Enjoyment of Simple Pleasures---like homemade yogurt

Blessed Mama here, I am excited, excited, excited. Today, for the very first time, we made our very own homemade yogurt! I haven't figured up the savings yet, but it is significant. Best of all, because we made it ourselves, there aren't any nasty additives or other artificial "yuck" in it. We will be posting the recipe and instructions in a future post. The entire process was extremely easy too. It was a bit time consuming, but that could be due to the fact this was the first time we had ever done this sort of thing. Next time will probably move along more quickly. We'll keep you posted:) No pun intended. For quite a while now, I have been seriously considering what Living Large really means. Today's Tuesday Task is a direct result of my thinking. It is enjoying the simplest of pleasures. Several years ago I began to notice that the sweetest and dearest memories from my childhood have little, if anything, to do with money or possessions. My fondest recollections of youth revolve almost exclusively around those little things that form a bigger picture like smells, sounds, impressions, and feelings. The smell of freshly mown grass. The cool breeze from wet clothes on the line. The contrast of white bedding as it blows dry against the crisp green of the lawn. Morning symphonies from the birds. Squeals of children running through the sprinkler. The wonderful feeling of exhaustion after an afternoon of swimming in the sun. Hamburgers on the grill. How perfectly delicious the first tomato from the garden tastes on that grilled hamburger. Talking loudly above the motor of the ice cream maker. How luxurious a summer afternoon spent reading a book on the porch feels. Iced tea and a snickers. Summer isn't the only season that thrills the senses. Crisp, cold bites from a winter wind. Blinding whiteness after a snowfall. Crunchy steps through the snow. Relaxing warmth of a fire penetrating the morning chill. Comforting heat from a cup of my favorite hot beverage. The crackling of the fire. Cuddly blankets and fuzzy socks after a warm bath. The welcome sight of spring's first blush of green. Green blades of grass peeking out of the brown. No matter what the season, memories abound. It's these recollections that bring a smile to our lips and a soft, contented look to our eye. So, here's the task for Tuesday...think of your favorite memories and pay attention to what each one has in common. Don't be surprised if your favorite remembrances have little to do with the financial status of the time. What exactly does Living Large on Less mean? Well, to me, it means that I will pay as much attention to the "little" blessings as I do to the "big" things. For when all is said and done, most likely I will discover the "little" things are the most dear. Many blessings as we enjoy our simple pleasures - largely. Blessed Mama


Waste Not Wednesday for a Fabulous Friday

With a couple of large "occasions" rapidly approaching at our home, we have been sprucing up the digs a bit:)  As always, I am amazed by what a difference a little bit of elbow grease and paint can make.  As I wander back through the past 19+ year journey of homemaking I've taken, I'm reminded of exactly how often paint has provided just the decorating our home needed. 

Time and time again a can of spray paint has transformed someone else's castoff into "just perfect" for us.  A small two-drawer nightstand became a play stove and oven for not of this world and mustard seed. A coat of crisp, white paint embellished with rose-covered ivy refurbished a dresser for horsegirl's baby things.  A metal trash can that someone obtained from either an auction or the village landfill, looked like new more than once with both white and red paint.  Out of date brass instantly became shabby chic with a dash of soft white spray paint.  Glossy or flat black spray paint has lent instant class to picture frames, baskets, metal stools; on and on the list goes.  Baskets morph into perfection when sprayed to coordinate with a specific project.  On and on and on the projects involving paint roll through my memory. 

There is an indescribable thrill that surges through me at the completion of a successful makeover.  Somehow turning trash into treasure produces a satisfaction not unlike scoring an amazing buy at a sale.  What is there in certain individuals that produces this pleasure?  I like to refer to it as the sheer joy of creating.   Our companion blog, A Mother's Rewards, will have a posting about the joy of creating from a heavenly perspective, but right now at Living Large, we are going to move on to the mechanics of transformation by paint.

Like many individuals, I have a deep appreciation of beautiful things.  Creating a beautiful environment filled with a calming peace is one of my highest priorities as a homemaker.  As tempting as going to town and purchasing all of the latest trends and styles is, the budget doesn't always allow for this.  In fact there have been a few times that the budget didn't allow for anything new.  What then?  It's during those seasons when something new for the house had to come from what was already in the house.

 What????  That's right, look at what we already have.  Is there a box of miscellaneous "things" or "stuff" hiding out somewhere?  Are there closets or cupboards with unused "pretties" in them?  Have you been blessed with really nice things, but don't feel as if you have occasion or the right style to use them?  Have we got some good news for you!  GET OUT THE STUFF AND GO SHOPPING---AT HOME!  This process can be done however you like.  Items can be set out on tables or beds for you to browse through.  Cupboard and closet doors can be opened and their contents rummaged around.  If you are like me, boxes will be drug out, you will plop down on the floor and sift your way down memory lane as you imagine new possibilities for each item that is drawn forth. 

