Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


1 Comment

Candy Free Easter Basket Ideas

On my Facebook, I asked for ideas for candy-free Easter basket fillers–just for myself.  The ideas from my friends were so good, I am passing them on to you!

stickers

pencils

water bottles

games

seeds

puzzles

books

lotions

soaps

jewelry

disposable cameras

journals

bubbles

coloring books

fruit

a small toy

yo-yos

jump ropes

marbles

jacks

nail polish

sidewalk chalk

play doh

nuts

laughing cow cheeses

goldfish crackers

fruit leather

change in different amounts

bug boxes

devotional

movies

art supplies

a kite

beach towels and swim suits

silly putty

slinky

Don’t I have smart friends?


3 Comments

Dairy Free Sugar Free Fluffy Chocolate Mousse

I’m such a sucker for creamy, fluffy desserts.  It’s the thing I miss most since we don’t keep dairy products in the house any more.  So this one thrilled me!

I found this recipe on Pinterest and now it seems to no longer be linked to the original blog.  I wish I could give credit to the recipe inventor, who called these “frosting shots.”  (Edit: In the comments, Leah pointed  me to Chocolate Covered Katie as the inventor.  Thanks, Leah!) It would make good icing, but it makes a really great mousse!

Basically, it’s this.

Put  cans of coconut milk in the refrigerator so the coconut cream will rise to the top and get thick.  (I use Golden Star, which is the cheapest and doesn’t contain emulsifiers that prevent the milk from separating.)

Open the cans and scoop out the cream, leaving the liquid in the can.

Place cream in mixer bowl and whip until fluffy, just like whipped cream.  Along the way, add cocoa powder and liquid stevia to taste.  (I use GNC liquid stevia.  I have heard that it has the least offensive aftertaste.  I think it tastes nice.)

My proportions were 4 cans of coconut milk, approximately 2 t. of cocoa powder and around 60 drops of stevia, give or take.

Spoon into dessert cups and refrigerate awhile longer.  It will get very thick.

So decadent and delicious!  Just in time for Valentine’s Day!


2 Comments

Read Aloud Thursday: The Newborn King, Frosty, and Rudolph

Linking up this week with Three Thinking Mothers for their Christmas book roundup.  I wish I had time to write about all my favorites!

Beautiful, pictures, simple text, clear message.  And you can find it cheap on Amazon.  I have the board book version which is great for little hands.

We got oversized versions of these classic Golden books at a library book sale a few years ago.  I’m a sucker for vintage illustrations, as evidenced by the many I use on my blog!  These just make me happy.


4 Comments

Newlyweds and Holiday Expectations

When I first got married, I expected the holidays to be just like they were when I was at home, with some minor modifications, of course.  Growing up, one of my mom’s greatest strengths is that she made wonderful holiday memories through consistent family traditions.  I loved each one.

Fast forward a few years to married life.  Each year I ended up feeling frustrated and a little sad because so many of these traditions just didn’t happen.  It’s not that we didn’t try.  They just didn’t fit well with my new life, our new schedule, and the personalities of different family members as they came along.

And of course, in my plans I had failed to remember that I was marrying someone from a totally different background with some ideas of his own about some traditions.  Hanging stockings, for instance.  I knew that OF COURSE you hang them on Christmas Eve.  And for the children, you take a picture of them hanging their stocking in the same pose every year.  OF COURSE.  What?  You don’t know that?  Well, my new husband didn’t either.  He knew that OF COURSE you hang them when you put up the tree so that you can enjoy them all month.  It’s silly to have conflict about things like this, but I bet I am not the only one with a similar newlywed story.

My problem is that I naively had expectations about the holidays that were completely unrealistic.  If I could give a bit of advice to newlyweds at Christmas, it would be this.  Let go of all your expectations.  Decorating, activities, food, gifts, all of it.  Consider your new family a clean slate, a new, autonomous entity.  Prepare for the holidays to be not just a little different than you are used to, but radically transformed.  And above all, communicate with your husband.  What family traditions and expectations does he have?  Would he like to incorporate any of these into your new family?  Are there any that he would like to let go?  How much does he want to be involved in shopping, wrapping, cooking?   Tell him the same things about you.  Decide together how you will celebrate, just you and him.

