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


      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!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Write, write, write!

Right now I'm in the middle of one of the craziest times ever! We're moving out of our former apartment, and boxes sit everywhere. Stuff's overflowing. Need: boxes, moving truck, markers, tape. The packing stuff can only be bought on a weekday since papelarias (paper-products stores) are only open a few hours on Saturday morning in Brazil.

On top of that, our three-year-old son - who has hydrocephalus - has been vomiting and complaining of headaches, which can be indicative of a problem with his shunt/valve. Read: life-threatening. Instead of finishing packing, we rushed him to the public hospital, where the doctor ordered a scan that (as we found out later) is so backlogged with other patients that it'll take three months to get to our son. (Which we can't do, of course, since his case is life-threatening, and we're not even planning to be in Brazil in three months). So we'll have to find a doc on our own.

On top of that, our car broke down with a mysterious ailment (even the mechanic is baffled) that totally destroyed the engine. In Brazil car engines aren't replaced but repaired, piece by piece, and since ours is a Korean import, it's going to take around the same magic three months to fix.

On top of that, I had two special friends from the U.S. arrive in Brasilia yesterday morning - my first visitors ever in nearly eight years of living in Brazil - so we borrowed a car and hurried to pick them up. We rushed around preparing the room and getting things ready. (While our apartment sits a heaping mess of un-sold clothes, toys, and silverware, and the paper stores closed).

On top of that, we're moving in temporarily with my husbands' parents while we move out of our apartment, my husband finishes his last 30 days at work (40 in Brazil now, by law, in order to receive severance), save money for airline tickets, and get ready for our international move. We've hit an unusual cold front (I know, in tropical Brazil) and for the past five or six days it's been FREEZING - unusually cold temperatures, constant rain, dark and gloomy weather. No insulation. Digging through bags and suitcases trying to find a rogue sweater for our son (because, as you know, it's not like we wear sweaters every day in Brazil) and coming up with swimming trunks, tank tops, and sandals instead. My jeans are at the costureira (seamstress), so I've been wearing, in this cold, the same pair for five days straight. We went four days without finding our son's matching shoe.


Why am I telling this whole wild story? Is it for pity? Well, maybe... :) But actually it's because I've learned a few things while writing under deadline and craziness, and I'm hoping it might help you. This isn't a post about how to uncover more time to write (as I've posted before). I DON'T HAVE any more time. It's getting down to the wire. We're planning to move to South Dakota in December, and my dad (with whom we'll live temporarily) doesn't even have Internet in his renovated turn-of-the-century log cabin! This post, instead, is about beating stubborn writer's block and squeezing every last drop of juice possible out of the limited writing time we've got.

1. My first word of advice: ALWAYS FAVOR NEW MATERIAL OVER REVISION. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS! Even if your novel or story stinks, WRITE IT OUT TO THE END. Don't stop. Don't go back over and agonize and edit portions, and don't start off your writing time by scanning over the last chapter of what you've written. Just stop doing that! It's a time-waster, and you'll get so bogged down in fixing things that your time producing new material - the real gold - will be pinched and limited. In the end you'll have a much clearer picture of what needs to stay and what needs to go anyway, and many of your preliminary revisions won't matter anyway. If you need to redirect and scrap some parts, fine - but in general DON'T EDIT OVER WHAT YOU'VE WRITTEN, in hopes of making it better. You'll make it better by finishing the manuscript and having something to turn in! Things tend to fall into place, problems resolve themselves, and solutions appear when you simply WRITE TO THE END.

2. Ask for help! In one of my novellas I'm writing based on Yellowstone National Park (contracted for 2013) I sent out a cry for help to my critique partners listing EXACTLY my problems: 1) I hate my male lead, 2) I hate my story, and 3) I don't have any other ideas. Believe it or not, my wonderful partners sent back some excellent suggestions that not only used the material I had already written (praise God! It was several chapters' worth), encouraged the progress I'd already made, and threw in some new twists that excited me. Before I wrote them, I was THIS CLOSE (picture fingers pinched together) to scrapping the entire 7,000 words I'd written for the novella - and in the end, I'm probably going to only need to scrap about 300 and will simply redirect.

