Monday, March 2, 2015

We have a crawler

So much I'd love to share and blog about, but just not enough time in a day to get it all done! Here are a few pictures of my littlest guy, who is crawling all over the place these days. 



 
 Almost ten months old, and no teeth yet!


Boaz really is not one to go around getting into mischief, though. He will often crawl to one place he finds interesting, such as the coffee table, and sit there playing with everything within his reach for quite some time before moving on. He also loves crawling around a blanket in the yard. Or, as in this case, playing with the cat's food and water dishes - that's definitely a favorite!




I love that stage when their little hands look like fat little crabs

 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Coffee Alternatives

People often ask me, do I drink coffee? As a matter of fact, I don't. 

It's not that I think it is wrong to drink coffee (there are some people who make that argument because caffeine is a stimulant, such as the 7th Day Adventists and the Mormons). It's not because I think coffee is terribly unhealthy or addictive. It is because if I started to rely on coffee to get me going in the morning and through the day, I would quickly become so dependent on it, that I would no longer be able to cope without it. In other words, in the quantities in which I would need to have coffee if I were to start down that road, it would not be healthy or advisable for me. 

Still, I like to have a steaming hot cup of creamy and - yes - slightly sweet goodness in the morning as much as the next person. Especially, because that is often my first breakfast, holding me over until I have more time to make myself something later in the morning.

So, here are my favorite beverages that make great stand-ins for coffee.

1) Vanilla rooibos (redbush) tea



Rooibos has been my favorite tree ever since I discovered it many years ago. You can find it in all sorts of flavors, but even just plain, it tastes very rich and earthy. My favorite kind is the vanilla flavored one, and since I drink a lot of it, I typically buy it in bulk. My favorite brand is Davidson's Organic Red Vanilla tea. You can also buy smaller packages with individual tea bags. This tea is great hot as well as iced, with or without sweetener, and with or without cream added. 


2) Caro/Pero Instant Beverage



This hails back to my childhood, when we would drink what we called "kids' coffee." It is made from barley, barley malt, chicory, and rye. It has a slightly bitter taste like coffee, so I like mine with some coconut sugar or honey added, and about half milk.


3) Teeccino herbal coffee


This right here is my current favorite, and a breakfast staple. There are many flavor choices available on their website as well as on Amazon. The one I drink is "Vanilla Nut," which I buy in bulk from Azure Standard. I typically sweeten it with 1 tsp of coconut sugar per pint, and add about 3 or 4 tablespoons of cream. So good! 


If you are looking for a caffeine-free beverage to add to your repertoire, I hope this blog post gave you some new ideas. Please feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments below.



Friday, February 13, 2015

Still embroidering

There is only one thing more insufferable than a blog post photobombing all my readers with endless pictures of my kids, and that is pictures of my kids in clothes I embroidered for them. 

Well, get ready to be photobombed... :) I have been busy using my embroidery machine almost daily since getting it.



In addition to matching each other, the girls also wanted to have shirts/dresses that matched their dolls, but not their sisters'. 







I have yet to make Annie's shirt and doll dress. I also made these towels for the newlywed couple at our church. 




Monday, February 9, 2015

A Beautiful Wedding

If you haven't yet seen in on Facebook, check out this wedding we had at our church this past Saturday.





Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My Sewing Nook

Growing up, I learned to do a lot of crafts in school, as well as from my mom. Where I went to school, every child in 1st through 4th grade had 2-4 class periods each week of "crafts," which was in addition to 2-3 class periods of "art" each week. Considering that we only had 20 (in 1st grade) to 30 (by 4th grade) periods each week of 45 minutes each, I think that is a considerable amount dedicated to the arts. (Music usually made up another 2-3.) Of all my memories of school, the arts, crafts, and music lessons stand out by far the most. I remember learning to cross-stitch in 2nd grade, crochet in 3rd, knit in 4th. We worked with clay and paper-mache, learned to sew by hand, made a book, and so much more. Some of these crafts I had already learned at home, but perfected them at school, or vice versa.