Treasure memories and traditions.  Make a photo album, write about them, enjoy the memories. Keep the traditions that work for you and your new little family, but don’t be a slave to them.  Don’t let your happiness depend on them.  Realize that you are a new and separate family, and the holidays at your house might look a lot like they did when you were at home, or they might look completely and totally different.  If they change, embrace different.  Understand that you are establishing your own home and your own traditions.  Sometimes traditions are made intentionally, and sometimes they evolve.  It’s OK if the family traditions of the past don’t work for you.  Let those expectations go and you will be free to celebrate in the way that fits you and your husband the best.  Enjoy Jesus.  Enjoy each other.  And however you decide to celebrate, enjoy the season!


2 Comments

Social Media, Behave! and Make an Easy Advent Calendar

On day 1 of her “Social Media, Behave!” series, Laura talks about pitfalls of social media (trying to achieve fame or other wrong motives), and what each of us might expect from social media.   On day 2, she explores our “online presence,” our avatar, or how we portray ourselves online.  Additionally, she encourages us to write a one-sentence purpose statement.  Here’s what I came up with for me:

I exist online to share the love and grace of Christ with others; to learn from other, especially older, women; and to share what I learn in order to encourage others in their journeys of faith, womanhood, and mothering.

**********

Bonus!  Here is something little that I learned online–not from an older woman, and not something profound!  The kids wanted to do some kind of advent calendar or Christmas countdown but I struggled to find ideas that didn’t take too much time.  Either they were too arty and hard to make, or they involved activities that we may or may not have time to do during the month of December.  (Watching a Christmas movie, for example, is great, but how do I know if it will be convenient to do that on December 9?  Seriously!)

Finally I ran across a super fast idea–fast to make, and easy to do.  I don’t remember where I saw it, but I modified it to fit my needs.

I cut 25 rectangular pieces of paper.  Folded them in half like a card.  The kids stamped a snowflake on the front of each one and I numbered them from 1 to 25.

We are all about fostering communication and conversation at our house, so instead of an activity,  I wrote a question inside each one.  “What is your favorite Christmas memory?”  “What do you think it would have been like to be a shepherd on the first Christmas?”  “What is something we could do for someone else this Christmas?”  “Do you know of any Christmas traditions from other countries?”  “Ask mom/dad to tell you a Christmas story from when they were little.”

And then I hung them up with clothespins like the picture above.

How easy is that?  You even have time to do it before December 1!


2 Comments

Christmas Before Thanksgiving?

I’ve seen a lot of buzz where people are bemoaning the fact that stores are already decorated for Christmas.  Seems Thanksgiving is almost becoming a non-holiday that gets lost between Halloween and Ho ho ho.  Hobby Lobby had Christmas stuff up in August, for crying out loud.  And I think it’s important to make a lot of Thanksgiving, this wonderful season of gratitude.

That said, the Christmas spirit struck me really early this year.  Like giddy, little-kid excited.  Since that feeling has actually passed me by for a lot of recent years (thanks to rush and stress), I’m going with it.  I have realized something.  I’m so tired and foggy-brained these days, I actually have to allot about twice as much time as I think I need for any given activity.  If I think it takes me one hour to get everyone ready for church, I better give myself two.  So it stands to reason that I really need more than a month to get ready for Christmas.

It’s simple at our house.  We don’t do a huge amount of cooking and baking and we don’t go overboard on gifts.  I put up a tree and a wreath and if I get to anything else, it’s lagniappe.  But still.  All this seems to take a lot of energy when my typical mode of operations is half speed.

So…We focus on giving thanks.  We’re doing Thanksgiving crafts and leafy activities.  I’m loving fall, my favorite season.  But I’m getting ready for Christmas too.  Our tree is up.  Gifts are on order, and I’m making sure I have what I need to wrap them.  Mulling over which cookies I’ll make and what the menu will be.  Noting ideas on Pinterest.  Preparing early is going to make it easier to relax and enjoy December.

