7.21.2011

For the Homeschoolers

We have one month left before the high schoolers get back into the book learning mode again. Our hands on summer learning a.k.a. work is in full swing with several of the household haying. As the intense heat of the past week or so subsides into a manageable warmth, we find ourselves doing everything we can to continue being intentional in our enjoyment of the summer vacation. Taking a break to pet the cat is one of those intentional decisions. (so is vacuuming up his beautiful white hair LOL) Anyway...I digress. To celebrate the unique task of homeschooling in a rural area, a brand new, still under construction website is making its Internet debut today: https://sites.google.com/site/sandhillsscholars/. Sandhills Scholars is a website whose sole intention is to revive, refresh, and bless the homeschooling family. Even though the website was created with rural homeschool families in mind, urbanites will enjoy the recipes, tips, encouragement, and prayer sessions also. Content will be of the friendly, down home variety and updates will be regular, if not often. Please come visit Sandhills Scholars. For privacy protection, visits are by invitation only. The link is not available through a traditional search. Oh yes, please do excuse the dust and mess; it is under construction you know. To help beat the heat in the kitchen, we'd like to pass along the recipe for a delicious pasta salad. The recipe is from a friend, and we ate the salad while visiting her this past weekend. We're sending out tons of thanks to our friend for sharing this scrumptious recipe with us. PASTA SALAD: Bow tie pasta - cooked and drained mayo salt pepper tomatoes - chopped and seeded cheese Yes, that's it! Adjust amounts for your personal preference and enjoy. Need an entire meal? Try chopped up chicken and crumbled bacon (cooked) in it. Bet turkey or bite-size pieces of steak would work in place of chicken as well. Don't you just love the ease and simplicity of summer? Me too. Uh-oh, now there's a hot, cold weather twist to this coming to me. Better quit yacking and get some water on to cook the pasta. I think I feel a recipe-making spurt coming on. See you later!

Sandhills Scholars!!!

"Bear (endure, carry) one another's burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it]." Galatians 6:2 AMP

"If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God's love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." 1 Corinthians 13:1 AMP

"[Let your] love be sincere (a real thing); hate what is evil [loathe all ungodliness, turn in horror from wickedness], but hold fast to that which is good." Romans 12:9 AMP

Happy Summer Days! The intense heat has been replaced with a variety of warmth that is MUCH more manageable. So thankful for that! Summer is the perfect time for doing, well, absolutely nothing. Even though that rarely happens here at A Mother's Rewards, we do spend summer's days participating in a hands on type of schooling, work! Haying, fencing, and cattle work cause day after hot day to speed by faster than any of us can imagine possible. When looking at the calendar this morning, the realization that as of tomorrow there will only be one month left of summer vacation for the high schoolers in the house struck me, the teacher, full force. One month! One month! Where has my summer gone? Only one month to get the floors refinished, the lessons all planned, the this, that, and the other thing done!

Before the thoughts whirled out of control, the rare moment happened; I took control of those crazy thoughts and went about my day. That's it. No biggie and yet, it was huge. I refused to let my mind control my will, and it was wonderful, wonderfully simple. Now that it's happened once, it will happen again and yet again. Each time will be easier than the time before, and before long the habit of stressing will be conquered. Another intentional choice has brought peace to potential chaos. Thank You, Jesus for showing me the way to life and dying that I might live abundantly in You.

God, YOU ARE SO GOOD! I LOVE YOU!

For the homeschool reader, here is a link to a brand new (it's still under construction) website. Hopefully, you'll depart from your visit there refreshed and blessed in Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. There are recipes, tips for moms, classifieds, and prayer requests. Here is the link: https://sites.google.com/site/sandhillsscholars/. This site is so new that there's still sawdust flying around and drywall to be mudded. Even so, guests are always welcome. Feel free to leave comments on the site at: amothersrewards@gmail.com.

