What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Friday, May 30, 2014

Finances on Fridays

 For some people (most people, maybe), being frugal is a necessary way of life.  The reason Matt can go to work every day and I can stay home is because we decided that it is so important for me to be home that we chose to sacrifice in other places...like spending.  We couldn't live our lives debt-free, we couldn't have resources enough to do things like build fence or repair barns, we couldn't feed the mouths we have to feed if we lived lifestyles like many Americans do.  So we do what we do out of necessity.  And it isn't anything to be ashamed of- in fact, I find it downright admirable.  You might only have lower class resources but you can still have middle/upper class standards.   The people I most respect and admire are the ones who live contently and abundantly with far less money than the rest of the world needs...and do so cheerfully. Those are the lives that are most beautiful and the people I most want to emulate.  But I can't help but feel like every Friday with these Finances on Friday posts I am focusing only on the one side of financial stewardship.  The cheapskate side.

The flip side of Christian stewardship is abundant giving and charity.  Of blessing and bestowing.  That side is hardly ever addressed here (and rightfully so, as bestowing and blessing is best left done in secret) and so I am afraid I give a slightly skewed perception of what financial focus requires.

Christian stewardship of ones' finances are much more all encompassing than saving a few pennies here.  It is also about SPENDING those pennies (wisely).  It is also about SHARING those pennies (freely).  It is about GIVING those pennies (to the Lord).  It is about washing ziploc bags and cutting down the grocery bill and writing anonymous checks and delivering food to people in need and even buying that mattress or the inew couch you've been saving up for.  Good stewardship is about using your time and resources wisely.

 Which is why I am going to stop doing these Finances on Friday posts. I know some of you like them- and I do too!- but I find myself sitting behind the computer more and more these days- doing good things, mind you- but not the best things.  Between these Friday posts and my Review Crew posts, I am feeling like my blog is not as happy a place for me (or anyone else) to visit anymore... it is a lot more like work.  And so I ask...is that work as valuable as other work I could be doing?  I doubt it.  So every Friday I write about how I am using my resources wisely while not using my time or resources WISELY.

I will still be working to find areas of excess in our lives, searching for and implementing ways to cut spending, seeking wisdom as we decide what to spend those dollars on or who to give them to or how to save them best.  I will just be doing it more behind-the-scenes.  I will still randomly chat about inspiring quotes, ways I discovered I could save more money or rants about my thoughts on finances here on the blog too.  I just won't be doing them every Friday.

I so appreciate your participation and the encouragement that some of you have shared with me during the Finances on Fridays.  I also very much appreciate your understanding when I have to bow out to make sure the proper priorities are in order.

 If you would like a Frugal Friday join-up similar to the one that I have been doing (but without the linky) this lady is amazing.   She is one of those inspiring ladies I spoke about a few minutes ago.

Now, for my Financial Endeavors for this last week:

* planted two rhubarb plants, several creeping phlox, myrtle, a peony, columbine and a purple lilac taproot that my neighbor gave to me.  Gave her some Loosestrife that she has been wanting in return.  (Not exactly a fair trade- but she needs to clean out and get rid of the stuff so she was ultimately happy with it.)

* Later in the week, I met my mom and sister at a nearby greenhouse/farm and saw that creeping phlox was $8.99 there.  Just the phlox alone would have cost me about $27.00 to buy!  Thank you, neighbor.

* planted basil, sweet peppers and banana peppers in the veggie garden

* spent hours outside doing garden chores.

* Dropped off a few small bags of donation stuff.

* used a $15 off/ $15 purchase from Lane Bryant to buy 2 sets of cubic zirconia earrings for $1.19 total while out at a doctors' apt. today.

* Wanted to buy pizza in the middle of the week and seriously, seriously considered it but then stood firm at the very end and made dinner.  (This is an accomplishment!)

* Didn't buy a single thing at the greenhouse that I love on Memorial Day.  Not a single thing.  (This is an accomplishment too!)

* Started (and finished) reading this book: The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom.  (I found the section on Wills/Trusts very interesting and helpful.)

And the MENU for the week:

B: homemade yogurt with rhubarb scones
S: spaghetti (ground beef, spaghetti sauce), pickles, applesauce (Matt made dinner tonight as I was off photographing a wedding.  He's swell.)

