Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year in Review: What's Realy Important?


Every time I've hopped on the internet this week, I'm inundated with headlines like: "Best and Worst of Reality TV in 2011," "Worst Celebrity Break Ups of 2011," "Most Beautiful Celebrity Weddings of 2011," "Most Influential Celebrity of 2011," "Celebrities Who Had Ingrown Toenails in 2011" . . . okay, maybe not the ingrown toenail article, but you get the idea.

As January 1 approaches, everybody everywhere has some list we're supposed to read to about people who are more important than us. Personally, I think we'd be a lot better to evaluating our own lives rather than some celebrity's. So as you approach the new year, I encourage you to make your own 2011-2012 lists and ask yourself several things to improve your life:

1. What's most important to me?
Go ahead. List out the top five or ten things that are, or should be, most important. For me, the list would look something like:

a. My relationship with God
b. My relationship with my husband
c. Raising my two little boys to love and honor God
d. Growing my writing career
e. Ministering to others

2. What did these aspects of my life look like twelve months ago?
Go ahead, ask yourself the question and spend some time analyzing the list. Can you see how your relationship with God has grown over the past year. Is your relationship with your husband in a better place than it was one year ago today? The answers to these questions should be yes, but far to often, if I honestly evaluate my own life, I have to answer "No" or "not as much as I'd like."

3. Where do I want to be in another 12 months?
Now look at your list and ask yourself this last question. Write down some tangible goals in every area, save the piece of paper, and work toward those goals in the coming year. When you feel yourself loosing sight of what's most important (and we all do this) take the list out and remind yourself of your goals. Then next year at this time, pull that paper back out and evaluate your life. See if your New Year's Resolutions really stuck.

If we're really interested in changing, growing, and becoming better people, then we need to take a clear, honest look at our own goals and priorities, rather than be concerned with what happened to a bunch of celebrities, whom most of us will never even meet.

Now that you know what my goals and priorities are for 2012, why don't you share some of yours? Leave a comment below, and thanks for stopping by. I'll be back on Monday, announcing some changes for 2012 to Making Home Work. And in the meantime, Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Homemade Christmas Gifts


If you were anything like my mother, when it came time to give gifts to friends and acquaintances like teachers, pastors, and neighbors, you filled baskets with homemade jam and fruit bread. If you were anything like my grandmother, you spent the year knitting scarves and hats and gloves and even homemade Christmas stockings with each person's name spelled out across the top to give to your children and grandchildren. (That Christmas stocking is probably my favorite ever homemade gift.)

While I'm not "Mrs. Crafty Homemaker," I still manage to make homemade gifts. So what did I make this year? Chocolate covered pretzels and nuts, and caramel corn (you can find the pretzel recipe here and the caramel corn recipe here). I handed them out to church members and friends and even managed to save some for around the house. Next year I'm hoping to find something my five year old will be able to help make.

And guess what? I even received a homemade gift from my husband. A homemade toilet paper holder. Yes really. You may wonder why my husband didn't simply buy me a toilet paper holder. Well, first because he's really handy and enjoys woodworking, and second because this one looks great with the custom cedar trim in our bathroom.

So what about you? Do you have a favorite ever homemade gift? Or do you have an example of a really great gift that you've made? I'd love to hear about some new ideas.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Creating Memories: Holiday Traditions


Hey Everyone,

Naomi here, and happy day after Christmas. I trust you had a fabulous time on Christmas and Christmas Eve, sharing food and fun with families, opening presents, and remembering Christ's birth.

Every Christmas, not only do I enjoy the typical delights of food and presents, but I also enjoy thinking back to those Christmases long ago and reflecting on the special memories that surface. For example, when I was growing up, we always piled onto my parents bed and read the Christmas story before we opened presents. That's a memory I cherish, not just the reading of Scripture, but the "piling on the bed" part could get rather interesting. And it's a tradition me and my family still uphold.

I'd wager that most of you have memories from past Christmases that you still cherish today. So my question is, What holiday traditions are you creating for your kids? They will grow up one day. They will leave the nostalgic Christmas atmosphere you've maintained and make their own.

This year I started--or attempted to start--a new tradition with my son. We made a ginger bread house for a local competition. Did I enjoy making the gingerbread? No. Did I enjoy making the frosting? Nope. Putting the house together? Nada.

So before I sound like a complete Scrooge, let me tell you why I did it. MY SON.

I knew he would love to decorate the house. And he did. His face lit with delight each time he placed a gumdrop on the roof or a candy cane over the door. And I hope he will look back on it one day as a fond Christmas memory. Will we do it every year? I have no idea. I think it will make a good tradition, and so I might be willing to put up with the mess in the kitchen and frustration of getting the walls to stand up straight.

But my point is this: Creating memories takes effort and time. So we might need to set aside an afternoon to take the kids skating or build a snowman or make a gingerbread house. But the memories one day will be worth it.

What special traditions do you have in your family? Have you carried any over from when you were a child? Did you establish something new? And if you haven't found time to do something special with your children yet this holiday season, you still have one week left! Block out an afternoon on your calendar and go make some memories.

Wishing you all blessed holiday season,
Naomi

P. S. For those of you wondering how my son fared in the gingerbread competition, he didn't. His toddler brother scooted a chair up to the counter, climbed up, and pulled half the gumdrops off before I caught him. Maybe next year the house will actually make it to the competition. :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

You Need A Budget Software Review

My first year of marriage, I was still in school and we made a total of $21,000/yr. and every month I worked to keep the check register above zero. Then I got a job teaching and made $34,000/yr by myself and STILL had to keep the check register above zero. When I noted that after a few months I knew something was wrong.

I first used Larry Burkett's Crown Financial Envelope system and photocopied pages, but that got cumbersome and complicated when I was trying to keep track of small temporary things I was saving for. And just last year, I did Dave Ramsey--good information--but the budget system was similar to Burkett's and I'd never change from my budget software (YNAB or You Need A Budget) which I've been using for over 5 years.