7.18.2011

Batching - Timesaving Technique

Batching is a timesaving technique featured in this article: How to Use Batching to Become More Productive. Imagine my surprise when reading through the article and realizing that what I do to stay motivated while working is an actual technique with an actual name, batching. Go figure! Makes me wonder what else we "just do" in our lives that might be motivational and helpful to others. Often, ok usually, it is the smallest and the simplest things that make the biggest difference. I'm sure that there are many things every person does, every day that others would be blessed to know about and put to use in their own lives. My mom taught me to reward myself for a difficult, or unpleasant task well done by reading a chapter out of a good book. Knowing that reading time was coming was good motivation for completing the task. Being able to read more than a chapter was even greater motivation for completing all of the day's tasks. The Fly Lady at www.flylady.net teaches a technique similar to batching. She recommends working at a task in 15 min. segments using a timer as well as working for 45 minutes on larger jobs followed by 15 min. with your feet up drinking water. Then move on to the next job and work another 45 min. with a 15 min. rest and water break. Very similar to batching indeed. Whatever the technique used to accomplish our work and manage our time more effectively, there seems to be a factor that is consistent with almost all of them, the use of a timer. The shape and size of the timer truly isn't important; even though a tomato-shaped timer would be fun. (You'll have to click on the link and read the article.) Utilizing the time we've been given and making the most of it is another aspect of learning to live in true Abundance. I'm thinking it might be more effective for me to set the timer for my reading so that I have enough time in my day left to work. *chuckles* Yes, timer for reading - and computer - ready? set? GO!

7.15.2011

Ounce of Prevention...

A while back, maybe last year? Living Large on Less posted an article about decorating with items found during walks outside. Among the items we mentioned discovering were birds nests and feathers. While we still think nests and feathers provide a definite interest to a home's decor, we also learned that it is illegal to pickup and take such items home, especially those of migratory birds. Therefore, as a precaution, we now recommend checking with the correct sources to find out the legalities of "gathering" decor from the great outdoors. After all, "an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure." A fine of $15,000 and jail time are definitely NOT part of living a life of Abundance, even if they do provide interest and look really great.

7.12.2011

Crockpots, crockpots, How We Love Our Crockpots

Traditionally, many tend to view slowcookers as the cooker for soups, stews, and other comforting cold-weather dishes. Slowcookers aka Crockpots are far more than a homemaker's favorite winter-time servant. They make the days of summer easier, and cooler, as well.

An earlier post featured a recipe for Easy Iced  Chai Tea. I was able to spend a portion of the morning "playing around" in the kitchen coming up with the recipe because my servants, the slowcookers, did lunch for me. Following breakfast cleanup, lunch was prepared and placed in slowcookers. Meat was placed in one, potatoes in another, and veggies in a smaller cooker. Now comes the best part of this summer timesaver: all three crockpots were then taken outside--yes, outside--placed on a table, and plugged into a power strip, which was plugged into an outside outlet. Not only was the cooking of lunch being handled, any heat being generated by the appliances was outside too.

Realizing that readers with AC won't appreciate this tip quite as much as those without, it was just too good not to pass on. Upon searching, Abundance found a number of other ideas and tips on keeping cool while cooking in summer's heat. Using an exterior outlet or running an extension cord from inside the house and cooking outside were some of the most popular suggestions. It was also discovered that electric roasters can be used for more than just roasting. They are able to serve their owners well by baking. Electric skillets and coffee makers also joined the list of appliances taken outside to "beat the heat". Solar ovens were yet another popular method of cooking while the BBQ grill remained the all-time favorite summer kitchen servant.

As with most topics we cover here on Abundance, thinking outside of tradition's box produced solutions to another homemaking challenge, cooking in the heat. So...what do you do at your house to keep the kitchen cooler during the hot temps of summer? Feel free to share with us at amothersrewards@gmail.com or by leaving a comment here on Abundance.

7.11.2011

Experiments - In the Kitchen

Happy Monday!!!

The following recipe fits in perfectly with our summer mission of being intentional and enjoying every bit of each day. It would be perfect for a gathering of friends, family, or turning an every day moment into a special occasion. Can we ever have too many options for iced goodness during summer's hot days?

While working on a new recipe for iced coffee this morning, I had a wild-hare thought: "What would this taste like using tea instead of coffee?" Guess what! It tasted great! Here's the recipe for a tasty new Iced Chai Tea drink using ingredients already in the pantry. 

ICED CHAI TEA
  • 2 t. instant tea
  • 1 T. brown sugar (I know it's a lot, but this isn't an everyday type drink.)
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 3 T. warm water
  • 6 oz. cold milk
Place tea, brown sugar, vanilla, and water in a tightly lidded jar. Shake until foamy. Pour over ice in glass.  Add milk to glass, and enjoy.

*Because I can't stand to leave any of the "goodie" in the jar, after pouring the tea-sugar mixture over the ice, I added the milk to the jar, put the lid on, and gave it a good shaking. THEN I added it to the glass. This scooped up any of the tea/sugar left in the jar.

**A very tiny bit of black pepper will make this recipe resemble a traditional chai flavor even more.

7.07.2011

Crafting - Possible for Less

Crafting is big business. When I was small, almost every mother did some sort of handiwork.(at least it seemed that way) Now, not only are mothers crafting, (and it's on the rise) but they are making money at it too. Abundance isn't addressing business tips in today's post. We're visiting with the average Do-It-Yourself-er who possesses the hunger to create but lacks the budget to feed that hunger.

