Friday, March 20, 2015

A Little Getaway

My husband was invited to preach at Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento, California last month. My mother-in-law very generously offered to travel out to Arizona the week before, so she could stay at our house and watch the kids, and my husband and I could both travel to California and make a little getaway out of the trip. This was only the second time in almost 15 years of marriage that we have been able to get away without the kids, so this was very special treat. We did bring little Boaz along, since he is still nursing, and has never been apart from me for more than just a couple of hours at a time.

We left Wednesday night immediately after my husband finished preaching the midweek service at our church. In fact, if you watched the sermon live, you may have noticed that the order of service was switched up, and the service a little shorter than usual, in order for us to make it to the airport in plenty of time. 

Several months ago, both of us had signed up for the TSA PreCheck and obtained trusted traveler numbers, which allowed us to be able to skip the naked body scanner and/or a grope-down. You can also leave your shoes on, don't have to take your laptop out of its case, skip to the head of the security line, etc. If you have avoided flying because of the intrusions and inconveniences, you may want to look into this program. While it is not guaranteed that you won't be patted down, it is unlikely. On the flight back home, the metal detector security gate was roped off, and everyone was being sent through the naked body scanner. When we walked up with "PreCheck" on our boarding passes, they opened the metal detector just for us. Totally worth it, if you ask me!

Anyhow, we arrived at our hotel close to midnight from Wednesday to Thursday. We spent the entire day Thursday with my husband's family, most of which live in the Sacramento area. I hadn't been there since 2009, so it was great getting to see everyone again, and meeting my youngest nephew for the first time. 



That's my husband's older brother and his Dad, with a couple of our older nephews in the background. His younger sister and our newest nephew are in the middle.



Wild hand gestures run in the family... :)





Thursday night, my husband preached, and we stayed at church very late talking with our friends, Pastor and Mrs. Jimenez, and their church members. If you have not yet heard the sermon, you can watch it here:





On Friday, we leisurely got up and ready, and left town to spend Friday and Saturday at Lake Tahoe. The weather was absolutely amazing, considering this is a ski resort and it was February. (Those who love skiing would probably disagree on this point - ha!) 

We spent the afternoon riding rented bikes down by the lake, strolling through Heavenly Village and having Victorian-style photos take of us, picking out souvenirs for the kids at home, and having dinner at a really great place called Fire and Ice, which happened to be located inside our hotel. Thanks to Priceline, we had scored a room at the super fancy Marriott Timber Lodge for about 30% of the going rate for Friday night. Woohoo!

Bo in the bike trailer


Becky asked me today, "Mom, did you take any selfies when you were on your trip?" Ha - kids these days!







As it turned out, Bo was the perfect little travel companion. He hardly ever cried on the entire trip, and just generally went along nicely with whatever we were doing. When we brought baby Stephen along on our last getaway, he was quite the pill the whole time, and didn't lighten up again until we got back home, so this was a welcome change of pace. 

Sleeping angel


  He really enjoyed exploring this little cave again and again.



We got home Saturday evening just in time to tuck the kids into bed. This was such a wonderful trip, and we made lots of great memories. I am so thankful for my mother-in-law, who volunteers to run our family circus and allow us time away as a couple. Anything without all the kids would have been relaxing, but this was an especially awesome trip.






Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Peanut butter cups

Surprisingly often, I get asked about what particular brand of peanut butter cups my husband enjoys eating, as this is something he mentions in his sermons regularly. 

For those of you who don't know, my husband enjoys long distance running, and has found that peanut butter cups are the perfect fuel to keep him going without weighing him down.

The standard Reese's peanut butter cups contain synthetic preservatives, conventional soy, and questionable emulsifiers, and are therefore a "thanks-but-no-thanks" item around here. In looking for healthier alternatives, we have found the following to be delicious wholesome versions of this sweet treat:

- Newman's Own organic peanut butter cups: available in milk, dark, and super dark version. My husband likes dark the best, but will have the other varieties occasionally to mix things up a bit. Each pack contains three small-ish cups, which is nice for sharing. Or portion control. Or neither if you just want to eat them all :) Azure Standard carries these, which is always a nice plus, since their price is the best.



- Justin's organic peanut butter cups, available in milk, dark, and white version. You can buy either a big box with small, individually-wrapped PB cups, or 1.4 oz packages that are comparable in size to Reese's. We prefer the latter because they travel better, though the first is available at our Costco, and is also perfect for a very reasonably sized treat to enjoy at home. Again, dark is our first choice, though milk is certainly just as  delicious. If you are doing THM, one small individually wrapped dark chocolate cup only has 5g of sugar, and can thus stand in for a little S treat.



