Saturday, December 31, 2016

Are Bible Reading Plans Legalistic?

It is a question I've asked. Is it legalism to use a Bible reading plan? Shouldn't I enjoy reading my Bible out of sheer love and spontaneous joy with no need of a plan?

I tend to be very structured with my Bible reading for one year, sticking close to a Bible reading plan. But then the next year I don't follow a plan, choosing to just read wherever I want. I don't think either are necessarily wrong and sometimes those "plan-free, spontaneous" years were years with an infant when life needs a little flexibility.

But guess which I like best at the end of the year? Yes. The structured years. That may have something to do with my personality and my love of lists, but the fact is that when I have a plan for my Bible reading, I do it. When I don't have a plan, it is all up to chance and there is a far greater chance that Bible reading will be crowded out of my day.

But is it legalistic to have a Bible reading plan?

I think of it this way. If a friend calls me and says, "We haven't gotten together for a while. How about meeting at the coffeeshop next week on Tuesday at 10:00?"

I don't say, "If you need to schedule a time to meet me, you don't really care about our friendship. You should love me enough to get together spontaneously."

Of course not. I appreciate my friend's effort to invest in our friendship. I will feel loved by her commitment.

If using a Bible reading plan is an asset to my walk with God, if it is the way I show that I'm committed to hearing from God's Word, then I don't think it is legalistic, but love.

Last year as a family, we used the Beginner's Bible Reading plan. This was a perfect fit for our children and I love that they built the habit of waking up with their alarm, grabbing their Bibles, and heading for the living room. In 2017 we plan to read through the New Testament with the children.

For my personal reading, I plan to read the Daily Light devotional which is Scripture arranged by themes in short morning and evening readings.

There are so many Bible reading plans. (This is a great list of Bible reading plans.) I don't believe it matters how much or how little you choose to read, but that you consciously decide to make God's Word a priority in the coming year and have a plan to make your priority a reality.

One of my favorite Bible resources is Power Bible. When Ed bought me a new laptop this past year, one of the first questions I asked was "Can you install Power Bible?" Power Bible is a very economical, easy-to-use computer Bible program. I use it all the time when I'm preparing Bible lessons, studying for Sunday School, or just in personal Bible study. When it is this easy to find a word meaning, do a word search, or check a commentary, I'm much more likely to do it.

What resources encourage your Bible study? Do you have a plan for your Bible reading in 2017?

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our . 1 John 4:9-10

Wishing you a blessed Christmas and a joyful new year as you remember God's gift of love to you.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

In Search of a Mary Heart - Part 3

Continued from yesterday.

Mary Magdalene

We know little about Mary Magdalene's past except that Jesus healed her from seven demons. (Mark 16:9) Mary Magdalene is listed with several other women and it is implied that they were women of wealth who used their own money to serve Christ and his disciples. These women watched as Jesus suffered on the cross, then took spices to his grave. Mary Magdalene found tangible ways to show her gratefulness to Christ, and she was rewarded by being the first to see the risen Saviour.

Mary Magdalene gave her wealth, her time, her comfort, her reputation—to serve Christ. She served extravagantly; spices were expensive at that time. Neither do I need to be ashamed to serve others with special touches that say, “I love you.” But Mary Magdalene wasn't serving for her own glory; she was serving Christ.

Christmas shouldn't be about me, but how often are my motives to impress others? How many of my holiday traditions stem from the pressure of obligation or bondage of approval? What is my goal—to have some great photos for my blog? Or do I aim to show the love of Christ by choosing activities that will nourish my soul and the souls of my family and others?

Every December we give homemade Christmas cards to the residents at a local nursing home. I can do this out of obligation, “I should do this.” I can do it out of pride, “Look what we are doing for these poor people.” I can stress myself out trying to make cards that are picture perfect (and end up making them all myself). Or I can allow my two-year-old to color a simple star with her favorite purple crayon and focus on giving the residents a smile. I know what Mary Magdalene would choose.

December may always be a busy month, but all three of these women named Mary had busy seasons. Mary, the mother of Jesus took several long trips when Jesus was small. Mary of Bethany hosted many guests in her home. Mary Magdalene served a hungry band of travelers. Yet all of them found time to proclaim God's grace, listen to His words, and wait for His presence in a quiet garden. 

