Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Call the Company!

One of the tips that has helped me the most in my quest to make the most out of each dollar is calling companies. Corporations that sell us products almost always contain quality assurance departments; they enjoy hearing compliments from consumers, and they take to heart comments about unsatisfactory experiences so they can better improve their product. When you take the time to call or write, they will usually send you a coupon for a free product and some money-saving coupons on future purchases as well.

While calling to share a problem with a product may at times be necessary (finding bugs in oatmeal, for example), you don't have to complain. I've called Nestle with a question about melting butterscotch chips (it's different and takes longer than chocolate chips), and I received a free product coupon plus a neat little booklet all about the differences in various chocolates: how to store them, melt them, and use them. I called a laundry softener manufacturer with a question on how to prevent dryer sheets from leaving marks on clothing, and I received a free product coupon in return.

This doesn't always work, though. I called Pampers the other day because the lining in their new diapers just seemed defective--it stopped two-thirds of the way down and just didn't seem right to me. The representative was trying to tell me that's how it's supposed to be, and there is supposedly a thin liner in the back of the diaper. I didn't feel it, and to me, the diaper felt scratchy in the back. I know I wouldn't want to wear it! She wasn't willing to do anything more than assure me it wasn't defective, and I'm not willing to buy Pampers anymore if that's the way they are making them now (I've bought others that are not that way). The call was still profitable.

While a call to the company will usually result in a few dollars of savings, sometimes it will translate into hundreds of dollars of savings. When we received our tax return, I called the surgical center where my boys had some procedures done (we are still paying the bills). I asked the billing manager if they offer a discount if you are able to pay in full. She is checking with her manager for the final details, but she told me, the discount may be as much as 50% off the total bill! So glad I made that call!

Other examples--

My husband recently ordered a beautiful calf-skin Bible from Crossway books. Upon receiving it, the gold on the pages started flaking off. He knew this wasn't supposed to happen, so I encouraged him
to--you guessed it--call the company. The first representative wasn't willing to do anything about it. I encouraged him to try again (this is also where you could write a formal letter to the company, stating why you purchased the product, what you like about it, what is wrong with it, and what you would like them to do to correct the problem). The second representative not only sent him a replacement Bible, she also allowed him to keep his original!

Calling the company even resulted in my husband earning a new professional certification. After testing, he felt that a few of the questions could be interpreted (and answered) in two different ways. I told him he should call the company, because even if it didn't change his result, at least the company would be able to take a closer look at the questions. It could help other people down the road. He didn't want to do it, but he finally did. And guess what? The guy who writes the questions realized then that there were other correct answers, and he awarded my husband the certification, which brought with it a raise!

Some tips when you call:
  • Be friendly.  You want the customer service representative to connect with you and enjoy talking to you.
  • If you had a negative experience with the product, start by sharing why you purchased the product to begin with--maybe you really love it, buy it all the time, and this time, unfortunately, you were disappointed because its quality was not the same.
  • Explain specifically what you thought was wrong.
  • At this point, they'll usually offer to send you a coupon for a replacement. If they don't, however, ask!
  • If the customer service representative does not offer a coupon, you could ask politely if they could add you to their mailing list when coupons become available, since you enjoy the product so much (and enjoy saving money when you purchase it!)
Calling a company with a quick question, or to offer a praise of their product, or with a complaint (voiced nicely) when appropriate usually takes less than five minutes. Finding great coupons is getting harder these days (unless you live in a big city with a great paper), so when you call, the company will send you a coupon for a product you already use. It's worth it!

Don't forget to join us for our once-a-month cooking festival tomorrow (not just bulk cooking but a celebration of all kinds of cooking!).

Visit Works for Me Wednesday for more tips!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Domestic Liberation...Really?

Life's Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets

There's a new book out called Life's Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets. It claims to be "your ultimate guide to domestic liberation." Liberated from domestic chores, but liberated to what?