It practices one tenet that neither Larry Burkett or Dave Ramsey seem to advocate--living on last month's money. If you don't make a set amount of money, I believe it is a must! And even though my income doesn't change much anymore, I still wouldn't change back to living on the money I'm making today.

Here's a video on the 4 rules YNAB teaches, including living on last month's income:


This software does cost $60 but it is very worth it. If you do a paper copied budget, it will save you paper and ink cost, and that alone becomes worth it after a year or two, but it makes working with your budget so much easier and takes less time and time is money, right? When I've counseled people about their finances and realize they have no money, I still recommend that they find the $60, because if they use this system, they'll save that money easily.

If your budget is frustrating or not working well or you don't have one--You Need A Budget!

The only con I have with this software is its reports. I hardly have a need for the reports, but the few times I've wanted to use it, it's not that great, it has set reports for you to look at and isn't very customizable. Also, I'd like to print my transactions for an entire year, but you have to print them all which when you've used this for several years, that's annoying. But, that said, the reports being as they are, I still recommend it highly, plus the guy behind it always takes suggestions and one of these days he'll take mine, right?

So, how has the budget software helped me? Staying home, we now make less than when I was a teacher, but we adjusted easily with the help of this software. Instead of having to be careful to keep my check register above zero, I normally have heart flutters if it's below one month's budget which is a little over a couple thousand dollars, however with the third rule, the heart flutters are minimal because I know even if I messed up, I can easily recover without worrying about incurring fees or bouncing checks or anything of that sort. But I rarely have those heart flutters because I normally have much more money than that since I now save for my auto tags instead of letting those "surprise" and bankrupt me, and I know exactly how much money I can spend on clothing if I go shopping on a whim without hurting my ability to pay the bills.

Seriously, you should get it unless you have a good, easy-to-track budget system in place that is helping you meet your money goals.

(You can watch more than one account with the software, so I run my business budget and home budget with the same software.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Family Meetings

With the holidays swirling everyone into a flurry of expectations and some anxiety, our family time has been severely distracted with talk of presents and programs, giving and returning!!! Life is racing full speed ahead, and with all the “stuff” that is thrown at us this time of year, it makes it difficult to see straight! So, when I began to brainstorm for this post (later than I would have liked!) the words “Family meetings” kept popping into my head.

Family meetings have become a most important tool in our family. They usually occur when the kids have broken through boundaries and dance around like they are in the Lord of the Flies, and Mama is stressed out and focused on everything else besides the kids. It is at these moments, that we finally freeze and my husband and I throw together a quick outline for a family meeting...and then hold it with a fresh breath of order.

Whether it is implementing a responsibility chart, tweaking our discipline strategy, hashing out our schedules of sports, or Mama's writing time, Family meetings center us again, and provide us with:


  • Unity: Obviously, a family meeting brings a family together. But it also gives the family a chance to work out the kinks and move forward as one unit...many parts that work together for the same goals. If everyone knows their role and what is expected, then unity can be achieved.

  • Respect: You may think I am talking about children respecting their parents, and I am, but I also mean the other way around too. When you sit down with your kids, and listen to them, and give them a chance to help form a plan, they feel a part of something and feel respected. This may not be a big deal when they are young, but when you have teenagers to raise, laying a foundation of respect may be vital to open communication with your kids.

  • Fresh Start: Everyone goes through stages-- especially the kids. Sometimes our strategies to handle behavior or routine are outgrown. And, we aren't always perfect at implementing them anyway (uh, for me, hardly ever!) So a family meeting gives us a chance to start over. Take a deep breath and no that there is hope for “making home work!”

Have you had successful family meetings? Are there any other things you do to keep chaos from consuming the way your family functions?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hungry, Hungry Hippos

This has been one of those weeks, when no matter what I feed my kids, in 10 minutes they are "starving" and need something to eat. I feel like I'm playing a giant game of hungry, hungry hippos on my dining room table whenever I sit food in front of them. And when all the marbles are gone, instead of a winner, I have three whiners, who all want more food! (spoken tongue in cheek of course.) Add to this my EBF (extended breast feeding) toddler thinks that she needs to nurse around the clock again, we were down to only before nap/bedtime, and I'm hungry all the time. She must be ready for a growth spurt or something.

I usually offer them carrot sticks, apples or bananas. Sometimes crackers, pretzels or cheddar bunnies. I recently purchased 20# of apples through our buying club, so they've had all the apples they care to eat fresh. And the bananas are usually all gone by this late in the pay cycle. Once the fresh 'naners are gone, I usually have a reserve of frozen ones for making smoothies with, but alas, those are depleted as well! I really need to do some stocking up!

So I'm down to the last resort~bake something. I do like to bake, I really do, it's the cleaning up part that I loathe. So after I put the kids down for nap time, I flip through my cookbook looking for some sort of drop, no-bake cookie that I can make more "healthier" and hope that it works out! And hopefully something that doesn't take an hour to do. Here's what I ended up with:

Puffed Rice & Peanut Butter No-Bakes
1/3 cup Honey (instead of nasty corn syrup)
2 Tbsp Sucanat, Rapadura  (natural, dried can juice with no refining/bleaching)
Bring to a good roiling boil.
Then add:
1/2 cup Peanut butter, raw/unsweetened
1/4 tsp Vanilla
2 cups Puffed Rice Cereal (our local stores carry a 'whole grain' brand that's only $1 per bag.) or you could use a crisp rice cereal as well.
Stir together, then drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper to set up.
makes apx 16 cookies.
Small batch? Yep, on purpose. If I make it any larger, then I tend to eat way more than I should! So I try to keep the batch sizes small to compensate for my lack of willpower.
Slightly sweet with the rich taste of peanut butter. Yummy!