This month, I’m thankful for early Christmas preparations.  I’m even thankful that the stores have Christmas stuff out already.  And I’m thankful that it’s still autumn and the turkey is yet to be consumed.

How about you?  How do you balance the holidays and not lose Thanksgiving in the Christmas hullaballoo?


2 Comments

Bargain Shopping: Holiday Clearance Edition

One of my favorite times to get bargains is post-holiday clearance sales!  Holiday items quickly go down to 75-90% off and you can get amazing deals.  Sometimes I buy holiday items to use the following year.  But truthfully, my favorite post-holiday shopping is when I find items that can be re-purposed to use all year long.

A few recent examples:

A fuzzy white throw for the living room–$5.  It came with a snowman pillow which I didn’t like, but I’ve been on the hunt for a white throw for awhile.  I recovered the pillow and used it in another room.

Bedroom curtains. They weren’t really curtains.  They were cranberry-colored Christmas tablecloths.  But with ring clips and tie-backs, they are now curtains.  $2.99 a panel.

Gift bags and wrapping paper. Valentine’s Day sales are great for these, especially if you have little girls who get invited to birthday parties.  Hearts are just for Valentine’s Day, seriously?  I got some adorable pink heart bags with pink polka dots for 50 cents at Target.  (I would post a pic but I don’t know how to load pictures from my new camera yet.)  Actually, anything hearts is on clearance after Valentine’s Day–so cute with so many uses!

 

The applications are truly endless!  What are your favorite post-holiday bargains?


Leave a comment

Best and Easiest Sugar Cookies

This has been my go-to recipe all December.  These cookies are super easy and very good–crunchy on the edge, soft in the middle.

1 cup coconut oil (I’m guessing softened butter would work just as well, or its evil twin, Crisco)

2 c. sugar

2 eggs

5 T. water

4 t. vanilla

1 t. salt

1 t. baking soda

3  1/2 c. all-purpose flour, chilled (I keep mine in the freezer.)

Cream coconut oil, sugar, and vanilla.  Add egg and water, mix well.  Mix in dry ingredients.   You are aiming for dough that’s the consistency of stiff play dough, but not crumbly.

Roll into 2 smooth logs.  Roll logs in granulated sugar.  Wrap in waxed paper and chill completely.  (Actually if you use flour from the freezer like I do, you sometimes don’t have to chill…)

Slice into 1/4″ slices and place far apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from pan immediately.  Enjoy with a glass of milk!


Leave a comment

Christmas Joy

Growing up, Christmas was a huge deal at our house. We started celebrating at Thanksgiving and didn’t stop till after the New Year.

But when I say Christmas was a huge deal, I’m not talking about gifts. My parents handled gift-giving so wisely, no matter how much or how little we had on any given year. They got us each just three gifts, both on years when my dad was in corporate upper management, and years when we could barely make ends meet. (Grandparents usually gave us one gift each.) One of those gifts was always a book. We were never encouraged to ask for what we wanted, but rather to be happy with whatever we got, knowing it was chosen with a great deal of thoughtfulness and love.

Christmas remembrances are among my sweetest. My parents taught me that Christmas is about more than how much there is under the tree. We focused on the birth of Christ, of course. And we just made memories.

This week I told my kids a story about one Christmas that could have been less joyful than others. I was a teenager. We had just come through a very devastating situation, spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and we had a lot of healing to do. My parents bought a small farm in East Texas, with a tiny old house that needed extensive renovation. We had money set aside to fix our new place, but my dad was unable to find work. So in the meantime, we put most of our belongings in storage and rented another tiny old house two miles up the road.