3. DON'T USE THE INTERNET!! I know people always say this, but it's true. I got the most work done when the Internet was down for a day and a half because of rain. I know I need to use the Internet to research, especially when working on a historical fiction novel, but it's far better to USE STICKY NOTES and write down your questions about small details rather than research every one. My rule of thumb has been this: If the research I'm looking for is absolutely essential to a storyline (like whether or not a particular line of reasoning is going to work) then go for it, and get back to writing as soon as possible. However, if it's just detail research your after (like what kind of stitching a World War I canteen case would have used), then WAIT. You'll only get bogged down in research, wasting valuable writing time.

4. Pray! This is one aspect of writing and work that people who don't know God can't understand. But as believers, we have another (greater) resource available to us every moment. He has given me inspiration when my brain is stuck, caused friends to send suggestions that fixed my quandary, and has given me unexpected blocks of time to write. It's His work I'm doing, and He'll make it happen as I do my best and give my utmost to make my deadlines. I've given it into His hands.

Happy writing! If you've had a tough deadline, can you tell us about it? What busts your writer's block? How do you get your projects done on a tight deadline?

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Shame of Self Employment

When I tell people I'm a writer, at first they're excited, they're interested in this 'talent' I have for applying plot to paper and multiplying that talent page after page. But eventually, when it's clear I am not on the New York Bestseller's list, the question comes. What do I do, for a living? The answer is complicated.

Then there's the people who already know me, know my books, my most recent internal deadline and the triumphs and challenges I have endured along the way. From them I get jokes. They sneer when I talk about being happy it's Friday or moan that I have to get back to the grind on Monday. They go on about how lucky I am and kid me about all the sleeping in and soap operas I must be enjoying. Because I work from home, wink, wink.

So here's my take.

I am very lucky. I love what I do, but I chose it, it didn't choose me. And though not everyone may be able to write. Anyone can work from home. So if it's such a party, why aren't all my clever friends joining me? I'll tell you why. Because my job is harder than theirs, with little money and plenty of fear. I bet on me everyday. No one signs my paycheck, yet. The only one over my shoulder is me. I don't know what I'll make next month and it's scary. But I do it. Sometimes I'm a starving artist, but I am always doing what I love, what I've dreamt of and I'm proud of that.

When there isn't school, I can sleep in. But I may write until two in the morning, when there is school the next day. Sometimes Saturdays are nothing special, but I do keep a schedule and weekends, I'm typically 'off'. Having a child in school helps.

The truth is, I don't mind so much, not being taken seriously. It's a lot like the people who overlook stay-at-home moms, when really, that's the hardest job there is. So I do both. I am the bread and the butter and the other stuff.

The truth is, every best selling author was me once upon a time. The next Harry Potter may be in my laptop, but I'm judged, because I haven't been on any magazine covers, because I don't live in New York and I haven't been discovered. But I have been. I discovered me a long time ago. I know a lot of nine-to-fivers with 401ks that can't say that. ;)

Most of my fellow bloggers and maybe most of our readers, know these feelings. So maybe this is a high five, good for us, from me. But for everyone else...when someone tells you they work at home and you envy the morning coffee and afternoon talk shows and the laundry that never seems to pile up...just take a moment and consider ALL of the ways that their lives are different than yours.

I'm chasing a dream. What have you chased today?

What is holding you back from working from home?

Getting started working from home can seem like a daunting task. My story is not so unusual in that my current work-from-home career as a freelance writer and editor kind of just happened.

Nine years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, I was working as managing editor for a large trade association in Washington, D.C. Two months before the baby’s due date, my husband got laid off his job, which we had been expecting.

Instead of my quitting like we had originally planned, I officially took maternity leave, not knowing if the generous 16-weeks leave would be enough time for my husband to find another job.

During my time away from the office, the association asked if I could work from home on a few projects. With hubby still out of work, I agreed. Thankfully, my husband started a full-time job with benefits before my leave time expired and I was able to segue from a full-time employee to a contract, at-home worker.

Today, four kids and nine years later, I love working from home and have no desire to go back to an office environment. I’m constantly grateful for the work that I have on a fairly regular basis, but know that not every woman can so easily find at-home work.