Here are some examples from my life about what would happen at my home if I liberated myself from all domestic chores:

Our bathrooms would smell like pee, permanately (I'm serious! I have boys, remember?!)
Our living room carpet would just really look disgusting due to dog hair, food crumbles, and millions of other random items
Feet would stick to the kitchen floor
Ants would find their own domestic liberation in my home
My kids' allergies would worsen due to excess dust
We would all look sloppy with consistently wrinkled clothes (assuming I actually washed them)
Our house would probably start to stink
"Our house would fall down" (a quote from my five-year old when I asked him what would happen if we stopped doing chores)

I think he nailed it on the head perfectly. We do the things we need to do so we can enjoy our house. Our work on our family's behalf, done with love, is a large part of what makes our house our home.

I haven't read the book yet; I have it on hold at the library. I will submit a report for you all when I'm done.:)  Check back next Monday. In the meantime, I'll be folding fitted sheets (it's really not that hard) and performing other domestic chores. :)

(P.S. The way my mom taught me to fold fitted sheets is: bring the corners together and tuck one corner into the other, fold the sides down about a foot--or a little less--and then proceed to fold as with a flat sheet. How do you fold fitted sheets?) :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Menu Plan 6/27

If you already own Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: Feasting with Your Slow Cooker, you know what a treasure you have. If you don't own it, you need it! It is a goldmine of great recipes. It has tons of recipes for various cuts of meat (vegetarian options too, plus much more), so when meat--let's say round steak--goes on sale, there are at least twenty different ways of preparing it. You could buy a few packages and package up several different meal options in freezer bags on the spot and have dinner ready in the freezer to thaw and stick in the crockpot. How easy is that?! I really love this cookbook (almost as much as our church cookbook!).

So I'm excited to try a few new recipes from Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: Feasting with Your Slow Cooker, and then we'll be visiting my in-laws for the weekend.

Cream of Wheat, oranges
Leftover spaghetti, salad; or sandwiches
Tasty Drumsticks (from Fix-It and Forget-It)
Mashed Potatoes, Normandy blend vegetables

Tuesday:Scrambled eggs & toast
Grilled cheese, tomato soup
Spanish Round steak, rice (from Fix-It and Forget-It)
Blueberry muffins, strawberry-banana smoothies
Leftover lunch
Scalloped potatoes and pork chop casserole, green beans

Oatmeal, strawberries
Kids' pick for lunch (alternate baked potato bar)
Baked Potatoes, broccoli
Triple berry cobbler

Cinnamon rolls from the bread machine (maybe) :)
White chicken chili, tortillas
Pizza & salad

(rest of meals with in-laws!)

Smoothies, yogurt, fruit, homemade popsicles (will have to share a great recipe later!), granola, etc.

Don't forget about our once-a-month cooking festival right here on the 1st, which is Thursday, where we celebrate cooking of all kinds! (I missed my own party last month...oops! But I have a lot planned for this month's post. Stay tuned!).

Linked to Menu Plan Monday @

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Menu Planning and Exercise?

Coffee Talk Thursday

Recently, I was going through my Cent$ible Nutrition materials (a class I took through the Family & Consumer Science department of our state university's extension service), and I came across a physical activity planning sheet. It says, "Just as you plan a weekly menu, plan your daily physical activity...You are more likely to be physically active if you plan time." I already plan our menus, so why not plan our outside activity times too?

We've all probably heard the tip to schedule exercise into our day. Sometimes, I think that can make us feel so "all or nothing" about it. It doesn't have to be an exercise video, or a really intense trip to the gym (for those who have gym memberships). Fitting in 30 minutes of activity can be much more moderate and realistic, like a 30-minute walk with the kids, or a nice bike ride as a family after dinner.

I've done the intense thing (pre-kids), and in my experience, it made me too obsessive. Not good. So I think moderate and n-o-r-m-a-l is better! I won't argue that a hard run will get your heart rate up more than a walk with kids, but in this post, I shared a quote a like that the best exercise for the long run is what most mirrors real life.

My materials recommend 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week (60 minutes at least for children). Now that summer's here, that's pretty easy to achieve!

Physical Benefits of Regular Physical Activity:
Increases physical fitness
Helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints
Builds endurance and muscular strength
Helps manage weight
Lowers risk factors for cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes
Helps control blood pressure
Promotes psychological well-being and self-esteem
Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety

Have you ever thought of planning exercise like menu planning? How does it work best for you? Do you think we set the bar so high that we feel like if we can't reach that today, we might as well not do anything? I think it's almost better to set the bar low, if you will, so we won't feel like a failure. Plus, we're still enjoying getting out there and moving!