Once in a while we have a purely decadent 'treat' that has no nutritional value what so ever, but those are pretty rare here! We strive to eat healthier at home, and limit our eating out, so our treats need to be extra special and healthy too. Our main reason for our diet is health, we want the best health possible of course! But also we limit our "junk food" and eating out for financial reasons.

Eating out is one of those areas where money just vanishes, quickly. We usually budget eating out 2 times per month, or once per pay period. Sometimes we go over, sometime we don't go at all. Being the stay at home mom that I am, I'm always looking for ways to cut back on expenses while still providing delicious foods for our family. Eating out is a real temptation to me. Not having to clean up that mess! As you all are aware, the prices at the grocery store just keep going up. I'm finding that my regular purchases are costing more and thus need to cut back on those comfort food meals and stick to more "beans and cornbread" meals. Cutting back on the expensive foods, like meats, and offering more fillers, like veggies and starches. Also trimming portions = more 'snacking' in between meals. So I struggle to find healthy, inexpensive snacks to help the kids make it dinner.

I would love to hear your healthy snack ideas and how you cope with your"Hungry, Hungry Hippos"!



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Attack of the Messy House!


There are many things I would rather do than clean my house. If it weren’t for hosting a weekly women’s Bible study on Wednesday mornings, my house would probably not get cleaned on a regular basis. A few times a year, I treat myself to hiring a cleaning service (usually through a Groupon or Living Social deal) and the spectacular results make my heart sing in gratitude.

However, with four kids, a husband and two cats, I have to clean on a regular basis. I’m fortunate in that my husband cleans the bathrooms at least twice a month and my kids can do the wipe-down method with those cleaning cloths in between times. (Yes, he does a great job, but no, it’s not how I would do it. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in nearly a dozen years of marriage—if your husband is willing to clean the bathrooms and the results are clean enough, then step back, let go and enjoy!)


Being a left-brained, organized (at times, overly so) person, I approach cleaning systematically and orderly. At times, though, the clutter and messiness of my house can be overwhelming, and that’s when I employ the Kamikaze Cleaning method, developed by my friend, Stephanie Buckwalter.

The Kamikaze method is designed to be easy, keep the decision-making to a minimum, and start the long-term project of getting your whole house livable again. “This is really about getting your house presentable so you can let people in the front door again. A side bonus is that you will be able to function in your space again. You might even get a few kudos from your family,” she writes in her e-book, Kamikaze Cleaning.

With Christmas around the corner, there’s time to get your house in order before the big day. “Basically, the method involves putting everything into boxes that you don’t use right now in your life,” says Stephanie. “You can do a whole room in three passes and have it ready in time for the holidays.”

This month, Stephanie’s giving away a copy of her ebook Preparing Your Home for the Holidays, which tells you how to clean the high visibility areas for the greatest impact. Sign up for her free e-newsletter at http://www.busyhomemaker.com/ by Dec. 12 to get your copy of Preparing Your Home for the Holidays.

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband and four children. Visit her online at http://www.sarahhamaker.com/, where she blogs about working from home.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Interview ~ Teresa LaForte-Scott


Teresa LaForte-Scott wears many hats. I was fortunate to spend some time talking to her one afternoon, about life.

Teresa is a mother and wife, living in Southeast Kansas, where she was born and raised with ten siblings. She and her husband have three daughters and four grandchildren, along with two special needs sons, who were foster children and have since been adopted.

Teresa and her husband have a thrift store and furniture-type business called The Treasure Hunt in downtown Neodesha, Kansas. Opening the store was a way to be available to their special needs children.

Their sons are both in high school and their needs are great.

Teresa and her husband also have rental properties as a form of income and are working on opening a transitional facility for special needs individuals they will call Stepping Stones, in a vacant hospital building they already own. Their home is also still a foster home, where they may be called on at any time.

I can’t express how Teresa and her husband are always tapped in to the needs of their family and community.

One of their events is The Christmas Giveaway…

This is the fourth year, when children have been welcomed to come shop for free at their store, for gifts for their friends and family. The first year, they let parents shop, but some took advantage. The second year, children shop with parents for family, but there were still some issues. The third year, kids shop alone with a Treasure Hunt volunteer, parents drop them off with a list and it works great.

This fun time is usually attended by about a hundred kids. No one is turned away. Their gifts are also wrapped or they are helped in wrapping them and filling out Christmas cards for the recipients. They always need volunteers to walk around with the kids. It is held every year, the last weekend before Christmas, this year, Sat & Sunday… 17th/18th. Wrappers are always needed as well.

When I asked Teresa what advice she had for mothers compelled to find a way to stay home, she said, “We have to be creative. We have to juggle our lifestyles, much more than conventional parents. Being very flexible, with ‘other’ family, etc. Sometimes they have to come second.”

My daughter and I will be volunteering this year and anyone in Southeast Kansas is welcome to contact me to see about doing the same.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review of Love Finds You in Annapolis Maryland by Roseanna White


Looking for a fun holiday read? Try Love Finds You in Annapolis Maryland by Roseanna White. The book releases today, and I love telling you about Roseanna's book because she is a young work-from-home mom who manages to home school her daughter, edit for her husband's publishing company, and write fiction. (You'd think the woman would have a live-in maid in order to accomplish all her other responsibilities, but no, I'm told she cleans her toilets on her own. How does she find the time?)

Anyway, before I start rambling, here's a brief review.

This book entranced me from the first page. I found myself feeling so bad for Lark and hoping she could do better than marry a rich man who wouldn't care if the earth opened and swallowed her whole. I was rooting for her the entire story, as she leaves the protection of her family in rural Virginia and heads to the nation's capitol in 1783 to put some space between her and her scoundrel of a fiance.

Lark is bold and daring and unwilling to accept what life conveniently tries to hand her, and I loved her for fighting for happiness instead. And though I wanted to be angry at her fiance for the way he ignores her at the beginning of the book, I couldn't stay angry for long, as he has some haunting scars from the Revolutionary War that hold him back from loving Lark the way he should.