That’s why I wrote Hired@Home: The Christian Woman’s Guide to Working From Home. The book details how to think about work and gives tips and suggestions on what at-home work to pursue. Sprinkled throughout the book are the testimonies of more than 50 women who work from home in a variety of professions, jobs and businesses.

This summer, I converted and updated the book into ebook format for Kindle and Smashwords. I will be giving away one ebook or PDF copy this week to readers who answer one of the following questions in the comments section of this blog. Your answers might be used in an upcoming issue of my free, monthly e-newsletter (to sign up, visit my website at

To enter the contest, answer one of the following questions in the comments section of this blog:

What is holding you back from working from home?

If you currently work from home, what held you back from starting sooner?

I look forward to reading your responses!

Friday, October 21, 2011

8 Tips on Living Simply

For the past five years, I've run our household on a student budget.

Though I've griped about pinching pennies, and yearned for a better tomorrow, I believe God has used these years to teach me that simple living is an attitude not a circumstance. You may dwell in a shack, but live cluttered and discontent; or you may reside in a palace and understand simplicity.

Regardless of external dwelling, simple living is a heart issue that develops with an attitude of gratitude {see this post}.

30 Days of gratitude- Day  14
photo credit: Louise Docker {flicker Creative Commons}

And over the past five years, I've undergone a heart transplant, and I've gleaned these 8 valuable tips and lessons on living simply:

1. Count your blessings {Grandma was right and so was little Marcy}
- Simple living begins with an attitude. A prayer of change. Ask God to help you see all the blessings He's given you. {I keep a gratitude journal. I recommend Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts}. When I realize just how much I already possess {by God's grace}, my appetite for stuff wanes. I'm learning that contentment doesn't stem from things or status, it stems from a heart of gratitude.

2. Spouses Unite!- Communicate with your spouse about money goals and create a budget together. For a few years, my husband and I were on different wavelengths regarding money, but now that we're united, we keep each other accountable and spur each other on.

3.Avoid Debt- Debt is a ball & chain. Our family has chosen to live within our means {spend less than we make}. We make a budget and stick to it {of course I fail at times, like when I hear mint chip ice cream calling my name}.

I recommend Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover for an awesome method of attacking debt & making a budget.

4. Save then Buy {in that order}- It's something we did as kids, right? We held out our coins and the cashier told us what we could purchase, and viola, we actually went home with some extra coins.

I've noticed that in saving for something, I've have time to really think about whether it's really a need or want. I take time to research and end up with quality items, avoiding impulsive buys. After making the purchase, I feel like I've made a good decision, and I haven't wasted money by paying interest.

5. Avoid purchases that breed oppression of others- This is a difficult and sensitive issue, but I'm coming to see how God loves justice. He longs for us to treat others with respect, to help the poor and the marginalized. For that reason, my husband and I have rejected credit cards. It's a system that oppresses the poor and uneducated. It's a system that shows no mercy.

When purchasing things keep Micah 6:8 in mind, "He has showed you o man what is good and what the Lord requires of you. To do justice. To love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."

Does our desire for more stuff mean poverty for others? Ask yourself who and what am I really supporting?

When you make less, good quality, just purchases, you'll have a uncluttered house and mind.

6. Buy Whole Foods- Buy flour and make a cake as opposed to opening a package. The packaged stuff is more expensive and unhealthy anyway. We've noticed a significant difference in our grocery bill by shopping the perimeter of the store.

7. Learn to enjoy the "free" things--Who said entertainment always has to cost? Why not take a walk as a family and learn about fall leaves, or borrow books and DVDs from the library? Remember that the most valuable possession you have is time with loved ones.

8. Get Creative- I've found having boundaries makes me creative {isn't that how it always works?}. I now make my own household cleaners and facial cleansers, and my son loves to help! It's been a delight to tap into my creativity. One of the greatest things that has come out of five years of boundaries is fiction writing. For me, writing stories toward justice is far more exhilarating than purchasing a new pair of jeans. I love the thought of leaving these stories for my sons.

My husband and I won't be in this student phase forever, but I pray that regardless of our economic situation, our family will continue to embrace simplicity.

