Tag Archives: Homemaking

A Glimpse Inside Our Pantry

pantry post

I thought I’d give you a glimpse into our pantry and fridge, and show you how we eat most of the time.  I think it’s fairly simple, just natural, whole ingredients, and organic where possible and affordable.  We also have a few specialty ingredients that we use sometimes.

So here’s what our pantry usually looks like after shopping day (photos taken a month ago). Where it’s just way too expensive to buy organic varieties, we try and find the next best thing. Our local supermarket for example has some ‘natural’ range products that are more affordable, and some of these things we use less regularly anyway (eg. almond meal, maple syrup).  A lot of things we buy in bulk bags, such as flour, nuts and dried fruit.  Also, our dairy produce in New Zealand is grass-fed and so we don’t buy organic dairy or meat (but do free-range chickens).

You’ll notice there’s some things there that aren’t all that healthy (like the bought crackers, which are convenient carriers for healthy toppings!), but we aren’t 100% perfect and aren’t trying to be!

Flour and Baking Ingredients

  • Coconut flour
  • Almond meal
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Wholewheat flour
  • Gluten-free/aluminium-free baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Shredded coconut
  • Coconut chips
  • Cacao powder
  • Coconut amino sauce
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Rapadura sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Raw honey
  • Cacao butter
  • Carob powder

Nuts, Seeds, Dried Fruit

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Natural raw nut mix (almonds, pecans, brazils, walnuts)
  • Walnuts
  • Goji berries
  • Raisins
  • Dates
  • Seed blend (LSAP)

pantry 1

Oils and Vinegars

  • Extra virgin coconut oil
  • Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Plum vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Fermented soy sauce
  • Wholegrain mustard

pantry 3

Dried Legumes

  • Lentils
  • Chick peas
  • Buckwheat groats
  • Brown rice
  • Jasmine white rice
  • Popcorn (always organic)
  • Quinoa
  • Wild rice
  • Millet (used infrequently)
  • Amaranth (used infrequently)

pantry 4Other

  • Rice crackers
  • Canned coconut cream
  • Canned chick peas
  • Cacao nibs
  • Maca powder
  • 100% bean pasta
  • Tomato passata sauce
  • Homemade buckwheat cereal
  • Large rolled oats
  • Store-bought oat bars
  • Organic coffee
  • Organic herbal tea
  • Chlorella powder
  • Dr Mercola Protein powder
  • Moringa leaf powder

pantry 2

Seasonings

  • Cinnamon
  • Braggs nutritional seasoning
  • Himalayan salt
  • Sea salt
  • Sweet paprika
  • Cumin
  • Ginger
  • Coriander seeds
  • Fennel seeds
  • Turmeric
  • Vanilla powder
  • Various dried herbs

In Our Fridge

This is about the fullest our fridge ever looks, as we have various leftovers in there, some chicken bones to turn into stock, and some bags of flour!  I can also spot some blueberries that we picked ourselves, and about 4 jars of sauerkraut.  Generally, the staples are:

  • Raw milk
  • Double organic cream
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Coconut water
  • Sauerkraut
  • Cream cheese
  • Almond milk
  • Jam
  • Cheese
  • Unsalted butter
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Free range eggs
  • Pesto (maybe once a month for this)
  • Kefir
  • Yoghurt
  • Kombucha mushies (haven’t made kombucha in a while)
  • Liquid whey
  • Seed powders
  • Homemade ACV drink
  • Homemade iced tea concentrate
  • Ginger root
  • Meat and frozen berries are in the freezer, also some frozen homemade stocks

pantry fridgeUsually we eat naturally fermented sour dough bread, as we can get some amazing artisan bread for a great price the day after it’s baked.  But we’re looking at cutting out grains for a while just to tidy up a few health issues that are lingering.  Instead I’m making flax bread and keep slices in the freezer ready to go, or using leftovers and making cooked lunches.

So there you go!  We’re spending inside the average range for a family of our size: $230-$359/wk (NZ stats for 2013, from lower to moderate range). The weeks I blow the budget is usually because we’ve stocked up on something or bought supplements.

We’re going to make some cut backs on our grocery bill this year but more on that another time. I’d like to get it down to $200-250/wk without compromising our health.  That’s going to take some serious creativity!

Have a great week!

