The Work of Your Hands

Several years ago, my younger brother Dan, sent me a present for my birthday.  He was very excited about it and told me to be looking for it to come.  That was a little unusual, and when I got the box and saw the size, I was not sure what to expect.

When I opened it, inside was a hand coffee mill.

I was ecstatic! When I called to talk to him about it, he told me he had found it online after much searching and it actually came from Germany.  I was so surprised at his very thoughtful gift and asked him how in the world he knew I would love something like that – and he remembered me telling him about Laura Ingalls and the coffee mill she used to save their family from starvation.

When I was little, I read through every single Little House on the Prairie book I could get my hands on, and one of my favorite stories was in The Long Winter.  Times were hard – snow came up to the 2nd story windows at times (really!) – and when supplies were running low – all they had stored were hard wheat berries.  The family survived by grinding wheat in the hand coffee mill they owned.  It made for flour for them to bake and use as they needed.  They worked hard grinding up the flour and they survived.

Hard work never goes away.  Whether it’s manual labor or focusing and studying for final exams, determination is a big part of working and success in working.

There is a great sense of satisfaction in work done well.  I think even with the curse of sin – manual labor, toil, and pain – God softened the blow with allowing us to feel a sense of satisfaction in hard work done well.  We work by His strength, but He gives us a sense that our work is worthwhile.

It’s like kneading bread.  Now I much prefer quick, easy breads because I can get them baked and start eating them wrap them for gift giving in a jif.  But I get a real sense of satisfaction from kneading a pile of warm bread dough and feeling it change under my hands as I work with it and seeing the end results in a light, fluffy loaf of bred.

It’s also like grinding fresh coffee beans.  Oh sure, there are super mega fast electric coffee grinders that would have me sipping my favorite beverage in a heart beat – and in my house the faster I get coffee the better.  But I would miss the the satisfaction of hearing the sound of the beans pour into the mill cup ~ turning the handle in smooth, rotating motions ~ opening the drawer to find dark brown grounds that smell utterly delectable ~ and then tasting that first rich sip of coffee – ahhhhhhh!  What satisfaction!

Like our Creator, who fashioned everything we know and see with His very own hands and pondering it declared it “very good” – we have the inclination to look at our work and declare its goodness as well.  Whether it’s a majestic painted work of art, or a folded pile of fresh-smelling laundry – working with our hands is a gift from God.  And it is VERY GOOD!

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Do you Remember That Smell?

My grandmother wore a certain perfume – and although she passed away almost 22 years ago, whenever I get a whiff of it – I instantly remember her.  As we grow up, I think many of us could attest to the impact that our sense of smell has on us.

A newborn’s sense of smell helps him/her identify his mother and follow to his/her necessary food source.  In fact, within just a few days of birth, a newborn will show preference for his/her own mother’s breast milk than another’s, and plays a significant role in bonding between mother and infant.

Not only is smell linked to building relationships, it is also tied strongly to our memory. (Hence, the instant visualization of my grandma when I smell her perfume!)

Using Essential Oils in your home – whether you find one scent that you really love, or get creative and mix and match your own scents – can leave a lasting impression on your family members and anyone who visits your home.  While Aromatherapy is more than just burning a vanilla candle and should be left to trained medical professionals, the use of essential oils to add to the pleasant aroma of your home is easy and inexpensive!

NOTE: Some essential oils can be downright dangerous if used during pregnancy!!!  They may be simply irritating – but some can be plain toxic.  Here’s a handy list of essential oils to avoid during pregnancy – and ALWAYS consult your health care professional before using essential oils while pregnant!

Although they are derived from nature, the misuse of essential oils can be harmful.  Just because it is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s perfectly safe – I mean, really – Would you eat poison ivy?

On the other hand, using essential oils throughout your home in a variety of purposes, can be helpful and pleasing. For a list of benefits and uses, click here: Essential Oils Profiles

Peppermint for cleaning (at least in my home) tends to keep my brain focused on the task at hand, gives me a lift in my spirit, and really helps me think less about the “ick” factor while I’m cleaning.  The beneficial effects of peppermint are said to be: Refreshment, Stimulation.  I would have to agree.

Now, here’s a recipe for a combination of oils said the offset PMS symptoms.  I have not tried this yet – but I’m going to gather the ingredients together so I can!  Anything that helps!!!  I once bought a nighttime body lotion advertised as a help to sleep, and Clary Sage and Lavendar were two of the included scents.  I can tell you that using the cream, absolutely helped me relax and I tend to lean towards trying this from my previous experience.