It's Coffee Talk Thursday. Your turn to share your thoughts!

Have a great, active day!

(linked to Works for Me Wednesday)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cheaper, Leaner, Better Ground Beef

I've been to the meat counter several times in my day, and I've never seen what I saw the other day.

You're intrigued, aren't you? (wink) 

An older couple had a giant box loaded with hamburger. I politely asked them if it was less expensive per pound if they bought in bulk, and they said--

Round steak was on sale for $1.99/lb. They picked out several steaks and asked the butcher to grind it for them into hamburger. Who knew. What a great tip!

The butcher gladly did the same for me, and I wound up with several pounds of ground round at the same price as 80/20 hamburger on sale. It is a little dry for hamburgers on the grill but great for everything else.

Using my reporting skills for you, upon further questioning of the butcher, you can do this with pretty much any cut of beef that's on sale, although some will make better hamburger than others. He said when chuck roasts go on sale, they grind up nicely into ground beef.

I once read (maybe it was Elizabeth Elliot who wrote to her daughter in Let Me Be a Woman) the recommendation to find a good butcher and get to know him/her well. The butcher will be an invaluable source of information in one's cooking life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Easy, Frugal, & Delicious Granola

This recipe is another great one from the church cookbook. It's become a family favorite, and my boys will eat it straight off the pan if I don't transfer it into a jar soon.

I am trying to figure out a way to get the oats to form bigger clusters (I experimented with increasing the honey and oil, but it didn't seem to work). If anyone knows how to make granola more "clustery," please share your tips!

Not only can you eat it as a cereal, you can use it to make granola bars, or as a topping over yogurt and fruit, or make fruit parfaits. It's frugal, delicious, and versatile!

Here's the recipe:

1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla
7 c. old-fashioned oats

Mix brown sugar, oil, and honey in a small saucepan. Bring to a low boil. Remove from heat. Stir in cinnamon and vanilla. Pour over oats in a large bowl and stir until well coated. Spread oats in a 9x13 pan (I use a larger rimmed baking sheet). Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Take out and stir. Return pan to the oven. Turn the oven off, and leave the granola in the oven for several hours or overnight (we only leave it in for about an hour more...or it gets too done for our preference). You may want to stir it a few more times. This disappears quickly in my house, so I usually try to make a double batch.


Visit Tasty Tuesday for more recipe ideas!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Can I Take a Sick Day? (A Guest Post)

Photo by Soopah Grover

I wrote about the good, the bad, and the ugly in my life lately. When we hit bumpy patches, I'm always searching for the lessons God's trying to teach me--how I can grow into a more Christlike person from those experiences.

I'm guest posting at Heavenly Homemakers about what we learn from days in the trenches as moms. I think it's one of my best posts ever, not so much because I am giving myself a pat on the back for my writing, :) but more so because the lesson I learned was exactly what I needed. I hope it will encourage you too.

If you're visiting for the first time, welcome!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Just For Fun: Going Bonkers for Bananas

In our house, we all love bananas. There are five of us, plus two college girls staying with us for the summer. If we all eat a banana a day, that's 49 bananas a week! That's a lot of bananas. It's hard to keep up with it all!

If just one person fails to keep up with his or her daily banana quotient, baking banana bread will be on the agenda in no time at all (overripe bananas can also be peeled and plastic wrapped to use in smoothies later).

Does your family have a favorite fruit that is hard to keep stocked through the week? If so, what is it?

(After bananas, it's apples for us).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Influence of An Older Woman

Coffee Talk Thursday: the evening edition!

Any skill you need to know, or anything you'd like to learn, an older woman can teach you. She can encourage you, and help you in so many ways. You just have to find the right one.

That finding can sometimes be a bit tricky. After all, you can't just walk up to any old woman at the grocery store, and ask her if she can teach you how to cook. I mean, you could, but it might not go over so well.

That's one of the reasons the church is so helpful. If you are involved in a good church, you already have some level of familiarization with at least some of the women within. Even if you don't know someone that well, if there is something you know she does well, and you would like to learn it, you could ask her nicely if she would be willing to come over sometime and help you. Chances are very good she'll say yes. At least there's a better chance of it than the random person picking a pepper in the store.