I want to praise my Lord like Jesus' mother, rejecting all the expectations and comparison games that steal my peace. 

I want to choose the best and spend time with God's Word like Mary of Bethany. I want to give my time and possessions to serve Christ with joy like Mary Magdalene. 

I want December to hold less worry and more worship, less panic and more peace, less jolly and more Jesus.

How do you keep a Mary Heart at Christmas? Or any other time of the year?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

In Search of a Mary Heart - Part 2

Continued from yesterday. 

Mary of Bethany

We all know the story of Mary and Martha and their sisterly spat on which was most important—preparing a meal or listening to Jesus. (Luke 10:38-42) Jesus said that Mary made the best choice—to sit at His feet. 

But how does that work when I have laundry to fold, dishes to wash, Christmas rolls to bake, and bathrooms to clean? Reading my Bible all day just isn't an option.

From other Scriptures in the Bible, we learn that Mary and Martha's house was a regular meeting place for Jesus and his disciples. I assume that both sisters spent many hours hosting guests. The fact that Martha was irked to find Mary shirking her duties on this occasion tells me that usually Mary was right beside Martha chopping vegetables and washing mugs.

Service can be a way to worship God. 

Jesus did not condemn Martha for serving food—just pointed out her bad attitude. Martha was “troubled” in her service. Maybe if Martha would have spent time listening to Jesus with Mary she would have served with joy. Gordon MacDonald said that “the inner world of the spiritual must govern the outer world of activity.”

Each day I make decisions on how I use my time. I need to choose between many good options to find the best, especially at Christmas. There are not enough hours in the season to do everything that I want to do.

Last summer I repainted a few rooms and discovered just how much Stuff we had accumulated. After painting, I added back to the room only what I deemed necessary or meaningful. We ended up getting rid of some furniture and many boxes of books, and rehung only half the wall decorations. Less Stuff gave a feeling of freedom, cleanliness, and quiet. (Though with six children our home isn't often clean or quiet.) 

Could I do the same with my schedule? What would my December look like if I shook out the calendar, dumped out all the holiday traditions, quit listening to the voices of obligation/guilt/expectation, and then added back to December only what was necessary, meaningful, and worshipful?

Does it mean I would quit baking Christmas cookies, throw out the candles, and skip the family reunion? Not necessarily. Those things can be part of living out my life of service and worship. I can bake cookies for a fun activity with my children. I can light a candle on the table and invite others to join in the warmth of shared conversation. I can attend a reunion and strengthen family ties. But I can also decide that none of those things will be priorities this year because, for whatever reason, God is calling me to lay aside this particular Martha activity to make time and energy for Mary worship.

Looking at my priorities may mean clearing the schedule of some enjoyable activities to make time for what is truly important. If my fun day of shopping makes me too tired for the church caroling in the evening, I haven't chosen well. If I spend my afternoon chasing the children out of the kitchen so I can create a lovely meal for guests, I have Martha's troubled spirit. When I'm racing the clock, my voice sharpens, my chest tightens, and I know my priorities are skewed. Except for rare times of true emergency, I don't think God meant us to live in panic mode.

I have a tendency to accumulate traditions. We make gingerbread houses one year and think we need to do it every year. But time is limited and to keep the schedule (and me) sane, I must eliminate something every time I add an activity.

I can also learn from Mary and Martha to accept others who have made different choices. What is overwhelming to me might be relaxing to another. I love that we are not cookie-cutter gingerbread ladies, and I want to enjoy each woman's talents without comparison or judgment.

Look for the final part of this article tomorrow.

Friday, December 16, 2016

In Search of a Mary Heart - Part 1

This article was published in the winter 2016 issue of Daughters of Promise magazine. Daughters of Promise shares the art, photography, and writing of a talented group of volunteers from a wide variety of Mennonite backgrounds. The magazine isn't cheap, but with over 100 gorgeous full-color pages and inspiring articles (and no ads) I anticipate each issue. Find more information at the DOP website.

