Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas


We had a lovely Christmas! Christmas Eve with my side of the family was just a beautiful time. It was hilarious to watch Elliot pick his favorites for the day...some blocks, a truck that plays "Funkytown", and two pictures that were colored for him of Snoopy and Linus. This kid CLUNG to those pictures, uninterested in most of the other gifts that followed. Now, he has further explored his other toys and is thoroughly enjoying them all. He likes loading his dumptruck with toy food and dumping it all out. Making "meals" in the kitchen with mommy and playing with his little Fisher-Price nativity set (his favorite is the camel) and squeezing the ears on his rocking horse.
On Christmas morning Elliot woke up in his Christmas pajamas and robe and toddled into our room to read the Christmas story and pray. Then the stockings, the traditional orange rolls for breakfast, with orange juice freshly squeezed by Evan and his new juicer....don't laugh, he's thrilled! Then we opened all the gifts. Let's just say my husband did a fabulous job expressing his love through the gifts he gave me this year. Very thoughtful and very practical at the same time. I'll use everything!
Christmas afternoon Ev's side of the family came over for Christmas dinner and gifts. I certainly hope no one had more food on their table. It was almost ridiculous....the part that made it not ridiculous is that everything was delicious! We had an apple stuffed pork roast (great job Ev!), cornbread dressing, cranberry relish, spinach salad, baked sweet potatoes, sauteed butternut squash, and apple dumplings...HOLY COW! I'm still recovering.
It was great! Especially considering Rory is still wagging her little tail around here. We got home Christmas Eve night and realized pretty quickly that something was wrong with our pup. She was heaving all over the place and had opened the gate to the kitchen so we thought she probably got into something, but we couldn't figure out what, because she hadn't torn up anything in the house. Then she started to shake uncontrollably and I sat down with her to do my own examination. Her tummy was all swollen and bloated, and there were little flecks of crushed peppermint candy around her mouth. If you recall my last post, I used those on my hot chocolate on a stick. She found the last one that I had wrapped in wax paper and put in the trash. So we found a 24 hour emergency vet clinic and I drove her there at midnight. I seriously thought she was going to die on my lap on the way there. When we got to the hospital they whisked her away as soon as I came in the door and they induced a bunch of vomiting and put an IV in her and then came in and told me they were going to give her activated charcoal and she would have to stay overnight AND that they she was looking good but they couldn't promise anything, so I should say goodbye to her before I left. What?! I just started crying.
So I came home at about 2:30 in the morning and we waited until we woke up. When we called at 8:30 they said she was doing well and we could pick her up! :) YAY! She's been tired the past couple days and we've had to watch her food intake closely, but she's back to her old self now. Evan said this is just typical of a Gilmore family Christmas. I said that is sad. But I am starting to expect these sorts of adventures, which I guess is just life.
Anyway, all in all, we had a fantastic Christmas and hope you did too! As a closing word, here's our little Christmas letter that we only sent to a few before Christmas, so for you all, it's belated.


December 24, 2009

In Him was life, and that life was the light of men!
-John 1:4-
Dear Friends and Family,

Merry  Christmas! The year of 2009 has been one of big transitions and great joys for the Gilmores, as we’re sure it has been for you. We’ve moved to Upland, Evan has been blessed with a new job at Taylor, Megan is being published, and Elliot celebrated his first birthday!

While there are still unpacked boxes in the garage, we’re enjoying the warmth and comfort of our new home this holiday season. Elliot’s wonder at the lights and wrapping paper and general splendor of stores around this time of year is a delight to watch.

One thing we have been learning about this year, is the beautiful reality of the life, light, and freedom that God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ provides. There is so much darkness and death in the world around us, that we often unknowingly let it seep into our hearts and minds. But embracing God’s gift of love, the light of His truth, and the abundant life He offers is continually renewing and freeing for us.

We are so thankful for the God who, so many Christmases ago, wrapped Himself in the limitations of human flesh to provide a way for us to know Him and love Him free from the bondage of our sin.

We are also incredibly thankful for you, and the love that you pour out on us! And we pray that you will also know the amazing freedom and joy that comes from the God of life, light, and love!

With Joy Inexpressible,

Evan, Megan, and Elliot




Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Christmas Eve Eve Eve Projects

Yesterday was the first day home away from work and anything work related. Except for a few frenzied emails, since I'm the only Leadership faculty in the country. This post will include lots of pictures! Hope you're ready.
Project #1: Super Chocolatey Hot Chocolate-on-a-Stick
I started on the hot chocolate on a stick, my recipe was inspired by Givers Log. You can find the recipe here. She has lots of helpful tips! And I will tell you what she does...do NOT get even a DROP of water in your chocolate!!!! I'm SERIOUS! Bad things will happen if you do.
I used candy canes instead of sticks and drizzled white chocolate over all of it and then topped it with crushed candy canes.


Step 1: Get your molds and sticks (or stick substitutes) ready, while your water heats up in your double-boiler (or makeshift double-boiler like I use)

Step 2: Melt the chocolate and add in the other ingredients. I had 16 oz of chocolate, 1/2 cup cocoa, and 1 cup powdered sugar. Mix it all up (it will be very thick! So use your muscles!)

Step 3: Dump that deliciousness into a ziploc bag and snip off the corner with a pair of scissors. Then pipe the chocolate mixture into your molds and wait for it to harden (it will obviously harden faster if you pop it in the fridge)

Step 4: Pop your chocolate sticks out of their molds and place them on some wax paper for their finishing touches.