B: cereal
S: baked potato bar where everyone 'loaded' their potatoes in their own way.  Leftover black bean, corn and rice salad.  Broccoli.  (broccoli)

B: scrambled eggs
S: hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill with dill sandwich pickles, tortellini salad with artichokes and feta, potato and egg salad, corn on the cob, candied cinnamon "pickles" and strawberry air for dessert. (ground beef, hotdogs, cinnamon pickles, dill sandwich pickles, strawberry and strawberry/banana freezer jams)

B: omelets and cheese
S: lasagna (ground beef, beet greens, spaghetti sauce), leftover corn-cut from yesterdays' cobs, leftover potato salad, pickles, applesauce, garlic parmesan bread

B: yogurt, granola, cottage cheese and bananas
S: tuna fish sandwiches, three bean salad, pickles, last of the potato salad, chocolate pudding (green beans, zucchini relish, pickles)

B: scrambled eggs and bananas
S: creamy zucchini soup I added cream cheese to it because I wanted to use some up from the fridge (zucchini slices, zucchini cubes, whole potatoes), baking powder biscuits and honey

B: cottage cheese, banana, toast
S: Pizza night with carrot sticks (pizza sauce, zucchini "pineapple")

It is the end of the Use-It-Up Challenge for May and I can say I did NOT reach my goal of emptying a freezer!  I did use plenty of things up, but even without the added chicken deal from last week, the freezer is still pretty filled.  I'll continue, as I always do, to eat out of the freezer and canning cupboard every day and hopefully by June I'll be able to get it completely empty and cleaned out before harvest season rolls around.

How about you?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real

Strawberry Air~ the recipe can be found at the always-neglected food blog.

In complete concentration before doing a spoon trick.


Living Room.  Dining Room.  Bathroom.  Kitchen.  By my bed.  By the girls' bed.  These are all the places that hold lilacs bouquets.  The bleeding heart droplets that grew after being tromped on and then "weeded" by Judah last year (before Matt weedwhacked them by mistake this year).  Adele's wispy blonde.  Rainbow rooted swiss chard.  A fairy forest of moss.


This weekend I will do something I have never done before.  I will hug and kiss my husband and children and then leave them for the first time ever.  For an overnight trip with my Mom and my sister down near Lancaster, PA.  My mom has adopted children who are my own childrens' ages so the three of us are quite in the 'thick of things', as they say, though Mom is more of a 'been there, done that, doing it again' sort and Elizabeth and I are not quite to the 'done that' stage yet.  I am very excited because, since we are all in thick of things, it is very rare indeed to be able to connect with one another in such a personal and undisturbed, undistracted sort of way.  It will be great.  Among words like 'Mom's Weekend Away'  are words like jacuzzi, Amish buggy ride, a visit with Mrs. Ort (an old grandmother-figure from our growing up days), dinner reservations, a visit with Oom Hans, Amish farmer's market... how can it not be amazing?  

I am nervous to leave my little family, though.  Will the children survive while I am gone?  Will Matt?  I hope I will be able to enjoy myself without worrying.  (Jacuzzi.)  That's better.  


See Judah in photos.  The end.


The biggest planning that needs to be done for my weekend away is preparing food (because keeping the children alive ought to be enough for Matt) and finding a few yarny things to do in the car-ride (because I am SO not driving!)  When packing for one person (me), packing can happen five minutes before take-off.

Which is good because the garden needs to be tackled in the worst way.  As you can see from the above photo- the walkways of the garden grew dandelion carpets.  That photo was taken a few weeks ago- before the rain and before the amount of dandelions doubled.  (See Andrew photo above- that is what I am dealing with.)  I hauled into it yesterday cursing this whole hay mulch situation and pining for a tractor tiller/plower thingy.  Who cares if it disturbs the soil life?!  But I will get the walkways re-done and the garden finally planted even if it kills me.

round button chicken

A Review: Apologia Educational Ministries

Have you ever heard of Apologia?  Chances are, if you are a homeschooler or know a homeschooler you have!  Apologia Educational Ministries made a real name for themselves with their incredible Biblically-based science curriculum (which we enjoy using ourselves!) but have expanded their offerings to include a Biblical Worldview Curriculum called the "What We Believe Series".  This series has four volumes:
      • Vol. 1 Who is God (And Can I Really Know Him?)
      • Vol. 2 Who Am I (And What Am I Doing Here?)
      • Vol. 3 Who is My Neighbor (And Why Does He Need Me?)
      • Vol. 4 What On Earth Can I Do

 I was able to review (lucky me!) the fourth book in the volume: What On Earth Can I Do? along with the accompanying What On Earth Can I Do Notebooking Journal, What on Earth Can I Do? Junior Notebooking Journal and the What on Earth Can I Do? Coloring Book.  What an opportunity!