Some helpful tips to remember as you are "shopping" your house:  Don't forget to check out what is already out and about on the walls and tables.  Redecorating may be as simple as removing excess to provide a clean, fresh look.  Rearranging might be another option for a new look.  Removal and rearranging could each be covered more indepth, and we just might do that in a future post.  Today however we are going to focus on that hopelessly ugly wall sconce from years gone by.  You know, the one that sports that gaudy shine, the one that was "perfect" in the late 80s and early 90s.  Ahhh, now you know the one I'm talking about.  Yes, and that sweet little wooden shelf with the heart cutouts and darling little pegs underneath.  Uh-huh, the grape vine wreaths embellished with dried flowers and calico ribbons.  The geese?  NO!  Throw those out, unless you absolutely love, love, love them that is. 

It's the too good to throw away yet too nasty to have out items we're looking at.  So, what DO we do with them?  Look at them again.  Again?  Do we have to?  Yes, look again and again and again--through the eyes of your imagination.  See them painted a different color.  See them with their current embellishments removed.  See the picture with its frame repainted and a different picture put in it.  Look at each item and "see" it undone, redone, and fabulous. 

What is your current look or style?  What do you want it to be?  Can the "things" you have be transformed into something that will provide the look you are wanting?  No?  Are you sure?  Here's an example for you, I have a pair of candle sconces that are beautiful in shape and design yet their shiny brass finish doesn't really work with the look of our new home.  I have been wondering what to do with them.  I didn't want to pass them on because I really enjoy their lines.  A shiny brass birdcage provided the same dilemna.  Each of these items are beautiful and still in excellent condition.  They just didn't work as they are.  I'm not sure why it took me so long, but all of a sudden the spray paint idea flashed through my mind.  Ah-ha!  That's it!  A coat of soft white spray paint later, the birdcage is now part of a incredibly romantic grouping in the master bedroom.  Three pillar candles nestle inside the birdcage surrounded by a scattering of dried rose petals.

 As I was putting the arrangement together, I realized that I only had holders for two candles of this size.  A quick trip to the dish cupboard brought forth a small dessert type dish that works beautifully.  The dish was part of my stash of mismatched pretties.  Having a stash of pretties that are loners or one of a few, make putting together a new look even easier.  Keep an eye out at garage sales or other places for these treasures.  Often people who are cleaning out at their house are looking for someone to take little treasures like this off of their hands. 

What about those candle sconces?  Well, now that I've decided to spray paint them, I have to decide whether I want to use them in the bedroom sporting a soft white finish like the birdcage or whether they need a coating of flat black to travel to the kitchen and/or living room with.  See, the possibilities are truly endless. 

Now, I'm going to take a side trail on this path of waste not decorating fabulously.  Certain styles of decorating do lend themselves to Living Large on Less more than other styles.  If you adore the new, uncluttered simplicity of today's country look, then decorating Large on Less will be very easy.  Shabby chic also lends itself to the repurposed waste not method of Living Large.  While those who thrive in a sleek, modern, contemporary climate may find repurposing a bit of a challenge, the minimalistic characteristic of this design style frees those who choose it to focus on a few significant accents rather than numerous little details. 

A quick tip for the contemporary decorating is to look at and "see" surfaces to create artwork on.  At our house, we had an old cupboard fall apart.  Since it was built with mdf it wasn't worth fixing.  I have guarded the pieces of that cupboard with diligence.  At Christmas time, I was thinking how nice it would be to have a picture to hang up for the season.  I thought of the front pieces from that cupboard.   They would be perfect for pictures.  Sure enough, they were.  Out came the acrylic craft paints and up went two pictures with snow scenes.  They weren't professional art, but they were new, and they worked.

 First of all, if you don't have at least five basic colors of acrylic craft paints, get some.  Secondly, keep an eye open for possible surfaces to create new artwork out of.  Lastly, remember that artwork doesn't have to be professional or perfect, it just has to work.  This tips works for every Living Large decorator, not only those with contemporary styles.  A few bold strokes of color can create a new, fresh piece of art in any room of any style.  If you aren't brave enough to try, find some children to do it for you.  They aren't afraid.  A picture painted by a child inside of a beautiful frame is the best art in the world.  No paint?  How about colored paper.  Cut out various shapes in different colors and/or patterns, arrange them on surface, and adhere them to create a collage.  Your new collage can then be sealed with a premixed variety of sealer or a mixture of flour and water that you whip up yourself.  Allow it to dry thoroughly and place your artwork in its new home.