I find it remarkable that even though we were only in school from 8:00 to 11:30 a.m. each day, which gradually increased to 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. by 4th grade, the schools made such a point to allow us time for the arts. I think that is something sorely lacking in our schools these days, in spite of the fact that they keep kids for almost twice as long each day. Besides those subjects, in elementary school we pretty much just did Math, Language Studies, Social Studies, and P.E.

In 5th and 6th grade, the craft lessons became electives that were offered in the afternoon, and I gladly signed up for them. This meant that on craft day, I would miss the regular school bus that took the rest of the kids home in time for lunch, so I would instead walk to my mom's store after class got out in the afternoon. My mom at the time owned a wonderful little fabric store, where she also offered alterations. By little, I mean little - nothing like a Jo Ann's, but rather an independently owned, one-of-a-kind fabric boutique. I would spend the rest of my afternoon there, doing homework, and learning to sew on my mom's heavy-duty industrial machines until she closed up shop and we'd head home for dinner. Well, I learned on a regular home sewing machine at first, but preferred to work on one of her big machines if she could spare one for me.

And so began my love of crafts, particularly sewing. Though I have never mastered the art anywhere near as well as my mom, who was an actual tailor/seamstress, I get along well enough on the sewing machine to be able to make my kids cool things. 



A couple of weeks ago, I received a comment on my blog post about the matching PJ's I made for my daughters and their dolls, asking me to contact the commenter via email in an important matter. Try as I might, it often takes me much longer to respond to such requests than I wish it did, especially since this was the day of our field trip. I made a mental note to respond at a later time, and then went back to chasing my kids around, trying to get everyone out the door fed and presentable.

During the field trip, another comment came in from the same lady (my emails pop up on my phone), and this time, she elaborated a bit more, realizing I probably hear from a lot of weirdos and might ignore her first email. She was writing to tell me that her husband and her own and operate Planet Applique, an online store for digital embroidery/applique designs. They had hosted a giveaway on their site in November in which they were giving away five embroidery machines as the first prizes. One of the winners did not care to get the machine, and asked them to donate it to someone else of their choosing. Both the husband and wife listen to my husband's sermons online, and decided to offer the machine to - you guessed it - yours truly as a gesture of appreciation and thanks. SQUEEEEEE!

I was so excited, I told every single person in our church that was on the field trip with us, some of them probably multiple times. And yes, you better know I made it a priority to respond to that email right away! ;)

Since then, I have SO enjoyed getting to know Becca, the owner, through emailing with her. It is always a blessing when we get to find out about the people on the other side of the computer screen that listen to and watch the sermons. She has also been an invaluable help, daily answering my questions as to how to do this or that, seeing as I was a complete and utter beginner with both embroidery, as well as applique. Now, I am fairly confident on the machine, and have made almost a dozen different projects within the last week.



Waiting for the embroidery machine to arrive was like a child waiting for Christmas. Becca told me that she had, in addition to the machine, shipped another box with all the necessary supplies and accessories needed for embroidery. Both boxes were shipped 2-day air. The day they were supposed to arrive, I ran to look out my front window anytime I thought I heard the FedEx truck. It typically arrives by noon, but didn't come until dinner that night. Figures! Then, there was only one box. I asked the driver if he was sure he didn't have another box for me. As is turned out, some major snowstorms in the East had derailed the timely delivery of the second box. This was on a Friday, and I had to wait all the way until the following Monday for the package to finally show up. Imagine my torture!! (I am not even kidding.)


But boy oh boy, was I shocked and surprised when that box showed up! It was full to the brim with everything I could ever need or want, so that in addition to being given this wonderful embroidery machine, I now also had all these wonderful specialty supplies, which in and of themselves cost a small fortune. I received stabilizer of all different kinds (each serves a different purpose), 31 spools of embroidery floss, a special stand that can hold 20 spools of thread by my machine at once, 168 prewound bobbins, packs of fabric for applique, 7 packs of various needles for the machine, pins, specialty scissors needed for appliqueing in the hoop, fabric spray-on glue, blank shirts and dresses in various sizes for both my girls, and their dolls, to use for appliqueing on them, and - the cutest item of all - a USB drive in the shape of an embroidery hoop to transfer files from my computer to the machine. It is at the bottom middle of the picture, just left of the Sulky brand stabilizers.