Let's talk: What other tips do you have on living simply? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Melanie N. Brasher is a full time mama of two boys and wife to an incredible husband who understands her bicultural upbringing. She moonlights as a fiction and freelance writer, crafting stories and articles toward justice and change, and dreams of becoming a voice for the unheard. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a contributing blogger for Hoosier Ink and Ungrind. Though she’s an aspiring author, she’ll never quit her day job.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Product Review: Skytex E-book Reader

Earlier this year I was planning on purchasing a Nook to help us with homeschooling (I've got a huge bookshelf inside my PC). I was looking at the black and white, thinking that I'd save a few bucks and that we really didn't color anyway!
However, Providence intervened and I was given a very unexpected and much appreciated gift last month, a Skytex Primer.

I really love my e-reader by this point. I think that I've read more in the last month than I probably have in the previous 6 months. It just makes it much easier for me to read. No bookmarks to get pulled out by the toddler. No paper pages to be torn by inquisitive little hands, or colored on... I never thought that I would be the one using it so much! But so far, I'm the only one using it! I have had difficulty in finding free downloads of books that I'm interested in though!

The Skytex is color too. Wow, I really like having color! I have loaded a few photos on it and the picture quality is very good. (just remember, I have no point of comparison, so someone who owns another e-reader should share their experiences in the comments section!) The screen size is 7 inches. It is not as thin as the Kindles I have seen.
The e-reader comes with a protective cover, wall charger, head set, auto charger and mini-USB cable. The one drawback is that the instruction manual is lacking. It only gives instructions on how to start it up and plug it in. For this techno-challenged mama, I'd appreciate a bit more! However, there is a youTube tutorial that walks you through the steps of loading e-books onto your reader.
There is no browser with the e-reader, so you have to download your e-books to your PC then load them onto your e-reader. If this isn't a problem for you, if your like me, saving some money is more important that having an browser on your e-reader, then I would highly recommend this e-reader!

  • 2 GB Internal Memory
  • Micro SD card support (up to 16 GB) *available for separate purchase
  • USB 2.0 to link to your PC (for drag-and-drop loading of media files)
  • Plug & Play design compatible with PC and Mac
  • Supports eBook formats including: PDF, TXT, ePub, HTML and Irc
  • Supports Audio/Video Formats: MP3, WMA, APE, FLAC, AAC MKV, AVI, RM, RMVB, VOB, DAT, MP4, FLV, 3GP
  • System requirements: USB 2.0 Win7 / Vista / WinXP / 2003 / 2000
  • One year limited Warranty on parts and labor

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Encouragement--for the Tired, Frustrated and Weary

My heart deflated when I opened up the blog calendar and saw Melissa—our totally awesome schedule lady—had scheduled me to blog about encouragement. For a moment I wasn’t sure whether to laugh, or to fly down to Kansas and strangle her.

Melissa, what were you thinking???

Then I reminded myself Melissa had scheduled me to do this post way back in February. So even Melissa, with all her wonderful Supermom powers (and trust me, Melissa has myriad Supermom powers), couldn’t have known that last week my dog would get skunked, my toddler would climb onto the table and start eating/playing in the brown sugar, my husband’s truck would break down, and last but not least, I would learn that I need to toss the majority of my new manuscript. The manuscript I’ve spent four months working on and have 50,000 words refined and polished. The manuscript I was hoping to finish in about six weeks. Yep that manuscript. So if the dog/skunk thing didn’t kill my week, the manuscript no-go surely did.

So how do you find encouragement when you have one of those dog-skunk days, or weeks, or months? The answer is as simple and basic as you can get.

Look to God.

Isaiah 40 is one of the most encouraging passages of Scripture. I love how the passage declares God's greatness and sovereignty. Verses 12-15 say:

Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. (KJV)

But in spite of all the power God holds, that same chapter says God "shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."

So that same God, who holds power over the nations of this earth, also feeds his children like a shepherd and gathers them into his arms. And God doesn't stop there, He goes on to give strength to the weary. Look at verses 29-31:

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

So the next time you have one of those dog-skunk days, take a few moments to read Isaiah 40, and remember that 1. God is in control. 2. God loves and cares for you. And 3. God will give you strength, if you'll simply trust Him.