Apologia Review
 What on Earth Can I Do? is a book on the biblical worldview of stewardship because the Christian faith isn't just about knowing something but also about doing something with that knowledge.  God has given us all gifts and opportunities throughout life to use those gifts for His glory.   This book has provided a way for children to understand and heed these truths in a way that is both entertaining and engaging.

The 294-page book has only eight lessons, each of which included an introduction, objectives, thought-provoking questions for the student and later~ more in-depth discussion questions, memory verses, vocabulary words you need to know, specific godly character traits that go along with the lesson, a prayer, a parable of Jesus correlating to the lesson along with many integrated learning articles that further relate to the topic by using short stories, biographies, biblical stories and other forms of information relating to the topic through the different areas of art, music, math, history, science, etc.

With this vast amount of information, it is impossible to finish a lesson in a day.  The childs' attention span and level of interest can dictate how much time each lesson can take and how long it will take you to complete the book.    The lessons can either be read aloud by a parent or worked on independently by the student- though with the latter you will miss some great discussion opportunities!  It could be used for Bible learning or even as a family devotional each evening.

Apologia Review

The Notebooking Journal and Junior Notebooking Journal are used to engage the child(ren) in playful and creative ways while they internalize the concepts brought out in the book.  There are plenty of coloring pages, crossword puzzles, mini-books to assemble and copywork pages to occupy the hands while the lesson is being read.  Both journals cover the same information but the junior version is geared for younger grades and require less writing.  Both have crossword puzzles, but the younger version has 10 words and the older version has 20...that sort of thing.  The older version also has review questions to be answered and more in-depth writing opportunities while the junior version has more fill-in-the-blanks.  Another great feature of the Notebooking Journals are the "Find Out More" pages that direct you to applicable songs, books, videos and activities you can seek out that relate to the topic at hand.  Corynn was perfectly suited for the first book and Andrew was perfectly suited for the Junior Notebooking Journal.  I would read during lunch time (time for biblical studies in the Newman house) and after they snarfed their food as they always do (learning requires brain food!) they would work in their notebooks as I read.

Apologia Review

The additional coloring book is meant for the smallest of children to be able to participate in the lesson as well and both Adele' and Judah were chomping at the bit to crack that sucker open.

The books are geared for children in grades 1st through 6th and there are certainly many opportunities to engage small children.  Even so, I found the lessons to be so informative and all-encompassing that I feel, personally, an older student would benefit more fully from each lesson than a younger student.

Each book is printed with the finest top-notch quality.  The book is non-consumable which means you can use it throughout your homeschooling career and has a rugged but beautiful hard cover and the picture quality within the pages of the book are beautiful.  The Notebooking journals are spiral-bound making them lay flat, making writing in them very pleasant.    The coloring book can be reproduced easily on a copy machine for multiple children or colored right in.  Here is a run-down of the prices for these products.

            • Hardback book...$39.00
            • Notebooking journal...$24.00
            • Junior Notebooking Journal...$24.00
            • Coloring book...$8.00

                  Click to read Crew Reviews
                    Crew Disclaimer

    Wednesday, May 28, 2014

    Memorial Day and A New Addition

    ( Not THAT kind of new addition, silly! )

    The very astute reader to this blog may have noticed a new project being worked on these days.  A Papa Project, as we like to call them around here.  Matt is finally putting to good use those boards he made last year.  He's making an addition to the barn so he can get some equipment things that are lying around in fields put under cover from the elements and in order to get his barn emptied of his tractor and Doodlebug. (Someday I'll have to show you what the Doodlebug is...)

    Matt has been working on the addition a bit here, a bit there.  He designed and made the rafter supports (clever boy!) last fall.  He dug the holes a few weeks ago.  He built the wall on his week off.  And on Memorial Day, you can bet he intended to work on it some more.

    Since the plan for Memorial Day was to hang the roof rafters, I knew it would probably be a good idea to keep the kids away from the work zone.  And since wherever Matt goes the children are sure to follow, I thought it best to go somewhere away.

    A picnic with my mom and sister at a nearby farm/greenhouse fit the bill perfectly.