Can you believe this??!? Not only have Becca and her husband given us these wonderful things, not only has Becca taken the time to purchase, put together, and mail them all, and then tutor me personally on the use of all these items, but they have also offered me to choose any and all designs from their website, for free. I am still pinching myself to make sure it really is not a dream!

And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, here is something else that was in the package:



Six brand-new cloth diapers! And how cute are those?!? Diapers are always put to good use in our house, but I actually really needed to get some larger sizes for Boaz who soaks through the smaller ones during naps and nighttime, and has been wearing disposables at night to keep him from drenching himself. These particular all-in-one diapers have highly absorbent inserts (bamboo?), but the microfiber that is touching the baby's skin feels completely dry to the touch even when the diaper is soaked. I have never seen cloth diapers that felt as dry as these when they were actually soaking wet. 

Back to the embroidery machine - with all these supplies, it was high time to overhaul my sewing nook. Our house is not very large considering our family size, so I don't have a dedicated sewing room, but I do have a nice area set up in our office/walk-in pantry. I spent the days while I was waiting for the machine to arrive reorganizing and cleaning out my area.


I keep the projects I am working on and some fabrics in the 9 cubbies above the embroidery machine. My ribbons and quilting supplies are mounted on the wall behind it. The big stash in the corner is my mending pile (cough, cough), and the table on the right holds the sewing machine. Before Becca sent all the supplies, I stored whatever notions I had in the two drawers along the top of the sewing machine table, and the patterns and instruction books in the two bottom drawers on the left.




Realizing I needed more space to keep my supplies optimally organized, I picked up this rolling cart at Sam's. When not in use, I push it into a little unused corner of the room, but pull it out to have right by my side when working in my sewing nook. 


There is a large window across the room from where the embroidery machine is set up, so I get natural light when sewing during daylight hours (a rare luxury). The fact that all this is set up in a back corner of the house works in my favor, because the little kids already know to stay out of the computer equipment in the office, and it makes it easier to keep an eye on it all.

So there you have it. While some readers/listeners hate us to the moon and back, there are others that make it all worthwhile with their encouraging stories of how they were saved and had their lives transformed as a result of our ministry. And when they go on to send me an embroidery machine that I would not in my wildest dreams dared imagine owning, it makes serving God even sweeter.

If you enjoy applique, I cannot recommend Planet Applique enough, both professionally, and personally. 

 
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

(James 1:17)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Field Trip Friday

Our church offers monthly field trips to all our home-educating families once per month. In January, we went to the Phoenix Zoo.





I always love to see how many children we have between us all. In all, we had 13 families that day, with about 50 children. If only other Christians caught on to the blessings of having children, we would not be facing the cultural battles that we are fighting.


This was a great opportunity for the kids to be wearing their matching yellow shirts again.

 Anna

 Roar! 

Miriam

 Becky


 Our party filled pretty much every single seat on the tram

 I love this face!

 Okay, I love all of these!


Solomon is a teen now, and the only terrible thing about that is how quickly time has gone by. He is turning into a very sweet and kind-hearted young man. I mean, he's always been those things, but he is not losing those attributes even as he is becoming more of an adult than a child. I often catch myself mistaking him for my husband if I only get a sideways glace of him. I am thankful he has godly friends at church that he gets to grow up alongside with. And take goofy pictures in a photobooth with :)



Next month: a behind-the-scenes tour of the Tempe Public Library, and a tour of the Tempe History Museum.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

What I've been up to

In an interesting turn of events, I came to be the owner of a brand-new, super fancy embroidery machine last week that was given to me for FREE. I will write about how I came by this blessing in a separate post, but for now, I just wanted to share some of the projects that have been keeping me busy (in case you were wondering about my blogging absence). 