All in all, this is a great story of love and redemption, happiness and second chances. The author made me feel like I was in 1783 Annapolis, with all these important founders like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington walking around, and treaties with England being ratified, and hatred toward the Tories. It's a book I plan to keep on my shelf. And trust me, I don't keep everything I read.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Some Simple Computer Maintenence You Ought to be Doing

I'm not an IT person, but I'm often asked computer questions. (Behind every good amateur computer tech is google.com :) Often the problem is relayed to me like this: "My computer is doing something funky."

Here are some things you ought to be doing to keep your computer from bogging down and doing something funky. (This is mainly for for Windows PC users). If doing these things doesn't fix it, you can google your specific problem and read computer discussion boards if you want to figure it out yourself, or then call the IT guy, but don't pay him to do these things that you can do yourself!


Computer Maintenance

  • Turn off your computer-A tech guy told me that a lot of times he makes a house call to fix a computer and basically gets paid to restart the computer.When your computer reboots, it's fixing its little brains. Shut off your computer daily, don't keep it on all the time. And if something weird happens, sometimes restarting is all that you need to do.

  • Clean out files periodically--Get rid of stuff clogging up your computer space.
Go to Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Disk Cleanup
Run this and get rid of everything, then...

  • Defragment your computer--Have the computer put  the pieces together instead of haphazardly for quicker running, don't do this until you cleaned out your files.
Go to Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Disk Defragment

  • Update your Computer - Updates make things run more smoothly and catch more bugs.

If Windows or Adobe or your Browser or other legitimate software ask you to install and update, do so, it's good for your computer.

Make sure you have your automatic updates turned on.
Go to Start>Control Panel>Windows Update>Change Settings (Turn on automatic updates here if it isn't already on)


Internet Browsing Maintenance


  • Use a Firewall - Helps block things you can't see
If you do not have a purchased firewall, use Windows Firewall
Start>Control Panel>Windows Firewall

After researching, I chose to purchase Vipre's firewall system. (Just FYI) I've had it for 2 years and am happy with it.

  • Avoid and Destroy Malware -- Malicious software hidden on your computer slows it down.
First, DON'T visit crazy sites--if sites look iffy and not professional, avoid them and don't download anything from this kind of site, download from legitimate sites that lots of people trust. Here's a good article on how to keep YOU from causing problems.

McAfee Site Advisor If downloaded, it will tell you if the site you are about to go on is iffy.

Periodically run a Malware destroying software (These are free downloads):

Malware Bytes
and
Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool

Ad-Aware gets rid of adware that causes similar problems

  • Close Down or Try a New Browser - Just like needing to reboot your computer brains, sometimes restarting your browser is helpful, and sometimes a problem with a website is actually a problem with how the browser is viewing the web site. Also, if you are creating a website/blog, look in each browser to see if it looks right in all of them.
If you are using Internet Explorer, I'd advise switching

Firefox
Chrome
Opera

Macs:
Safari
Camino
  • Clear you Browser's Cache and Cookies - These tidbits hold private information on you and collect like trash and bog down your browser's capabilities. This will, however, erase your automatic sign ins, passwords and fill-in forms, but if you only do it once a month, you won't have to reenter things too often on sites you visit most.

Each browser will be different but basically look here to clear cache and cookies:
Open Browser>Tools>Options>Privacy

You will work faster and more efficiently if your computer has been maintained in order for it to work fast and efficiently as well.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chocolate Dream Dessert

One of my goals in life is to have a repertoire of simple, delicious recipes that are impressive enough for company and guaranteed to disappear at potlucks. Perhaps it’s not a lofty goal and maybe some will think me a bit lazy in the cooking department, but I’d rather do other things than spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

This is one of those recipes. It’s quick, easy and yummy, appealing to both children and adults alike. For best results, refrigerate overnight.




Chocolate Dream Dessert

First (bottom) layer: 1 cup flour, ½ cup chopped nuts, 1 stick of butter. Combine and press into a 9X13 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Cool completely before adding other layers.

Second layer: 8-ounces cream cheese (softened), 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 cup Cool Whip topping. Blend well together and spread on top of first layer.

Third layer: 2 3-ounce packages instant chocolate pudding, 3 cups cold milk. Mix together and pour over second layer. Refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.

Fourth layer: 1 to 2 cups Cool Whip. Spread over firmed third layer. Refrigerate until served.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sour Cream and Bacon Crockpot Chicken

4 chicken breasts
bacon slices
1 can (10oz) roasted garlic cream of mushroom soup
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. flour
(optional, chopped onion, more garlic, parmesan cheese (at the end as a topping)
egg noodles

Wrap raw bacon around each raw breast and place in crockpot.

In bowl, combine soup, sour cream, and flour (onion and garlic if desired). Whisk. Pour this concoction over chicken.

Cook on low 6-8 hours or until meat is 160 degrees. Cook noodles according to package, rewhisk the sauce, and serve over noodles.

Caveat: This doesn't look very appealing but it is extremely yummy.




Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Good Mother

I’m a terrible mother.

Before you call social services and report me, no, I don’t beat or starve my children, but there are days when I fall way short of today’s definition of a good mother. I don’t spend a lot of time with my children (and often think that’s okay). I don’t correct their homework (and have no intention of doing so). At times, I get annoyed when they interrupt me. I sometimes yell at them when they frustrate me (like spilling milk on the table I just cleaned).

How many times have I not paid attention to what a child was saying because my attention was on my email? How many times do I pack my day with too much work and end up too tired to play a game or read a story to them before bed?

We as mothers and women have a tendency to set the bar so high, it’s nigh on impossible to reach. We tell ourselves that if we don’t bake the cookies from scratch, or don’t pay close enough attention to the babblings of the 2-year-old, or don’t fill-in-the-blank, our children will not be happy, healthy, or have a good life.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But how many of us have had similar thoughts dance through our minds, along with the accompanying guilt at not being a good enough mother? I sure have, even though I try very hard not to.