In Search of a Mary Christmas

I love Christmas. I love the music, the whispered secrets, the yummy food, and the glittering lights. 

I say I'm celebrating the birth of Jesus, but sometimes when I'm scouring Pinterest for craft ideas, printing off another Christmas cookie recipe, and sighing over the pictures of beautiful table decorations in the pages of Southern Living, I wonder what Jesus would think of my celebration.

Is my Christmas any different than society's holiday? If you evaluated my calendar, credit card statement, and to-do list what would you discern about my priorities? Would you know that the goal of my Christmas (and my life) is to lift up the name of Christ? I might not max out my credit cards or wake up with a headache from the spiked eggnog, but too often my Christmas is centered on me.

There must be more to Christmas than uncounted calories, the pressure to find the perfect gift, and a dozen opportunities to catch the latest version of the flu. Unhappy with my me-centered holiday I began to look for ways to have less worry and more worship in December. I studied three women in the Bible named Mary who knew Jesus while He was here on earth. These women's lives were changed by Jesus. Maybe my Christmas could be changed by their stories.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus

With the angel's words, “thou art highly favoured, . . . thou shalt bring forth a son,” (Luke 1:28) Mary's plans shattered. To mother the Messiah, the Promised One? This honor meant the end of a normal life for a Galilean girl, but Mary shows no hesitancy. Her answer was immediate. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

Mary did not base her decision on what was popular or what would promote her in the Nazareth society. Carrying this baby made her the next possible victim for a public stoning. Mary gave up her dreams of a perfect wedding and the expectations of her firstborn's birth. Because of an oppressive tax law, her baby was born far from home in crude surroundings without even the comfort of a mom or sister to assist with the birth. That first Christmas wasn't twinkling lights and warm, fuzzy emotions. While Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Egypt and back again, I wonder if she was tempted to compare her crazy life with her friends' “perfect” lives.

Last year I waddled into Christmas with a due date in early January. My calendar was full with weekly prenatal visits. I had zero energy, limped with every step, and looked like I should stay home with an ice pack and a Tylenol. But I enjoyed a more peaceful, less frantic, more meaningful Christmas than usual.

The difference? Expectations.

Our culture places a lot of expectations on us women. I coddle daydreams of the picture-perfect Christmas: crackling fires, ten kinds of Christmas cookies, and a fun schedule with holiday concerts, cookie swaps, shopping, family reunions, and church events. When I can't keep up, I start comparing myself with all the talented ladies who appear to get it all done.

The disappointment of dashed expectations curdles the enjoyment of December and is often the enemy of my peace. But last year I felt no pressure to attend every event possible. I made plans with the caveat “if we can make it.” I didn't expect to do everything, so what I did accomplish was a treat, a gift. And for once I wasn't comparing myself with others.

Alexander Pope said, "Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed." He might be right, though I prefer David's take on expectations. "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him." (Psalm 62:5) 

There is One, only One, who never disappoints. If I, like Mary, “ponder these things in my heart,” maybe I can build expectations on the One who won't leave me feeling frustrated. I want to give up my idealistic expectations every year, not just when I'm nine months pregnant. 

Continued tomorrow

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Music of Christmas

The music is one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. Every year I seem to have a different favorite song, but I always enjoy revisiting with old friends.

Here are some videos of some of my favorite Christmas music. Some of these videos I look forward to listening/watching each year.

(If you are reading this by email or feed reader you may need to click over to the blog to view the videos.)

How Should a King Come? (My children's favorite.)

In the Bleak Midwinter (This one makes me tear up.)

Hallelujah Chorus (Another that my children beg to listen to each December)

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go (Not a Christmas song,  but one of my all-time favorite songs sung in a new recording by Oasis.)

What songs are you humming?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

More Favorite Christmas Stories

We couldn't wait. Before we had turned the calendar to December, my children had pulled out our stack of Christmas books. I plan to reserve a few of our favorites from the library later this month. I try to be careful not to keep Christmas books too long so that others can enjoy them as well. 

Several years ago I shared several lists of Christmas books. But since then I've discovered some more books, so today I'm sharing an all-new list of favorite children's picture books about Christmas. 