 Artwork seem too big and scary?  Grab an old bottle or cup out of your cupboard and fill it with some flowers and/or grasses from the yard.  A ribbon or twine can be tied around the neck of the bottle or the handle of the cup if you like.  Place small rocks or pebbles in the bottom of a pie plate, fill partway with distilled water, and float tiny flowers in it OR leave out the flowers and just use pretty rocks and water.  Look at what you have, waste not, and it will be fabulous Living Large on Less.  Blessed Mama


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Refuge of Comfort & Ministry

While reading an article recently, a phrase seemed to leap off of the page. The phrase spoke of "being a refuge of comfort and ministry" to my family. As soon as I read those words, an immediate halt was called for my thoughts. "Whoa! Back up, a refuge of comfort and ministry to my family." I need to get my head and heart all the way around this one. Is this what I am? Is this a path that my thoughts even consider? Have I gotten over myself enough to not only think of following this path, but actively plan my day and life accordingly? Or have I become so busy "doing" godly things that I have forgotten to "be" like Christ in my home, to my family?

Oh Father, thank You for Jesus. Thank You for providing everything I need to be like Him. May I become the woman of God You created me to be. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for continuing to teach and remind me of the Father's ways. May I be willing and obedient to follow Your leading. I'm ever so grateful for Your continued instruction and leading. In Christ's name, Amen

2 Corinthians 1:4 AMP - "Who comforts (consoles and encourages) us in every trouble (calamity and affliction), so that we may also be able to comfort (console and encourage) those who are in any kind of trouble or distress, with the comfort (consolation and encouragement) with which we ourselves are comforted (consoled and encouraged) by God."


Tuesday's Monday Munchie & Task

Today's recipe is one of Living Large on Less comfort food, Meat Pie. Meat Pie was introduced to me by my mother-in-love. It is one that her mother-in-law made for her family. We at Living Large hope you enjoy it as much as your pocketbook will.

Tired of making stew with those leftover bits of veggies and meat? Then Meat Pie is the perfect recipe to try. Remember that this dish can be personalized to fit your family's taste. Use whatever seasonings suit your palate. Each combination of meat and vegetables may taste better with different seasonings. For instance, chicken and/or pork may be delicious with sage while red meats may go with something else entirely. It's up to you to determine which seasonings your family will enjoy.


* ground beef, browned and drained OR leftover meat of choice
* vegetables of choice - leftovers work perfectly
* seasonings of choice
* rue for thickening a.k.a. thickener to make gravy
* batch of favorite biscuit dough
Preheat oven
Brown ground beef or warm meat
Add rue and stir until slightly thick
Stir veggies in
Place in greased casserole
Cut out biscuits from dough
Place biscuits on top of meat mixture
Bake until biscuits reach desired doneness

TIP: Can brush tops of biscuits with butter prior to cooking

After reading a blog post this past weekend, I realized that we at Living Large on less have completely overlooked one of the key factors in Living Large, getting out of debt. Wow! How did that happen? If ever there was a task that will enable a person to Live Large on Less, getting out of debt is it. There are many varying schools of thought on this topic. We at Living Large on Less aren't going to elaborate on any of them. How, when, where, any of us make this decision and the process we use to do so, are a personal choice. Literally hundreds of suggestions, methods, and tips abound online for those serious about bursting free from debt. Too far in to get out? Never! Just remember the age old advice of how to eat an elephant; one bite at a time. One choice at a time will eat away at any mountain of debt in our lives, no matter how ominous and looming that mountain may appear. Whether that choice is to cut your own hair instead of using the services of a salon, making your own laundry soap, or simply buying only one latte' a day instead of the usual five, bit by bit debt can and will be erased if we keep taking one bite at a time. True, we may get very tired of eating elephant bite after bite, but the freedom that comes when living free from debt more than makes up for any boredom or inconvenience each bite brings. Getting out of debt is Tuesday's Task - now that is LIVING LARGE ON LESS Blessed Mama


You Know You've Repurposed Too Much When...

