Suppertime Stress – a Solution

Suppertime was getting to me. My two older kids get home shortly after 3pm, and I want to intentionally connect with them each day when they get home. We’ve got commitments and activities happening a few nights a week which means that supper has to be ready at 5pm so that we can all sit down together each night – something that is a priority for us. This meant that I was feeling the stress of wanting to play and connect with my girls and the necessity of having supper ready on time, and not just anything ready for supper; something yummy and nutritious… this was driving me crazy!!! I realized that I needed to come up with a better solution than just frantically preparing supper each night.

A couple of weeks ago I spent some time writing a three week menu plan that involves four nights of slow cooker meals a week (which are used on our busiest nights). So far, this has been AMAZING. My only deadline is getting the food prepped and in the slow cooker before it needs to start cooking, sometime between 9am and 12pm. The afternoons at our house have been stress free and fun! I can just enjoy the kids and rest easy knowing that supper is already taken care of. And, I have been able to try out some new recipes which have turned out really well. We have decided that we love our slow cooker. I have decided that I never want to look in the cupboard at 4pm again trying to decide what to make… because although I was fairly consistent with making a menu each week, I wasn’t consistent enough. The problem was that each week I went through the work of making a menu again and again. Why was I doing this unnecessary work????

Slow cooker in action!

Does this all sound too simple? Here are the main things that have eliminated suppertime stress for me:

1. I have a menu for every day of the week, that I never have to change or come up with again, unless I want to
2. I now know exactly what groceries I’m going to need for each meal, making grocery shopping much easier and exact
3. I can get all my food prep done in the morning, when I have more time to do so
4. I can get all the supper prep dishes done early in the day, eliminating piles of dishes after supper
5. I even have time to make a salad or add a steamed vegetable to the meal, if I want to, and if time allows
6. I have more time with the kids, and while I’m enjoying them I am not feeling torn about what I need to be doing!

Did you know that “families that share mealtimes at least four times a week see improved communication and healthier eating habits?” And interestingly enough, “children of families who regularly have dinner together also develop a protection factor against all important risk behaviors (focusonthefamily.com).” Sitting down for a meal together as a family has been a priority for us since we’ve been married, but knowing these things solidifies our commitment to do so.

What do you do to make the time before supper stress free? Has anyone tried making meals in advance for the month and freezing them?

Thanks for reading,

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25: 4 & 5

Yard Sale Find + Sweet Potato = Custom Curtains

Last summer I found some great curtain panels at a yard sale – nice and thick, neutral colour, great price. I had been wanting to update the curtains in our dining room, but not wanting to spend much money doing it. I knew when I found these panels that I would be able to do something creative to make them fun and unique. I got to work looking up how to paint designs on fabric with textile paint, as well as thinking about what kind of pattern I wanted to use.

I settled on a simple pattern that I repeated all across the panels with a design that I cut into a sweet potato – one potato for the main orange design, and a second potato for the small white diamonds. For the paint I used acrylic craft paint mixed with a textile medium by Martha Stewart that I picked up at Michael’s. The textile medium makes the paint permanent and washable, perfect for this use.

Materials for the curtains

I spread the panel out on top of an old drop cloth on the living room floor, and got to work stamping this bold graphic pattern onto the first panel. 4 Hours later I was done the main orange pattern…. did I mention that I did this on my hands and knees? And that I ran out of orange paint with only one panel done? I called it a night at this point, happy with how the first one was turning out, but not sure how I was going to get more matching orange paint to use on the  second panel when I didn’t have the time to drive an hour back to Michael’s before my sweet potato dried up….

The next day I decided I would just have to try and find the best colour match that I could at the local store that carried a small selection of craft paint. It wasn’t a perfect match, but after an hour of mixing colours I got it pretty close. A few hours later I was done the main pattern on the second panel.