Step 5: Finishing touches. This can be whatever you want. The chocolate looks a little chalky when it dries, so if you want it to be shiny and smooth you might want to dunk it in some more plain chocolate. I melted some white chocolate and drizzled it over the sticks, then I crushed the leftover candy canes and sprinkled them on top.
Who knows! Some of you might be getting one of these for Christmas. :)

Project #2: Christmas Wreaths
When I saw this wreath on Thrifty Decor Chick, I knew that I wanted to make one. Now, about three weeks later, I did. Mine isn't as pretty, but hey, it was worth a shot. If you're going to make one, PLEASE follow Sarah's advice and hot glue all the bulbs to their little toppers before you start. It will save you a lot of trouble. I thought that because mine were plastic and not glass that they were on there really good....not so. I had to go back and glue them all.

This wreath is hanging in our Christmasy Kitchen.


This is about step 3 on the wreath I've been promising Evan that I will make, ever since we put our tree up. We saved the branches that fell off or that we had to saw off our tree from the bottom and have been preserving them in water for the past couple weeks. They were still quite fresh. Then I took a wire hanger and reshaped it into a circle to be the base of the wreath. THEN... I tied all the branches around it and wove some of the branches through other ones, added a bow, some pine cones and couple ornaments....and VOILA!

Evan's wreath. We still need to hang it up, but hey. It's finished.

Project #3: SOAP! (of course)



I tried two new soap recipes last night (which I'll detail in another post). But it was a crazy adventure. At 11:30 my comatose husband was being a gem and standing next to me to help me stir. SO now, coconut milk and green tea soap are curing on my table. Hurray!

Project #4 was wrapping a ton of gifts, but I won't bore you with a picture and I still have more to wrap. So before my little guy wakes up, I better get to that.

Seriously Now?!



Someday, I swear I'm going to end up on the People of Walmart site. My son is just now laying down for his first nap of the day. Two days ago, he would just not go to sleep, so around 2:00 I figured something had to be done. He needed to be strapped down and forced into a baby nap coma. However, since most people don't look very kindly on roping your child down in their bed, I chose the more humane route of strapping him  into his car seat and heading to the store. Within seconds, he was out like a light. The whole way to the store, I was trying to think of ways that he could stay asleep longer. This little guy was tuckered and it just broke my heart to wake him up.
See, when he was little, I could just pop his little carrier in and out of the car. And as long as my jostling of this little bundle was minimal, he stayed asleep for the length of the shopping trip. Now, he's in a big guy car seat that I have to haul him in and out of. Seriously now?! Why has no one thought of a little pop out car seat solution for toddlers?! I'm sure almost everyone has had the unhappy experience of waking a sleeping toddler. I've seen these car seats with wheels on the back, the kind that you pull around like luggage at the airport. However, doesn't that just seem a little odd? Dragging your child behind you, strapped to a chair on wheels?
Here's a picture of one, courtesy of Amazon.com:

Well, hey. That baby actually looks pretty happy. Maybe I could do something like that...just one problem, I don't have a whole lot of money in my bank account, it being the Christmas season at all. But being the DYI chick that I am, how about a little DYI action on this baby. I've got some bungee cords in the car and a large rolling suitcase in the garage. Surely, I can make something happen.
Here's the thing though, I was actually thinking through all these options in the car...on the way to the store. My son was literally snoring in the backseat. PLUS, we're trying to get rid of this bottle! Chances are he's going to wake up, start throwing a screaming fit in the store because he's going through formula withdrawal. And that's when it will happen. I'll start grabbing formula off the shelf, to put in a bottle from off the shelf, filled with Dasani water from the nearby cooler and someone will snap a picture. Yep. A picture of me, my baby strapped to a suitcase, and stolen formula. Seriously now?! There has to be a better way. Please save me from People of Walmart.com! Any suggestions for this new mother would be welcome....I think.

Monday, December 21, 2009

DONE!

Final grades are entered. My office is clean. And my computer is shut down...at work. I am done with the fall semester of 2009! Praise the Lord! While there have been many MANY good things about this semester, it has also been a stressful burden that I am glad to be rid of.
So here I am, back to blogging and the like, doing a shortened version of the advent calendar with my son, wrapping gifts, and very much enjoying the holiday season.
On the holiday agenda for today:
1) Joseph's story for the advent calendar
2) Tea with the Smith ladies
3) Wrapping gifts
4) Making a wreath (my husband has been requesting this for about two weeks...thanks for being patient, my Love)

So for those of you faithful readers that were missing my posts, I am not dead, just basking in the warm feeling of completion and a cup of tea. Ah....freedom!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Seriously Now?!

"If talking about healthy habits isn’t working, try something more entertaining! Sprinkle glitter to show how germs spread, zoom a toy truck with an animal passenger to illustrate the importance of seatbelts, and drop a clay-filled plastic Easter egg to point out the value of helmets. These great teaching tools are loads of fun, too!"
-from my daily parenting email

Okay. Did a parent seriously write this? "Here Elliot, this is how germs work." (Sprinkle glitter into his hand to be spread on everything that he touches for the rest of the day). "Hey buddy, can I play with your truck and doggy for a second?" (ram the truck into the wall throwing the dog from its seat in the vehicle and act like it died) Oh wait, one more. "Can I see your playdough, and the easter eggs that we hide fun snacks in?" (carefully craft a ball of playdough and explain that it's supposed to represent my son's head, place it in the egg, and throw it on the ground...make sure it smooshes really well for maximum effect).