It's no secret that we repurpose as much as possible at our house. A comment made by Giggle (three-year-old) this afternoon revealed exactly how much of a lifestyle Living Large on Less has become. I was dividing and repotting a plant that had become ridiculously rootbound into "new homes" and Giggle was "helping". As I filled in around the plants with potting soil, Giggle was looking over the now empty basket the plant had originally been setting in. Please understand that this was just a standard, run of the mill basket that plants from flower shops come in. It was quite small at that. As Giggle checked the basket out and carefully looked it over she asked, "Are you going to put my toys in that basket?" I answered that I wasn't going to use the former plant basket for her toys. "Are you going to store other things in it then?" Upon receiving a response to the negative, Giggle was more than a little puzzled at why I wasn't going to use this "basket" for organizing. Furthermore, she didn't seem to believe that I truly wasn't using it for something. You know, now that I think about it, that basket might not look so bad spray painted black. It might even look rather nice; we'd just have to spiffy it up a smidge. Spray paint can transform the most hideous of items. Hmmmm, wonder why Giggle didn't believe me? Have a great weekend! Blessed Mama


Generosity Abounds

One of the many, many topics that has crossed my mind lately has been that of generosity.  Generosity, who doesn't love that word?  Webster's NewWorld Thesaurus gave these synonyms for generosity: bounty, readiness in giving, free giving, hospitality, charitableness, largesse, benevolence, charity, liberality, bounteousness, profusion, beneficence, alms-giving, philanthropy, open-handedness, munificence, altruism, unselfishness, playing Lady Bountiful.  A lengthy post could easily come from those descriptions.  However, I want, no need, to take a different route today. Those words perfectly describe a community of individuals I am gradually coming to know.  A group of individuals who daily spur me on to good works, homeschoolers

Now before memories of every whacked out weirdo you ever saw or heard of fill your head, let me clarify that the community of homeschoolers I have discovered are neither wacky or weird.  These hard-working men and women have inspired, thrilled, touched, and encouraged me more than mere words can express.  Never in my life have I ever experienced or observed such open-handed giving.  Every time I open my email inbox, there are freebies available "just because".  Ebooks, lapbooks, CDs, audios, download after download of lessons and plans, on and on and on the list of blessings flows.  I can't even remember the blessings they are so abundant.  Our home and homeschool have been enriched in numerous ways as we have been able to freely receive from kind, loving people we've never met.  Yes, that's right.  All of this generosity I'm waxing eloquently about has come from people we've never met.  How is this possible?  Via the Internet. 

How I would love, love, love to say Thank You face to face and share how at just the right time these resources have "shown up".  When reading of the challenges and heartaches of my online "friends" and mentors, I find courage to stand strong, and true, and brave throughout my own.  As a result of their bounteousness I have been challenged, emboldened, spurred on to greater heights and depths of love for Christ, my husband, my children, and those around me.  I have learned to lay aside my own selfishness and pursue those things that lead to greatness rather than comfort. 

Through the Internet, God has blessed me beyond measure.  He has drawn me outside of the box of my own perspective and shown me a glimpse of His picture.  When discouragement and despair attempt to gnaw their way in, whoosh! they are swept out as I glean insight from the wisdom of others. Those faithful ones who have walked the road before me speak out warnings and encouragement through the articles and books they send.  Fresh perspectives and ideas flood my inbox to keep the waters of our school from stagnating.  The blessings of God are beyond measure.  He is so good to me!  I am indescribably grateful for the rich generosity He bestows on my life every day.  I am blessed to be His daughter.  I am blessed to be a homeschool Mama too.  Thank You God for generosity! 

They wash the clothes
and shut the drawers
Wipe snotty noses too

Their eyes light up
and sparkle so
when learning something new

Hugs and kisses
prayers and wishes
discipline and more

Fill their days
with highest praise
to the One they adore

What makes them tick?
How's it done?
Questions fly their way

They smile and say
It's Him, you know
He is the Only Way

Christ is the One
who makes it work
It's He who gives me strength

Through Him I love
and serve and give
He deserves the praise

It isn't me
I'm not my own
By myself I'm very weak

In Christ alone
I wash and mend
It's His grace I daily seek

These children
my, they're growing fast
they have so many needs

I must keep my eyes on Jesus
Look to Him
He will lead

My heart He's saved
my life He gave
He satisfies my soul

I live for Him
He died for me
His life I have received

These mother's hearts
they must be filled
with Jesus' love so great

If they will do
what they must do
and be what they must be



You Won't Want to Miss This!