Now that you've all heard about my dog-skunk week, I'd like to hear about yours. Have you been facing trials lately that God has pulled you out of? Are you facing a trial today that seems like it might bury you? Leave a comment below. I'd love to see how God has been working in your lives.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pork Glaze Recipe

This is a quick, easy and rather unhealthy sauce that I love to throw together when cooking pork. Now those of you who know my cooking skills are probably thinking, What? Naomi actually cooks her own pork sauce, instead of opening a can of something and dumping it in?

Well, normally I do open a can and dump, but for three ingredients, I figure even cooking-challenged me has the ability to make my own "from scratch" sauce. Are you ready for it?

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Combine over low heat, stirring until butter melts and sugar dissolves.

When I originally found this sauce, the recipe called for adding slices of thick, fully cooked ham and heating for about five minutes. But, I have since used this recipe as a glaze when I''m cooking ribs in the oven, and you might even try it on pork chops in the oven. It gives a really great tangy-sweet flavor to the pork.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Organization and Cleaning...

When I was in my teen years, growing up with an identical twin, I wasn't the cleanest of the two. My sister and I shared a room and a closet. Our room usually always looked clean, but not because I was the one doing it. I hated it. I fought my mom on a daily basis about doing anything that involved cleaning. Hated to dust and absolutely refused to clean the bathroom. She finally gave in and quit asking me because it was just easier to have my sisters do it, instead of arguing with me constantly.

When I was older and living in my own home and single, I still had my sister come over once a week and clean my house. More than once she would get so mad about how I kept my house that she would often walk out. She would always come back and finish because she is that kind of person, plus it probably helped that I was paying her. It wasn't that I was lazy, I just hated it.

Now, as a married adult with children, my hate for cleaning has changed. I don't love it, I just know that it's my job as a wife, so I do it. However, a little confession - my mom still comes over and cleans my microwave, but that's it I swear. As I mentioned before I really hate to clean bathrooms, even my own. But when I find something from the store that really works and makes my cleaning easier I am all for it. For the past two years I have been using Scrubbing Bubbles Fresh Step Toilet Bowl Cleaner. It came with a wand and a brush type thing that you hook into the wand. You scrub the inside of your toilet and when its clean you push a button and it drops in and is flushable. Now this is my idea of a great product. Only problem is our local Walmart has quit selling or stocking them. Much to my dismay, I am back to square one looking for something that requires little effort on my part.

Each week, I grab the 'All You' Magazine off the shelf because it always has great ideas, coupons and great stories that are written mostly from moms, housewives, etc around the United States. This is my kind of magazine. Well the first issue I bought must have known that I needed a solution. Because on page 146 there is a section called "Make your own household cleaners". I'm thinking, yeah right who has time for that. But as I am reading it says Toilet Bowl Cleaner. I'm instantly hooked. It says, fill a small empty dish-soap bottle with half water and half dish soap (I suggest Dawn) and use it to squirt around the bowl. Scrub and your done. That seems simple enough. I have tried this and it works. Who would have thought. I don't have the trouble of wondering if they will suddenly stop carrying dish soap because the chances of that is unlikely.
I realize this may not be for everyone but I was in need of something that would work great and would be fast and easy.

Here is another great orgazinizing idea. You can pick cheap ones up at Walmart for a dollar if you don't want to spend the money on expensive ones. But either way you will get the same result. I have an obession with handbags and scarves among other things. My problem is I have no where to put them in my closet that looks neat, so they usually end up under the bed, not organized. So recently when I was reading MSN they had this wonderful idea. It says to use shower curtain hooks to hang scarves and handbags on your clothes rack. I'm thinking what a wonderful idea, why haven't I thought of that. Recently my daughter got married and moved out. So we have a spare bedroom that will soon be our office but the closet in this room is too big not to enjoy. Since I used a majority of the closet in my room and my husband's clothes were always crammed I opted to move my clothes to her old closet and let him have ours. Since there is so much room in that closet I have been able to utilize the shower curtain hook idea for my scarves and handbags. It makes it look so neat and organzied and I love it. See picture below, not my closet but you get the idea!

I hope that some of you will be able to use these wonderful ideas. I am always looking for great things so if you have any wonderful idea please post them in the comment section. Thanks for reading and hope you all have a blessed week! :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

It's Past Midnight and chose the winner!