For example, a friend from church entered her 100% whole wheat honey bread recipe in our church cookbook. I've tried it a few times but don't have much experience making yeast breads from scratch. I honestly didn't know you may need to add more flour than the recipe calls for, and I had no clue how to "shape a loaf" (I learned you aren't supposed to just put your batter in the bread pan, patting it nicely). 

So I called her to ask what I was doing wrong, and she offered to come over and give me a bread lesson. Together we baked two loaves of bread, hamburger buns, dinner rolls, and flour tortillas. Now I know how to make a decent loaf of bread, thanks to her help!

notice the bite taken out of the lower right (5:00) ;)

There are so many other areas where we can find practical help and encouragement from older women who've already been where we are. They can share what worked for them with housework, managing money, frugal cooking, marriage, homeschooling, and parenting. In fact, I think they may be one of the best sources for advice when it comes to parenting, especially, because they've been through it all. Their kids are grown and gone. Looking back on the whole of their experience gives them wisdom that those of us still in the midst of raising children have not fully developed quite yet.

My encouragement this Coffee Talk Thursday is to find a few older women you admire and ask them over for coffee. A relationship can build from there. A cup of coffee is a good beginning.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

This picture is the perfect symbol of my life the past few weeks. The good blending with the bad, the desirable mixed with the undesirable.

The good: My oldest son bringing me a wildflower he picked for me, and my middle son copying his big brother with the only thing he could find--a dandelion, brought with a heart of love.

The bad:  Quiet time upstairs resulted in several of my necklaces being cut by little hands (who knew someone--not me!--had hidden scissors upstairs for such a time as this?!).

The ugly: Awhile ago, while putting our 18-month old down for a nap, I kept hearing a thudding noise. The boys have been rocking the rocker quite agressively lately, so I chalked it up to that. But no. They were actually playing "ninjas," wielding kitchen knives at the wall. Lots of damage. Lots. Good thing I investigated when I did.

The thing about motherhood is, even though we always desire the good, we get the bad too. It all mixes together, like waves on the seashore. You get some bad days (sometimes several in a row), you get some good days; they follow each other continuously. Our correction and discipline is like the sand of the seashore; it sets the boundaries for where the waves can go, what they can do.

Thankfully our bad days of last week are being followed by great days this week. I think that's how God's grace works. He never gives us more than we can truly handle (even though I felt like I had reached the max last week). That's why, sometimes people looking in on a bad day, will reach awful conclusions about our children, our mothering, our home in general. They'll wonder why we have so many children when we can't manage them, why we homeschool, why we stay at home. They're probably right to wonder. I sometimes wonder myself, too, to be perfectly honest. Yet the piece they're missing is--they're not here to see the good on a good day.

And that good is what keeps us going.

Especially on bad days, we must remain faithful to sow good seeds in our children. We can't give up on training and discipline, even when we're weary. Faithful instruction results in the harvest of beautiful flowers from those seeds. Yet, if we ignore the dandelions--the undesirable--their destructive seeds will blow, creating more weeds to tarnish an otherwise nice landscape. Plant the good, weed the bad, and do it over, and over again, like the waves in the sea.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Menu Plan 6/14

It's been awhile since I've posted a menu plan. I still menu plan; I just don't always post it. Recently, though, one of my friends commented that sharing our plans provides new ideas for others. So with that goal in mind, here is my plan for the week:
Pork & Rice Stir Fry (from leftover shredded pork tacos)
Cereal, toast
Cheese Quiche, toast, fruit
Roast Chicken, sweet potatoes, broccoli

Coco-Wheats, milk, strawberries
White Chicken Chili from leftover chicken, tortillas
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans

Granola, bananas, milk
Baked Potato bar
Lentil & cheese casserole (I want to try this, but I might be the only one!)
so leftovers for the rest of the family

Oatmeal, fruit
Tuna noodle casserole, carrot & celery sticks
Sausage Rice soup, breadsticks

Waffles, cottage cheese
Leftover Lunch
Pizza, salad

Saturday:Pancakes, eggs
Monterey Jack burgers, watermelon

refrigerator peanut butter cookies
Make whole wheat honey bread
fruit (apples, pears, strawberries)
yogurt & granola
make oatmeal apricot cookies (time permitting)
other baking as desire and time allow!

linked to Menu Plan Monday

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Give Me Dirty Laundry

One of the things I love about laundry (wait, that's an oxymoron!) is OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover. It's a mom-of-multiple-active-boys' best friend. Let me tell you why I love it so.