Most all of what I have been making are appliques, as opposed to just embroidery stitches. Prior to receiving this machine, I had never done either, so the learning curve was steep to say the least.  

My first project ever


 Matching shirts for the girls


A hooded towel I made as a gift for a new baby at church (modeled by Annika)


There have been a few other projects that I can't share here, because they are gifts. :) And all this in just the last week! To say it's addicting is an understatement.

Surprisingly, this is actually a wonderful hobby for a busy mom like myself, because the work is done in many little steps. Once I get the machine going on the next step, I can walk away to switch a load of laundry, do a chore, deal with the kids, etc. while the machine does the stitching, and then pop back in to move on to the next step whenever I have a minute. Perfect!

And, it's a great diversion after CPS comes knocking at your door completely unwarranted in the middle of the night after some hater presumably places an unfounded emergency call to them. (insert eye roll) Even the accompanying police officers were apologetic about disturbing us, and promptly left, not to be heard from again as of yet. Thanks to our church's notoriety, we are no strangers to the Tempe PD, and I will admit that as police officers go, ours have always been nice to us. Anyhow, we do not expect that anything will come of the current malicious attack on our family. We have received legal advice on how to proceed, and ways we can go after those making false accusations (which are actually a crime in and of themselves). I would appreciate everyone keeping us in their prayers, as our family is a constant target for hate and viciousness from a few hateful reprobates. If anything else happens, or the situation changes, I will update you all here.

For now, I'm back to my wonderful embroidery machine. So much to do, so little time!

P.S. Apologies to my Facebook friends, who have heard me talk about little else beside my new obsession this week - and now it's reached the blog, too!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Truth About Martin Luther King Jr.

Watch this documentary and learn the well-documented truth about this man.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Recipe for Enchilada Sauce

Considering the fact that I had only once eaten Mexican food in my first 21 years of life, I like to flatter myself and think I have become quite the Tex-Mex chef since getting married and moving half-way across the world. 


This is a recipe I created by combining my favorite elements from various other recipes, when I needed some enchilada sauce and didn't have any in the house. It is all I have used in years now - I just can't go back to the store-bought kind.

It makes a large batch, but I typically freeze portions of it in quart size freezer bags, to pull out and use as necessary. 

The basic idea is that you start with a roux that is thickened with equal parts of flour and chili powder. Then, equal parts of chicken broth and tomato sauce are added for the liquid to make the sauce. Add seasonings, and presto - it's done. 

(If you don't know what the heck a roux is, just follow the instructions and pretend to know. Your sauce will be none the wiser, and will still turn out perfect.)

You don't have to use home-canned tomato sauce and homemade broth. That's just what I had in the house, but it works equally well with ready ingredients

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup mild chili powder
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth/stock
4 cups tomato sauce
1 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp cumin

1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large, heavy pot. 

2. Add the chili powder and the flour, stir to combine. Allow this "roux" to cook for just a minute, until fragrant. 


3. Gradually stir in tomato sauce and chicken broth while whisking continuously. The sauce will start out very thick as the dry flour and chili powder absorb all moisture, but you turn the perfect consistency by the time all the fluids are stirred in.

4. Add the seasonings, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Done! Enjoy :)


Click on image, then select "Print"


By the way, the sauce tastes wonderful in THIS recipe, for which I also use my easy biscuits.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Upcoming Question and Answer Session

Do you remember my most recent Q & A Session, which was streamed live through YouTube? Well, guess what - I am doing another one! :)


To submit a question for me to answer, please leave it in the comments below. In addition, I will also be taking as many questions as I can from those submitted live during the event in the comments feed.

I hope you will be able to join us!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Snow Much Fun

Most people imagine all of Arizona as a hot desert. Which is true for some parts of it, but other parts of the state are at high elevations, and have a climate radically different from us, complete with snow in the winter, ski resorts, etc.

Here in the Phoenix area, snow is very rare, but not entirely unheard of. In fact, this is the second winter in a row that we have seen snow in parts of our valley. Even the years before that, we have had hail and frost for several years in a row. This "global warming" is sure going marvelously well in our area - ha!
 