Then there’s the inevitable comparisons with other mothers. Even when we’re not consciously thinking about how other women parent, it can seep into our minds in the blink of an eye.

Here’s an example of what I mean: When my oldest was a toddler, we went to the park on one of the first warm spring days. She had on a short-sleeved shirt probably for the first time that year. As we walked to the playground, I looked around at the other mothers who were arriving with their children. Nearly every one of them had whipped out a tube of sunscreen and was slathering their child’s face and arms with the stuff. My daughter looked at me and asked if she needed sunscreen. I told her no and to go play, but in that moment, I felt like a bad mother, one who sends her defenseless child out into the sunny world with no sunscreen.

Other times this feeling has cropped up for me includes being the mom without the first aid kit at the playground and another mom has to lend you a Band-aid to bandage your child’s bloody knee. Or giving my kids a non-organic, not-too-healthy snack when other moms have artfully arranged carrot sticks and hummus.

If we fall into this mindset that we are not good enough mothers, that our parenting styles and family life is not up to par with the rest of the world—and as a result our children will not be able to fulfill their great destinies— then we will miss out on a lot of the joys of childhood.

We also will miss out on the laughter and the pain, the joys and the sorrows, the average grades and the missed goals. And those lessons learned from not being perfect, from seeing how we as mothers handle life’s disappointments, and from enjoying life to its fullest whatever our circumstances, are priceless.

It’s not being the perfect mother that our children will love us for—it’s being the best mother we can be for them. That won’t look good some days, but if we turn our backs on measuring ourselves to an impossible standard, we can have more good days than bad.

It took me several years to come to terms that I wasn’t a great mother by certain standards. And there are times when I slip and start to obsess about how I’m not a good mother. But most of the time, I aim to be a good enough mother, and so far, it’s been a good one for my four children.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Interview With Jeemaa, Part 2

Give-away Necklace
Welcome back for part two of our interview with jewelry designer Jeemaa. If you haven't entered her give-away contest yet, be sure to link over and do so!

Yesterday Jeemaa shared a glimpse of her home life with us, today we are going to focus on the work side of her life.

Jeemaa, do you keep a schedule, and if you do, how flexible is it?

Yes I do, but it is flexible. Our routine changes constantly as our son grows, so flexibility is very important to us. Typically, we start our day with some mommy and baby snuggle time, then breakfast followed by some kind of activity. We enjoy story time at the library, play time with little buddies, going to the zoo or park, or anything that can be done within two and a half hours. Then it is mommy’s work time and baby’s nap time. I try to get done as much as possible during the nap time. That includes making the jewelry, photographing the pieces, listing new items in my etsy shop, packaging the orders, communicating with my customers and so forth. Then it is our lunch time and more play time. Each day is a little bit different though. Some days my son is more independent and allows me to work more in between play times, but some days he needs me more. Those days I work late nights. It was definitely more challenging in the beginning but as my son gets older, our schedule is getting more and more consistent and I get more accomplished.


Come downstairs Mommy!
So where do you do your work? Do you have a separate work-space?

I have a separate work space in our loft but I somehow seem to end up downstairs. So we had to do some rearranging. Now both the loft and the dining room are used as my work space  I think it is mainly because everything happens downstairs and it is child proof. 


I find the same is true for my situation! I have a work studio in our attic and just about every time I go up there to work, something happens to call me downstairs! So if I'm working on a portable project, I bring it down, otherwise it waits until later. Flexibility is key!

So what suggestion(s) would you offer to a newbie work from home mom, or a mom who is considering coming home to work?


Everyone’s situation is a little bit different but I would love to share what seems to work for me. 1) As I mentioned earlier, establishing some kind of schedule and routine is very important.  2) Keeping a good line of communication with customers is crucial. A lot of my jewelry ideas come directly from my customers. For example, “Grandma’s Little Sunshine” was inspired by a grandma who loves spending the time with her adorable grandson.  3) Taking occasional time off to recharge is a must! My husband is in charge of reminding me of this part. It does not need to be a week-long vacation; even if it is just a picnic at a park or a long walk - anything that you enjoy other than your business will help.

That sounds like excellent advice! 
What has been your experience with advertising and promoting your business?

I find blog giveaways and Facebook promotional events a wonderful way to spread the word about my jewelry business. It is cost effective but produces excellent results! I think it is great that small business owners are working together to promote each other’s businesses. I have never been a Facebook person before, but now I really enjoy interacting with my customers and fans via Facebook. I love seeing their feedback, appreciation photos, custom requests, suggestions and questions. In my opinion, it is not just a fan page, I see it more as a community of moms and caregivers who support each other.


Fancy Mama Teething Ring Necklace

Facebook is a great tool, if used wisely! I find myself tempted to waste too much time there! I need to work on this and devote myself more to homeschool planning, work, and housework!

Your necklaces are simply beautiful, yet functional and affordable! Where does your inspiration come from?

Day to day life, colors, natural stones, beautiful outfits, magazines…there are so many things that inspire me to create my jewelry.  But as a mommy jewelry designer, I get very excited about baby friendly and mommy fashionable pendants to serve as the focal points of my jewelry! When I find that unique focal piece, I usually lay it out on my dining table for a few days. Sometimes, the design idea comes to me right away but sometimes it takes days. I love finding out what that stone represents, match them with complimenting beads and create a piece that has a special meaning! I also pay attention to the things that my little man does while I nurse him or hold him.  Here is my son chewing on his favorite teething ring. This inspired me to create my “Fancy Mama Teething Ring Necklace” design.
Inspiration!




Sometimes I find myself in a "designing rut", do you ever feel that way? What do you do when you find yourself stuck in a rut? 

do occasionally find myself in a “designing rut”. That is when I take a break for a few days and do other things that I enjoy as much. The trick for me is not to think about jewelry at all… then I miss it and get inspired all over again to create some more …It is a great feeling
Jeemaa, thank you for your wonderful advice and insight into your successful work from home business! 