    Because it is better to climb on wooden trains and ships at the playground than it is to do it here:

    (Five seconds after returning home)

    That evening we had our first grilled hamburgers for the year and our first taste of corn on the cob which was delicious even if it came from the produce aisle of the grocery store and not our garden.  

    Boy, was that corn good.

    Sunday, May 25, 2014

    This Week's Goals

    Fence is done and animals are happy!

    My Andrew has daily been giving reports of Penny's process of "bagging up" and has been begging for me to take pictures of her teats.  (Boys.)

    He is very impressed with them.

    It seems, Penny is too!  

    I am going to be honest here...I am having a hard time getting going today! (Why yes, it IS almost 3:00!) I haven't felt much like doing ANYTHING at all (and have gotten about that much accomplished too!).  I guess it is natural, coming off the heels of such a wonderful week of Matt being close and doing the not-so-ordinary things that vacation days allow for.  Slow starts can be okay, right?

    But this is spring!  And there is work to be done, whether I feel much like doing it or not!

    I thought I would bring out the big guns by writing out the list of things I hope to get done this week for all the world to see.  (Or at least, all you blog readers.)

    Yeah-because the embarrassment of not getting it done is a pretty good impetus to get started.

    And today I need a really good impetus.

    Here are my hopefuls for the week:

    ~ weed/mulch strawberries (a good start- but didn't finish)

    ~ rototill the cutting garden/pumpkin patch and spread flower seeds (too wet)
    ~ mend sheets and last of the mending pile
    ~ start sewing dress for myself
    ~ plant onions, potatoes, lettuce, spinach, kale and swiss chard
    ~ begin weeding walkways in garden
    ~ start pricing milking equipment and put in the order.  Penny is due to calve in just a few more weeks!
    ~ drop off the many bags of donation stuff I have in the back of the van  (twice)
    ~ work in the Granary for at least 2-3 hours this week, organizing and cleaning out.  Take some BEFORE pics!  (All said and done, I worked probably more like 5-6 hours in it and made tremendous progress!)
    ~ laundry (hung outside)
    ~ mulch around cherry trees and filberts  (and apples too, thanks to Mattie and his big blue tractor)
    ~ write three letters- especially one to Opa
    ~ begin getting end-of-school year stuff in order
    ~ clean OFFICE and SCHOOL ROOM (it doesn't look it now that it is the END of the week though.  Funny how that happens.)
    ~ take yard sale books to Granary
    ~ get all the winter outer clothes/accessories out of the basement (they get moldy down there in spring/summer) and put in storage
    ~ find/wash more canning jars for wedding
    ~ finish baby gift (would have been done except I messed up and had to undo the whole thing...)
    ~ sort out the winter clothes from drawers in boys room and put in storage bins

    At the rate I am going, I'll be lucky to strike ONE thing off the list!

    What are you up to this week?

    Edited to Add:  Well, lookie here!  That is what accountability does for a body!  This week I got through ALMOST everything on my very-ambitious list and all because I had blogged it!  

    Friday, May 23, 2014

    Finances on Fridays

    Every Friday, here at Renaissance,  I post about my frugal endeavors and financial inspiration to keep my head in the game.   As a single income family, I am constantly trying to stretch, save and strategically spend our pennies to make this household not only work, but thrive.  But sometimes I just want to give up and go buy a bunch of stuff.  So I started Finances on Friday, a way to re-inspire myself and push myself to keep on keeping on.  Join me?

    * Mended: a hat, three skirts, six dresses, three shirts, four sheets and two pairs of holey jeans that I turned into shorts

    * Bought 40 pounds of fresh half-chickens for $20.00 from a small Mennonite store nearby (this, I admit, puts a damper in the EMPTYING of a freezer but .50 a pound for fresh chicken was a deal I couldn't pass up!)

    * bought a Japanese Anemone and some forget-me-nots from a church plant sale for $2.00 each

    * bought two rhubarb plants this year and spent too much money on them.  I had checked several places and only two (out of six!) places had them- for $7.50 a piece at BOTH places.  I checked (and begged) on Craigslist but no rhubarb to be gotten there either.  So I sprung and bought two plants.  I know it was expensive but I figure the hearty and thriving plants will last me forever...as opposed to the crowns I planted last year that never came up.  $15 out of pocket (which stinks) but hopefully a lifetime of rhubarb.  I will just think about the fact that I could have wasted those $15.00 in many other ways that wouldn't reward me year after year.  (Do you see how I justify myself all the time?)