When we saw snow last week on Superstition Mountain, I loaded up the kids and took them out of town a little ways to go hiking in the "snow". The temperature was a solid 47 degrees and the skies were sunny, which was still plenty cold for us. 


There was enough snow to throw some snowballs and otherwise have fun, and since I was out with all 8 kids by myself, that's about all I could handle.



We are planning on taking a trip with the whole family to Flagstaff later this month for some sledding and much, much more snow.

 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Our Christmas

We had a lovely Christmas around here. Last year, with all the twin complications going on, was the first year in the history of our family that I felt it was not the best Christmas ever. So this year, I was thankful to once again feel that we had the best Christmastime ever.


Not only did Boaz celebrate his First Christmas this year, but I am also keenly aware of the fact that we may only have a handful more Christmases with our oldest ones still living at home. Sniff!!! This growing up thing is happening way too fast! I am so glad that we took off the whole time from Thanksgiving week until today, even though it made for more work between extra activities to keep the kids busy, and them slacking on their usual responsibilities a bit. And being super hyper leading up to Christmas from sheer excitement!

Finally, I found we struck the perfect balance of buying the kids nice gifts, without overdoing it, spoiling them and overwhelming our limited living quarters. Also, we staggered the gift opening in a way that was less chaotic and rushed, while offering more time to enjoy the gifts individually. We will be repeating this pattern from here on out. This is what we did:

Gifts in the mail from relatives etc.: Opened upon arrival

Gifts between the children: Christmas Eve before dinner
(each child gives one gift to the person whose name they drew in November)

Gifts between the parents: Christmas Eve after kids are in bed

Gifts from parents to children and children to parents: Christmas morning, but don't wake us early! :)

The big boys got a joint gift of a Lego castle, as well as some books, one small individual gift each, and lights for their bike tires (= fun and practical). This is in addition to the gift they each got from another sibling, and what came in the mail.




The girls love playing with princess Playmobil. Becky got the castle in the picture below a couple of years ago, so this year, we bought them one other castle (it's no longer sold, but I found it on Craigslist with no figures or anything, just the empty castle), and each of the girls got a set for a different room in the castle. So now they can use these castles to fill them with various rooms, depending on what they are pretending that day. Usually, it's weddings. :)






The girls also each got a couple of individual gifts (doll stuff - they are all into that right now).


Stephen got a couple of Playmobil 123 sets, which he loves. With him being the 7th child, we already have a nice collection, but he likes the vehicles best of all so we got him the dump truck and the backhoe. Boaz, in our typical (and apparently controversial) fashion did not get any gifts on his first Christmas, besides getting to play with the wrapping paper and boxes. Because, let's face it, eating mashed potatoes, watching the lights and excitement, and tearing gift wrap are the most important aspects of this holiday for a 7-month old ;)


My husband gave me a beautiful, handmade (by an artisan, not him *wink*) wooden cutting board. I had seen it earlier in the month at one of the booths at the German Christmas market. I did not know that when he went back to feed the meter, he also stopped by the booth to buy it. Needless to say, I was blown away. It took me a few days to get over the mental barrier of cutting mundane things like onions on top of an artistic masterpiece, but the wood is holding up beautifully, and not even showing any marks from cutting.

The children gave me a Lego set for a model of Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, as well as a beautiful shawl/scarf/wrap made of bamboo and wool. Both were very thoughtful and perfect gifts that I was thrilled to receive.




My sanity was perfectly preserved on Christmas Day because I served a breakfast that took zero work on my part - frozen overnight croissants from Trader Joe's. Lunch was a honey glazed ham with all the sides, but I kept it pretty down to earth and enjoyed the day instead of just cooking.

So, yes, a great Christmas for many reasons. 

Thank you to everyone who mailed us a Christmas card, and I apologize that we did not send out any this year except for a handful to immediate family. I saw this idea on Large Families On Purpose, and just loved it: