Not Enough Hours in a Day

It seems like today’s society has a competition to be busy. We are all to busy to get together, to take a break, to read a book. However, at the same time, it seems like nothing is getting done, because we are all to busy being busy. What are you busy with? Are you overcommitting and not allowing margin in your life? Or are you busy with things that are not adding value to your life? In all this busyness, there is still the same number of hours in the day, each person does with those hours what they consider important – whether they realize it or not.

How do you spend your hours?

Have you ever sat down and thought about where your time goes? What commitments and activities have you made important in your life?

In life, we make time for what is important. Look at your day, what was important to you today? If you feel like you accomplish nothing and time escapes through your fingers, at the end of each day try writing down what you did. Include everything you can think of: Eating, reading, checking social media, working, praying, reading your bible, making meals, cleaning, watching tv, driving, showering etc. I would encourage you to then use some sort of coding system, put check marks by the essential things, stars by the important things, and lines by those that were in your day but you do not value.

One Step at a Time

I am often asked how I accomplish everything I do. My usual response is that I schedule my time to work on everything a little bit. Dedicating even a little bit of time toward a goal or task is one step forward, and one step at a time you will make a long journey to where you want to be. There will be weeks you feel like you are drowning because I have too many commitments or life just seemed to happen. Those weeks step back and take a look at what you can set aside or turn down and plan your next week with room to rest. 

Life is not a race and everything does not need to be accomplished today. Know your goals and what is important to you in your life, make space for these things. Make space for relationships, for resting, to play with your children, to love your husband.

Next time when someone asks you if you have time to connect, consider saying yes, consider making time. When others are complaining about their busyness, consider offering to help or praying for them, do not play the competition game. As you make your schedule this week, consider saying “no” to a commitment, or moving something to a less committed week. As a community that embraces relationships, let’s move away from this distraction of busy and towards the goal of rest and connection.

 

 

Baking School – A Children’s Cookbook Review

As you know from my many posts on teaching my children to cook and bake, we love spending time in the kitchen learning and eating! Therefore, I was delighted when I was asked to review a brand new cookbook Kid Chef Bakes: The Kid’s Cookbook for Aspiring Bakers. As you know from my review of their other children’s cookbook, I love the style the book is written in for teaching young people in the kitchen, so I was looking forward to the potential offered in this new book.

Book Layout

Upon receiving the cookbook I saw that it was indeed in the same layout as the Kid Chef bookI love that the book starts with general rules, tips, and tricks for setting up a baker’s kitchen. The book starts out with an educational overview of the purposes of main ingredients used in baking as well as common baking tools. I also love that the book reviews safety tips and techniques, which are a great review for me and a wonderful lesson for my kids who are just getting started. The book then goes into my favorite part, 7 different lessons, each outlined to read to your child, teaching a different focused skill, followed by a recipe to use the skill. The lessons are 2-4 pages long and are perfect for ages 7+. The book then goes into typical cookbook format with tons of recipes to try out.

Book Highlights

Often times I feel like children’s baking cookbooks can get stuck on cookies, cupcakes, and other sweets. While this book definitely has it’s share of sugary goodness, I love that there is some variety in the recipes. The 7 lessons in the book range from snacks, to sweets, to yeast bread for pizza. The recipes included in the book have main dishes, sides, sweets, snacks, and more. I also love that they do not shy away from more difficult recipes, such as yeast dough for crusts and bread, and pie crusts for pies and quiches. However, there are a few cheats in the book such as using store-bought puff pastry and phyllo dough. I do concur though that some pastry recipes such as puff pastry and phyllo dough, can be quite daunting for a child, they were for me as a grown adult with many years of baking experience under my belt. I remember standing with my friend folding a pound of butter into a pastry wondering if we were doing it right and why on earth we wouldn’t just buy the pastry from the store.

The book also gives several recipes that use the same base recipe (homemade pizza dough and pie crust) allowing your little one to practice their skills over and over with different outcomes. This also teaches versatility with the same recipe — a skill that will last them a lifetime!

While there are a few whole grain recipes in the book, I would really like to see more. I would also love to see a lesson or chapter talking about how to incorporate whole grains into baking, and how the recipe must be changed to accommodate the difference. This may be a little more complex for a very young child, but as our country struggles with obesity, I think it is important that we teach our young children how to eat healthy, which starts in the kitchen.

My children working on this apple pie are ages 6, 5, and 3. The 6 and 5 year old cut up apples, while the 3 year old put them in the bowl and I peeled. All kiddos helped with the crust and seasoning the apples.

Conclusions

I love this book and will differently be planning days to work through all the “lessons”, most likely even a few times. The lessons have a nice layout to teach skills that are used in baking every day across recipes and cookbooks. I also love the variety of baking recipes offered in the book. We will be using this book regularly for fun treats, main dishes, and special days when my little people are cooking. However, I will definitely be incorporating some of my other healthier and whole grain baking recipes and books in the mix. While sugary sweets taste good and are pleasing to the eye, they are not a healthy addiction I would like my children to depend on. They are a special treat for special times. I would love to see a whole grains baking cookbook come out next, maybe pick up the baking lessons where this one left off, delving into the healthier side of baking.

If you are looking for a fun cookbook for your little one this Christmas that can lead to learning, fun, family memories, and some good things to eat, I definitely recommend you check this book out!

Kid Chef Bakes: The Kid’s Cookbook for Aspiring Bakers

If you are looking for a regular cookbook (vs. a baking cookbook), check out these other reviews on other children’s cookbooks I love:

Kid Chef Cookbook

DK Kids Cookbooks

Making Car Rides Successful

We have all been there, you have just a short trip and no one wants to go. You force them into their car seats and strap them down, they scream the whole way and you are about ready to lose your sanity. Or maybe you are potty training and forgot the extra change of clothes… now you have a soggy mess of a child and are nowhere near home. Or you decided to stay a for a last minute meeting, but you have nothing to entertain the kids. These are all incidents that happen fairly regularly, we can do some planning to help it go a little more smoothly.

Prepping the Car

Every vehicle is different, ours is awesome for the fact that we have empty storage areas in the floor behind the drivers and passenger seats. If you do not have a similar storage area, I would suggest keeping a zipped bag in the trunk or some out of the way place. In this storage goes things that we would need regularly, but do not always need. I have diapers, wipes, a change of clothes for the middle sized child (the younger one can also fit them), and an “activity bag”. These are for times when I forgot to bring a diaper or we had an unplanned “event”.

The Book Box

Books are AMAZING for car rides. We used to have a “Car Book Box”, now we have a “Car Book Bag” that hangs from the headrest between my children’s seats. In the book box or book bag, are books for the children to read while we drive around town. Generally, the books that belong in the car are books that the kids love, but I don’t, or books I have duplicates of or don’t mind losing. The rule is, if you want a book, you have to pick it out before getting in your seat (the book box was impossible to reach from their seat). I cannot tell you the number of times I look in my rear-view mirror and see all the kids looking at a book–it is peaceful bliss!

The Car Bag

At a recent MOPS meeting, a professional organizer came to speak. She shared a BRILLANT idea! The car bag. The car bag is now an essential part of our travel preparations (even just to the library and back). Our bag looks similar to this (any large bag will do):

This bag sits in our mudroom where all our coats, shoes, hats etc. are. When we are packing to go somewhere the kids and I load up “the car bag” with whatever we need (i.e. water bottles, toys, books, crayons, soccer ball, shoes etc.). In the bag there are also rolled up plastic bags, these serve as garbage bags for in the car, bags for dirty clothes etc. When the trip is over and we are headed back in, anything in the car that goes inside is put in the car bag to make the trip in. The car bag has helped keep my car clean, tidy, and I no longer loose (as many) hats, coats, socks, shoes etc.

Hopefully, this gives you one or more ideas to make your car riding a little smoother with those little people!

Carving Pumpkins – an Object Lesson

While Halloween is not my favorite holiday for many reasons, I do have fond memories of pumpkin carving as a child. Pumpkin carving is a time to celebrate the season, a time to celebrate the harvest God has given us and can be a time for fun!

Tonight we made an apple pie, drank cider, and carved pumpkins. While my daughter jumped right in, drawing on her face, cutting, and pulling out the insides, my boys were much more hesitant. It was a great opportunity for them to practice their creativity, get dirty, and experience something new. In the end, everyone had so much fun pulling out the “guts”, sorting seeds to roast for later, and watching their pumpkins glow.

An Object Lesson

We had fun looking for differences between the pumpkins and identifying shapes. We also found different shapes and designs shining on the ceiling from the pumpkins. While we sat in the dark looking at our pumpkins we also had a little object lesson from the pumpkins.

Parent: Were your pumpkins yucky and dirty inside?

Child: YES!

Parent: When we are born, we are born in sin, sin makes us yucky and dirty inside. Did you clean out your pumpkin?

Child: Yes, we cleaned it all out.

Parent: When we choose to follow God, he cleans us out, like we cleaned out our pumpkin. He makes us clean by helping us have self-control and be kind to others so that we are not yucky inside anymore. Do you like the light in your pumpkin?

Child: Yes, it is shining.

Parent: After God cleans out our yuckiness he gives us the Holy Spirit. When we follow God by being kind and loving others, the light of Christ shines in our life, like the light shines in your pumpkin. People will be able to see that light shining our life if you choose to follow God.

Called to be Set Apart

There are definitely practices in our secular world and society that we do not want to be part of. God has called us to be set apart for His glory, as a light that points to him. However, if you feel like partaking in an activity can be something that brings memories, grows relationships, and even an opportunity to grow your children spiritually, do not be afraid to take part. If we separate and shelter ourselves entirely from the world, who will be there to see the love and light of Christ shining from our happy pumpkin faces?

Burnt Apple Pies- Life is not Perfect, enjoy the sweetness

My favorite holiday has always been Thanksgiving. If that is because it falls near to my birthday or because we spent the time with family and food I am not sure, maybe it is my favorite for both these reasons. My memories are flooded with delicious pies and dry turkey, playing a good game of spoons or cards with my cousins, and as I grew older visiting with family and friends on this beautiful fall holiday. My favorite contribution to this holiday event filled with people, food, and fun was baking pies, and when we hosted, setting an extra fancy table.

A couple of years ago my in-laws were visiting for Thanksgiving, we also invited another young family and their set of parents to join us, resulting in enough people to cook up a real feast! We had not hosted a Thanksgiving meal since college and I was looking forward to making this occasion – beautiful, delicious, and memorable. When lining up the menu I chose one of my recent favorite pie dishes, Hand-Spiced Apple Pies. While this recipe took extra work, making each hand pie individually, it was worth the effort. When these little pies emerge from the oven the result is a sweet, flaky, melt in your mouth pie – that you do not have to share.

As Thanksgiving day approached I planned, prepared, cleaned, decorated, and made lists. As I began the mixing the crumbly pie crust for my hand pies I looked forward to feasting. I mixed, cut in butter, folded, rolled the crust, measured, spiced, and cooked apples, and shaped beautiful little hand pies. I then sat down to enjoy some time with our visiting family. Laughing and enjoying their presence, I all of a sudden hopped up and yelled “the pies”. I ran to the oven, a little late. The pies were crispy brown, not quite black. My work wasted and hope of an amazing dessert deflated.

The 4 of us stood there surveying the damage and decided the best thing to do is cut up a pie and give it a test try – always the best practice – eat all that sugary evidence of failure. The pies were edible, not perfect, but still enjoyable. I plated the pies and served them after the Thanksgiving feast with many apologies.

Even with the burnt apple pies we still had a fabulous time, full of fun feasting and enjoyable company. Filled with laughter and memories. The pies did not ruin the season or the day, they were just one fun part that has turned into a beautiful memory of 4 adults devouring burnt apple pies hot out of the oven.

So, enjoy life, friends, relationships, and Apple Pies, even when it is not perfect.

 

New Season – New Schedule

I have found that with every new season I need to re-write my schedule for myself and my little people.

I only have 1 child with me at home now, and I have had dreams of quality time, learning, bonding, and accomplishing to-do lists. However, we seem to find ourselves at home caught up in our own activities or distracted by random commitments or to-do lists. The lack of accomplishment and efficiency has led me to feel like we are just killing time. Then I realized, I did not create a new schedule for this season. I had updated my google calendar, but I had not planned out our home times.

Embracing my role as the family manager I pulled out one of my old schedules and edited it to fit the needs of our family at our current stage.

If you have never made a schedule for your little people, I suggest you check out my post on  Scheduling Your Toddler’s Day. One important thing to remember is that your schedule is a tool to help you use your time efficiently and wisely, use it, but do not be a slave to it.

Here is an example of our current schedule. I print this out in color, laminate it, and hang it on the fridge at the eye level of my littlest person. Fall 2017

A New Challenge – Artisan Soaps

When life starts to slow down I tend to look for new challenges. My newest venture has taken me down a track that has been fun and educational.

Last spring, in an effort to save a few $$  my husband switched to bar soap. If you have not tried the cheap bar soap you can buy at the store, don’t. You are only missing out on dry, weird feeling skin, not worth it! This experience inspired me to try making my own bar soaps – with nourishing oils. Feeling a little stressed and excited, I gave it a try. During my first few batches, I had some successes and some BIG failures. It has been fun and stressful to learn the chemical processes and reactions when making soap and to stretch my artistic skills.

If you have ever considered trying something new, go for it! Today is the day to grow your skills, learn, embrace the time you have. You never know, you may love your new skills, and if not, hopefully, you will continue to grow, learn, and change.

If you are interested in checking out my artisan soaps, you can find them here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/SageWoodSoaps

 

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Preparing Your Freezer for Fall

Fall and all the activities that come with it has begun. We limit how many activities our children participate in, yet some how our nights still seem to fill up. Between the kid’s activities, bible study, exercising, and life, time to make dinner can shrink to nothing. Meal time is such an important time to connect with your children and spouse, create memories, and build a solid foundation for your family. Before you cut your meals down to survival mode, consider making a plan for this busy season.

As fall has approached I have renewed my efforts to “feed my freezer”. When making a meal that is freezer friendly I have doubled, tripled, or quadrupled it. I then wrap or bag my bounty, label, and store it away in the freezer for a busy night when the activities steal away my cooking time. I would also recommend trying a few “take and go” meals. Breakfast burritos aren’t just for dinner. They are a great to grab, microwave, and take for you and siblings to eat while you to watch your kids practice. One thing to remember is to either individually wrap items, or put them in small enough containers for 1 family meal. There is nothing as frustrating as pulling out rolls of dough that are frozen in a solid chunk when you only need a few.

When making dinner tonight, ask yourself, can I freeze this meal or steps of this meal for another night? If so, then double it!

 

 

 

Cherry Lemon Scones-Recipe

This Recipe was modified from a recipe for Cranberry Orange Scones my Aunt Kathy had given me years ago:

Cherry Lemon Scones

MIX:

2 Cups of All Purpose Flour (can use up to half whole wheat)

2 Cups of Flour

7 tsp Sugar, divided

1 Tbl Lemon Zest (1 Lemon)

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

 

Cut In:

1/3 cup cold butter

 

In a separate bowl mix and add to flour mixture:

1 cup dried cherries (can be diced if large)

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup milk

1 egg

 

Mix flour mixture and liquid mixture together until a crumbly dough forms.

Shape as desired, I either use a scone pan or shape into a round disc on a baking stone, brush with 1 Tbl milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 400 for 12-15 min. until golden brown.

 

Optional Glaze (I usually leave this off unless I am making these for guests):

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

This is a great recipe to get the little people involved. If they are old enough show them how to measure on their own

Embracing Loneliness

Today I was lonely.

As school drew to a close this last spring I looked forward to summer, to the unscheduled days of fun and connection with my children. I looked forward to the days of rest and rejuvenation. I did not think about that feeling of loneliness that creeps in like a shadow when life is still.

Fighting Loneliness

When loneliness starts to invade my soul, my first instinct is to fight it. I actively stay busy, scheduling play dates, making longer to-do lists, and finding new ways to spend my time.  In all my busyness, I neglect the rest and real connection I desperately need. Instead of giving into the loneliness, embracing it and using it to my advantage, I fight it, scared that it would overtake me and lead to depression and sadness. Fighting loneliness does not protect me, instead, it steals the opportunity to be present today.

Embracing Loneliness

As I read my Beth Moore Bible study, she pointed out that Isaiah’s hero, King Uzziah, had been taken from him through death. Beth had an interesting thought, what if God removes heroes from our life so that we looked to him instead of the hero? This thought really hit me. I often feel lonely or homesick so far from family, and more than once I have had to leave a truly dear and close friend. What if in my time of loneliness and absence from these people I turned to God? What if I embraced my season in life? What if I embraced the loneliness, the extra time I have, and the people who are with me?

What if I used the lonely times to throw a ball with my children, even if it’s not exciting, or read a chapter in a book, or try out a new recipe, or teach my children a skill? What if I embraced where I was and cherished it, finding rest and connection, instead of trying to fill the void and fight the lonely feeling with busyness? Maybe then I could truly find the rest that God intends, I could build stronger connections with my children, family, and those people God has placed in my life today. Instead of trying to be busy, I want to be present.