be from us, otherwise I just farm out the ideas (more on that in Part 2).

This year... for those of you who want to know, we are giving each of the older kids something that is "from us".  For Tornado (just turned 5) we have a Tinker Toys set we bought several years ago with plans for "when he's older"... and now he is just that.  And for Sweet Pea, I'm going to put together her first sewing kit (more on that once I've actually done it).  And that's it.  Simple.  Little Man is still going to be more excited about the wrapping paper anyway. 

Tomorrow I'll let you in on how we do gift receiving. 

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Frugal Christmas Garland

Perhaps I have mentioned before our dream of owning a bit of land and living off of it to the best of our ability.  Some these days call it homesteading.  Some call it mini-farming.  Basically, we want to get back to basics... the basics of long ago.  The days when the milk you drink is from the family cow (or goat as it were), the eggs are from the chickens that roam the yard, and the Christmas decorations are ones the kids scavenged. 

Oh, wait...

Perhaps we don't have to wait to do that last one.

This fall, when on our semi-daily walks (weather permitting... and it didn't permit often!) I let the kids collect pine cones.  I wasn't exactly sure what we would do with them, but we gathered anyway.  Then just the other day, I grabbed that bag of them and some raffia and some little cuttings of scrap fabric from some Christmas hot pads I'm working on, and vwa-la!

A sweet Christmas garland... using just what I had on hand... and what those little hands gathered this fall!

How to:

  1. Gather how ever many pine cones you want for length.  They are still out there... just go hunting with your kids.  Or send them out in the yard if you have the right trees!
  2. Tie raffia end to end (or use jute or whatever natural or unnatural material you want of proper length) until it's as long as you want it.  
  3. Tie pine cones to raffia at intervals of your choosing.
  4. Tie Strips of fabric (I pinked them for cuteness!) or ribbon to the top of each pine cone.
  5. Hang Garland at will! 
  6. Enjoy!

Participating here:
Great Holiday Barn Hop

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Living Books for Christmas or What we're reading this month!

Much like my desire to read living books with my children for Thanksgiving, I desired to bring in living books for Christmas too.  This isn't to say that we're not reading some just for fun books as well, but I wanted to enrich our reading time.  And to avoid twaddle all together!

So what are we reading???   

Mary's First Christmas 
This delightful story recounts the Christmas story as told by Mary to her five year old Jesus!  Precious.  It's written in in four chapters that we usually spread out over four different nights.  Kids love it!

Jacob's Gift
The nativity story related from the perspective of a young carpenter apprentice in Bethlehem.  Obviously fictional, but a fun way to see the Christmas story from a different perspective.  Also a great lesson in sacrifice.

The Crippled Lamb
Another sweet fictional retelling of the night Jesus was born, this time from the perspective of a little lame lamb.  This story reminds our children that we are just as God created us... and that God always has a purpose.

The Gift of the Magi
An old favorite from my childhood.  This story tells of a sweet couple and the sacrifices they make to give to each other one Christmas.

Humphrey's First Christmas
This one is mostly just fun.  My daughter calls it the complaining book (which isn't my favorite) and asks to hear it read constantly!  The story is of a whinny camel on his way to Bethlehem in a caravan.  He's lost his beloved blanket and whines and fusses the whole time because of it and the three ("huge") packages he is required to carry.  A great opportunity to discuss what the Bible says about complaining... not to mention the silliness of Humphrey's complaints!  His heart is changed, however, when he see's the baby and feels compelled to give the only gift he can.  Again, fictional, but a fun story none the less.

An Orange for Frankie
Set in times past, as his family prepares for Christmas, Frankie learns what it means to give selflessly and what it is to be part of a family.  I love the look at what Christmas was like when the most exciting part was a simple orange on Christmas eve!  What a difference from what our children know now.

The Legend of the Candy Cane
I'm never sure about the accuracy of the "legend" books, but I enjoyed sharing one more way we can remember Jesus in the Christmas celebration!

The Legend of the Christmas Tree
We read this one last year, and just like it's Candy Cane cousin, it is a sweet way to think of the tradition of the Christmas trees we bring into our home.

The Legend of the Christmas Stocking
We haven't read this one yet, though it is here from the library and waiting it's turn.  I'm let you know more when I know it! :)

The Legend of St. Nick
We haven't even seen this one yet (I'm on the waiting list from the library... hopefully it will make it), but I'm hoping it will recount an accurate story of how this legend started.  We just explained who "Santa" is this year for the first time and I'd love a clear story of how it all started in a picture book format!  Anyone know?

Apple Tree Christmas
Though no reference is made to Christ in this book, it is a lovely view into the home of one family's Christmas in the late 1800s.

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie
This sweet story is set during the Great Depression (a great lesson on what it might have been like back then.)  Again, we haven't read this one yet... I'll update with more when we have!

An Early American Christmas
Another great story set long ago, this time in the beginning of the 1800s.  This story shares how a German family brings the traditions of Christmas from the "old country" to New England where they are the only ones who celebrate at all.  A nice look at early American traditions!