Orange pattern done

Some friends have asked how I mapped out where I put each stamp, and I honestly didn’t do much since I wanted it to have more of a relaxed look and not be too rigid. I simply did one line all across the top, and then a line down the left side, and then just eyeballed the rest of them trying to get them fairly straight.

A couple of more late nights after the kids were in bed, and the panels were done! I will never do this again. Maybe a section of curtain, or a stripe… This took way longer than I had imagined it, but now that the curtains are done, I do love them.

Completed curtains

Amazing what you can do with a yard sale find, a sweet potato, and a little imagination!

Encouragement Pockets

let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25b)

We are told many times in the Bible to encourage one another. With this in mind, I had an idea as I was reading One-Yard Wonders by Hoskins and Yaker to modify their design for mail slots into encouragement pockets. One of our daughter’s primary love languages is words (to learn about love languages read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman), and so because of that we have many little notes all over our house… I was inspired to create these encouragement pockets so that we could have a hub in our house where all of the little notes of encouragement could both be placed, and where they could be found.

I knew right away that I wanted to use the asian floral fabric that I have on hand, by designer Ty Pennington. I love the pops of orange on the charcoal fabric and the beautiful print. I measured how large I wanted the pockets, and created 5 so that there would be one for each of us. Here are the encouragement pockets cut out, with a large piece for the front and one for the back:

encouragement pockets cut out

And here it is almost finished, with just the backing and hooks at the top to be added:

Encouragement pockets nearly done

I hung this while the girls were sleeping and they were super excited about it when they woke up the next morning! Here it is a few hours later:

Our finished encouragement pockets

We are being encouraged. 🙂

Thanks for reading,

Karen

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25: 4 & 5

We Love to Read!

We LOVE to read. We have read stacks of books to our kids since they were babies, and enjoy this immensely. In fact, I’m a doer and have a hard time sitting down when there are things to do…but when are there not things to do??? Reading to my kids is a way that I have where I intentionally sit with them, piled on the couch, in a fort, or in the hammock, spending some quality time where we read, and read, and read. We cuddle up, and this time is so special to us as we interact and take in books together (although when we do this in the afternoon, I almost always have to fight the urge to fall asleep). All of this reading has benefitted us greatly, and we now have two really good, independent readers. What an amazing day it was when each of our older girls were reading so well that we were able to take them to the local bookstore to buy their own full copy of the Bible to begin reading on their own. Praise God that they are now able to fill their minds with God’s word as they read independently!

Our girls reading

Reading library books, saying “cheese”.

 

One of my favourite memories of this past summer was an afternoon when all three girls were all laying in the living room reading happily. Sophia was reading independently, and Zoey was reading to Karis. I had already prepped supper and had it ready to go, and so I joined them! I grabbed the novel that I was reading, and sat with them in the living room enjoying my book. To me, this was bliss!

A couple of weeks ago I was sick with the flu, and couldn’t get out of bed for a couple of days. I slept a lot, but I also had the opportunity to read quite a bit and enjoyed quite the contrast in books. I am reading The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, which is a great book on marriage that really challenges the way that we, as a society, look at marriage. He contrasts this to the way that God created marriage. This book has caused me to reexamine some of my ideas that I didn’t even quite know that I had embraced along the way concerning the purpose of marriage (I’ll write more about this in a later post).

In stark contrast to this Biblical and philosophical study of marriage, still while I was lying in bed with the flu, I intermittently read some of my daughter’s novels. I read Ramona and her Father by Beverly Cleary, as well as Fudge-a-Mania by Judy Blume, both of which were so entertaining they had me laughing out loud. There’s a couple of things that I love about reading the kid’s books, one of them being that I can read through an entire book in an evening. This is really beneficial for me since I find it very hard to exercise discipline about only reading when it’s responsible to do so (like, not into the wee hours of the morning…I have to limit my novel reading because of this). Also, I like knowing what my kids are reading. Plus, they are lighthearted. A relaxing way to end a long day!

Thanks for reading,

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25: 4 & 5

 

 

Truth and Chalk

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. 