Ok, so it's past midnight and time to draw a winner. We had some technical difficulties (Blogger actually, not us :) and we have some entrants commenting on facebook as well.

If you ever want to comment here but have problems with blogger, visit our Facebook page and leave your comment there any time--mosey on over and like the page as well! has been called into service and the winner is.....

Andrea Strong!

Congratulations. I'll be emailing you for your physical address so Jody can get your copy of The Doctor's Lady.

And as always, if you win a book, take the time to write a review on Amazon or your choice of book sites online--they love that! It's the best way to say thanks.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Your Belly, Your Baby, Your Birth Wear...

Since I was a little girl I have been enamored with pregnant bellies. When a woman in our small church was pregnant I would beg to sit with her and place my hand on her ample baby belly and feel those flutters. I was awe struck and in wonder of it all. Of course once the baby was born I was all too willing to work the nursery. The simple things that children delight in.

My wonder of pregnancy and birth never disappeared although it did take a back seat in my life until I became pregnant myself. I knew that I wanted a more personal pregnancy and birthing experience so I sought out a midwife in our local area to assist me. She introduced the concept of a Doula to me.

Having a doula for my first birth was so important to me, made such an impression on me that I decided that I wanted to serve other women in the same capacity. When my second child was a mere 2 months old (after my first home-birth with a doula & midwife), I attended my doula training workshop with my little nursling and began my birth work journey.

As a "birth worker" I wanted to wear jewelry that expressed my love of pregnancy, the wonder of birth and new life, the sacredness (if you will) of being a partner in bringing a brand new life into our world. I wanted something that would honor the process and the Creator of that process. I looked around online and found many 'birthy' pieces of jewelry but most of them were dedicated to some deity or another that I did not acknowledge and I did not feel comfortable wearing. One evening while feeling quite unsuccessful in my jewelry quest, the thought occurred to me that I could make my own. Could I? I wasn't sure of my abilities but I wanted to give it a try.

I began making polymer clay sculptures that were quite large and cumbersome (compared to my current offerings), although at the time I was quite impressed with my humble beginnings!
Bulky Polymer Clay Belly!

I gradually perfected my belly bead sculpting which enabled me to make smaller and smaller clay beads. I shared my new jewelry with my other doula friends and found out much to my delight that they wanted to buy them! I began offering belly beads and hemp jewelry on in February, 2008. I often get special orders and have shipped all over the US, Canada and the UK.

Then I ventured into acrylic resins. Acrylic allows me more opportunity for creativity, although I still do love my clay! Acrylic beads have a more polished, refined look that pairs wonderfully with natural stone beads, semi-precious gems and artisan glass beads.
Amber-Opal Resin Belly Bead

One day while sculpting a tiny belly, I mused about making a baby and placenta out of clay and casting it into a clear acrylic belly bead. Thus the"Inutero" bead was born. These beads speak loud and clear about the life within the bulging belly. They are quite tedious to make however, and I don't have very many in my shop at once. They are indeed a limited edition item.
My First "Inutero" Bead
Besides my current offerings, you can request a custom piece here. Birth jewelry isn't just for doulas or midwives, I have found many women who want a symbolic piece of jewelry to wear while pregnant, trying to conceive or as a remembrance piece. There really is no limit.

I do my best to offer a quality piece of jewelry and if somethings needs adjusted, I aim to please!

Designing birth art jewelry allows me a creative outlet while helping to normalize pregnancy, birth and the concept that children are a blessing, which begins in the womb.

What people are saying about B'earth Angel's jewelry:
B'earth Angel's hand-crafted birth jewelry will always have a special place in my heart. I stumbled upon your birth jewelry as I was just starting my doula career and finally realized one day that your prices were way too reasonable for me to be dragging my feet any longer so I bought my first piece: a bracelet with bright oranges and a fun little jingle to it! I wore it to all of my interviews and when I taught CBE. One afternoon my toddler yanked on it and the latch broke. Brandi, you told me to send it to you and you fixed, fast as lightening, and got it right back to me at no extra charge! I've never forgotten that amazing service...~Ashli Powell, CD(DONA), CLC, PES, Lubbock Doula Service

I own five gorgeous pieces by Brandi, 4 necklaces and a bracelet. She captures the pregnant body perfectly in each of her beads. I love them all because they are all different and have the "Brandi" touch. I recently wore my favorite necklace in my professional maternity photographs. Another favorite is a clear belly with a visible baby inside. I am so happy Brandi is designing and making jewelry again. I am looking forward to shopping! ~Michelle Steele, Birth Doula
Pregnancy Blessings!