Seriously now?! You've got to be kidding me? Who would do that?! Great learning tools?...Sure. Traumatic experiences?....Sure. Entertaining experience?...yes. Absolutely ridiculous?...yes. Even the glitter, I tried to think for a minute and it's actually a great idea, if I have a maid running after Elliot cleaning up everything he touches, but wait. Then he can't see where his germs were right? Oh no!

This message was originally sent to my junk mail folder. I think that's where it should have stayed. Or maybe it's just that time in the semester, when I get kind of sarcastic and critical. After all, my wonderful husband did stare lovingly into my eyes last night and ask, "Is that my wife over there, or a big lump of cynicism?"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Woohoo...

What a blessing of a day! I told Evan that today would be my hardest day this week and to just pray that I got through it well. While there were definitely highs and lows, let's speak of the highs, shall we?
I knocked out one final presentation, 2 final oral exams, one final Christmas party, and 1 worldchangers final exam today. PLUS! I got tons of grading done in the meantime.
A student sent me a very encouraging email....which was much needed.
I got a funny and affirming voicemail from my mom....also much needed.
When I got home, my husband made us supper, my son loved on me like crazy and learned out nutcrackers worked (he proceeded to pick up each one, open their mouth and yell "AH!!!"). Then we sat down as a family and watched a movie. I was able to put Elliot to sleep for the first time in about a week, because I didn't have to bring any grading home with me. And while Evan and he have had a great time with their pre-bedtime ticklefests, I've missed that cuddle time with my buddy.
God is so faithful! I hope that amidst your crazed days with lows and highs, that you can focus on the blessings, make the most of them and cherish your family too!

Monday, December 7, 2009

OH...Christmas Tree!


What a great weekend! Apart from a somewhat eventful trip to Indianapolis, we had a wonderful time. We went to the Artsgarden to see Emily and Mom sing and then to the Old Spaghetti Factory for lunch. Then yesterday we got our tree! I cannot tell you how sweet it was to do this with our little boy.
We found a place just a couple miles outside of Upland - a landscaping business/bed & breakfast/Christmas tree farm -where you can go pick and cut your own tree! And the prices are very comparable to the one's you'd find in a lot. I'm super excited, because most trees that you buy in a lot were cut around 3 weeks before they got there, so I figure this tree might stay green and not get dry until well after New Years!

Anyway, my manly lumberjack husband cut down the massive fir...



...and carried it back to the car...



...while Elliot and I hiked the "trails" of the tree farm...



We came home and Elliot really wanted to help with the tree...



...we said no! How about mommy and you just put on some Christmas tunes and eat Little Debbie Christmas Tree cakes (I think I like these things far too much).



He loved all the decorations...




...And lights.




One very special part of the night was when Elliot and Ev put together the Nutcrackers.



And we stood back to enjoy!



We'll be posting new pictures with our Christmasy decor soon. Until then, Merry Christmas from the Gilmores and their little man.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Peace and Rest


Peace is always beautiful., originally uploaded by sungazing on Flickr.
I love my God! I've had a thought rolling around in my head today, and like most thoughts that roll around in there, it isn't exactly complete. The thought is mostly just a feeling of gratitude trying to find its expression in my feeble attempt at coherent articulation. 
I've coined myself as a recovering overachiever/perfectionist before, and it is that part of me that so adores the redemption and example of my God right now. Work is good. Creation of ideas and industry and productivity. Service and learning and labor with diligence and excellence. Building and investing in the Kingdom of God. All of this is not only good, but part of our privilege as stewards of God's creation. Most of us, actually enjoy working (maybe not in our actual job, but in something). I love the intentionality with which God works as He creates in Genesis. I love the satisfaction He exhibits in a job well done. Wanna know what else I love?
I love that He rests! He doesn't rest because He needs to. He doesn't rest as a way to sit back and admire His creation a bit more or start planning the next world that He's going to create. I don't think He even rests to make sure that every 7th day of the week we do the same. I think He rests because it is good!!!
Work is good, and rest is good! Too much work, is not just work, it's obsession, and an attempt at proving one's own self-worth on the wrong terms. Too much rest, is not just rest, it's laziness, and a prideful assertion of one's own value apart from anyone or anything else. But God shows us how both are good. I love that! 
I love that rhythms of rest are built into creation, into our bodies, into our relationships. God is so good! And His ways are life-giving.
As I come to the end of yet another semester, rest seems just out of reach. I still have two weeks of some pretty intense work ahead of me. But it is good! And my dear husband has made extra efforts to make my life at home a place of peace and rest despite the chaotic rush of the season.
Another thing I love about God? His peace. Even when I am working my tail off and trying to manage chaotic life issues, peace can reign in my heart because my Prince's throne sits there too. My wonderful, merciful Savior. My precious Redeemer and Friend. My mighty God, everlasting Father. My Prince of Peace. I love You!

Monday, November 30, 2009

How Many Kings? Absolutely Beautiful!



If you listen to no other Christmas song this season, please listen to this one! Here it is on YouTube! Here it is on iLike. It's an absolutely beautiful lyrical picture of Christ's love for you and for me. It makes me want to fall on my knees and run into His arms at the same time with tears of joy and gratitude for His glorious grace.
To my sister Sarah, thanks for sharing this song with me. I love your heart!
If you don't have time to watch the four minute video. Here are the lyrics:


How Many Kings - by DOWNHERE



Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we’ve projected
A child in a manger

Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliness hero, wrapped in his mothers shawl
Just a child
Is this who we’ve waited for?

Cause how many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn savior
All that we have whether costly or meek
Because we believe
Gold for his honor and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he’ll suffer
Do you believe, is this who we’ve waited for?

