Family Ties

Labor Day Traditions

I had no idea what a treat I was in for when I hunted up Erika’s blog after “meeting” her through her comment to one of my posts.

I have to send you her way…be sure to check out her post on Labor Day Traditions, it’s full of great ideas but you need to start now to get a jump on making that day special for the “laborer” in your life!

Anybody have any homemade “daddy gift” ideas to add to the topic? Post them in comments! I know my dh loves food gifts–favorite cookies, a pie or cinnamon rolls…anything with a pic of his girls would make a huge hit…

Canning Cooking and Food

Home-canned Salsa

We love Mexican food and this week, we’ve already been immersed in the stuff! I made Taco Soup and cornbread for supper Monday, canned salsa yesterday, and today (besides canning stewed tomatoes) I’ve been working on a triple batch of beef enchiladas…time consuming but oh so worth it! Wanted to share my salsa recipe with you…I’d someday like to find one with lime juice as the acid base…but we’re perfectly thrilled with this one so why bother, right?

Mary’s Mild Salsa–makes 10 pints

  • 22 tomatoes (I put in more if they’re on the small side)
  • 4 bell peppers, chopped fine
  • 3 onions, chopped fine
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 3/4 cup jalapeno peppers, chopped fine (confession, I use 4 small jalapenos–we like it really mild! so add peppers to your taste)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 cup (12 oz) tomato paste (this thickens your salsa nicely!)
  • Cilantro to taste (fresh is best!)
  • 3 cloves garlic minced

After getting skin off tomatoes (dip in boiling water 20 seconds, then into cold–skin falls off), you could put 2/3 of them in blender and blend, and then chop the rest of them, depending on how chunky you like your finished product.  We like it chunky so I usually just chop the whole batch and skip the blender. After chopping/blending, put all ingredients into pot, bring to a boil and then simmer for 25 minutes. Water bathe pints for 10 minutes, quarts, 20.

In years past I have omitted the tomato paste from my salsa and the result is a really runny salsa. Yes, it feels kind of like a cheat to add a can of tomato paste to home-canned salsa, but it really doesn’t take away from the taste, and results in a great consistency w/o hours and hours of stirring and boiling away your salsa to the right thickness. I’ve even done batches with 50% paste tomatoes, and still need to thicken it up. We like the Contadina brand tomato paste, it contains no high fructose corn syrup.

I’ll have to post the Taco Soup recipe sometime…it has taco seasoning mix, ranch dressing mix, corn, ranch-style beans…great, now I’m wishing I’d doubled that recipe!

Christianity Home Schooling Writing


My husband and I are once again re-vamping our budget. Maybe I’m a slow learner, but it’s just starting to occur to me that the same principles that apply to budgeting our money can apply to many areas in our life.

I’m a Christian, a wife, a home school mom and a writer. I’m also a daughter, sister, aunt and a friend to many people. Budgeting my time is important.

When budgeting, most Christians tithe first and then they allot a certain amount of money in various categories. If there’s not enough money in the car maintenance category to pay the repairs, then they borrow the remainder from the entertainment category.

When the “writing bug” bit me back in December I did most of my writing at night or very early in the morning. Coffee kept my eyes propped open, and I exchanged meaningful relationships (with dh and children) for my new obsession. Getting the story inside me on the screen.

I struggled along trying to be all and do all, but the joy was gone. I poured all my creativity into my writing, and bankrupted everything else. Shortchanging God spills over to shortchanging everything.

In June, writing took a backseat to our busy summer. Ever since, I’ve been reluctant to take it up again. My heart is in homeschooling my children and I’m scared to death that even one little peek at my manuscript will suck me under.

So here’s where budgeting comes in. Time-budgeting.

  1. God first. When I start my day with prayer and devotions the patience and love that fills me never stretches thin…
  2. Getting at least 6 hours of sleep at night and taking care of my health. One way I’m being proactive about this is the supplement I recently bought at WalMart: Juice for Life–Power Fruit Formula. It’s full of whole food concentrates and Antioxidants, an energy booster much better for me than coffee. Yesterday, after little sleep (toddler had a fussy night) and a very busy day, I realized I made it through the whole day with NO coffee!!! And no grumps!) I’m also drinking quite a bit more water.
  3. Plan my day ahead so the important things don’t get shuffled under the carpet. Like kids.

Luke 14:28-29, “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him.”

By budgeting my time and assets, and making priorities of the most important jobs God’s given me, how can I go wrong?

If writing is God’s will for me, I’ll be able to budget it in. For now, I think He’s telling me to lay low and pray about it.

James 4:14, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” Then summing up in verse 17, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

My question for you, is how are you making time for writing while keeping your other priorities straight?