MHW readers, remember to enter to win "Grandma's Little Sunshine" necklace here and be sure to check out Jeemaa's work on Facebook and Etsy!Bonus coupon code for readers: 10% off at Jeemaa's Esty shop.
 The coupon code for readers is: MAKINGHOMEWORK  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Interview With Jewelry Designer Jeemaa {and Give-away!}

Please join me in welcoming jewelry designer Jeemaa to Making Home Work!  Jeemaa is the brilliance behind Mommy Jewelry Sturdy and PurdyJeemaa, tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

I am a wife to my wonderful husband Jeff and a mom to our sweet little boy Zachary. I love scrapbooking, cooking and taking long walks in nature. I also enjoy beading and creating unique and functional pieces of jewelry for mommies.

Jeemaa and her husband, Disney 2011
 Thank you Jeemaa for interviewing with us, please tell our readers about your business products.

I make nursing and teething ring necklaces for mamas and caregivers. They are especially designed to keep babies’ little hands busy while making the mamas look stylish. I use natural wooden teething rings, organic Flaxseed oil or beeswax and all kinds of semi precious stones.

I have ordered a few of your beautiful necklaces and I love wearing them as much as my toddler loves playing with them! Jeemaa, tell us how you got started making jewelry.
My business was inspired by one of my best friend’s custom necklace requests and my own experience with my baby boy.  A few years ago I opened my Etsy shop to sell my nature inspired whimsical jewelry. At that time, I had a full time teaching job so I could not always find the time to maintain my shop. When my son was about four months old, one of my best friends asked me to make a nursing necklace for her. I got some pretty beads with different shapes and textures and made one for her and one for myself. I wanted the necklace to be durable and functional – interesting enough to grab babies’ attention but pretty enough that it can be worn as everyday jewelry. My son loved it!! He gets easily distracted during nursing, especially in public. With the necklace he was more focused. He loved the natural donut stone and really enjoyed exploring the beads. He played with it while I waited in a checkout line or changed his diaper. He tugged on it instead of pulling my hair. I was so excited that I posted the necklace pictures on Facebook and it didn’t take long before another mommy wanted one. And my business has been flourishing ever since.
 
I love a good story of how children inspire a mother in business! Tell us more about your son.

We have a very busy eighteen month old toddler! His name is Zachary. He loves to play with his daddy’s golf clubs, remote controls, tools (which he doesn’t get from his dad), stickers and anything that makes noise. Zachary also loves books that keep his little fingers busy. We think that Matthew Van Fleet is his favorite author.  He never gets tired of reading Tails with mommy and daddy. 

Oh he's a future reader! We love readers here at Making Home Work!
Never too early for books!
Your child is still pretty young, do you involve him with your work?

I do not involve my son in the making of the jewelry part as I work with beads and small pieces that are not safe for him. I also work with teething rings and keeping them clean is extremely important. So mostly, I make my jewelry during his nap time or after he goes to bed. But there are parts that he gets to help mommy. He loves putting the packages in the “mail” bag. We frequently journey to the post office and he has become good buddies with the post office ladies! We both enjoy listening to the post office ladies sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” to us.  
Packing the mail bag!
Sounds like Zachary is a favorite at the Post Office! 
What do you find the most challenging aspect about working from home?

For me the time management is the most challenging aspect of working from home. I am very lucky because our son takes pretty long naps during the day and it really helps me to get my work done. But I can’t always count on naps - there are days he doesn’t want to nap and needs mommy to hold him or be near him at all times. In such instances, there is not much that I can do but wait for my husband to come home.  Working late nights or weekends can get stressful at times but things always seem to work out in the end. 

How do you handle meal preparation? Do you have a time saving trick that allows you more time to work and less time in the kitchen?

I am not very good at planning things but with the help of my better half who is more organized, we make a pretty good team. We usually have some idea of what we are going to cook that week and create the grocery list accordingly. The amazing time savers are my husband’s grandma’s amazing crock pot that turns anything we throw into it a delicious dinner, a rice cooker that my husband got me for my birthday, the savory lemon herb Rotisserie chicken that Meijer prepares, and a giant wok that we purchased from Amazon! That is dinner/lunch for at least three days of the week. Then we add some kind of easy pasta and tortilla wrap dinner to our weekly menu and we are all set! Our meals get sort of repetitive at times but it definitely saves us time and money.

Sounds good to me! Crock-pots do come in handy, I have two that I rely on heavily here at our house.
So with all of this to consider, is it worth it? What keeps you home instead of having an outside career? 

Absolutely! It is worth everything! I will be honest. Some days I wish I had a 9 to 5 job, made more money, had more adult interaction or more alone time, could go shopping and buy new clothes - but even before I finish the sentence, I take it back. I count my blessings every day and am so thankful that my husband works extremely hard so that I can stay at home with our baby. Without a doubt it is one of the most challenging jobs. So what keeps me home? The joy of watching our lil guy grow!




That's the best reason to stay at home! Thank you Jeemaa for giving us a glimpse into your home life. Next post we will explore the work side of her business. Be sure to check out the beautiful necklace give-away below!!


Jeemaa has graciously offered a beautiful necklace give-away and a 10% discount code to our MHW readers! The coupon code for readers is: MAKINGHOMEWORK  The coupon code is a 10% discount code for Jeema's etsy shop. 


Giveaway ~ "Grandma's Little Sunshine"

Description: This all natural organic maple teething ring measures 2.5 inches. The teething ring and the wooden beads are all finished with Certified Organic Flaxseed oil. It is safe for your little one to chomp on. The wooden beads are individually knotted. The 100 percent 2 mm cotton cord is extremely durable. It is a beautiful soft brown cord. The necklace is adjustable up to 29 inches with a Sliding Knot.