Hey There! We have a couple of things to pass on to any readers who homeschool. We will have a regular post later on this week, but for now, here's some great savings going on: * The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has come out with their annual supplement. It is free to subscribers and is filled to overflowing with enough bonuses, articles, ebooks, worksheets, and planner modules to more than pay for the cost of a year's magazine subscription. Trust me on this one, it's definitely worth your while. I just downloaded mine and after skimming a couple of articles and a summer module, I'm ready to begin school all over again instead of wind down for the year:) * OK, if you receive any homeschool enewsletters, then you are well aware of the Ultimate Homeschool Expo going on right now. If this major, most "ultimate" event has somehow not shown up on your radar, then you will most definitely, definitely want to head on over to Cindy Rushton's website and find the information on this one. This is a truly amazing deal! Cindy Rushton is known for her generous gifts and this year is looking even bigger and better than ever. The ticket is $39.95. Those who are unable or don't enjoy attending homeschool conventions will be especially blessed. The speakers come to you right at home. How's that for great? Not to mention that there are freebies, bonuses, ebooks, audio sessions, and more included in the ticket price. Check it out. There is also a special price for friends who want to join up and save on the ticket price. YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS THIS ONE! Want to get a sample of the speakers before committing to a ticket? Head on over to Talk-a-Latte, another Rushton family ministry and listen in. Seriously, look into this, YOU WILL BE BLESSED! Now, just to be on the safe side, we want everyone to know that Living Large on Less is only passing on a couple of tips on great savings and blessings. That is all! This has not been an advertisement. We just don't want anyone to miss out on these amazing opportunities to Live Large on Less in their homeschools. Until we get together again, enjoy the Blessings of the Lord as we all learn to Live Large on Less. Blessed Mama


Truly Clean

A faint taste of soap lingers in my mouth. I recently brushed my teeth and apparently, my toothbrush had served as a scrub brush in the hand of a certain 21-month-old mighty man of God. The unpleasant realization of this didn't happen gradually, as soon as I began brushing, WHAM! Toothpaste is NOT the only substance on this toothbrush! Rarely does this everyday activity get accomplished in such haste. Get the soap out of here! was the only thought on my mind. Well, not the ONLY thought. There were also frequent thanks that the other substance on my toothbrush was something as clean as soap:) Those with small children will completely understand.

ANYWAY...my ramblings are going somewhere, really. As I was brushing---quickly---I couldn't help but think about how often the same thing happens in my relationship with Jesus Christ. How many times have I attempted to "clean up my act" with the wrong cleaner? Day after day I attempt to straighten up and behave correctly relying on my own strength instead of confessing my sins (1 John 1:9) and receiving forgiveness through Christ. Just as bar soap is not designed to clean our teeth, my human efforts are not designed to clean my heart. In fact, these sincere, yet faulty attempts on my own behalf could very well poison my heart further in the same way ingesting too much soap will poison my body. Also, how often, even though I am aware that my actions aren't accomplishing what I want them to, do I continue to try scrubbing my heart clean on my own? Why don't I just quit brushing? Why don't I quit before the "soap" of my own efforts has been spread throughout my entire heart?

As much as I desire to be clean and righteous before my Lord, if I don't follow the instructions in His Word, my actions can be in direct opposition to those desires. God couldn't have made the cleansing of my heart any simpler. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9. (Notice I said "simpler" not "easier".) All I need to do is confess those sins. "He who walks in the Spirit will not fulfill the lust of the flesh." Galatians 5:16 Confess my sins and walk in the Spirit, could it have been made any clearer? Yet, in spite of knowing these truths, I continue to brush away working dilligently to clean my heart myself all the while hating the taste of "soap". Ah, Dear Lord, I confess that I have tried to clean my heart on my own rather than following the instructions in Your Word. I have attempted to cleanse myself instead of receiving forgiveness through Christ. Thank you for the forgiveness Jesus bought for me. May I learn to walk in the Spirit and abandon the ways of myself. Thank You for teaching me in ways that I can understand. In Jesus' precious, precious name, Amen.

Isn't God good to teach me even as I'm brushing my teeth? Just think, He has taken a toddlers funny doings and used them to instruct me in righteousness. Amazing! He is so good! Until later, remember...If there's soap on the brush, put it down and quit brushing! I'll be back later this week. Right now, I'm going to go find something to take this soap taste out of my mouth;) In Christ's Love, Blessed Mama

Ahhhhhhhh, it's morning
Time to rise and time to shine
Get up, get dressed, such a sleepyhead
To the bathroom I now head

My teeth need brushed, my hair needs combed
Morning tasks wait to be done
I'd like to sleep, go back to bed
But not today Miss sleepyhead

What's going on? Something's amiss
My toothbrush isn't in the dish
It's run off on little legs that left it lay behind
Now I must search and search until the lost I find

Alas, the lost it has been found
The morning plan can be unwound
As I commence to brushing round
A flavor creeps in without a sound

What's this? Toothpaste it surely isn't
It's soap! Oh no! It's most unpleasant
It could be worse, How? I won't say
I'm just thankful that soap is the taste of the day