Good Reads for Mom’s

Here are a few good reads for mom’s from around the blogosphere. Some days being a mom can be grand, and some can it can be tiring and discouraging. I find it helps encourage me to read what other Christian mom’s have to say about this great calling we have of motherhood.

Motherhood is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank)

Preparing My Heart for Motherhood

4 Things I’ve learned about God Through My Baby Who Was Born Blind

The Long View

The Gospel for Busy Moms

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What I Do Have

Doing without is not the popular option these days. Bigger is better, they say. And most people seem to be pursuing after that American dream that includes those bigger and better things. But at what cost? Are those bigger and better things always best?

If you are a stay-at-home mom like me, you can likely relate with us and the things we don’t have. We don’t own a house. Yes, we really would like to. But at this time financially we aren’t able to do so. We have one vehicle. And it’s not brand new or very cool. It’s a minivan. We don’t have a boat. We don’t have cable. We don’t have a big screen tv or a blue ray player. We don’t have the newest cell phones or have internet on our phones. We  rarely eat out at fancy restaurants, and we don’t take expensive family vacations. We shop at thrift stores and garage sales, scour the ads on Craig’s List, and love hand-me-downs.

And to many in the world that list of “don’t have’s” might seem down right depressing. And to be honest, if I looked at it from the perspective of the world, then perhaps I also would see it as depressing. Instead I look at what I do have.

I have two beautiful little boys, with another on the way,  that I get to spend every day with. They have never been to daycare. I have been there for every first, every special moment, and been apart of every new discovery. I don’t have to worry about maternity leave, or getting a day off work for dentist appointments. I get to focus on them, not on an outside job. I get to make home cooked meals for my family each night, and we all sit down together to eat them. We do everything together. We can spend the day reading books, playing at the park, and making cookies. I have the opportunity to be with them, to teach them, to shape and influence them more than any other person on earth. I have the privilege of showing them that they are gifts from God, and more important to us that anything else in this world.

It is our choice that I stay home and care for our boys. And it is a choice we know God delights in. It is what He has called me to do, and I want to do it with a happy heart. Yes, there are days that “doing without” can be frustrating. But those are the days that I have neglected to keep my focus on what is truly important. So if you, like me, are a homemaker living on one income, keep that precious calling in focus. It’s not what we don’t have, it’s what we do have that really matters.

The Taste of Summer

I love the change of the seasons and all the many things that includes. There is just something about the sunshine and warm weather that makes me head back to the cook books looking for some fun new recipe ideas. We have been grilling out quite a bit since we bought Adam a grill for Father’s Day, and we have landed upon a new marinade recipe that we love. I have used it on shrimp and venison steaks, but I am sure it would be fabulous on a variety of other meats. Along with the meats, I found a great veggie recipe for the grill that has become my new favorite side for the grill. Then there are those new baked beans….let’s just say “YUM!”. Even people who don’t normally like beans were scarfing down these beans at our last picnic. We also have been loving a new smoothie recipe lately, and just typing those words makes me want to run to the store get buy the ingredients! So I thought I would do a round-up of some of our favorite new summer recipe’s. Let me know if you try any of them and what you think. Enjoy!

Grilling Marinade

Grilled Broccoli & Cauliflower

Baked Beans with a kick

Strawberry Orange Julius 

Homemade Lemonade (I wasn’t crazy about this one, but my husband really liked it.)

Good Reads from Around the Blogosphere

There are varied opinions in our country about how we should react to the death of Osama Bin Laden. Justin Taylor writes a good article about the proper Christian response. You also might want to read Desiring God’s article “Is God Glad Osama Bin Laden is Dead?”

If you are a mom of little’s then you should read this good post on showing hospitality with small children at home.

The power of the Gospel doesn’t begin and end with salvation. It extends to all areas of life.  Read about that power transforming our reactions to life circumstances in “Despising the Shame“.

My husband mentioned at lunch that he could get into some brownies…..I think I might go up whip these yummy looking delights while the boys are at nap. All the reader comments rated the recipe with a 10!

Add a Little Spice to Your Life!

It started with buying a clasp for a bracelet, and has now turned into my newest hobby – jewelry making. I have found it is something I really enjoy doing, and am hoping to use it to bring in a little extra money on the side.

Welcome to Salt & Pepper Creations!

If you see something you like, or want something custom made, just let me know in the comments or shoot me an e-mail. You can view an entire album of items on my facebook page here along with pricing.

Here is just a glimpse at what I have been making.

Frosting and Sprinkles

This is what is going on at our house today…

Big Batch Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

This cool fall weather puts me in the mood for baking! This week I made a big batch of cinnamon rolls. We had some for dinner, and then I put the rest in the freezer for next weekend when our house is full of guests staying with us for my sister’s wedding. Most often I make this quick and easy bread machine cinnamon roll recipe, but when I need a great big batch, this is the recipe I use.

Big Batch Cinnamon Rolls

1. Mix 3 cups hot water with 3 tablespoons yeast and 3/4 cup sugar. Let sit a couple of minutes to activate yeast.

2. Add 2 cups flour and mix.

3. Add 3/4 cup oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 eggs. Mix.

4. Add 7 1/2 cups flour, a little at a time. Mix and then knead until all flour is incorporated and dough isn’t sticky.

5. Set dough in  a large greased bowl. Let rise in warm place until double.

6. Divide dough in half. Roll out halfs into rectangles.

7. Spread  rectangle with softened butter.  In a small bowl mix together brown sugar, white sugar and cinnamon. Use as much or as little as you like for your filling. Sprinkle on the rolled out rectangle. Roll up.