Both of these can be found at your local Whole Foods, or on Amazon. I have found the price on Justin's to be best in store at Whole Foods lately, as they are on sale there, and get an additional 10% off when we buy a whole "case", which is just 12 packs of PB cups.

Hope this helps someone in need of a good treat. No peanut butter cups were harmed during the writing of this post (eating them doesn't count though, right)?




Sunday, March 8, 2015

Baby hamsters

A couple of months ago, during a trip to the feed store to buy baby chicks, I got sucked into letting the kids buy baby hamsters while there. Six of them - six! Because naturally, they all wanted their own. Since we'd had hamsters before, we had all the necessary equipment already in stock, so it really wasn't a big deal. We set up their large terrarium in the school room, and watched them grow. 

 Taking over Isaac's Playmobil fort

Then, a couple of weeks ago, we woke to find one of the hamsters had had a litter of 4 pups during the night. To say the kids were thrilled is an understatement! 


Watching the momma care of her babies was fascinating. It was amazing to see how intricately developed the tiny babies were. They were smaller than the top joint on my thumb, yet every feature such as tiny toes, noses, tongues, etc. were perfectly and delicately developed. It made me think of the marvel of unborn children, who long, long before they are big and old enough to be born, are perfectly developed tiny humans. 



My favorite part was when the momma "homeschooled" her litter: she lined all four up in front of her, and taught them how to groom themselves. She showed them how, then they repeated it, again and again. It was pretty funny. One of the other older hamsters also took on the role of a nanny, and would watch over the babies, keep them warm, and let them "nurse". 


 
 Curious visitors


Now, they are almost old enough to move on (thank you, Craigslist!). This was a great experience for the kids, but from now on, I think we will be separating the female hamsters from the males.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Princesses

I took the kids to the student day at the Arizona Renaissance Festival earlier this week. Since then, the playhouse in our front yard has been turned into a castle with a drawbridge, and the girls have been pretending to be princesses every day, with their obliging older brothers being their valiant knights. 




Fun times! :) These girls are just gorgeous, if I do say so myself.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Free Viewing of "Bought" Documentary

Through March 6th, you can watch this documentary for free by clicking here.


ABOUT THE BOUGHT FILM:

You're about to see how Wall Street has literally "BOUGHT" your and your family's health.
The food, vaccine, drug, insurance and health industry are a multi-BILLION dollar enterprise... focused more on profits than human lives. The BOUGHT documentary takes viewers deep "inside the guts" of this despicable conspiracy...
Featuring exclusive interviews with the world's most acclaimed experts in research, medicine, holistic care and natural health... Bought exposes the hidden (and deadly) story behind it all.

We have a crawler

So much I'd love to share and blog about, but just not enough time in a day to get it all done! Here are a few pictures of my littlest guy, who is crawling all over the place these days. 



 
 Almost ten months old, and no teeth yet!


Boaz really is not one to go around getting into mischief, though. He will often crawl to one place he finds interesting, such as the coffee table, and sit there playing with everything within his reach for quite some time before moving on. He also loves crawling around a blanket in the yard. Or, as in this case, playing with the cat's food and water dishes - that's definitely a favorite!




I love that stage when their little hands look like fat little crabs

 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Coffee Alternatives

People often ask me, do I drink coffee? As a matter of fact, I don't. 

It's not that I think it is wrong to drink coffee (there are some people who make that argument because caffeine is a stimulant, such as the 7th Day Adventists and the Mormons). It's not because I think coffee is terribly unhealthy or addictive. It is because if I started to rely on coffee to get me going in the morning and through the day, I would quickly become so dependent on it, that I would no longer be able to cope without it. In other words, in the quantities in which I would need to have coffee if I were to start down that road, it would not be healthy or advisable for me. 

Still, I like to have a steaming hot cup of creamy and - yes - slightly sweet goodness in the morning as much as the next person. Especially, because that is often my first breakfast, holding me over until I have more time to make myself something later in the morning.

So, here are my favorite beverages that make great stand-ins for coffee.

1) Vanilla rooibos (redbush) tea



Rooibos has been my favorite tree ever since I discovered it many years ago. You can find it in all sorts of flavors, but even just plain, it tastes very rich and earthy. My favorite kind is the vanilla flavored one, and since I drink a lot of it, I typically buy it in bulk. My favorite brand is Davidson's Organic Red Vanilla tea. You can also buy smaller packages with individual tea bags. This tea is great hot as well as iced, with or without sweetener, and with or without cream added. 


2) Caro/Pero Instant Beverage



This hails back to my childhood, when we would drink what we called "kids' coffee." It is made from barley, barley malt, chicory, and rye. It has a slightly bitter taste like coffee, so I like mine with some coconut sugar or honey added, and about half milk.