And as always, I'd love to hear what you are reading. 

The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
A young boy learns his father's craft of harvesting “tears” of myrrh. A special surprise at the end connects it with the Christmas story. Beautiful illustrations.

Papa Panov's Special Day by Mig Holder Illustrated by Julie Downing
A lonely shoemaker waits for a special visitor on Christmas Day. A classic Russian tale, popularized by Leo Tolstoy, is retold with excellent illustrations.


Lucy's Christmas by Donald Hall, illustrated by Michael McCurdy
In 1909 in New Hampshire, a young girl prepares for Christmas by making gifts for her family and friends. Based on the life of the author's mother, this is a warm look at life a hundred years ago. The wood engraved illustrations add to the old fashioned charm.

One Candle by Eve Bunting
A family's Hanukkah celebration remembers the dark days of the Holocaust. Beautiful story of perseverance with lovely illustrations.

Annika’s Secret Wish by Beverly Lewis, Illustrated by Pamela Querin
Annika hopes that this is the year that she will find the almond in her pudding. Take a journey to Sweden and enjoy a special Christmas celebration and the joy of giving. Dazzling illustrations bring the joy of Sweden to life.

Toot and Puddle search for the perfect gift to make for each other. A sweet Christmas story about friendship with delightful watercolor illustrations.

Winter’s Gift by Jane Monroe Donovan
A lost horse and a lonely man meet at Christmas to share the hope of new life. Warm paintings add to the beauty of this lovely Christmas tale.

Check out the past lists for more holiday reading.
Favorite Adult Christmas Books

Christmas Chapter Books for Children

Christmas Stories from Other Times and Places

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Games for the Whole Family

Last night we had a comfy Sunday evening at home. We didn't have church and because of our coughs (which have been hanging on for Weeks) we decided to not make any other plans.

Our lovely fall weather abruptly changed to freezing temperatures and howling winds this weekend, and Ed started a fire in the fireplace. We got out hymn books and enjoyed singing (until the coughing made us curtail that activity), read out loud (but that is hard to do coughing too), and enjoyed some games.

It reminded me how much I enjoy winter evenings. Our family loves outdoor activities like hiking and biking, but there is something special about indoor activities on cold winter evenings.

My mother-in-law has blessed us with some great games for our children's birthdays. In case you are looking for some new family games, here is a list of some of our favorites, starting with the very easiest to play and moving to harder games.

Can You See What I See?
This is a current favorite of our two-year-old. The bright cards are irresistible.

Too Many Monkeys
I think all of our five-year-olds have went through a stage that this was their favorite game. It can be played by non-readers, but a little more challenging than Uno.

Another game that non-readers can play but appeals to all ages. This might be my favorite on the list. There is just enough variety to each game to keep it interesting yet it isn't too mind stretching for a weary, side-tracked mom.

Dutch Blitz
Ed teaches my children the classic games such as checkers, Monopoly, chess, and scrabble. I'm glad he does because I'm too hyper to enjoy games of strategy. Dutch Blitz has been my favorite for years because you don't need to take turns. Everyone lays out cards at the same time.

Another game that is fun for all ages. We have the travel version that is played by only two people, but there are many other versions.

Apples to Apples
My oldest daughter's favorite. A game of crazy comparisons.

Sometimes the old games are the best. Rummikub is a current family favorite. Create sets and runs with tiles, then build on the other players' tiles. Fast moving enough for even me.

Describe a word, without using a list of words. This one is difficult for those like me who talk without thinking, but good practice in communication skills.

What games are your family playing?

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Q/A: Gift Ideas for Children

I just realized today that Thanksgiving is next week. Don't ask where I've been, but obviously not somewhere that has a calendar. Maybe in the laundry room?

We try to keep Christmas simple at our home - especially in the gift giving department. But we do like to find a special gift for each of our children. Our children also like to give small gifts to their siblings. This year for the first time, our four oldest children exchanged names so that they only have one sibling to buy/make something for. I admit that I suggested a name exchange mostly for my own sanity as I usually get the task of helping come up with ideas. Four children times four. Too much for this mom's brain.