It’s who we’ve waited for

How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me

All for me
All for you
All for me
All for you




Friday, November 27, 2009

My son...


(Elliot recovering on Thanksgiving break!)
...has a great sense of humor! Those of you that know him, know that Elliot is a clever little fellow that can raise one eyebrow at you with the best of them. However, you know this about him when he is his chipper healthy self.
Sadly, we've all been feeling under the weather over this Thanksgiving break, especially little Elliot. Thankfully, I think he just has a cold. No fever, but an awfully runny nose and horrid cough. We've been taking baths and sitting in steamy showers with eucalyptus, tea tree and spearmint oils, wiping his nose with tissues until it's now dry and raw (don't you hate that?!), and of course, since he can't blow his nose, we've had to use a bulb syringe and saline drops and aspirate (a.k.a. suck the snot out) every night. He HATES it! He's such a good sport when he's sick too. A little trooper of a dude! But it's been difficult for him to sleep and drink his bottles (the ones the doctor says we should be weaning him off of...actually, our doctor said we should just stop - cold turkey. Just throw out all the bottles....but that's another story). Anyway, at least twice a day for four days of squirting in a couple drops of saline in and sucking all the snot out. Lovely, huh? I can understand why he doesn't like it. He fights with the strength of ten toddlers, I swear. Thankfully, my mother gave me a headlock tip before I left. Hold his arms and body still with one arm, and immobilize his head with the other arm, in which hand you hold the snot-sucker. (I'm sure any ignorant bystanders would question my parenting skills if they only saw my son and I during these tousles.)
Tonight we had a spa night, breathing in the steam and essential oils from the shower, before we got ready for bed. Then pajamas....then a drink....then ibuprofen (did I mention he has a tooth breaking through too? poor baby)...then time for the nose job. He sucked it all out, did a great job, he swore at me in his Elliot way, and then we settled down to watch some tv and eat some bread pudding.
About thirty minutes later, Elliot crawls to the end of the bed, picks up the saline drops, crawls back and starts trying to shove them up my nose...I guess I didn't realize how much I was sniffling. Not only that, but then he would yell, "AHH!" as if imitating himself, raise his eyebrow and laugh at me. He repeated this about five or six times. And yes, I let him stick the thing up my nose, after all, it's only fair! Don't you think?
He was actually able to drink his whole bottle before bed for the first time in several days and is now sleeping and breathing through his nose. Looks like we might be on the upswing!....Just in time to go back to work.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shampoo Bars



My newest soap making adventure was embarked on this weekend, when I decided to make shampoo bars. I learned a lot from my last soap making endeavor that helped this process immensely. And I believe my hubby is going to make me a big soap mold for my next soap project. Below is the recipe that I used. Refer to this post for tips and links on soap making procedures, but I have two more tips for you.
First, stir your lye solution a couple times as it is cooling to make sure the lye doesn't just stick to the sides of the container. Second, keep on mixing that sucker until you're sure it has traced. This batch took about 30 minutes of mixing...that's a long time. But it helps it harden up really nicely. It will look like soup, then a milkshake, then pudding. Wait for the pudding look.
This recipe made 20 bars. Here's the recipe:

Gilmore's Shampoo Bar Recipe


33 oz. Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil
10 oz. Pure Organic Jojoba Oil
16 oz. Distilled Water
6 oz. Lye 
.25 oz. Essential Oils (I used 6 parts tea tree, 3 parts spearmint, 1 part patchouli)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Getting Published

SO...today we heard back that Shanna Conner (a coworker and former grad school colleague) and I are going to be published! We have a few minor revisions to make to our article but then it will appear in an actual real-life academic journal. Student Retention and Persistence to Graduation: Effects of an Introductory Life Calling Course will be published in the Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, and Practice.
Most of you will probably find this article overwhelmingly dull, so I won't force you to read any of it. :) Just some exciting news to pass along.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Desired DIY Projects

When I get about fifteen minutes to sit down, breathe and spend a little time in my DIY renewal zone. These are the things I will be making. I LOVE them! And they're super easy.

This Barney's inspired bracelet was made with some thread, ribbon, and some faux pearls by Tricia at Oh So Crafty. I love the classic black and white, but I also think it would be super cool with some wooden beads and a colorful ribbon.


I have been thinking about making this kind of headband for awhile. But Erin at Today I Made has a great tutorial for it. I think I'd want to do peacock feathers, but I really like the neutral tones she used too.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Trying Toothpaste - Homemade and Natural

So...at the Gilmore house we now make our own soap, deodorant, and laundry detergent. Next on the list, shampoo bars this weekend! But first, I think I'm going to try a homemade toothpaste.
Let's just say it, "The overabundance of fluoride that we ingest FREAKS me out!" So...:) I found several toothpaste recipes online and a way cool new blog (check out The Organic Sister).

Gilmore's Original Toothpaste Recipe:


3 T. Baking Soda
2 T. Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
1 T. Hydrogen Peroxide
1 t. Salt
5 drops of Tea Tree Essential Oil
5 drops of Spearmint Essential Oil

Since I haven't used it yet, I'll have to get back to you and let you know how it goes. From what I've read about the ingredients, it should be a killer combo, but I'm no chemist so we'll see! At any rate, it has to be better than fluoride and sodium lauryl sulfate, wouldn't you think?