Deuteronomy 6: 4-9

I love these verses. They say so much about how to do life, and especially how to parent. Basically, talk of God’s truth and love should be oozing out of us in all that we do and all that we say. I am doing my best to take the part of writing God’s truths on the doorframes and gates literally, and I’m trying to surround ourselves in scripture as I add it to more and more places throughout our home. This is helping me to keep an eternal perspective, and it’s helping me to memorize more of God’s word.

My latest project involved a blank wall, an antique wooden picture frame that I found at a market, and some paint. I decided to make a chalkboard that I could use to write messages on, mainly scripture that we can learn. Here’s a picture of the frame when it’s almost done getting the first coat on (I forgot to take a before pic!):

A look at what the original frame looked like

It had a cool gold finish on it which shows through after I finished distressing it. Here is a pic of what the final product looks like. For the center, I purchased a piece of masonite which the nice man at the hardware store cut to size for us. I then primed it, and gave it two coats of black chalkboard paint.

A look at the finished chalkboard.

This chalkboard is right in a crucial hub of our home – it is the first wall that you see when you come down the stairs to the main floor, and it’s the first wall that you see when you enter our home from the outside. A great place to be reminded of truth!

What are some creative ways that you learn scripture?

Thanks for reading,

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4 & 5

Break it Down, Build it Up – Part 3

This is the third and final installment in a 3 part series about our bathroom renovation that all began with a leaking sewage pipe. If you missed the first two installments of the “Break it Down, Build it Up” series, you can read them here and here.

This week I’m excited to share the big reveal of our newly redone bathroom. It is a little bit painful redoing your only full bathroom while trying to live in your house for the majority of the time, but we did it! We are no worse for wear when all is said and done, but I definitely need to thank my Mom and Dad in law for allowing us to stay for a weekend, and to come and shower for two more weeks until we could once again use our own bathroom!

Here’s the bathroom pre-makeover:

A before shot of the bathroom

A before shot of the storage cabinets in the bathroom

And here are some shots of the bathroom currently:

A picture of the completed bathroom

We were able to have the mirror that we already had for the bathroom cut down (so that it would be more proportionate over the smaller vanity). Thanks to youtube we then framed it in and added a ledge at the bottom.

Bathroom storage after the renovation

For the storage nook we kept it really simple and used some rough pine that was in our garage when we moved into our house, we just planed down the top side so that it would be smooth, and cut it to fit. For the window treatment, I did a really simple burlap cafe curtain that just sits straight across the window and works perfectly in the space.

The shower and door in the bathroom

Full bathroom facing vanity

One of the things that I love the most in our bathroom is the art that our friend Laura made for us on wood blocks. Check out her website at http://wallsandwords.com/. What I love is the message that our girls will be reading daily, truth that we can pray will penetrate into their hearts as they are bombarded with conflicting messages from our world. To rise and shine and give GOD the glory. And the reminder that they are fearfully and wonderfully made by the creator of the universe. These are words of life that will make a difference!

Thanks for reading,

Karen

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25: 4 & 5

 

 

 

Break it Down, Build it Up – Part 2

This is the second of a three part series on our bathroom renovation following the discovery of a leaking sewage pipe. If you missed the first part, you can read it here.

While Daryl was busy rebuilding the floor and walls in the bathroom, I was at work looking for a vanity. The vanity that was in there was too big for the space; when we opened the door we would have to open it quite far just to be able to walk into the bathroom. The problem was that the heating grate was on the floor under the vanity, and if we went with a smaller vanity it would end up sitting on the grate… I wasn’t sure how to tackle this dilemma, until I found an Ikea vanity that only had legs in the front and was mounted to the wall in the back. My hope was that I could find an antique looking dresser to convert into a vanity (with back legs removed), so I began my hunt! What I ended up with wasn’t a dresser, but with something even more unique – a record cabinet! And the best part is that I found it at the thrift store right around the corner from my house, and I got it for a great deal!!!