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nutrition for Toddlers: Little Sammy Part 2

A day or so after my previous correspondence with "Sammy's Mom", she shared with me what their day was like... food wise anyway.  Again, I've abridged it for space reasons...

Dear Babychaser,

Today, I gave him a bottle when he woke up (5 ounces of milk with 2 scoops of baby cereal mixed in). I know I need to stop the morning bottle, but it takes me a while to get breakfast and everything ready (I am not a morning person, though I am learning) and I always feel like I need to give him something as soon as he wakes up. About an hour later I tried to give him homemade oatmeal but he refused it without even trying it. I think I need to work on my oatmeal, I mean, I couldn't eat it either. It was too dry. Because I was already frustrated, I tried giving him a Gerber baby food Stage 3 (Oatmeal, Pears and Cinnamon). He ate half the jar. I gave him 4 pieces of watermelon and he ate 2. I gave him water and let him go. 

I think at this stage, he dislikes being at the high chair even more that he dislikes being hungry (if he's ever hungry). 

For a snack, I gave 1/3 cup of Cheerios and another bottle of milk (with the baby cereal). He drank 4 ounces.

For lunch, I gave him a grilled cheese sandwich made with 1/2 slice of whole wheat bread but I think he must have eaten 1/4 of it. I gave him broccoli with cheese sauce and I can say he ate 1/4 to 1/2 cup of it. This time I gave him 100% Juice White Grape. He drank 4 ounces.

For the afternoon snack I gave him yogurt. For dinner, I tried giving him one of those Gerber Graduates toddler food. It was Creamy Chicken and Vegetables but he only ate 3 or 4 spoonfuls. 

Then before bed, he drank 6 ounces of milk (with the baby cereal again). 

Sammy's Mom

Hi Sammy's Mom!

Thanks for sharing your day with me.  I’m off to bed shortly, but I wanted to send a quick note. :)

You didn’t ask, so at the risk of helping when you weren’t wanting me to (*smile*), I have a couple little thoughts for you.  Please feel free to take them or leave them!

I am wondering if the reason he won’t eat much breakfast is because of the cup of milk/cereal.  One of the things I do to keep my little one happy while waiting for “real” breakfast (or for me to be ready to feed it to him) is give him a banana (he eats it whole, I just take the peel off).  I don’t know if your son likes bananas or not, but perhaps you can sub some other fruit.  Even canned fruit or fruit cocktail (in pear juice not syrup) may be an option.  Even a few whole grain crackers could tide him over and give him the added fiber!  :)  If you set up this “snack” before going to bed at night, you won’t even have to think about it in the morning when you’re still tired!

I’m not sure what you do with your oatmeal, but we often have that for breakfast.  I add to it a bit (few tablespoons or more as needed) of no sugar added applesauce and sometimes a shake of cinnamon.  The applesauce will add some moisture back in if yours it too dry, not to mention add the sweetness and nutrients of yet another fruit (in addition to the banana or whatever).  Yey… already two fruit servings in your day! :)  I’d recommend giving him ½ cup or so of milk in a sippy cup with the oatmeal… just to see if he’ll take it and drink along with the meal instead of first when he’s really thirsty.

Use “high chair time” for the most nutrient dense things since he doesn’t seem to want to be there.  Take advantage of what little hunger he may actually have by feeding him the best foods first… fillers and drinks and such at the end! :)

Is there a reason you are adding the baby cereal to the milk?  I did this with my first when he was young because he wasn’t keeping anything down and we were trying to get the calories in any way we could (Doctor's orders), but there are quite a few calories in that stuff.  I wonder if he’s never hungry because he is already getting so many calories through that.  If a doctor has suggested it, I’d talk to them first.  But perhaps you want to try *not* adding it for a few days and see what happens to the rest of the food. 

Also, again, I recommend diluting the juice some.  The number of nutrients that make it through the pasteurization process isn’t enough to balance even the natural sugars he’s getting and number of calories.  One ounce juice to 7 ounces water is probably fine.  I really never give juice to my 16 month old except to add a splash of flavor when he sees his sister and brother having it (even then the older ones only get that splash unless it’s OJ).  Otherwise it’s milk or water.

Does your son need that extra bottle before bed?  Maybe he does.  I was able to nurse my son until just after he was a year old, and when I weaned him, that night time milk went out the window.  Again… I’m not talking from education, just wondering.

Well, that was more than I expected to say.  Sorry for the long note.  I’m excited to hear how passionate you are about setting things straight! :)  Keep in mind as you experiment with all this that some kids don’t need as many calories as others.  A lot depends on metabolism and activity levels.  If he’s one of those that doesn’t eat as much, watch those calories carefully and keep it to the most important things! :)


So there you have it... anyone else have some ideas???  Feel free to send in your own questions.  I'm far from all knowing on this stuff... but I'm happy to share my insights and brainstorms with you!