(Author's note: Tried this toothpaste the day after posting the recipe. Worked great!!! Pretty salty to the taste, which most people probably will not like, so you can eliminate the salt from the recipe if you think that would be a turn off for you.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Traditions

Last Christmas for the Gilmores was....let's just say....a little less than stellar! God blessed us with amazing family that were close by, so we could spend it with them and my husband was a gem through it all! However, we're now looking at our first set of holidays as a family in our new home. And well....I love traditions! I love the meaning and closeness that they bring.
BUT, since we're still in the process of forming some of ours, I wanted to hear about yours! What are your favorite traditions? Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. Past or Present. As a child or an adult. What do you look forward to each year?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What to do about Christmas

I know that it's not even Thanksgiving yet, but I LOVE CHRISTMAS! I love the traditions. I love the twinkling lights, the smell of cinnamon spice, the snow (on that one day of the year), staying in pajamas all day long, the warmth, the excitement, the giggles, the love. The thought of a God that loved me so much he restricted himself to human flesh and limitations just to be closer to me! Amazing!
One of the traditions that my mom started in our home awhile ago was Operation Christmas Child. Each year, Samaritan's Purse International Relief organization collects thousands of shoeboxes filled with gifts and distributes them to needy children across the world. Their mission statement is as follows:

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.


Next week is their collection week! Even if you don't know of a church or organization around you that is collecting boxes, you can find a drop off location that is closest to you by checking their website --> here! Their website also has instructions for packing the boxes and all the forms you'll need. You just need to print and fill out the label, fill a shoe box or small plastic box with a removable lid, and drop off your shoebox with $7 for shipping and other expenses at the closest dropoff location.
Our family will definitely be having a fun family night getting our boxes together next week! A couple other ideas for gifts that keep on giving are...


1) TOMS Shoes - For every pair of shoes you buy, TOMS gives a pair to a child in need.
2) TWLOHA TShirts - To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movemendedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.  TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery. Their first tshirts were sold to pay for their friends treatment and worn by a few well-known Christian bands (Switchfoot and Anberlin), before they became popular.The profits from the tshirts go to funding treatment and recovery.
3) shop.TheLiteracySite.com - Tons of fun handmade and green items you can buy. Every purchase goes toward giving books and education to children in need. Click here to find out how!
4) WearPACT Underwear - Another opportunity to promote literacy! Buy this fun 826 National underwear design to support young writers. (Other causes you can contribute to include rainforest preservation and protecting our oceans and marine life...kind of treehuggerish, but hey!)
5) XO Laptops - Right now, the One Laptop per Child movement is doing a Get One, Give One promotion. Where for a discounted price ($399) they will send one laptop to your child and one to a child in need, to provide them with educational opportunities and the power to create and collaborate.


(**Values disclaimer: While I can vouch for the vision and values of Samaritan's Purse, TOMS, and TWLOHA. I don't know about the last three. I've only heard about their charities, but I'm not aware of other alternative causes that they may or may not support, so I'll definitely do a bit more research on those before I purchase anything, and I would encourage you to do the same.**)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Umm...Is this still good?...Sniff

Have you ever found yourself staring at a food item - be it canned, frozen or fresh - and thinking, "Is this still good?" And then, what about when you open that random piece of something and you have no idea how you're supposed to store it or for how long?
Enter my newest bookmarked website --> StillTasty.com The Ultimate Shelf Life Guide. Way cool website! Did you know that you're not supposed to keep opened cheese in plastic? That's right! The plastic in a ziploc bag or seran wrap messes with it. Instead you're supposed to wrap it in parchment, wax, or freezer paper, and then in plastic, if you please. (my hubby told me this first, and StillTasty confirmed it).
You can search for anything and everything, how to keep it and store it. Also, each day they answer a new question. Some recent ones include:



Check it out!

A Window Farm?



"WHAT?!" ....I know! That's what I thought too. But this is aMAZing! The folks at Re-Nest show you how to make a garden in your kitchen window (or whatever window you'd like). A window farm! With some piping, some water bottles and a few other materials. I think this is SO COOL! It looks like it'd be a little difficult to put together originally, but once you have it...it kind of sustains itself!
I'm thinking herbs! What do you think?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Beautiful Fall Day


Today has been a fun day so far. We're actually staying home this weekend, which is quite refreshing and it's been beautiful outside! Last night we had a lovely "cookout" (the men and children cooked out while the women folk stayed inside) with Ev's coworkers and their families. It was really nice to get to know them a little better and meet all the kids and such.
Today, we slept in...a little, had breakfast and watched a few shows and then I went out to look at the state of my little plot of land that I used to call a garden. Despite the frost, the herbs are still looking great and I think I'll be able to pick some of the kale still. Then I'll have to hoe it and cover it for the winter I think.
Anyway, Evan finished up mowing the front yard while Elliot and I worked with the leaves in the back. He had a blast crawling through the woods and then when I had finally gotten a big pile together...we PLAYED! I completely forgot how great the smell of a pile of fall leaves is! Below are a few pictures from our adventures.

In the Hammock

In the Woods

In the Leaves

Our attempt at a family picture (Elliot and Rory weren't really interested)

My favorite boy...giving me kisses!