How well I remember lacking financial resources for supplies while the creative hunger gnawed inside. As tempting as it was to throw up my hands and surrender defeat, the hunger to create was too strong. What did I do? Why thought outside of the box of course. When I wanted to stamp crafty, "in" looking cards, I invested in the least expensive set of brush tip watercolor markers I could find and created stamped images using my children's thumbs and fingerprints. Hand prints, thumbprints, and even footprints work really well using fabric paint on shirts and gift bags too. I would have preferred to purchase all of the rubber stamps, ink, and nifty gadgets that abounded. However, if I had been able to do what I wanted, none of the original, one-of-a-kind gifts and cards that resulted from thinking outside of the traditional crafting box would have been.

As much as I hate to admit it, creatively, having a small to non-existent budget for crafting materials was far from the negative I then viewed it to be. Less forced me to approach the act of creating from a new angle. An angle which resulted in more. Rather than being locked into the then-current crafting trends, my financial limits freed me to practice abundant creativity.

Freed creativity is wonderful, but even the abundantly creative need some basic supplies. Here are some of the least expensive, most used crafting supplies we at Abundance never like to be without:
  • black permanent marker (Sharpie) thick and thin tip
  • jute twine
  • white kitchen string
  • glue stick
  • hot glue
  • basic colors of acrylic craft paint (basic colors can be mixed to create others)
  • black ink pad
  • white, black, & cream card stock
  • brown craft paper or brown paper bags
  • hole punch
  • paper and fabric scissors
  • colored pencils and/or crayons
  • children's books with cute illustrations or other source of cute images to use as inspiration when drawing own designs - no breaking copyright laws
  • imagination - this can be developed and strengthened by increased usage
Come back later! We're going to be talking about some of our favorite thumb, hand, and foot print cards and crafts in future posts. There might even be pictures - Yea! Also, feel free to send pictures of your crafting more with less favorites to amothersrewards@gmail.com or leave a link with a comment. We would love to rejoice in the results of creative abundance. Bye - for now!

Thinking it Through About Marketing---Trends or Tricks?

OK, I’ve just spent 30 minutes, or more, reading article after article on making money online. Know what I’ve discovered? I am NOT a business woman, at least not one that follows current trends. No matter how many times I read the words, I simply canNOT get my head around luring people into my site in order to make money off of them. Now the “offer a great product that will enrich their lives” I can handle but the other…not this girl.




Now for the clincher, it was a Christian family offering these marketing strategies. Am I simply naive or are many of the marketing strategies being used today contrary to the Word of God? I’m not judging - truly I’m not. I just can’t stomach the thought that some websites and blogs I regularly visit are writing “godly” articles with the express purpose of luring me in to make money off of me. Which is it, ministry or business? Can it be both?



Where does scripture say there is a line that can be drawn between our business practices and the rest of our lives? Nowhere I can find. As I said, there’s no judgment here; I’m just trying to decipher truth in this issue. My heart is leading me down a path vastly different from the one some other believers are advising, and confusion is stifling.



Being the black and white sort of girl that I am, business is straightforward and simple, not manipulative and complex. I offer either a service or product for a reasonable price, and the customer either pays the price or does business elsewhere. If my service and product are of good enough quality, word will spread and more customers will come. I have always felt that advertising is most effective when done in an attractive yet honest manner.



Call me old-fashioned; I adhere to the “if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it” policy. Hard work, integrity, and honesty still produce the most successful businesses. As with all good things, success is neither easy nor free. Since I have to invest time and work into any business, why not make certain that the work I am putting in lifts up Christ and His Word?



Please, please, please don’t misunderstand the purpose and intent of this post. Honestly, all I am doing is attempting to think this thing through. Are modern day marketing strategies completely honest or are they manipulative and conniving? As with many situations, maybe the answer isn’t found in “what” marketing techniques I utilize but in “why” I use them.



No matter how many times around my head I go with this topic, I keep coming back to “In all these things, is Jesus Christ glorified?”. Ahhhhh, there’s the peace that umpires my decisions.(Colossians 3:15) Yep, that’s the answer. No matter which marketing ideas I may or may not use in the future, I need to always make certain that I commit and trust them wholly to Him. Then my plans will be established and succeed. (Proverbs 16:3) Thanks for “thinking this through” with me. In the name of Jesus, I pray blessings and supernatural success on businesses striving to be honest and upright. May they be rewarded by God for their integrity, and may fresh, new, creative ideas and innovations be theirs. In the name that is above every name, Jesus, Amen.