3) Teeccino herbal coffee


This right here is my current favorite, and a breakfast staple. There are many flavor choices available on their website as well as on Amazon. The one I drink is "Vanilla Nut," which I buy in bulk from Azure Standard. I typically sweeten it with 1 tsp of coconut sugar per pint, and add about 3 or 4 tablespoons of cream. So good! 


If you are looking for a caffeine-free beverage to add to your repertoire, I hope this blog post gave you some new ideas. Please feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments below.



Friday, February 13, 2015

Still embroidering

There is only one thing more insufferable than a blog post photobombing all my readers with endless pictures of my kids, and that is pictures of my kids in clothes I embroidered for them. 

Well, get ready to be photobombed... :) I have been busy using my embroidery machine almost daily since getting it.



In addition to matching each other, the girls also wanted to have shirts/dresses that matched their dolls, but not their sisters'. 







I have yet to make Annie's shirt and doll dress. I also made these towels for the newlywed couple at our church. 




Monday, February 9, 2015

A Beautiful Wedding

If you haven't yet seen in on Facebook, check out this wedding we had at our church this past Saturday.





Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My Sewing Nook

Growing up, I learned to do a lot of crafts in school, as well as from my mom. Where I went to school, every child in 1st through 4th grade had 2-4 class periods each week of "crafts," which was in addition to 2-3 class periods of "art" each week. Considering that we only had 20 (in 1st grade) to 30 (by 4th grade) periods each week of 45 minutes each, I think that is a considerable amount dedicated to the arts. (Music usually made up another 2-3.) Of all my memories of school, the arts, crafts, and music lessons stand out by far the most. I remember learning to cross-stitch in 2nd grade, crochet in 3rd, knit in 4th. We worked with clay and paper-mache, learned to sew by hand, made a book, and so much more. Some of these crafts I had already learned at home, but perfected them at school, or vice versa.

I find it remarkable that even though we were only in school from 8:00 to 11:30 a.m. each day, which gradually increased to 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. by 4th grade, the schools made such a point to allow us time for the arts. I think that is something sorely lacking in our schools these days, in spite of the fact that they keep kids for almost twice as long each day. Besides those subjects, in elementary school we pretty much just did Math, Language Studies, Social Studies, and P.E.

In 5th and 6th grade, the craft lessons became electives that were offered in the afternoon, and I gladly signed up for them. This meant that on craft day, I would miss the regular school bus that took the rest of the kids home in time for lunch, so I would instead walk to my mom's store after class got out in the afternoon. My mom at the time owned a wonderful little fabric store, where she also offered alterations. By little, I mean little - nothing like a Jo Ann's, but rather an independently owned, one-of-a-kind fabric boutique. I would spend the rest of my afternoon there, doing homework, and learning to sew on my mom's heavy-duty industrial machines until she closed up shop and we'd head home for dinner. Well, I learned on a regular home sewing machine at first, but preferred to work on one of her big machines if she could spare one for me.

And so began my love of crafts, particularly sewing. Though I have never mastered the art anywhere near as well as my mom, who was an actual tailor/seamstress, I get along well enough on the sewing machine to be able to make my kids cool things. 



A couple of weeks ago, I received a comment on my blog post about the matching PJ's I made for my daughters and their dolls, asking me to contact the commenter via email in an important matter. Try as I might, it often takes me much longer to respond to such requests than I wish it did, especially since this was the day of our field trip. I made a mental note to respond at a later time, and then went back to chasing my kids around, trying to get everyone out the door fed and presentable.

During the field trip, another comment came in from the same lady (my emails pop up on my phone), and this time, she elaborated a bit more, realizing I probably hear from a lot of weirdos and might ignore her first email. She was writing to tell me that her husband and her own and operate Planet Applique, an online store for digital embroidery/applique designs. They had hosted a giveaway on their site in November in which they were giving away five embroidery machines as the first prizes. One of the winners did not care to get the machine, and asked them to donate it to someone else of their choosing. Both the husband and wife listen to my husband's sermons online, and decided to offer the machine to - you guessed it - yours truly as a gesture of appreciation and thanks. SQUEEEEEE!

I was so excited, I told every single person in our church that was on the field trip with us, some of them probably multiple times. And yes, you better know I made it a priority to respond to that email right away! ;)

Since then, I have SO enjoyed getting to know Becca, the owner, through emailing with her. It is always a blessing when we get to find out about the people on the other side of the computer screen that listen to and watch the sermons. She has also been an invaluable help, daily answering my questions as to how to do this or that, seeing as I was a complete and utter beginner with both embroidery, as well as applique. Now, I am fairly confident on the machine, and have made almost a dozen different projects within the last week.