Recently, I was thrilled to find a pair of Gymboree khakis and a Gymboree button-down blue oxford shirt for my 1-year old at the thrift store for about $1 each. They had a few stains, but after soaking and then washing them with Oxi-Clean, those stains were gone. I was not so thrilled when said 1-year old took a blue Sharpie highlighter and wrote in giant circular motions all over said pants.

The thrill returned, however, when--upon soaking said pants in hot water and a scoop of Oxi-Clean for a few hours, and then washing them with a tad more Oxi-Clean plus my detergent--the marks were gone. Completely gone! Good as new.

In my house, really dirty clothes (and there are many) get soaked prior to washing in hot water with Oxi-Clean. I buy whatever detergent is around $2.99 (usually Purex or All), and add a quarter to a half scoop of Oxi-Clean with the wash. I find this removes almost all stains. Amazing. Simply amazing!

There are many more uses for Oxi-Clean, but I use it only for laundry right now. I usually buy it at Sam's Club, and it is around $15 for a very large box. I pour some out in an empty glass jar and keep it on my laundry shelf, refilling as needed.

As long as my boys keep getting dirty, I think I will keep buying the OxiClean! It also helps me save money, because if I find good-quality clothes at the thrift store (but with a few stains), I know I will be able to get them out. Give it a try sometime!

Linked to Works for Me Wednesday

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Coffee Talk: Do You Ever "Put Your Feet Up?"

Coffee Talk Thursday

When either my mother or mother-in-law visits, she'll comment that I should "put my feet up" for awhile. It's an old-fashioned way of saying we should rest for a bit. But when do we as moms ever have time available to just sit down and do nothing but "put our feet up" for a few minutes? It's a luxury I don't feel I have available in the middle of the day.

But maybe we should make time to just put our feet up.

When I do actually take a few minutes to just sit, and not fold laundry at the same time, but just sit, I find it does help. It especially helps if I put my feet up. As I get older, they get sorer!

Someone told me recently that when her children were at home, they instituted a mandatory quiet time from 2-3:30pm. Little ones were either napping, or looking at books, and Mom was either reading or doing another stationary activity (like cross-stitch). That time seems to be a natural downtime in our house too, so I am giving myself permission to read, rest, and put my feet up during that time (as much as possible).

So, do you make time to put your feet up? And what does that look like in your house?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pace Yourself!

Photo by Mike Baird

Have you ever tried to do Level 2 of the Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred, clean half your house, make a healthy lunch and dinner pretty much from scratch, do three loads of laundry, and weed the bulk of your garden all in one day?

I don’t recommend it.

You, if you are like me, will find yourself on your couch at 7:00 on Friday night, unable and unwilling to move.

That’s why it’s important to learn to pace ourselves.

I think we all too often, and easily, think we are capable of doing more than we are capable of. We feel like, if we feel good, we might as well just keep on truckin’. But learning when to call it quits is a very valuable skill indeed.

For those of us with young children, training and correction eat up a big part of our day (can I get an amen?!). They really do. If we are also trying to make meals from scratch, garden, keep the house clean, and perhaps even homeschool, it’s no wonder we’re going to feel burnt out.

I don’t have anything against cooking, gardening, cleaning, or homeschooling—in fact, I’m all for them. I’m just trying to say we shouldn’t try to do them all in the same day. But if we do, we shouldn’t wonder why it feels so hard sometimes. Because it is hard sometimes.

A marathon runner learns the importance of pacing—not too fast in the beginning or one’s energy and endurance will be lost. Just a steady pace, with a pick-up toward the end. Likewise, on a day where we’re doing some bulk cooking, or cooking a lot of things from scratch, let that be the big thing for the day. Don’t try to bake bread in the morning and tortillas for lunch, and then put together a gourmet dinner, while also washing sheets, and towels, and curtains, and refereering kids all day. Whew! Pace yourself.