    * Planted: rhubarb, swiss chard and last of brussel sprouts.

    * Noticed a bunch of parsnips popping up in the garden from last year!  That was a pleasant surprise!

    * paid $200 extra toward principal of house (every extra payment toward the principal of the mortgage gets us one step closer to getting this house paid off with the least amount of interest paid.  Even the small drops in the proverbial bucket matter....or so I tell myself every month when I scrape a measley amount of extra dollars together.)

    * picked bouquets of lilacs for the house

    * made homemade yogurt (4 1/2 qts)

    * spent hours out in the Granary, sorting and cleaning.  Dropped off 9 bags of stuff for donation and three bags of garbage.  Set aside only the best things for yard sale.  What a huge difference so far!  Super excited!

    * a neighbor gave me some extra rhubarb stalks (harvested) and while I was complaining about the price I paid for rhubarb---they said "Oh- we have some growing in our woods!  Come on over Friday and dig it up if you wish!"  So.  YAY for free rhubarb plants!  BOO for buying rhubarb earlier in the week (justification or not).

    * worked on handmade baby gift

    * hung laundry on line to dry

    * washed a TON of crummy ziploc bags which had been shoved in a nook and forgotten about.

    * wrote three letters

    The MENU

    Week 3 of the Use-It-Up Challenge~ in which I try and clear out a freezer and canning cupboard in preparation for an (Lord willing) abundant harvest!
    Lunches, unless otherwise stated, take the form of the very uncreative, uninteresting sandwich. Or leftovers.  And I should mention the children have a snack between lunch and supper since we eat so late.  Snacks are sundry little bits of things.  As usual~ if it is blue it is from the freezer and red is from the canning cupboard.)

    breakfast: fried eggs, sautéed onions, toast
    supper: Mexican chicken, cheddar and onion wraps; pesto parmesan potatoes;  peaches, steamed vegetables

    breakfast: cereal
    supper: grilled sirloin steak, oven roasted potatoes, broccoli with cheddar cheese sauce, applesauce

    breakfast: scrambled eggs, cheese, raisin toast, grape juice
    lunch: leftover soups from freezer mixed together (venison stew and minestrone soup) and rolls 
    supper: pepper and onion stir fry (kielbasa, jalapeno peppers, pineapple zucchini) over brown rice, pears, peanut butter fudge (leftover from Christmas)

    breakfast: eggs, toast, cheese and sausage
    dinner: barbecued chicken drumsticks on the grill, mixed vegetables and couscous, vanilla pudding with huckleberry sauce, pickles

    breakfast: lemony blueberry muffins (shredded zucchini, huckleberries), cottage cheese
    dinner: quiche, pickles.  (beet greens, zucchini, and leftover couscous veggies from last topped with a single puff pastry I found WAAAY in the back of the freezer.  Since I don't buy puff pastry (like...ever) I have no idea how old that sucker was.  But it made a good crust for the quiche!).  Molasses cookies (from frozen dough~ enough for eight cookies.  Weird.  WHY would I have frozen enough dough for eight cookies?!?)

    breakfast: homemade maple vanilla yogurt and peanut butter granola, fresh strawberries
    dinner: broccoli and cheddar soup, herbed baking powder biscuits (broccoli, shredded zucchini, cabbage broth)

    breakfast: eggs and Naughty Rhubarb Scones (though there is nothing naughty about them.  I used yogurt instead of cream because that is what I had on hand)
    lunch: my sister is coming over so I am making Beef Burritos with corn and black bean relish and salsa over brown rice (cilantro, corn, beef, salsa)
    dinner: Pizza and Carrot Sticks night!  I am thinking Garlic Pesto Chicken and Pepperoni with onions.

    It's funny~ ever since I have been writing out our menu I have had to fight the urge to photograph every meal.  I think it is because 'barbecued chicken" doesn't adequately convey the 45 minutes of basting that had to be done first.  Squishing 45 minutes of effort into two words is a bit depressing.  And of course there is the fact that, though in reality it was delicious to eat AND to look at, "leftover soups mixed together" is less than appealing to read.

    Do you have anything financial/inspiring to share this week? 
     Link up!  
    As always~ PLEASE link to your SPECIFIC blog post, not your entire blog. It could be ways you saved or stretched or strategically spent those pennies...or, if you prefer not to be so personal, even inspiration you found online, articles or quotes... but please link to a post about SOMETHING financial! Lastly, please link back to my blog so maybe others would like to share!