8. Slice into 16-18 pieces per rectangle. Place into a greased baking dishes.

9. Cover and let rolls rise 30 minutes.

10. Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 20 minutes.

11. Spread with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Mix together until smooth 8 oz cream cheese, 1/4 cup  (or half stick) butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Christmas is Coming: Children’s Gift Ideas

Most people have a least one child on their Christmas list, perhaps even many. Here are a few favorites from our house that might help you with ideas for those young ones you plan to buy for this year.

1. Melissa and Doug Products  – we have several Melissa and Doug puzzles and the boys love them. They are study and attractive looking. They also have quite a few educational items. I have found that Kohl’s is good place to purchase these products. The often have sales on their toys, and by combining the sale with a percent off coupon I can usually get them cheaper than on Amazon.

2. Trio Blocks – we were introduced to these last year and our boys have spent endless hours playing with these. They build all sorts of things…but mostly guns and swords. 🙂

3. Books – we love books at our house! Here are just a few of our favorites: books by Lois Lenski,  My First Little House books, Snapshot Picture Library book series, Curious George books, “The Jesus Storybook Bible“, “Mighty Machines“, “Caps for Sale“, “Things that Go“, “Where’s the Dragon?” and of course Dr. Seuss books.

4. Little Einstein DVD’s – these DVD’s are fun for little ones to watch and I love how they teach them about music and are also interactive. My boys have learned quite a lot about music and instruments by watching these.

Do you have any great kids gift ideas to add? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

If you missed the first three posts in this series you can read them here, here, and here.

Christmas is Coming: Frugal Gift Ideas

Christmas shopping does not have to send you to the poor house. Here are a few tips to saving some cash this holiday season.

1. Shop Online

Amazon.com is one of our favorite places to shop. We purchase quite a lot of books on Amazon, but they carry just about anything else you can imagine. The prices are usually better than in the store and I can shop when it’s convenient. Best of all I can shop in my pajamas. 🙂  They also offer free shipping on their products on orders over $25. We have found that Amazon is easy to work with and has very fast shipping. Monergism Books is also a good site for ordering books. Their prices are very competitive with Amazon and the also offer free shipping on orders over $25.

Restaurant.com is a super place to purchase restaurant gift certificates for those on your list that love to eat out. They sell $25 certificates for $10 regularly, but often have far better sales than that. A few months ago we bought some $25 certificates for $2.50 each. There are a few stipulations, so be sure to read the fine print before ordering. This can be a great way to save money while giving a nice gift to someone.

2. Cash Back Sites

If you do any shopping online, be sure to register with one or more cash back sites like Shopathome.com or ebates.com. When you shop online, go through these sites and you can earn a percentage of your purchase back in cash for many stores. For example, a few months ago when we purchased gift certificates from Restaurant.com I shopped through Shopathome.com. I payed $2.50 for each certificate, but received 25% back from Shopathome. So we actually spent less than $2.oo per certificate. This is a great way to save on purchases you make online. Some of these sites also offer coupons and discount codes, so be sure to check those out before shopping!

3. Swagbucks

Swagbucks is a internet search engine. It is free to join and you can earn “swagbucks” while searching. You don’t have to do anything extra, just search as you normally do and you will randomly be awarded with these swagbucks. You can use these to “purchase” gifts from the swagbucks store. I always purchase Amazon.com gift cards.  It’s not a way to get rich or pay your bills, but every little bit helps. And you could use your swagbucks to purchase Christmas gifts!

4. Photo Sites

I find it rather hard to shop for my grandparents. They never want anything and always say they have everything they need. So I have gone to sentimental type gifts for our grandparents, usually something with pictures. And so far each year they have loved them. Last year each of our grandparents received a photo book.  The original prices on these photo sites can be a bit high, but if you wait for the promotions you can snag some fabulous deals. I was able to buy three photo books last year for FREE! I just had to pay shipping, around $8, for each book.

My favorite photo sites are Shutterfly and Snapfish. A few other good sites are ArtsCow, Vista Print and SeeHere. If you create an account with these sites sometimes they will send you special promotional codes just for you. It is also helpful to follow MoneySavingMom who often posts promotions being offered by these companies. When a really stellar deal comes up I usually try to post it on here as well.

And, of course, don’t forget to shop through a cash back site when ordering to sweeten the deals even more!

5. Paperbackswap

I posted a few months ago about my love of paperbackswapPaperbackswap is a free site where you can exchange used books for just the cost of shipping. While I probably wouldn’t give used books as a gift to many on my Christmas list, we certainly don’t mind them here in our house. This year we are ordering several books for Isaac and Hudson through paperbackswap. They will love them and won’t even notice that they are not brand new. Besides, after a reading them a few times they would look used anyway! 🙂 Plus it is saving us quite a bit of money!

6. Gift Baskets

If you coupon and shop the drug stores then you most likely have a stockpile of personal care items. You can use these to put together a very nice and useful gift basket for someone on your Christmas list. I found some  clearance baby items at Walgreens the other day. I plan to use those, along with a few things I already have on hand, to put together a small gift basket for my new nephew or niece due to be born shortly after the new year. (Jenn, sorry to spoil the surprise!) These items are worth much more than I paid for them, so the receiver will be happy and I will be saving money!

7. Homemade Items

If you talented and crafty, then you could even make some gifts. I’m not a gifted sewer, but in years past I have made aprons and dinner napkins as gifts. I have also made handmade cards and baked breads and special treats. There are so many possibilities. And homemade gifts are usually appreciated and loved even more than something store-bought.

These are just a few ideas that can help you in your quest for that perfect gift without spending a fortune. If you have any helpful ideas please be sure to share them in the comments!

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