Here is the shot of how it looked when I bought it (I forgot to take this before I removed the existing knobs):

The vanity pre-makeover

This is what the inside looked like:

Inside of the vanity pre-makeover

I loved that this was a record cabinet, so when I gutted the inside I kept the music category labels in place!

I sanded this baby down to the raw wood, gutted it out on the inside, and went to work painting. After two coats of paint I distressed it with sandpaper, and finished it off by giving the top four coats of varethane to protect it from all of the water that would inevitably splash on it.

After installing this to the wall (with back legs removed), my handy husband installed the sink and the faucet, and voila! We love it, and it fits the space so much better than the previous one. With it’s smaller size, it’s not only easier to walk into the bathroom, but the whole bathroom feels spacious to be in.

Record cabinet turned vanity

New converted vanity

Since our house is so old, we really wanted to give this bathroom some vintage charm. We think that the glass knobs and vintage style faucet compliment this record cabinet turned vanity perfectly!

Another piece of furniture transformed.

Thanks for reading!

Karen

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25: 4 & 5

Break it Down, Build it Up – Part 1

It all started when I walked into the kitchen and saw my husband gazing intently at the kitchen ceiling. “This is strange”, I thought. But it was only when he continued gazing that I began to wonder what in the world he was looking at. “I think I see a shadow of a stain on the ceiling” he told me, which caused us both to get a closer look and realize that there was also a bit of paint peeling off of the ceiling in the center of this spot. I must add here that this ceiling is brand new. We had the entire ceiling down when redoing the electrical a couple of years ago. And where do you think this spot was? Right underneath of the toilet in our only full bathroom. Oh, crap. Literally. This was a couple of months ago, and now our bathroom problems are over, but I’ve decided to share this project that we did on our own in a 3 part series entitled “Break it Down, Build it Up”.

One week following the great stain on the ceiling discovery we taped up the cupboards in the kitchen, put up plastic to control the dust, and the kids and I evacuated the house to stay with my very hospitable in laws. Daryl got to work right away with the demo and this is what he found when he removed the toilet and cut the floor away:

Very broken sewage pipe

It’s a good thing we caught that one when we did! It’s pretty amazing that we only had a faint little stain on the ceiling when we look at that pipe! This was the original pipe in a house that is over 100 years old, so it was time to be replaced.

I’m going to backtrack here and say that I had been dreaming of redoing the bathroom for a couple of years already – it was quite desperately in need of a makeover, but it just wasn’t a priority until now. So although we hadn’t budgeted for this reno right away, I was really quite happy to be able to redecorate this little corner of the house. Here are some before pictures of the bathroom:

A before shot of the bathroom

Storage cupboards beside shower

Doesn’t look too bad from a distance right? But upon closer inspection you see otherwise…

The vanity looking pretty terrible

This vanity is in pretty sorry shape.

Cracked vinyl floor

And look at that cracked and brittle old vinyl floor.

Not only did the vanity and the floor look terrible, but the paint on the walls was peeling! One of our life lessons since being homeowners has been to spend the money and buy good paint. Paint from the liquidation store is there for a reason…

Hopefully those before pictures give you an idea of what we started with, and now a couple more demo pics:

Wall down to the studs

The green and brown is the what the plaster looked like under the tile panelling that was on the lower half of the walls – you can see the glue marks too. Right away we agreed that the pipes should be replaced from the basement right up to the roof, so this meant removing the old plaster from the main wall in the bathroom, as well as some lovely holes in the kitchen.

Holes in kitchen ceiling

Mess in the kitchen

These pictures already show the new black PVC pipes that my husband installed with some help from some skilled family members. The last picture is to highlight the mess that we had to clean up. Messy, but totally worth it.

This reno made me think of how when we go through trials in life that are sometimes messy and painful, that is often a time when we press in to God and when we experience growth as we make it out of that tough spot with the Lord’s help. First we need to break it down, then we can build it up.