Pregnancy kiss photo by De Monson

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Interview with Jody Hedlund - Work

Welcome again, Jody, thank you for sharing how you juggle home and work with us. Now, I've read The Preacher's Bride and loved it (and I'm not just saying that because you are here) and I finished the Doctor's Lady not too long ago--I'm not sure which I liked better--they were both excellent.

What project are you working on right now?
I’m currently enjoying spreading the news about my second published book, The Doctor’s Lady (which released Sept. 1, Bethany House Publishers). The book is inspired by the first American woman to cross overland to Oregon. Her bravery and determination to make it West paved the way for all the women who would later travel the Oregon trail.

What's the book blurb?

Priscilla White knows she’ll never be a wife or mother and feels God’s call to the mission field.

Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field. Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs.

Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God’s leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

What jobs have you attempted while working at home? 

Currently, I’m a full time contracted author. My job responsibilities include writing, editing, and marketing.

What do you feel are the pros and cons of this job? 

The pro is that I absolutely LOVE writing. I get to make up stories and write them down. I can’t imagine a better job in the world!

The downside is that in today’s tight and competitive publishing industry, writers have to put in long hours but often aren’t compensated monetarily for all of that time. In fact, for the average author, the monetary rewards and sales are often low. Building a successful writing career takes a lot of upfront time, energy, and devotion with no guarantee of payback, other than personal satisfaction in a job well done.

How do you deal with your feelings when you find yourself in a rough spot and think it’s just too hard?

Fortunately, I have a great support system surrounding me—including my husband, my mom, my agent, my critique partner, and other writing friends that I’ve made. When I get particularly discouraged or down on myself, one or more of them will encourage me, inspire me to keep going, and remind me why I’m writing. Because they believe in me and my abilities, I’m able to believe in myself.

What's your favorite aspect of working from home?

I appreciate that I get to be with my children throughout each day. We have time to talk about deeper issues, to address character growth, to share, to laugh, and to love together. Of course there are days of bickering and hardship too. But we get to grow through those times and hopefully come out stronger as a result.

If you could start all over again, what would you do differently? What would you do the same?

I’m not sure that I would do anything differently. When my children were younger, I took a hiatus from writing and focused on them for quite a few years. I used that time to become a better parent and to grow spiritually. When I felt the nudge to begin writing again, I was a richer and deeper person because of my time away from my writing. And while I’m certainly not perfect in how I handle my writing career, I believe that God prepared me to be where I’m at right now.

I always like money savings tips. What do you do to save money?

We eat at home most of the time. We all know how expensive restaurant food is nowadays. Even fast food can add up. In today’s busy world, it’s easy to fall into the habit of eating out several times a week (if not more). But even though I’m juggling a lot, I still make time to cook homemade meals (very simple dinners!). My husband has also learned to cook over the past several years, and so he pitches in with making meals. And now my older daughters are also learning to be proficient in the kitchen. 

Any other words of wisdom you would like to share that you haven’t mentioned in the questions above?

When we pursue the things we’re passionate about, we set an example to our children that they can pursue their dreams too. We can model to them hard work, diligence, perseverance, and so many other traits that will hopefully make an impression. It’s not easy to juggle a career and mothering, but it is possible and can even be beneficial if we have the right outlook!

Thanks so much for that parting bit of wisdom, children do follow our example and that should make us constantly evaluate what we are doing. 

If you are a US resident and you'd love to get your hands on a copy of the Doctor's Lady, leave a comment with some way to contact you on this blog post by October 7th midnight to get into a random drawing.

(If you leave your email address, write it in a form such as this:
me AT gmail DOT com 
so the spam robots don't get you.)