Recently a Home Joys reader asked for some gift ideas for older girls. I thought I'd share some of my ideas in hopes that all of you would contribute some more ideas.

For our older children we have attempted to find gifts that would help build skills or give experiences. We want gifts that are not just going to add to the clutter of our house or feed the "gimmie" attitude.

I'm not sure how well we have succeeded, but here are some ideas we've done in the past.

1. Crochet hook and yarn with some directions for an easy project such as a scarf.

2. Binoculars for a budding bird watcher.

3. Wood working tools with scrap wood, paint, and nails for hours of creativity. (And this can be for both boys and girls.)

4. Leatherworking kits.

5. Whittling knives and whittling book.

6. Para-cord and knot-tying book.
(I wrote about our favorite whittling and knot-tying book here.)

7. Scrapbooking supplies with some photos.

8. Music instruments. We've given simple instruments such as a harmonica and a ukulele. Music lessons could also be given for an experience type gift.

Games are also a gift that our children enjoy and can be enjoyed by the whole family. But maybe I'll save our favorite games for another post.

Shari did a recent post on inexpensive gift ideas with a focus on younger children. Check out her list for some great ideas.

Your turn. Do you have any good non-clutter gift ideas for children?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Sourdough Biscuits

I can probably trace my interest in sourdough to reading By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I longed to have a taste of her famous sourdough biscuits. This recipe is different than what is described in the book, but of the various sourdough biscuit recipes I have tried, this is our favorite.

So pretend you are Ma Ingalls and make sourdough biscuits for breakfast. We love these with sausage gravy for breakfast.

Sourdough Biscuits

1 cup active starter
2 cups milk
1/4 cup melted butter or oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 T. honey
2 1/2 cups white flour
2 tsp salt
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

The night before, mix the starter, milk, butter, and whole wheat flour together. Stir well, cover, and sit overnight at room temperature.

The next morning add honey to mixture. Mix white flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together. Stir the dry ingredients into starter mixture. Mix quickly then pour onto a well-floured counter.

Knead briefly, just enough to smooth and shape into a ball. The dough should be sticky. Flatten dough to about 1-inch thick. Cut biscuits with a three-inch cutter. Place in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Serve hot with butter and honey or sausage gravy.

Looking for more sourdough goodness?  It is all on the sourdough page.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Mom's Apple Pie

While the rest of the internet goes in a tizzy over this election, maybe I'll write about something that maybe we Americans can agree upon. Apple pie.

There are so many great fall desserts that I'd hate to choose a favorite, but apple pie would certainly make the list. And I've never eaten an apple pie that I like better than my mom's recipe. This was the first pie that I learned to make when I was about twelve. Which reminds me that I should teach my twelve-year-old how to make it.

I usually make apple pie with a crumb topping, but occasionally, like last week, I'll make a double-crust pie. I like it both ways. I either use my mom's pie crust recipe or the sourdough pie crust. Both are delicious.

Mom's Apple Pie

5-6 cups peeled and sliced apples
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1 unbaked pie crust plus second pie crust for top OR crumb topping

Toss apples with cinnamon and sugar. Place in pie crust. Cover with crust or crumb topping.

Bake pie for 30-35 minutes at 375 degrees. Serve warm or cold.

Crumb Topping:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour

Mix together. Sprinkle on top of apples.

Bake pie for 30-35 minutes at 375 degrees. Serve warm or cold.

Thinking about apple pie didn't cheer you up? Still discouraged by the news? Go read something uplifting. Like this.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Bookmarks - Children's Books on Human Body and Health

God used His incredible creative power to design the human body. Here are some great children's picture books that we enjoyed to our children to appreciate and care for their bodies.

A fun introduction to the names and functions of your bones.

Amazing photomicrographs join fun comic-style illustrations to tell the story of our body's reaction to an injury.

Germ Zapper by Fran Balkwill and Mic Rolph
How does your body fight disease? Discover the world of tiny germs, bacteria, viruses and all the cells God created to protect your body.

The Skeleton Inside You by Philip Balestrino
What is our skeleton made of and why do we need it? A fun way to learn about our bones. Warning: A brief mention of Halloween.