That’s the great thing about Essential Oils.  You can see what works for you.  Visit your local health food store and find their selection of Essential Oils.  Take some time sampling and smelling – walk away every few minutes and find some coffee to smell if you can to give your nose a break.  Or sample some creams and lotions or soaps with scents and see what you think or how they make you feel.  I tend to avoid Lavender.  I don’t care for it a whole lot, except when it is combined with other oils…

If you decide to use an Essential Oil on your skin, it is really important to add a drop or two to another “carrier” oil – like olive oil or coconut oil.  Direct contact can be very irritating – Essential Oils are highly concentrated from plants, and if you have any allergies, you’re likely to have a reaction of some kind.  Diluting the Essential oil with another oil, provides the benefits of the essential plant, with the buffer of the carrier oil.

Here are some great online Essential Oil sources:

Auracacia

Mountain Rose Herbs

100% Pure Essential Oils

Don’t just take my word for it – do some research, check some books from your library – and find how if the addition of Essential Oils can benefit you!

Smell ya later!


I’m Singin’ In the Rain…

Making your home sing Mondays

Have you ever tried to actually Sing in the Rain?  Usually I’m a bit “froggier” during wet weather so I don’t sing with as much gusto, but I’m usually singing in my head at least…

I’ve found that doing my “chores” around the house is SOOOOOOO much better if I am listening to praise & worship music – or tappin’ your foot contemporary Christian music.  I get in a “groove” and if I’m singing while I work, the work seems to go by much faster.  I’m amazed at what I can accomplish in a short amount of time, if I’m thinking about what I’m singing rather than how many times I have to wash dishes every day…

I’ve also learned, that scent has an effect on my cleaning power, too.  Since I’ve been using more naturally derived – homemade cleaners, I enjoy cleaning more.  Much of my cleaning creations include a peppermint scent – which is just happy and bright – and doesn’t give me a headache!  Peppermint gives me a real boost – it’s energizing – and very pleasant.  There are other essential oils – like grapefruit, lavendar, eucalyptus – that will also leave a fresh scent that offers a bit of aromatherapy…

On a day when I’m down in the dumps or feeling depressed – honestly, if I will myself to get up and grab my homemade cleaner – not only do I accomplish something, but I actually feel brighter in spirit…

You can find more information about aromatherapy and essential oils here:

Mountain Rose Herbs

Aura Cacia

(But while we’re talking about peppermint – if you’re a big fan – check out this Holiday Peppermint Cake recipe!!!  Mmmmmmm)

Happy Coffee Day! Making Homemade Cleaners

Hello Coffee Girls!  Thanks for stopping by.  I’ve got a pot of medium-roast Breakfast Blend on (and the kettle on for you tea lovers) – help yourself to a pumpkin scone while you’re here!

A few weeks ago I wrote about making Lotion Bars among other things.  I did in fact make them, BUT because I didn’t have a great measuring system for the beeswax, I’ve had to remelt them down and grate in some additional wax.  The oil left things extra oily and the bars were more malleable in my hand than they should be.  So the re-newed batch is setting up now, and I’ll share the recipe when I’ve mastered it. LOL

I found some other household cleaning recipes that I wanted to share.  I really have been thrilled with using Vinegar and Baking Soda for many household cleaning projects.

Here are a few recipes I found in my Homemade recipe book from Reader’s Digest:

Creamy Scrubbing Cleaner

2 cups baking soda
1/2 cup liquid castile soap
4 tsp vegetable glycerin
5 drops essential oil

Mix well and store in sealed glass jar.  The shelf life for this cleaner is 2 years!  (I get my baking soda at Sam’s Club – got my Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap at Kroger’s, and my vegetable glycerin at a local health food storeIf you use a scented castile soap, it probably isn’t necessary to add the essential oil for scent…)

All Purpose Cleaner

2 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp. borax powder
1 cup hot distilled water + additional water
1/4 cup liquid castile soap
1 16 oz. spray bottle

Mix vinegar and borax in bottle.  Add 1 cup hot distilled water and shake until all is dissolved.  Add more water until almost full.  Add 1/4 cup liquid castile soap and swirl until mixed.  (I’ll just plug the peppermint castile soap as my favorite cleaning smell.  It is fresh and clean and I love cleaning with it. )

Liquid Fabric Softener

2 cups baking soda
2 cups white vinegar
4 cups distilled water
10 drops essential oil

Stir all together and store in plastic lidded container.   Use 1/4 cup per wash load.  (Plain vinegar alone is a great fabric softener, but if you would like to add a nice scent to your load, this liquid recipe may work well for you!)