Even if you feel like you can handle it all, try to refrain yourself. At the end of the day, you’ll be glad you did, and you’ll have more endurance for dealing with all the “unexpecteds” that pop up in the course of a day as mom.

So, as much as possible, try to spread your tasks throughout the week: a little here and a little there. If you do have to have a big day for something, make that your one thing that day. Do very little else. And remember, a day of much discipline for children is a big thing. It will take most of your effort. I think we forget that, and we wonder why we end up crabby.

Pace yourself.

(linked to Works for Me Wednesday).

Blueberry Patch Muffins

You know how you search and search for that perfect blueberry muffin recipe? I think--for our family at least--I've finally found it. We picked the blueberries ourselves at a blueberry patch in Michigan. While we were there, I also grabbed a pamphlet with this recipe in it. This is a great one, and I hope you like it as much as we do.

Blueberry Patch Muffins
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1 c. milk
6 T. melted shortening
1 c. blueberries
1 T. sugar

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and 1/4 c. sugar. Combine egg, milk and shortening and add all at once to flour mixture. Stir until dry ingredients are moist but still lumpy (batter will be thick). Fold in blueberries. Fill greased muffin pans 2/3 full. Sprinkle with 1 T. sugar. Bake in hot oven (400-degrees) about 25 minutes. Makes 1 dozen muffins. (They will go like hot cakes!).


Visit Tasty Tuesday for more great recipes!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Overestimating Ourselves

One of the reasons I think we put off tasks (at least I know I do) is because we overestimate how long they’ll take. We feel like the job will take half the morning, or the afternoon, and we don’t want to use our time that way that day, so we put it off until later. And then a series of days goes by, and the task remains undone.

What if the real reason we’re putting it off is because we’re simply overestimating how long it will take? What if we knew it would only take a half hour at most, and five minutes at the least? Of course we can move slowly, and stop frequently, and make the job last as long as we want; or we can work hard and fast and get it done quickly.

This Messy Monday, I encourage you to pick one job you’ve been putting off because you think it will take forever, and you dread it. Err on the side of underestimating the time. Set a timer for, let’s say a half an hour, and see if you can get it done in that time. You’ll be more likely to get it done next time when you realize it really doesn’t take as long as previously estimated.

(My jobs, in case you’re wondering, are the dishes in my sink from Sunday, and the sun porch. It needs to be tidied, swept, and mopped. I will give myself 45 minutes, and see if I can do it in 30).

Happy Homemaking!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Saturday Evening Blog Post: May 2010

Time again for the Saturday Evening Blog Post, hosted by Elizabeth Esther, where you can link up with your favorite post of the past month. Mine is "The Grouchy Ladybug," about bad mommy days and how to conquer those grouchy feelings on those days.

Enjoy your Saturday!

What Are We Whining For?

Photo by John-Morgan

Whatever it be, I'm sure we all have some things--material or immaterial--that we are hoping for. Waiting for what we want, and not even knowing if we'll indeed receive it, is hard and can easily produce grumbling and discontent.

I came across this poem the other day, which was apparently written as a song of praise. Here's what's so amazing about it:

"The tragedies of life--the death of her mother at age 3, a hip injury that left her an invalid at age 19, and the death of her fiance just one day before their wedding--produced in Anne Steele's heart a response of songs of praise, most of them published anonymously." (Women of Faith Study Bible)

Miss Steele faced many tragedies which could easily have turned her heart into steel. Instead, she chose not to grumble, but to praise.

Father, Whate'er of Earthly Bliss

Father, whate'er of earthly bliss
Thy sovereign will denies,
Accepted at Thy throne, let this
My humble prayer, arise:

Give me a calm and thankful heart,
From every murmur free;
The blessing of Thy grace impart,
And make me live to Thee.

Let the sweet hope that Thou art mine
My life and death attend,
Thy presence through my journey shine,
And crown my journey's end.
--Anne Steele (1716-1778)
I really like the lines, "Give me a calm and thankful heart, From every murmur free." What a great prayer.