Then we went into the garage and helped Ev finish cleaning some of it out. Our goal was to be able to get our car into it by the end of the day, because neither of us are too keen on scraping our windshield if we don't have to.
I know...we've been living here for about four months and our garage is still not cleaned out...it's pathetic! But we're actually almost there. In fact, the car is presently sitting in the garage! Then we all came in to clean up and have some snacks and now Elliot is napping peacefully while we play on our computers. If we accomplish the goal of cleaning up the kitchen by the end of the day. I think we'll have been quite successful.
Anything you're trying to accomplish before it gets too cold? This might be just the weekend to try!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Short Word on Tea

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast, 
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column and the cups 
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us Welcome peaceful ev'ning in.
-William Cowper


As the air starts to chill and frost creeps across my windshield in the morning, I am beginning to open up my pantry on a more frequent basis to peruse my selection of teas and choose one that is just right for the day. If you haven't known me for long, you should know now that I LOVE tea! I love the smell, the warmth, the taste, the experience that it brings, the friendship and conversation it sparks. My husband got me a Tea day calendar in my stocking last Christmas and it has seriously brought me joy and relaxation almost every day at work. Here's a couple of fun facts about tea:

1) Did you know that the custom of tipping servers was created in England's tea gardens? Locked, wooden boxes were placed on tables inscribed with the letters "t.i.p.s." - to insure proper service. If a guest wished to guarantee that his tea arrived hot from the kitchen, he dropped a coin in the box when seated.

2) Did you know that if you've been handling fish and you can't get the smell of your hands that washing your hands with a strong tea gets rid of the odor?

3) AND...since it's fall, head to the store and get some pumpkin spice seasoning while you still can. It blends great with black teas!

Come along inside...we'll see if tea and buns can make the world a better place.
-Wind in the Willows

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Psalm 104:30-34



When you send your Spirit, 
       they are created, 
       and you renew the face of the earth.


 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; 
       may the LORD rejoice in his works-


 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, 
       who touches the mountains, and they smoke.



 I will sing to the LORD all my life; 
       I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.


 May my meditation be pleasing to him, 
       as I rejoice in the LORD.


Parenthood and French Fries

There are so many things that people don't tell you about becoming a parent. We're not even talking about pregnancy and childbirth (it's ridiculous what they don't tell you about that), but just basic life changes you have to make. For example, do you realize that once you become a parent, french fries are never the right temperature? (This isn't a shock to those of you that have been parents for any amount of time, however, to those of you that haven't, I thought I'd give you a heads up.)
So you go through the drive thru because your son/daughter has been a doll of a child that day and you didn't remember to thaw the chicken or beef sirloin or whatever it was that you were planning on having for dinner. Here's the thing. The fries smell great, and they are steaming hot...too hot for your child to hold in his/her little hands or put in his/her little mouth. So you blow on them, shake them, drive with the window down and the french fries flying in the wind. You do whatever you can do to cool them off as quickly as possible, because your child knows they are there and they want them. Does it occur to you to snag a couple bites of these steaming fries? Maybe, but you can't really prepare them the way that you prefer, whether it be with extra salt or ketchup or whatever. Plus, if you do dare take a bite, you better LEAN way over so your child cannot see you putting them into your mouth, and by all means don't make a noise as you chew! With all of these concerns, our first priority is usually the cooling of the fries. So we cool them off eventually and hand a few to our child(ren). Then we do at least three other things (pick up the spouse from work, bring stuff in from the car, let the dog out)........and reach for a french fry.....a cold one.
I would say, "Seriously now?!" But I know you're way ahead of me on that one! It just makes me think, "Why did I buy these gross things in the first place?" But then I look at my sweet son, gnawing happily on his cold french fries and which makes me smile and remember, "Oh yeah! That's why."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Cool Dude!


This boy knows how to rock. He dances and sings and just last night learned the coolness that comes with a pair of great headphones.
Seriously now! Could he be any cuter?!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Meat!



A bit ago, Evan and I watched the movie, Food, Inc. It is a grrreat documentary about the food industry in America. With astonishing facts, that were sadly not that astonishing after reading about food and other products that we use on a regular basis. I have thoroughly enjoyed my community supported agriculture adventure through Victory Acres. So now that I have my produce supplier for about six months out of the year, I've been on a journey to find healthy local meat for my family.
I think I might have found one! Seven Sons Meat Company is a small beef and pork farm, run by a couple, their seven sons, and the sons' families. The cattle are born and raised as grass-fed cattle. They also have a partnership with a free-range poultry farm where you can get turkey and chicken. They have their own free-range eggs, and a partnership with a dairy farm that offers shares in raw milk. 
On their website, they mention that they have a store that's open pretty much all the time, so I thought, "Wow! What an operation!" Then we went grocery shopping on Sunday....our first stop was Seven Sons Meat Company Store.
I was not expecting this! It was a little shack in the middle of this farm, with no attendant. You went in, served yourself, and paid. Then went on your way. However, it was delightful! Very clean, exactly what we were looking for. So we signed up for half a cow! Wow! Actually, we're going in on it with our parents, so we get about an eighth of a cow, which is plenty for us.


(I love Elliot's face here)

I also love this way of life, because honestly, where can you go grocery shopping, get amazing, nutritious food and your son gets to play by pumpkins outside while you do? At Victory Acres, he watches the chickens and plays with the dog and picks green beans. I just get so much joy from discovering these places and watching my family enjoy them too!



Thursday, October 29, 2009

Homemade Natural Soap!



Yes! It's true! I made soap....not just any soap, but soap I almost want to eat. (seriously!) If you'd like to try some, let me know. The bar above is for my friend Heather. :) It still has another week to cure before we can use it, but I think it will be just great.
If you'd like to try to make your own soap. There are a lot of great sites and books out there that are helpful. Little House in the Suburbs has some great links. At some points I will probably do an entry on diagnosing soap problem and the whole process. But for right now, here's the recipe that I used.


Gilmore's First Soap!