Christianity Home Schooling

Hiding God’s Word in Young Hearts

Last year within my small homeschooling circle I taught the attending children a weekly Bible verse. To teach the verse, I used ideas from a Bible memory book for kids, called Hide God’s Word In Young Hearts by Joan Dower Kosmachuk. It’s an old book published in the early 90’s…a relic from my Kid’s Club days, what a gem though.

Here are activities that we did:

  • Print the verse on poster board, then print its opposite right next to it. Example: the opposite of John 14:15 is, “If you love yourself, you will do whatever you want.” This is an eye-opener to kids, as they see how their actions/attitudes sometimes easily contradict God’s word
  • Use puppets to teach the verse. (My girls love making sock puppets with yarn for hair and marker faces…EASY project)
  • Print each word to the verse on a separate 3×5 cards and hang each one on a clothesline. Say verse with kids, then have each one take a turn removing a card while all continue to repeat verse. Do this till all cards are gone! (A different version of this is to write the verse on a white board and have the kids take turns erasing words)
  • Make “stepping stones” out of blank typing paper. Kids can hop from stone to stone “across the river” as they say the words in order from memory. If they miss a word, they’ve fallen in the river!
  • Have the children sit in a big circle and toss a ball back and forth with each catch being that person’s turn to say the next word(s) in the verse
  • Sing the verse…especially if you already have the verse on tape. There are some wonderful CD’s out there with verses put to music for kids.
  • Always discuss the verse and how it might be lived in our daily lives.

Verse time was a blast. But the best part, the part that really pumped was their homework.

The assignment involved drawing/illustrating the verse before our next meeting. You’d never believe how excited they were the next week when showing the last week’s verse/drawing. And it was a great review of that verse before we plunged into the next one. Not to mention the time spent creatively drawing really reinforced the impact of the verse.

My girls kept all their pictures in special folders. Each picture painstakingly drawn, full of thought and love…with the reference and verse written out below.


Power Washing

Yesterday afternoon I power-washed the front of our house. (Well, the bottom half of it, it’s a two story) What a great tool…we got our power washer at Wal-Mart this past summer and though one of the cheaper models, that thing peels dried paint spills off concrete! No more car washes for this family!

Well, here I was washing the mud dauber’s nests, cobwebs, and dust off the house and I decided to wash the limestone rocks that decorate the outside of our concrete steps that lead to the front door. Little did I know that the rocks I’d always thought were a gray color were really tan! Big surprise…imagine our fun and excitement as we stripped all the whatever it was (algae?) off all the rocks…it was like wielding a magic eraser…black specks giving way to gray and then tan–instantly. And to think, I had no idea they needed cleaned!

It got me to thinking how at different times in our life we’re convicted of different things. And God’s conviction leads to the ultimate power-washing experience…how many times has He destroyed a layer of sin that I was surprised was even a problem. Maybe pride in disguise, or an addiction (like music, TV, certain books)…He just blasts it clean gone, no trace left behind (if we cooperate and never look back!).

Knowing that His cleansing us of these issues is such a good thing, why is it that we buck it and continue clinging to our comfort-traps? Think of all the ecosystems thriving in the dirt of our hidden transgressions…weighing us down.

Sometimes showers of blessings come in disguise. Anyone up for a good Power-washing?


Blessed Be The Name

We sang this song in worship today and the following stanza really touched me:

“Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name”

No matter what I’m going through, God is good. God is in control. Blessed be His name.

Has the ‘road been marked with suffering’? I haven’t lost a child to cancer, nor known the pain of infidelity. I have been affected by the cutting sting of divorce. I’ve lost pieces of myself in friendships gone wrong. I’ve been misunderstood, wrongly accused. I’ve been financially broken time and again. I’ve cried with hurting women, and broken-hearted children. You can praise through the tears.

There’s ‘pain in the offering’. When you set aside your circumstances and praise Him, it sweetens the pain. Think what He gave for us…what it cost Him. His own Son. Our pain should pale in comparison. But the awesome thing is, He understands how hard it is for us. He calls this kind of worship a sacrifice.

“By him therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Hebrews 13:15

Family Ties Home Schooling

Making Treasure Boxes

Our mailbox activity yesterday was so much fun, I thought I’d share how we did it. I chose this craft because we’d done it before to make treasure boxes so I still had the supplies (budget friendly!) and I knew it would be a great big hit with the kids!


  • shoebox, oatmeal cannister, or other box with built-in lid, saltine cracker boxes make great (indoor) mailboxes! ;O)
  • craft paint (yesterday we used leftover Kilz from a home decor project!)
  • stickers, recycled cards, pics cut from magazines, real pictures of pets or family members, lace, rickrack or other edging for pics if desired
  • Mod-podge (my most FAVORITE craft supply ever!!! Well, one of them!) and paint brush

This is messy so spread out the newspapers and fill yourself with enthusiasm (or if you’re like me–coffee!) (Really, your kids are gonna love it!)