Grandmas Little Sunshine
Value: 11.50





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Entries must be made by Friday, Nov 18, 2011 by midnight. Random.org will select our winner, verification and announcement will be made Sunday, Nov 20, 2011 by noon.  Check back here to see if you won!





Friday, November 11, 2011

Good Ol' Texas Brisket

"Hey there Cowboy!" My mother-in-law always greets my kids in a thick Texas accent. She lives in Northeast Texas, the setting of my novel. I have been in deep edits so I thought I would share a guaranteed delicious recipe from that part of the world...and my mother-in-law's own recipe collection!
This is a great recipe to give someone when they have a baby or need a meal. I always take some rolls so they can make sandwiches if they'd like. Enjoy!


Carol's Beef Brisket

1 (3 to 4 lb) brisket
1 tsp. meat tenderizer
1/4 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 tsp. celery salt
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
3 Tbsp. Liquid Smoke
1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce

Combine meat tenderizer and all flavored salts. Sprinkle both sides of brisket with seasoning mixture. Place in a covered container or plastic freezer or baking bag. Refrigerate overnight (I skip these two steps...I am never that together. But it still comes out great). Place brisket in a baking pan and pour the marinade over top. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake slowly at 225 degrees for 8 hours or until tender. Slice against grain with a sharp knife.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Vegetarian Lasagna

26 oz Pasta Sauce (bottled Organic or homemade)
8 oz Lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions-don’t over cook. You can use rice pasta if you're desiring a gluten-free dish.
16 oz soft Tofu, Mori Nu brand is shelf stable and doesn’t have to be refrigerated until opened. I prefer it's texture over other brands of tofu.
3 c. fresh veggies, sliced and lightly steamed: broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, spinach, mushrooms,
       Onions, Carrots,  your choice!
8 oz shredded Mozzarella style soy or rice cheese

In a large casserole dish layer in the following order:

Put just a little sauce in the bottom of the pan.
Noodles
Veggies
Sauce
Mashed Tofu
Cheese
Noodles
Sauce


Cover with foil and bake 35-40 min. Uncover and bake an additional 5 mins.
Note: Tofu takes on the flavor of what ever it is cooked with. By layering it with the cheese it will blend in and you might not even notice that it’s not all cheese. This is a great way to introduce tofu into your diets if you aren’t used to it. Or to try it on some unsuspecting children! :D

When making your own pasta sauce, add 1 Tbsp of honey to really set off the tomatoes.



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Feeling Invisible?



"Am I invisible? Am I inaudible? Do I merely festoon the room with my presence?" as Christopher Fry was to ask in The Lady's Not for Burning.

I've never read the book or seen the play and probably never will, but I love that quote! It made me laugh out loud when I first read it.

Do you sometimes feel as if you aren't seen or as if no one is listening? Life is such a demanding clamor of people and things. We're pulled in a dozen directions at once, and feel both invisible and inaudible. Who sees who I really am? Who truly listens to what I have to say?

"Honey, I'm home!" translates "Is dinner ready? as husbands need us and expect much of us. "Mommy, where's my bunny? morphs into "Mom, what did you do with my red shirt?" as our children grow. And "Are you coming over? or "Have you called your sister yet?" from parents whose control we long ago thought we were out from under.

It's Time!

Our homes are full of bells and chimes, the washer, dryer, microwave, phones, all beckon us to race to them for attention. When the only warmth and welcome seems to come from a pot full of freshly perked coffee or the brisk scent of brewing tea or the comforting aroma of hot chocolate, maybe it's time to stop and take a break.

Of course, we don't merely festoon our homes with our presence. We are loved by our family and we have sweet glimpses of appreciation.

But what do you do if you feel invisible?

Stop and turn things around. Lift something more than a cup of coffee or a mug of hot chocolate or a glass of tea. There is One to whom you are never invisible or inaudible. Lift your eyes, lift a friend, lift your voice, lift up your soul.

Pray: Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens. Psalm 123:1

Be there for a friend: For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Ecclesiastes 4:10

Sing: Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices they shall sing together . . . Isaiah 52:8a

Seek the Lord: Rejoice the soul of Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. Psalm 86:4

Praise: Lift up your hands in His Name: Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. Psalm 63:4

They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing;
for the majesty of the LORD they
shall cry aloud from the sea.
Isaiah 24:14

God knows your name and loves you: Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing. Isaiah 40:26

Allow God to lift you: Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. James 4:10

Be uplifted in His peace: The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. Numbers 6:26
#

And here are a few quotes I've loved and leaned on for many years. I hope they will lift your spirits and help you to know without a doubt that you are never, ever invisible to the Creator of heaven and earth!

Theresa of Avila said:
"Our Lord does not care so much for the importance of our works
as for the love with which they are done."

From The Practice of the Presence of God--
"We can do little things for God. I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for the love of him; and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him who has given me Grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king." Brother Lawrence

William Law wrote:
"What ever seeming calamity happens to you, if you thank God and praise him for it you turn it into a blessing."

John Oxenham wrote in Bees in Amber--

"Not for one single day
Can I discern my way,
But this I surely know--
Who gives the day,
Will show the way.
So I securely go."

#

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Philippians 4:4

All Scripture is from the New King James Version of the Bible
It's Time photograph was taken by my daughter, Deborah Sandidge
Photograph of the little girl with her hands raised is my great granddaughter, River.
She's standing in the surf, thrilled with that huge Atlantic Ocean before her.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Challenge Week ~ A Week of Nano...

Today is the beginning of NANOWRIMO, National Novel Writing Month, an event that comes every November. Writer's from all over the world, of all shapes and sizes challenge themselves to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I successfully completed Two Sides Of Wilde in 2009 during NANO and this year I'm back for more!

Two Sides Of Wilde, available on Kindle by Amazon, is the first in the three part Wilde Series, but all three books can also stand alone.