Thanks for reading!

Karen

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are my God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25: 4 & 5

 

 

My Living Room Makeover.

We moved into our century old home 5 1/2 years ago, two and a half weeks before I birthed our second daughter in our new house. That was a busy couple of weeks! Our house was very clean when we moved in, but it needed a LOT of updating and I wanted our living room and dining room to be painted right away. In hindsight, I should have just lived with it for a while so that I got a feel for the room. The carpet was in good shape, and we weren’t prepared to put down new flooring if what was underneath was terrible so we opted to keep it in. We painted one wall a deep red, and the rest a neutral tan. Once the painting was done, the living room was clean and nice to be in, but it didn’t ever really feel like our living room. With the brown trim, the beige carpet, beige walls, and beige couch, I began to feel like I was in a sea of beige – I needed some color!!! I also realized that with the porch in front, although the room has lots of windows it doesn’t actually get a lot of natural light coming in. So after 5 1/2 years I finally got a clear vision for what I wanted the living room to look like, and this summer I worked away at it and wanted to share the finished product with you!

Here are the before shots of the very formal looking living room:

living room before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

living room before left

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

living room before right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I knew right away that I wanted to change up the heavy curtains for a light roman blind, and that I wanted to paint out the trim white – this made such a huge difference! I also decided to paint the walls a creamy ivory. The room feels so much bigger AND I said goodbye to all that beige. I can’t forget the floor – I finally pulled up that carpet and the original wood floor is in fairly good shape.

Here are the after pictures:

living room after

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s SO much brighter!

living room barnboard mirror

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our brother in law made us this amazing barnboard mirror.

living room pictures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We featured our own colorful art on the walls – this really personalized the space.

living room coffee table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I refinished the coffee table that we received as a wedding gift in a beautiful bright green and distressed it – this really added a punch of color to the space!

We love the finished product! It’s bright and fun, and it feels so comfortable to be in. I feel like it is a reflection of our creative personalities, and I finally feel like it’s my own living room that I’m sitting in. And that’s our living room makeover.

School Lunch Ideas – Installment #3 Guacamole!

I can still remember my attempt at making guacamole when I returned home after a three month stay in Guatemala. I fell in love with guacamole while I was there, and my first attempt to create that yumminess failed miserably! I had the recipe from my host mom in Guatemala which was so good, but my problem was that I was so unfamiliar with using avocados that I attempted to make guacamole with avocados that were rock hard…. oops. Somehow I was unable to mash those babies up. I was determined to master the art of guacamole making, so I found out how to tell when an avocado was ripe: it needs to feel slightly soft to the touch when you apply a small amount of pressure (you can buy them when they are hard and just let them ripen up at room temperature which usually takes 2-3 days).

Avocados are a super food. They have a large amount of good monounsaturated fat, which has actually been shown in a preliminary study to lower blood cholesterol levels. Avocados have more potassium than bananas, and are rich in B vitamins, as well as vitamin E and vitamin K. And to boot, they are high in fiber! (Wikipedia). This is a seriously nutritious food to pack in your kids school lunches, and it’s a hit with my kiddos – they can’t get enough of this dip!

This isn’t the exact recipe that I was given from my host mom – I simplified it a bit, but go ahead and be creative!

guacamole ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guacamole

  • 5 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
  • Juice of two limes
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Optional: diced tomatoes, cilantro, finely diced onion, crushed garlic
  1. Mash up avocados until they are nice and creamy.
  2. Add other ingredients and stir – Voila!

guacamole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This doesn’t last overly long without getting brown, but if you make a quick batch in the morning and pack it in a container for lunch, it will still be awesome when eaten that day. My kids like to take this to school as a sandwich alternative with some corn chips or rice crackers to dip into it. It is also so yummy as a topping on tacos, fajitas and burgers. I hope you enjoy this healthy school lunch idea!

eating guacamole