Spend some time tossing ideas around so your child can decide on a theme, contrasting paints, etc. My oldest decided on greens and browns, knowing they’d look great with all the horse pics she’d cut off last year’s desk calendar. She painted the box green and sponge painted a dark brown border on the flap. 6 yo had a bunch of foam-craft stickers so she went that route.

After the painted box dries, arrange photos/stickers/etc however you want them and glue them on. Final step is coating the whole thing with mod-podge! It seals it and gives it a wonderfully finished look.

And since ours are mailboxes (hoping this will motivate hand-writing AND family ties) we used one of those brassy looking brads to insert a flag on the side. Mom and dad’s mailbox has two flags…whichever one is up tells the right parent that they’ve got mail!!!

And once again we’ve got a super busy day ahead…I’m calling it a field trip since we’re going with another homeschool family…library, picnic at zoo, plus errands=an all around educational experience!

Cooking and Food

Twists on Easy Lunch Ideas

Over at the Choosing Home Blog, the theme of the week is lunch…and how to keep it simple but not hum-drum! There are some great ideas over there!

Here are a few easy ones we like:

  • grilled pb&j (make like grilled cheese), you could also grill peanut butter and banana, or skip the grilling and make peanut butter and honey sandwiches
  • quesadillas (tortillas buttered on each side and grilled with shredded cheese and salsa inside)
  • tortilla roll-ups…spread cream cheese on tortilla, add ham or other meat and a leaf of lettuce and roll
  • breakfast burritos (yep, on a tortilla roll here) –we put scrambled eggs, cheese and salsa in ours
  • homemade mac & cheese with dill (I LOVE dill!)

An apple or two, a bunch of grapes, yogurt or baby carrots make a healthy side. I also keep a bag of frozen mixed veggies in the freezer for a quick fall back…My personal favorite: green salad which we have at least two-three times a week…

What are your favorite lunches?

Cooking and Food

Spinach-Lentil Soup, Anyone?

In keeping with the Choosing Home Blog’s theme this week on easy lunch ideas, I thought I’d share one that’s good-for-you and cheap as well!

This one comes from Katie (mom of 12). I’ve had it for a couple of years now…YUM. Ideal for lunch.

Spinach-Lentil Soup

  • One bag of lentils
  • One bunch of spinach, chopped 
  • One to two chopped onions
  • One tsp minced garlic  
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • Cheese

Saute the onion and garlic until tender. Add lentils and cover with water (a lot of water, they grow). Boil for at least an hour until lentils are tender. Add lemon juice and spinach, salt and pepper to taste. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Serve with cheddar cheese on bottom of bowl…spoon hot soup over and the cheese melts. Can I say YUM one last time?


Home Schooling

First Day of School. Check!

The plans are mapped out and in on my kitchen counter… Btw, several of the following ideas are taken from Terri Camp’s Ignite the Fire book.

  1. Tea Party Breakfast…yes, china teapot and of course: Kolaches for the main attraction!
  2. Nature hike up the hill behind our house and out into our horse pasture. I have a list for each girl of things to find and document. Prizes too! The last thing is for them to find something that doesn’t belong. (Strategically placed by *me* and having to do with later activity)
  3. They each get a penny for every completed item on their nature checklist. These will be used in the penny toss game. All my muffin tin holes will have an alphabet letter, the girls will take turns tossing pennies to review phonics and oldest will make up 4-5 letter words.
  4. Back inside, we’ll make a big dice out of poster board, and use it to play a floor game that goes all over the house…into and out of the bathtub even. I’ve got 26 questions written on fourth-sheets of typing paper, and I’ll have blank papers in between each question for bonus moves. Roll the dice and count to your question. History, Science, Math, Bible, Spelling, Physical actions…sure to be fun! The last square is a question that will lead to our next activity…a craft!
  5. We are making mailboxes, with flags even! Each girl can make one…I will make one for “us parents” and hopefully it will encourage a lot of nice note writing back and forth! I’m foreseeing a lot of anonymous gift giving…

So that’s the plan…we’ll see how closely we stick to it! We’ve also decided to do day #3 of Kolache baking (half of today’s batch is going to work so daddy can share with his co-workers) as we STILL have fillings that need used up! 

Last night my oldest was begging to do math! Ha. Just you wait darlin!

Also, you wonderful dry erase board experts~the cleaner worked great! And so did writing over the permanent marker with a dry erase marker and then erasing! Our white board is ready for school!

I’m counting on your prayers today! Happy Homeschooling!