Since this blog is meant to be a week long challenge, I'll measure out the equivalent. I am actually attempting to write TWO books during NANO and I'd like them to be 60,000 words or more. Not trying to be an over achiever, but I am very motivated by deadlines and accountability, so I'm just getting the most bang for my buck! Just a pun, NANO costs nothing!

My two titles are The Vegan & the Butcher and How Long Has It Been?. Here is an excerpt from VB....
Gran was especially picky and interested in cuts of meat, an education that would prove useless to Charlie when she became a vegetarian and then a vegan in college, but Joe the butcher never held it against her. He always called her Charlotte, like her Gran did, a habit Charlie loved as much as she hated. Old Joe had always had a little crush on Gran, or at least Charlie thought so. Gran insisted repeatedly that he treated all his customers with the same attention and charm, but her granddaughter wasn’t buying it. Charlie smiled as she remembered the teasing that she and Gran had shared over the years. The memory and the parking lot of Jamacha Junction made her stop and realize that Gran was gone. She’d been having moments like this all day, all week really. It was hard to believe it had been a week since the phone rang, in her new apartment, cardboard boxes still strewn about and nothing but a shiny framed degree hanging on one wall.

And one from HLHB....

Ginny looked at her watch, wondering if Eric was up. He had an alarm, but always seemed to be up before it was. He would get up and brush his teeth and drink his coffee, in that order, all while watching CNN and read the paper. She wondered what he would tell the girls; probably very little. He had a special knack for being vague. But they would be uninterested anyway. As long as there was someone to drive them to school and listen to their chatter, they would immediately be insisting on pizza delivery for dinner, which Eric would happily oblige. He wouldn’t check their homework and they would stay up too late. This would normally stir anxiety in Ginny when she traveled, but the reliability of it was actually a welcome comfort.

So, I'm a day late because I couldn't start til today (Tuesday, 11/1). Our blog challenge week ends on Friday (11/4). So, my goal being to write 4000 words a day, 2000 on each book (preferably,) but because the writing process is so unpredictable, I could finish one book and then the other, depending on the inspiration, so my four-day goal is 16,000 words total, by bedtime Friday.

It's not too late to participate in NANO at www.nanowrimo.org!! There's a great community there where you post your daily word counts and see how others are doing in your area.

At the end of the month, those who have finished get a free proof of their printed book from createspace.com.

So, wish me luck and be sure and post the challenges you have planned for yourself this week. Come back and post your progress. How will you reward yourself for a job well done? :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chicken or Beef, The Choice Is Yours!

Two great recipes to choose from! Today's recipe post features KerryAnn Foster's Cooking Traditional Foods Menu Mailers. These two recipes are just a tantalizing temptation to what can be found in her menu mailers. I have subscribed to KerryAnn's menu mailers in the past and they are wonderful helps. The thing that I love most about KerryAnn's recipes is knowing that healthy meals don't have to take all day to make nor do they have to taste like cardboard! She offers gluten-free options on her menus as well as casein-free options for those sensitive to dairy.
    • Apple and Maple Chicken


      Tuesday Serves 4-6
      Hands-on: 25 minutes
      Hands-off: 20-40 minutes



      2-3 apples, sliced
      1 cup plus 2 Tbs coconut oil, melted
      ½ cup white or apple cider vinegar
      ¼ cup lemon juice
      scant 3 Tbs Dijon mustard
      2 garlic cloves, chopped
      2 tsp dried basil
      2 tsp dried oregano
      1 tsp salt
      ¼ tsp pepper
      1/3 to ½ cup maple syrup or honey
      1 onion, sliced
      1 whole chicken, cut up, or 4 breasts or 8 thighs, bone-in and skin-on

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish, scatter apples in dish and set aside. In a blender, combine the 1 cup oil, vinegar, lemon, mustard, garlic, basil, oregano, ½ tsp salt, pepper and maple syrup. Blend until well combined, taste and adjust seasonings if needed, and set aside.

      Sprinkle the remaining salt over the chicken breasts. In a skillet over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 2 Tbs coconut oil. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove


      from the pan. Place the chicken skin side down and brown for 4 minutes. Flip the chicken over and brown for another 4 minutes. Transfer pieces to the baking dish and sprinkle the onion over top. Pour the reserved sauce over all. Place in the oven and bake 40-45 minutes for a whole chicken, 30-40 minutes for breasts alone, 40-50 minutes for thighs, or 20-25 for cubed, boneless, skinless breasts.


      Serve over rice with sautéed greens.

      And for the beef lovers, here's one for you!


      Sweet and Sour Beef Stew


      Saturday Serves 4-6

      Hands-on: 20 minutes
      Hands-off: 1 ½ hours

      2 Tbs coconut oil, butter, ghee or tallow
      1½ lbs beef stew meat, cubed
      2 onions, sliced
      2 carrots, shredded
      1 cup tomato sauce
      ½ cup beef stock
      ¼ cup rapadura
      ¼ cup vinegar
      1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
      1 tsp salt
      1 Tbs cold water
      2 tsp cornstarch

      In a Dutch oven or stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the stew meat and brown on all sides, in batches if necessary. Stir in the onion and carrot and sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, stock, rapadura, vinegar, Worcestershire and salt. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1½ hours or until the meat is


      tender.


      In a small bowl, whisk the cold water and cornstarch until smooth. Stir into the stew and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

      Serve over noodles.


Cooking Tradiditonal Foods has a giveaway going on right now, ends Oct 31, 2011, in which you can enter to win a year's subscription to the Menu Mailer and the Recipe Archive. Besides subscriptions, CTF has e-Books for sale including Kid's Favorites.

KerryAnn Foster runs Cooking Traditional Foods, the longest running Traditional Foods Menu Mailer on the internet. She has over nine years of traditional foods experience and is a former Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader. CTF was founded in 2005 and helps you feed your family nourishing foods they will love!