21.5  oz.=50% Extra Virgin Olive Oil
10.75  oz. = 25% Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil
6.45 oz. = 15% Organic Mango Butter
4.3 oz. = 10% OrganicGrapeseed Oil – 43 oz oils

6 oz lye
16 oz Distilled water


This recipe made about 15 bars, not quite 20 like I thought it would. Here are just a few quick tips. 
1) Your oils and lye solution need to be mixed when they are both between 95 and 98 degrees. For me, the oils cooled more quickly than the lye solution. This is great because the oils temperature can be altered more easily by placing it over heat or by placing the pot in some cold water.
2) Proper measurement is key. Measure by WEIGHT, not volume. So don't measure 16 liquid oz of water, but actually weigh 16 oz out on the scale. You can also convert your ounces to grams to make sure you don't mess this part up.


Happy soapmaking!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Sickness and Soap

Evan has been sick for just over a week. We went back to the doctor today and they said he probably got a viral infection first, and then a bacterial infection on top of that. I say...test the boy for the flu! They say that if he doesn't start feeling better in a couple days, they will. Heavens!
Elliot seems to be feeling much better. Back to his old playful self with no fever. Praise the Lord. I have also been thinking, that in spite of all of this, I am so thankful for the health insurance and benefits we have at IWU. I can't imagine having the stress of trying to figure out whether we could pay to go to the doctor or not on top of just worrying about my family getting better. But so many people do worry about that, or don't even have medical care readily available to them. These are times that I am so glad to be living in America AND so glad that our healthcare system hasn't changed...yet.
On another note, I JUST MADE SOAP...I think. It's out there sitting in it's containers wrapped in a blanket. I'll be able to tell by tomorrow evening whether or not it worked. I REALLY hope it did. So hopefully, by tomorrow evening, I'll be able to offer you my lovely homemade bars of soap. If not, we will be using a very moisturizing creamy liquid soap in our showers for awhile. Because this stuff is not cheap to make. I figured the batch cost about $40, so regardless of whether or not it firms up - we'll be using it. However, if it does firm up, I think I can get at least 20 bars from it, which is definitely cheaper than buying 20 bars of handmade, natural soap from somewhere else.
So look for me tomorrow with an update on family health, soap, and possibly the how-tos so you can make a batch yourself.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Elliot



Thank you for your joy, my Elliot, and for the delight that you are to my heart each day! You are great in the sight of the Lord, and it is such a blessing to teach you to depend on the Lord as you continue to grow into His warrior, poet, and prince.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

One Can of Libby's



One can of Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin....infinite possibilities. Now, I do have a real, organic pumpkin from Victory Acres. However, I'm currently using it for decoration.
I'm used to buying Libby's each year around Thanksgiving just to make pumpkin pie. But I have a confession to make -- I don't really like pumpkin pie. Ridiculous, I know!
I had some girls over from Carmin this week for dinner, and I made them a fall dinner. We had competing soups (Ev made chicken vegetable....I must say it was delicious! And I made butternut squash soup....you can find the recipe here! Sorry I can't give you the recipe for the chicken vegetable. My amazing husband cooks without recipes. The girls had to vote on which one was better.) and apple cider and crescent rolls.
"BUT!" you say, "this post is about pumpkin!"
Yes, yes! I also made pumpkin cookies! They were delicious!!! But after I made them I had a lot of pumpkin still left - Just from the one can!
So here's what I've made with my one can of Libby's! Do you have any other ways that you use it?




Pumpkin Scones 
(Sorry, no picture...we ate them too fast)
Ingredients:
2 c. whole wheat flour
3 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
5 T. butter (softened, not melted)

4 oz. sour cream
1/2 cup Libby's pumpkin
1 egg yolk

1 egg white
Nutmeg
Cinnamon

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2) Combine dry ingredients
3) Cut in butter with a mixer, just until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs
4) In a separate small bowl, mix sour cream, pumpkin and egg yolk
5) Add the wet mixture to the dry, stirring just until the dough clings together
6) Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead 10-12 times
7) Pat to 1/2 thickness and cut into circles or other fun shapes (we did flowers)
8) Place scones on an ungreased cookie sheet
9) Top with slightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg
10) Bake for 12-15 minutes
**These are delicious with the Autumn Tea Butter and your favorite cup of tea!**

Pumpkin-Peanut Butter Spread
Mix 1/2 cup peanut butter with 1/2 cup Libby's pumpkin and spread on crackers, an apple or celery. Add a dash of powdered sugar and nutmeg for extra fall flair! :)

That's about all of the pumpkin. I have a little bit more that I'm going to try to make pumpkin pancakes with tomorrow morning, but remember I want to hear your pumpkin recipes too. There's a whole lot of fall left!...I hope.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Consider the Radiance of My Redeemer and His Redeemed



originally posted on Flickr, Oct. 19, 2009 by cookieluver33


Selections from Isaiah 60


1 "Arise, shine, for your light has come, 

       and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
 2 See, darkness covers the earth
       and thick darkness is over the peoples,
       but the LORD rises upon you
       and his glory appears over you.
 3 Nations will come to your light,
       and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
 4 "Lift up your eyes and look about you:
       All assemble and come to you;
       your sons come from afar,
       and your daughters are carried on the arm.


 5 Then you will look and be radiant, 
       your heart will throb and swell with joy; 

18 No longer will violence be heard in your land,
       nor ruin or destruction within your borders,
       but you will call your walls Salvation
       and your gates Praise.
 19 The sun will no more be your light by day,
       nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
       for the LORD will be your everlasting light,
       and your God will be your glory.
 20 Your sun will never set again,
       and your moon will wane no more;
       the LORD will be your everlasting light,
       and your days of sorrow will end.
 21 Then will all your people be righteous
       and they will possess the land forever.
       They are the shoot I have planted,
       the work of my hands,
       for the display of my splendor.