It was a little yellow place, pier and beam. We could see daylight between the floorboards and dirt sifted up through the cracks. The tiny living room had a crooked wallpaper border, and the dining room was covered in a jarring coca-cola pattern, red, black, and white. The boys had to pass through the girls’ room to get to theirs, which was essentially a big closet. That was an exceptionally cold winter, and the house had no insulation. There were a couple of broken windows. We woke up many mornings to icicles hanging on the inside of the window sills. The only heat was provided by a couple of antique porcelain space heaters that would burn you or melt your clothes if you stood too close. The septic system was a mess, and we had to take drastic measures not to overload it. Among other precautions, several of us usually had to share bath water (there was no shower in the only bathroom) to keep the whole thing from backing up into the house.

We thought for sure we’d be out by Christmas and things would be better, but December rolled around and Daddy still hadn’t been able to find work, in spite of his best efforts. (On one hand, he was free to work on the new house when he wasn’t job hunting, but on the other I know this was a really difficult time for him because he has always been such a conscientious, hard-working provider.) The remodel was taking longer than anticipated, as so often happens. We realized that we’d still be in the little yellow house for the holiday.

Looking back, our spirits should have been dampened, but they weren’t. I have to applaud my parents for never allowing self-pity or discouragement to take over and ruin that time. (This applied to other times as well, probably why I have no patience with negativity and complaining.) I’m sure they were stressed and worried, but that didn’t affect the atmosphere at home. After all, we had enough to eat and wear and we were together. It wasn’t perfect, but we could make the best of it. We were thankful for what we did have.

Some of my best Christmas memories are of that Christmas…Singing carols with friends in the small, cold living room, making cookies, my sister and dad working puzzles in the coca-cola dining room. I have no idea what I got that year, although I’m sure it was no more than three gifts. Gifts didn’t matter though. Love made it a great Christmas.


1 Comment

Free or Cheap Gift & Gift Wrap Ideas

Sometimes there’s just not a lot of extra money for Christmas.  Guess what–THAT’S OK! **REMEMBER, CHRISTMAS IS NOT ABOUT HOW MANY GIFTS YOU GIVE OR HOW MUCH YOU SPEND, IT’S ABOUT THE BIRTH OF CHRIST AND THE LOVE YOU SHARE!**

Even so, gift-giving is one of the great joys of the season.  Here are a few ideas for Christmas giving for next to nothing.

Time–babysitting (YES!), a free date with spouse/child…What about a commitment to spend an hour a week alone with just that child, going for a walk, playing a game, or doing a craft?  Promise of a meal delivered on a busy day?  The possibilities are endless—just make sure you follow through.  What about giving a mom the gift of a day to herself?  Now that’s my idea of a great gift!

Service-raking leaves, household repair, painting, cleaning, donating some other kind of service.

Photos (Grandparents especially love pictures of grandchildren).  Frame in thrifted or dollar store frames, or a dollar store album—CHEAP!

Handmade ornaments (salt dough, wood, stuffed felt—google for instructions)

Homemade play dough packaged nicely with a thrifted or dollar store cookie cutter (Easy recipe here)

Sewn gifts

Food/baked goods

Write a story for your children—one about yourself growing up, or make one up!  Illustrate it if you have any talent in that direction.  Kids will love even stick-figure illustrations.

Read a book on tape/cd for your children

Printable coloring book—google for free pages on the theme of your choice

Don’t rule out dollar and thrift stores! There are treasures to be found!

This looks like a good roundup of frugal gift ideas.

~~Frugal Wrapping~~

Brown paper packages tied up with string.  Brown paper and jute string are cheap.  Let your kids stamp/sponge/handprint/draw pictures on the paper in Christmas colors—or leave it plain.  I think it’s fun, simple and understated.

Or…same idea…white paper tied with whatever.  Here are some pics of white boxes, but the same look could be achieved with a cheap roll of white paper and bargain ribbon.  Big Lots is my favorite place to find cheap ribbon.

Martha Stewart—75 gift wrap ideas, some very inexpensive and beautiful.

~::~~~::~

REMEMBER, CHRISTMAS IS NOT ABOUT HOW MANY GIFTS YOU GIVE OR HOW MUCH YOU SPEND, IT’S ABOUT THE BIRTH OF CHRIST AND THE LOVE YOU SHARE!

Related: Have Yourself a Thrifty Little Christmas

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30 other followers