Victoria

Choosing to Stand Tall

Choosing to Stand Tall

It’s taken years to be truly on this path to freedom, but here I am in 2014 finally able to embrace who I am, and whose I am. And I don’t plan on retreating back to where I once was!

We have an unfortunate cultural trait in our country called ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’. It’s common enough for there to be a name to it. When a person stands taller from the crowd, they are pulled down or cut down with words so they no longer stand tall. It’s sometimes overt and sometimes more subtle, but the outcome is the same – to prevent another person from rising to all they could and should be, so that another feels better about themselves. It’s the opposite than what Heaven intends for our country, which a culture of true honour, comradeship and courage, and a People that will cheer on others in their chosen path.

I have been on the receiving end of this, and without doubt I’ve probably hurt others in this way. I can only repent for where I have partnered with this myself, and pray the Lord keeps me sensitive and humble from walking in it again!

What we want in the Body of Christ is for EVERY PERSON to walk in fullness, and in that way we are all better for it! We can honour the unique voice of one another, and enjoy and celebrate the brilliance that shines from each person.

My Journey in Becoming a ‘Tall Poppy’

For many years, and more so since becoming a mother, I’ve frequently been on the receiving end of jealousy, cutting down, and revilement, because others have desired what I have or have been jealous of what I am capable of. It has caused me to withdraw, be silenced, and isolate myself from others. Sometimes, it’s been shrouded in religious language, or a ‘minor’ reason given instead of the ‘main’ reason that hides what it really is. Other times the responsibility has been put back on me, as though the cause is me – I’m causing insecurities to rise up in others, or intimidating women because I am skilled and gifted in areas that others may not be. I’ve been pressured to hide my light, to be less of myself, to enhance my struggles and shortcomings so that others feel better about themselves.

But do you know that excluding others, cutting off or cutting down someone, or withdrawing your friendship or care of someone because you perceive them to as the source for your discomfort, is really unloving and based on a lie?  And at times, the victorious life they lead might actually be the result of years of perseverance, cost and sacrifice? Or perhaps an outpouring of favour of the Lord they have grown in, to be celebrated and cheered on?

Here’s a snapshot.

I love my husband and children. I very rarely need time away from them. I do need time by myself to re-energise at times, but it’s not because I’m fed up with them. It’s because I’m an introvert that likes to sit and read, listen and think. So I don’t crave the time out of the home without my family that others might. I also love spending time with other families, and I don’t crave women-only get togethers. Rejoice with me that I’m different and what a change the Lord has brought about in my heart – when I first got married I wasn’t sure I wanted children, as I was still hurting from my parents’ divorce. What a transformation God has done in my life!

I don’t believe my way of parenting is the best/only/right way. Truly. I have many convictions about things that are right for our own family, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s the best way for your family. Those decisions that we all have to make about raising children, eating, Church fellowship, homeschooling or public school – they are all things that we can only be responsible for ourselves and not for others! I freely and joyfully love to help others, hence this blog as one example. But if you decide a different way, then go for it and be the best you can! So celebrate with me the victories and the courage it has taken to go against the mainstream, as we have pursued the best plan for our family.

I (usually) have a well-ordered and clean home. My mother set a wonderful example for me. I also learned young how to do this, as from 11 I lived without my mother under the same roof. It became necessary if I wanted clean clothes! Celebrate with me God’s redemptive purpose that has come about, and that he has brought strength and excellence into my life as a homemaker. It’s come at great cost.

I love to be home with my children and am glad for the blessing to homeschool them. I’ve had hard days. Really hard days! But the vast majority of the time we enjoy ourselves and my children are thriving and doing well. But the cost of living off one income is I only get a haircut once a year, we wear our clothes out (except the kids who benefit from a very generous Nanna!), we don’t get out of town to see family often, and a thousand other things we can’t afford to do. Worth it? Yes yes yes! So tell me I’m doing a great job and encourage me. Don’t tear down homeschooling because it offends your worldview or theology, or gossip about me because you see imperfection or you feel inadequate yourself. Be the best ‘you’, and encourage me to do the same!

I love to create a warm and hospitable environment for people to come to. It’s true – before you arrive at my home, I will often whisk around and pick up things that you might trip on, check the toilet for any ‘surprises’ my children may have inadvertently left, and perhaps wipe down the dining room table where you may place your coffee cup on arrival. Enjoy the place I’ve created for you to enter into. Embrace the English cultural background I come from, where you can sit and be served rather than the more common way in our culture of being told to ‘help yourself’ or ‘make yourself at home’( which is fine too). This is how I do hospitality – be blessed by it!