And if you are having difficulty commenting at ANYTIME - I've just made this blog a facebook page! If you can't comment here--comment there and we'll get you into the drawing. So sorry for the inconvenience of blogger's services sometimes--but you get what you pay for, right? :) I'll spiffy the facebook page up later, but I wanted it to go up right now for those of you having trouble since it seems that random people for some reason aren't being allowed to comment. So go like us (even if you don't want to comment :) and a comment at either place will get you in the drawing.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Interview with Jody Hedlund - Home

I'm excited to have Jody Hedlund her with us on Making Home Work.

Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling book, The Preacher's Bride. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children.

I'm pleased to have you here on Making Home Work, Jody. Tell me a bit about your family.

I’ve been married for twenty years to my college sweetheart. My husband has been one of my biggest cheerleaders over the years, doing his best to understand and support my writing even in the days when publication was only the whisper of a dream.

I also have five children ranging from 14 down to 5, with a set of twin daughters mixed in to make things more lively. I homeschool my crew, and so my days are spent giving math lessons, spelling lists, and grading tests. In teaching my children, not only have they learned a lot, so have I! One of my favorite subjects to teach is world history, which has helped me a great deal in my writing.

I'm excited to start homeschooling mine, one reason I'm looking forward to it is precisely because I want to learn too! But having them home with you must cut into business time. What advice would you give mothers thinking about having their children help with the business?

While my children don’t help me in my writing, they do help around the house quite a bit. As moms, we tend to think we need to do the majority of household upkeep. But because I have two full time jobs, as a teacher and writer, I’ve had to let go of being able to do everything. The demands of my work have essentially forced me to delegate work to other members of my family. As it turns out, that’s been a really good thing for my children. They’re learning responsibility, how to work hard, and preparing for adulthood. From cooking simple meals, to folding and putting away laundry, they’re pitching in which helps free me to do other work.

I cannot agree with you more on children needing to have household responsibilities. I've heard employers want people who grew up on farms because they have the best work ethics. Work Ethics was what drew me to my husband, despite how unromantic that sounds. After all the chores are done, how do you entertain your children while working at home?

After I’m done with a day of teaching, I start my writing work. However, that’s when my children are most active and ready to run around after sitting all day doing school. So, it’s a challenge to find quiet uninterrupted time to write.

One of the most helpful things I done is train my children to play creatively. Over the years, I’ve allowed them the space and the time for developing their imaginations. So once my children have finished their chores and instrument practice, they’re usually very eager to get back to whatever is the creative play idea of the week. Sometimes they play restaurant complete with menus, other times they’re vets with all the stuffed animals in the house. When they play well, I’m able to work well.

When my children were younger, I often gave one of my older children the responsibility to “babysit” their younger siblings during my work time. I would pay them a small amount for the work. They liked to earn the money, and I appreciated having less interruptions.

Everyone says, “Remember that your family is more important than any job,” but when work demands hit, how do you live it? 

I usually have a few times a year when work seems to be a little more demanding, particularly during the times when I’m editing a book for my publisher. During those times, I need to be more focused. I make sure I tell everyone my plans, let them know my deadline, and that the busyness is short term. When we keep the communication open and they know they end is in sight, they’re able to put up with those busier times.

During regular work weeks, however, I make sure to plan family time. For example, my daughters and I have tea time every Sunday afternoon. We read a book together and talk about girly things. Sometimes we’ll use that time to work on a craft and other times we’ll go shopping. No matter how busy life might get, we can count on those weekly family times together.

Can you share your favorite easy recipe?

Baked Macaroni

16 oz. box elbow noodles

12 oz. can of evaporated milk

½ cup margarine (1 stick)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz. bag)

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (8 oz. bag)

1 cup shredded Colby cheese (half of an 8 oz. bag)

Cook noodles. Drain. Add margarine and stir until melted. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir together. Pour into 9 x 13 pan. Bake uncovered 30-45 minutes at 375° (until top turns golden brown).

Tomorrow, Jody will be back to talk about the business side of staying home and her new book. But for a teaser, I'm going to let you all see the new book's beautiful trailer:

Intrigued? Come back tomorrow and post too, because then you'll be entered into a drawing for The Doctor's Lady please comment on tomorrow's post by midnight October 7th. I'll announce the winner on October 8th. Please comment today to make Jody feel welcome and ask questions, she's intending to drop by both today and tomorrow.