Breath In, Breath Out: Learning About Your Lungs by Pamela Hill Nettleton
This book explains the role of your lungs in simple terms. If you like this one check out additional books by this author on other parts of the body.

With clear illustrations, this book introduces a child to all the major systems of the body in an understandable way.

After my children read this book I often heard “Did you know that...?” Look for other child-tested books in this series.

TheCirculatory Story by Mary K. Corcoran

Why do you bleed when you get a cut? Humorous illustrations help tell the story of your blood and heart and their busy life. 

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sourdough Crepes

I love when you all share your recipes with me. Andrea shared a recipe for sourdough crepes with me a few months ago and it is a new family favorite.

I had never made crepes before in my life. They are definitely time consuming, but far easier than I imagined. I doubt they will become a weekly tradition, but we enjoyed these crepes for several leisure Saturday breakfasts this summer, especially when we had fresh berries.

Sourdough Crepes

2 cups sourdough starter (fed within the past 12 hours)
5 eggs
4 T melted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk (maybe more)

Heat a greased cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
Whisk together sourdough starter, eggs, butter, and salt. Add milk and whisk well. Add additional milk, if needed, to make a thin batter. The amount of milk needed will depend upon the thickness of your starter.
Pour 1/4 cup batter into the center of the skillet. Quickly pick up the skillet and tilt it so the batter spreads over the bottom of the pan.
Cook until the edges of the crepe peel up from the pan and small bubbles form, probably less than a minute.
Flip the crepe over with a spatula and cook the second side for about 20 seconds. Transfer to plate and cover with a towel. Repeat with all crepes, stacking on the plate. Call the children to the table and serve up the crepes with your favorite sweet or savory filling.

We love crepes rolled up with yogurt, a dab of jam, and some raspberries. The children eat them up about as fast as I can roll them. I'd like to try them with sauteed veggies and cheese sometime.

You can find lots more sourdough information and recipes on the sourdough page.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Herb Dipping Oil

Since I'm back to baking more bread after a summer hiatus, I thought I'd share the recipe for my herb dipping oil. My sister-in-law introduced us to this years ago. I love it with a bread such as ciabatta but it doesn't have to be homemade bread, just pick up your favorite crusty bread at your grocery store.

I mix up a batch of this seasoning to have ready when the bread urge hits. To serve I swirl a little olive oil on a small plate for each person and sprinkle some herbs on it. Then we tear into the bread and mop up the oil. Yum.

Herb Dipping Oil Seasoning

1 T oregano
1 T rosemary
1 T basil
1 T parsley
1 T garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Mix all together. Store in an air-tight container.

You may adjust seasonings to your liking. Options would include adding red pepper.

To Serve: Place a thin layer of olive oil on a plate. Sprinkle a teaspoon or two on the oil. Serve with crusty bread.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

10 Cool Weather Foods

As soon as the weather starts to cool, my menus change from summer menus to the soups and casseroles that we love. I'm saving the soups for another post, but am sharing links to some of the meals that have been seen on our table recently - or are on the list to have soon.

I wanted to call this "10 Comfort Foods," but right now I'm reading an excellent book by Lysa TerKeurst called Made To Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food. This is not a diet book, but a call to look honestly at our emotions and how they affect our food choices. Even a skinny person like me needs to consider what things I use for comfort instead of turning to God. I highly recommend the book.

Anyway...back to food...we do still need to eat. And here are some ideas for your fall menus.

Cheesy Enchiladas

Our Favorite Lasagna - make three, one for now and two for the freezer.

Chicken Stolzfus - my son helped me make this last night and my family raved

Slippery Pot-Pie

Chicken and Biscuits

Sunday Chicken and Oven Rice

One-Dish Pork Dinner

Hog Maw Casserole - We actually had this twice in the past week.

Three-Cheese Pasta with Sausage and Spinach

Meatball Sub Casserole

What is on your fall menu?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sew Basic Dress Patterns

Cutting the fabric for a dress has always been my least favorite part of sewing. When I make a dress for my girls I first have to find my pattern pieces. Typically I select a sleeve pattern from one pattern, a skirt from another pattern, a bodice from a third. 