If that's not enough--read a copy of The Voice of the Martyrs sometime (you can get a free subscription, but what a great cause to support with a financial gift). You'll read about an 86-year old man in Pakistan who would not renounce his Christian faith even when a Muslim mob of 3,000 stormed his village and burned homes. Everyone else ran for their lives, but this man could not walk or run. 

Or there's the story of Musa Mohammed Yusuf, whose two sons (ages 11 and 12) were beheaded by Muslim radicals in Somalia--all because Musa gave a woman a Bible.

Then, in the Punjab province of Pakistan, a Christian woman was burned by radical Muslims who poured Kerosene on her. The mob also burned 16 homes and damaged 60 others.

So whenever the temptation to grumble about what we want but don't have hits, may this serve as a big fat reality check for us, and leave us feeling nothing but amazingly grateful for all that we do have.

Father, whate'er of earthly bliss
Thy sovereign will denies,
Accepted at Thy throne, let this
My humble prayer, arise:
Give me a calm and thankful heart,
From every murmur free;

The blessing of Thy grace impart,
And make me live to Thee.

holy experience

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Loosen Up and Let People In

Coffee Talk Thursday

We've been talking a lot lately about having people over, and it seems like most of us really struggle with letting people in unless everything's perfect or near-perfect. If we do issue an invitation, we'll work hard to achieve a House-Beautiful look, which will stress us out, last for about a day, and leave the guests with an incorrect impression of reality at our house (and perhaps a feeling of inferiority as well, if they feel like their house doesn't look like ours on that day). Wouldn't it be so much better to just loosen up and let people in anyway?

I think freeing ourselves from the bondage of perfectionism in this regard is quite a bit like overcoming stage fright. We can be so afraid of opening the door and letting someone roam around in our house that we never do it. But, just like a person who gets up on stage and speaks before a crowd despite butterflies and nerves, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

I am learning this lesson myself, and it is surprisingly therapeutic to fight "stage fright," if you will. We have some college girls staying with us for the summer. The other day, my boys went to my bedroom upstairs to retrieve their new cat. They took one of the girls with them. I was mortified; I would never have allowed anyone in my bedroom that day, for I knew what it looked like up there with laundry baskets all around, and tubs of winter/summer clothes out for the transfer to drawers, and several stray items strewn around. I panicked for a second, but it was too late. She had seen it all. And you know what? She really didn't care, which made me realize it was probably not as bad as I thought. But my perception would have kept me from allowing anyone upstairs until it was "perfect."

When we allow people to see us as we really are, it frees us all from the trap of perfectionism. When we work so hard to get everything so right before anyone comes over, we give such a false-sense of reality about our homes, and we set others up for feeling inferior. They step in a "perfect" home and inwardly wonder why they can't make their house look like that. The irony is our homes rarely look the way we've presented them to others.

So when we loosen up a little and fight stage fright about having people over, we will begin to become more comfortable with letting people come in whenever, and we will realize getting things "just-so" isn't really that big of a deal anyway. It's scary at first, but let's just do it anyway. After awhile, we'll realize how therapeutic it really is.

P.S. The more we say "yes" to those routine chores around the house, the better things will look!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How to Find Free Pictures for Your Blog

Photo by Doug Woods

One of the biggest questions I had when I started blogging was:
"How are people finding all these great pictures for their blogs?"

And, "How can I find them for free?" (one can certainly buy images, but they're not cheap).

I emailed some bigger bloggers, like Simple Mom, to ask for their advice and help, but never heard anything back. So I continued to search and search on my own, looking for pictures I could use in posts for free,  without violating any copyright infringements. That took a ton of time.

Sometimes people end up here from Google Images, and I am sure they are copying something they see on my blog. That's not ok. But there's an easier way that is ok.

Laura at Organizing Junkie shared this helpful article with me, and I will share it with you too:

Basically, when I am looking for a picture of something, I go to flickr/creativecommons.

I search under attribution licensed photos, since you can crop them if you want, and you can use them on your blog if you have advertising (most other options are strictly non-commercial).

Then you just have to attribute the image to its author, and you're good to go.

If you have any other tips for finding great free photos, please share! We can all benefit when others share their advice.

linked to Works for Me Wednesday