Waiting for the embroidery machine to arrive was like a child waiting for Christmas. Becca told me that she had, in addition to the machine, shipped another box with all the necessary supplies and accessories needed for embroidery. Both boxes were shipped 2-day air. The day they were supposed to arrive, I ran to look out my front window anytime I thought I heard the FedEx truck. It typically arrives by noon, but didn't come until dinner that night. Figures! Then, there was only one box. I asked the driver if he was sure he didn't have another box for me. As is turned out, some major snowstorms in the East had derailed the timely delivery of the second box. This was on a Friday, and I had to wait all the way until the following Monday for the package to finally show up. Imagine my torture!! (I am not even kidding.)


But boy oh boy, was I shocked and surprised when that box showed up! It was full to the brim with everything I could ever need or want, so that in addition to being given this wonderful embroidery machine, I now also had all these wonderful specialty supplies, which in and of themselves cost a small fortune. I received stabilizer of all different kinds (each serves a different purpose), 31 spools of embroidery floss, a special stand that can hold 20 spools of thread by my machine at once, 168 prewound bobbins, packs of fabric for applique, 7 packs of various needles for the machine, pins, specialty scissors needed for appliqueing in the hoop, fabric spray-on glue, blank shirts and dresses in various sizes for both my girls, and their dolls, to use for appliqueing on them, and - the cutest item of all - a USB drive in the shape of an embroidery hoop to transfer files from my computer to the machine. It is at the bottom middle of the picture, just left of the Sulky brand stabilizers.

Can you believe this??!? Not only have Becca and her husband given us these wonderful things, not only has Becca taken the time to purchase, put together, and mail them all, and then tutor me personally on the use of all these items, but they have also offered me to choose any and all designs from their website, for free. I am still pinching myself to make sure it really is not a dream!

And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, here is something else that was in the package:



Six brand-new cloth diapers! And how cute are those?!? Diapers are always put to good use in our house, but I actually really needed to get some larger sizes for Boaz who soaks through the smaller ones during naps and nighttime, and has been wearing disposables at night to keep him from drenching himself. These particular all-in-one diapers have highly absorbent inserts (bamboo?), but the microfiber that is touching the baby's skin feels completely dry to the touch even when the diaper is soaked. I have never seen cloth diapers that felt as dry as these when they were actually soaking wet. 

Back to the embroidery machine - with all these supplies, it was high time to overhaul my sewing nook. Our house is not very large considering our family size, so I don't have a dedicated sewing room, but I do have a nice area set up in our office/walk-in pantry. I spent the days while I was waiting for the machine to arrive reorganizing and cleaning out my area.


I keep the projects I am working on and some fabrics in the 9 cubbies above the embroidery machine. My ribbons and quilting supplies are mounted on the wall behind it. The big stash in the corner is my mending pile (cough, cough), and the table on the right holds the sewing machine. Before Becca sent all the supplies, I stored whatever notions I had in the two drawers along the top of the sewing machine table, and the patterns and instruction books in the two bottom drawers on the left.




Realizing I needed more space to keep my supplies optimally organized, I picked up this rolling cart at Sam's. When not in use, I push it into a little unused corner of the room, but pull it out to have right by my side when working in my sewing nook. 


There is a large window across the room from where the embroidery machine is set up, so I get natural light when sewing during daylight hours (a rare luxury). The fact that all this is set up in a back corner of the house works in my favor, because the little kids already know to stay out of the computer equipment in the office, and it makes it easier to keep an eye on it all.

So there you have it. While some readers/listeners hate us to the moon and back, there are others that make it all worthwhile with their encouraging stories of how they were saved and had their lives transformed as a result of our ministry. And when they go on to send me an embroidery machine that I would not in my wildest dreams dared imagine owning, it makes serving God even sweeter.

If you enjoy applique, I cannot recommend Planet Applique enough, both professionally, and personally. 

 
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

(James 1:17)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Field Trip Friday

Our church offers monthly field trips to all our home-educating families once per month. In January, we went to the Phoenix Zoo.





I always love to see how many children we have between us all. In all, we had 13 families that day, with about 50 children. If only other Christians caught on to the blessings of having children, we would not be facing the cultural battles that we are fighting.


This was a great opportunity for the kids to be wearing their matching yellow shirts again.

 Anna

 Roar! 

Miriam

 Becky


 Our party filled pretty much every single seat on the tram

 I love this face!

 Okay, I love all of these!


Solomon is a teen now, and the only terrible thing about that is how quickly time has gone by. He is turning into a very sweet and kind-hearted young man. I mean, he's always been those things, but he is not losing those attributes even as he is becoming more of an adult than a child. I often catch myself mistaking him for my husband if I only get a sideways glace of him. I am thankful he has godly friends at church that he gets to grow up alongside with. And take goofy pictures in a photobooth with :)



Next month: a behind-the-scenes tour of the Tempe Public Library, and a tour of the Tempe History Museum.