Then I start making adjustments. Most patterns don't fit our modesty standards so I add a half inch to a neckline, two inches to a sleeve, and maybe ten inches to a hem. 

Then, finally, I'm ready to cut out the fabric. The sewing itself is the fun part, except that with all my changing and adapting, sometimes pieces don't fit together well. I consider myself an experienced sewer and can usually manage to find a way to pull and push the pieces together. But it doesn't make sewing more fun.

But several months ago, Michelle Oberholtzer contacted me about the new line of patterns she was designing. This sounded exactly what I needed - simple, easy-to-sew, modest patterns.

Michelle started Sew Basic Patterns to help frustrated moms like me who just want a simple dress pattern for their girls without adjusting three different patterns to find one that works. Michelle just completed the first pattern in what (I hope) is a series of patterns.  Michelle gave me a sample copy of her girl's dress pattern to review.

The girl's dress pattern includes two style of skirt (gathered and fitted) and two sleeve options (gathered and fitted.) I tried both options and both fit together well. It was such a fun simple pattern to use. I made the pattern exactly as it was with no changes except for adding a small cuff or ruffle to the sleeve edge.

I've been teaching my daughter to sew, but I never left her cut out a dress because of the chaos of my pattern. But she was able to completely cut this dress out on her own. The pattern paper is sturdy and not like the thin tissue in many patterns and should stand up to lots of use. 

Patterns are available from size 1 to size 8. I used the size eight pattern. I was trying to make the dresses a bit too large for my seven-year-old. But they are quite a bit too big for her - she is a little bit small for her age. I don't mind, she'll wear them some day and I have more little girls coming along behind her. From what I can tell, the measurements are very accurate so take that into considerations when deciding which size pattern to purchase.

You can purchase Sew Basic patterns at Etsy or contact Michelle at sewbasicdresses I'm hoping these pattern sell well and Michelle is inspired to continue on into junior sizes - which I think are even harder to find than girl's sizes.

Thanks Michelle for serving us moms with your well-designed patterns.

Disclaimer: I received a free pattern, but all the opinions in this review are my own.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Bookmarks - The Underground Railroad

Before the Civil War, many slaves risked their lives to flee north to find freedom. The Underground Railroad was a loosely organized system to help these slaves escape.  This topic might not be pleasant to think about, but I think it is important part of our nation's history for my children to know. Some of these journeys to freedom have been recorded in children's picture books. Here are a few of my favorite.

(Post contains affiliate links.)

Night Boat to Freedom by Nargot Theis Raven, Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Christmas John watches Granny Judith dye thread and dream of freedom. Based on true stories told by former slaves, Night Boat to Freedom contains masterful paintings that depict the moonless journey across the Ohio River.

Almost to Freedom by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, Illustrated by Colin Bootman
Lindy takes her rag doll, Sally, with her everywhere – even on the Underground Railroad. Sally narrates the journey, and oil paintings bring color to her story.

Moses—When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Harriet Tubman is the most famous “conductor” in the Underground Railroad. This book shares her deep faith in God while reliving her escape from slavery with fabulous paintings.

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Henry’s longing to be free gave him the courage to mail himself to the north. Paintings show the emotions of the slaves who were willing to take great risks to escape slavery.

Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass by [Cline-Ransome, Lesa]

Words Set Me Free, The Story of Young Frederick Douglass by Lesa Cline-Ransome, Illustrated by James E. Ransome
A six-year-old boy with a longing to learn to read is thwarted because of his skin color. Based on his own written accounts, this book shares the story of Douglass’s childhood. Brilliant oil paintings add drama to the account.

Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
Molly, James, and other slaves use the song taught to them by Peg Leg Joe to reach freedom in the north. This is an account of one method used by the Underground Railroad to free slaves. Follow the Drinking Gourd by Bernardine Connelly is a similar book with the same title.

Ain't Nobody a Stranger to Me by Ann Grifalconi, Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

A grandfather tells his daughter about his journey to freedom and the kindness he was shown along the way. The illustrations depict the joy of springtime orchards and fear of a dark river journey.


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