My Son

 
Elliot....showing off that he can take both his shoes and socks off outside and not get in trouble! We were gardening with Aunt Sarah and Daddy. I just love this boy! He is the joy of my heart!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What's the deal?!

I tried but I couldn't find a good picture. I've been trying to tell myself to drink more fluids....specifically water. I was getting to the end of the day a few weeks ago and realizing that I had consumed about 12 oz of fluid. And that fluid was typically a pumpkin spice latte or sticky bun chai, not water. Gross, I know!
So, I've been taking my big water bottle with me to work and trying to drink it, plus I have numerous meetings with students at McConn so I've been trying to drink good fluids there too. 
I am now sitting at my desk with a Nalgene bottle of water, a 24 oz. cherry vanilla ice tea, and a 32 oz cherry coke from Meijer. WHAT?! I must tell you though, the Nalgene bottle is 3/4 gone, I've taken about 4 sips from the tea, and I'm just starting on the coke. Here's my problem, I struggle doing things correctly...any body else have that problem? I could elaborate, but that's pretty much the main point. AND...my office is like the spoke on a wheel (the center is the spoke right?). I spend a good deal of time here, but then I go to McConn and get something and come back and then I go to my car and get something and come back and then I go to Meijer and get something and come back. Hmmmm....
Anyone need a drink?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Trying Again

I've been reading more about soap making, and I think I figured out my problem. Well, I have a couple problems. #1 - I need to stick with a simple recipe. #2 - I need to make sure and measure everything in the same state (either solid or liquid). #3 - I need to get a good thermometer to read the temperature on my lye/soap nuts mixture.
I'm going to order my stuff and try one more time. I hope that it will be a success and I can post the tutorial and recipe for you all to enjoy. In the meantime, you can read some great info on how to make soap and such --> HERE! The Tomato Lady just posted some good tips and an olive oil soap recipe at Little House in the Suburbs as well.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Seriously Now?!


I have had quite the week! I don't know about you, but I can't believe I still have another day at work and I actually like my job. Just think about all those people out there that hate going to work every day....Sheesh!
Well...today was a doozy! Needless to say, I felt quite productive. A coworker submitted an article we worked on together a while back for publication in a journal. Crazy cool! I helped a few students. Also cool. Had some creative and collaborative meetings with my coworkers. And ended my work day by leaving a bit early with a massive headache. Here's the thing...I don't get headaches very often. When I do, they really impede my ability to think and express what I'm thinking.
So I drove home, excited to see my husband and son....oh wait, did I say "home"? I meant that I drove to the war zone at the end of Bragg Avenue. From the outside, my quaint little house looked the same as I had left it. The trash cans still needed to be pulled into the garage and a little weeding needed to be done in the mulch. So I pulled the trash cans up to the house, and told myself I'd work on the weeds tomorrow. Feeling a sense of accomplishment and closure, I proceeded to open the door....wait, I mean I stepped over the threshold.
Enter with me if you dare, oh brave one! I hung up the phone from talking with a friend about her grandmother recovering from surgery to kiss my husband (ahem...I mean, the General) hello. As I pull back from the General's lovely face, my vision of the room behind him becomes clearer. A bomb has obviously hit my living room. The cushions (like the actual seat cushions) and throw pillows are torn from our living room furniture, laying on the floor. An ottoman is turned upside down and each of Elliot's toys and books have exploded from their place in a basket or on a shelf and are littering the room. As I turn down the hallway, I realize that I am going to have to take precautions. Why? You might ask. Well, look around at the debris! The obstacle course of blocks, uniforms (the General and Lieutenant's clothing), emptied totes (the enemy must have found those and dumped them out), is our next challenge as we head toward the corner room. I think there was once a floor in the corner room but the enemy must have taken it! Because I can't see it anywhere. Blankets, pillows, blocks, DVDs, cars....but no floor! Now I'm concerned. I hear music coming from the other room...that sounds lovely!....WHOA! What happened?! Drawers and closets thrown open! The plunderers have hit the baby's room too! Seriously now?! I'd think they'd have the decency to leave that alone, but no.
At this time, the General needed to go to his next battle (work). Lieutenant Elliot was somehow robbed of his clothing throughout the day, so I grabbed him (wearing his sweatshirt and diaper) and swaddled his legs in a blanket. The swaddled lieutenant, the General and I loaded into the tank and headed down the street. On our way the General briefed me on the day's happenings. It seemed that I had neglected to observe the radioactive chamber (the bathroom)...he told me to avoid going in there at all costs. (The toilet and its "contents" had overflowed). Now, I was scared. WHAT invaded my home today?! Seriously now?!
With the general safely on to his next mission, the half-naked lieutenant and I (the wounded Colonel) headed back to the war-torn land. It took us a couple hours to clean up the wreckage, and I had to don a Haz-Mat suit to enter the radioactive chamber.
You might say that the headache hindered my perception of the situation. Whatever the case, I believe all is safe and well now in the Gilmore land of the free, and the General managed to do some dishes in the midst of it all, which made his Colonel very happy. I've still got a bit of a head wound, as you can probably tell from this disjointed tale, but the Lieutenant is sleeping and the General is still off saving the world (at work).

I've taken some pain reliever, and now I'm going to get a drink and a little debbie.

By the way, did anyone else hear it's supposed to snow tonight? Let's just name this place Valley Forge. Seriously now?! That's ridiculous!

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