Hope you enjoy these recipes.  I really enjoy using more natural products in my home and spending MUCH LESS money on cleaners and cleaning products.

Do you have any homemade cleaner recipes you rely on?

*If you’re on the fence about trying homemade cleaners – you’re not alone.  Try starting with one recipe and see how it works for you.   No need to go gung ho with switching out every cleaner until you see how one works for you. =)


You Are What You Eat!

Yep.  It’s been one of those weeks.

Darling Curly flushed something down the toilet.  Not just the regular, expected flushables.   No.  She called it a “round stirrer” and we have no idea what it was.  Needless to say, the flushing mechanism failed, and we now have a new toilet. I won’t go into details about the difficulty it took to get the new one installed, or the many foibles and accidents along the way, but it was an adventure to say the least.

I was granted an extension for my algebra midterm, and an opportunity to retake a quiz I flunked last week.  THANK YOU LORD.  I retook the quiz – flunked again – BUT I reviewed my answers and realized my errors were not based on a lack of understanding the concepts, but rather a problem with basic addition, subtraction, or multiplication error.  ACK!  I’m looking at the silver lining and seeing it as an opportunity to ace the quiz when I take it again.  I “get” the concepts, just have to slow down and work in silence.  Maybe if I get up at 3 a.m. I’ll do great!

I got a card this week from my friend Dawn.  She makes me smile and the card made me laugh out loud.  Here’s what my card says:

Don’t Forget: You Are What You Eat.

I Need to Eat a Skinny Person.

Think it would work???

What are You Singing?

Making your home sing Mondays

I’m just gonna be really honest – it’s been awhile since I made my home sing. Lately, I’ve been content to just find a particular level of maintenance and call it “enough” when really, it is just barely squeaking by. sigh.

One day last week I was online and really – in my heart of hearts – I just wanted to get sucked into my computer and not have to deal with two bored girls, a needy cat, bills to be paid, loads of laundry and well, you know the rest.

I don’t like cleaning toilets.

I love writing and blogging.

I don’t like cleaning up after the cat who seems to have a serious problem with gorging and then vomiting weekly.

I do love visiting with friends on Twitter and playing Farmville on Facebook.

So, at some point, God entered the picture and began clearly telling me to get off the computer.  I didn’t want to.  But God, I’m writing “Christian” stuff here – can’t I have just a DAY to myself to do fun things I want to do?

Silence.

After some serious conviction I shut the computer down put it aside and began focusing on my girls.  My attitude hadn’t quite shifted, but I was moving and getting juice cups ready and thinking about lunch.  And I stayed off the computer for the rest of the day.

And you wouldn’t BELIEVE what I accomplished.  Even I couldn’t believe what I had accomplished.  It didn’t look like much had changed around here – but I knew I’d swept down the stairs and the kitchen.  I knew I’d rolled on the floor with the girls and played and laughed.  I knew several things got put back into their keeping place.

And it made a difference.  Maybe my blogging makes a difference – occasionally, on a good day – but Making My Home Sing – I can see and feel the difference…

So today, I am going to focus on my home & family – not just race through stuff – but FOCUS on what needs to be done and pray over my To Do list and pray over my computer time and ask God to help me DO the right thing.

I’m going to make My Home Sing today.

Winner Announced: OAMC’s Family Favorites

Congratulations Jolyn (from McCombMoneySavers)- You are the winner of the Once A Month Cooking Family Favorites Cookbook!  I’ve sent an email to you so just email me back and claim your prize!

I  hope you enjoy the cookbook and find it as useful as I have!

In other new today, I’m keeping things brief today!  I just finished my final exam for my counseling course (yay!) and have a Math midterm (ohhh, please pray!) to focus on.  We had plans to pick apples today, but it’s been wet and the forecast predicts SNOW, so we are taking things one moment at a time.  Roy & I have a DATE NIGHT planned tonight – and I’m looking forward to some time with him!  Our church is hosting a Date Night for couples and I’m really excited about it!

Otherwise – hope you all have a terrific weekend.  Oh – if you’re looking for some GREAT recipes, not only will you find them at The Better Baker – you should also visit Stop and Smell the Chocolates!  Lisa has hosted a Fall Fruits Festival at her site and I’ve seen some YUMMO recipes!  Today the festival culminates in recipes involving, what else?  CHOCOLATE – and she’s offering a giveaway for all 5 days so if you have some great Fall Fruit recipes – post and link up before the deadline!