I love to create nourishing meals for my family and am good at it. I had to learn young, and at 11 I was cooking roasts and making school lunches. God has used those difficult circumstances and turned them into something good, something helpful, a blessing to my family, and also to others that have been on the receiving end of my generosity. Please, rejoice with me at His goodness expressed in my life!

I’m frequenting on the receiving end of the Father’s generosity and our family find ourselves with abundant provision that is beyond logic. Rejoice with me in the goodness of God! It has sometimes come at the cost of many times of enduring faith and hope, tears and prayer, and we ourselves have been generous with all we have in our hands, at times with extraordinary sacrifice.

You probably won’t catch me posting photos on Facebook of my messy lounge, my baking fails, or any other imperfectness – not because I don’t have those days like every other mother, but because I choose to celebrate the victories and strive for the excellence that I know is in me.

I’m not perfect. I fail daily. There is grace daily. I’m utterly dependent on Him.

I am a beautiful, gifted, beloved child of the Father. I love who He’s created me to be, and love my life, and I love growing in who I am in greater measure. Rejoice with me that God has taken brokenness and grief and turned it to wholeness and joy. He’s brought beauty from the ashes. I will no longer hide my light!

And He can do the very same thing with you.

“The church is God’s body, where every member is welcomed, accepted, loved and valued as a contribution. There is room for us to live in Christ while we are learning to be Christlike. This means we make space for the ugly and the beautiful in all of us to grow and change.” From MANIFESTING YOUR SPIRIT (Graham Cooke)

Tall poppy Monet

Our ‘Back to Eden Garden’ Progress – One Year On

 

Back to Eden Garden pin

For the past 12 months, we’ve adopted a method of gardening, sometimes called the ‘no dig’ method, and more recently popularised by the super documentary ‘Back to Eden’, which is free to view online.

With summer just behind us and the cooler months approaching, I thought it would be a good opportunity to pass on how we’ve done over the last 6 months.

In all honesty, the weekends have been so filled with other activity since Christmas that our little garden has been somewhat neglected. We just let the summer months roll by, and enjoyed the produce that came from it, when really we should have continued with the relatively small amount of maintenance that it needed to thrive.

So I’ll pass on some things we’ve learned in this process, and the how we’re moving forward from here.

Soil

Fresh wood chips

Fresh wood chips

It’s all about the covering, right? What we really needed to continue with, was adding cover on top of the existing wood chips. Because we didn’t start from scratch initially, we couldn’t just heap 6 inches of cover on top of our existing plants. So we put down compost first, then added wood chips on the top but not at a thickness that was going to produce the kind of results we wanted. Decomposing just takes time – there’s no rushing nature!

Our wood chips have been decomposing nicely, but we have needed to keep adding fresh wood chips on the top. The other thing the garden could greatly benefit from is some chicken manure or similar.

Remember how Paul suggests you put in a garden? Newspaper first, then compost, wood chips and manure on the top. Have a read and watch of this on the Back to Eden website on covering.

Our plan is to source some wood chips locally (we had bought them in from out of town) and keep a supply elsewhere in our back yard. This way, we can keep the garden replenished. We also want to make use of living on the coast and collect up some seaweed from the beach to use on the garden. I’ve been told by a local veteran gardener that it’s the trick to the hugest and juiciest strawberries. Here’s a great write-up on why to use seaweed.

In the meantime, last weekend we put some fresh mulch on top of our existing wood chips, and will keep doing this through the winter months.

Weeds

Our weeds have definitely decreased significantly. But as we slackened on the cover, there are patches in our garden where there is little cover and some weeds have come up. Because we’ve had the wood chips and it has lessened the weeds, it probably lulled us into a false sense of security as we didn’t feel the need to tend to the garden!  We’re paying for it now, as we’re having to put some work in. But we’re happy with getting through a long hot summer with not too much that’s sprouted.

Plant Health

You can see from this photo, we have way too much clay and not enough decomposed wood chips underneath.

You can see from this photo, we have way too much clay and not enough decomposed wood chips underneath.

Again, because our soil health has needed some attention, namely some manure and/or nutrients, some of our leafy greens were a little woody instead of being juicy with water. The outside leaves particularly, and that is where we had some problems with insects or clusters of insect eggs. The inner, juicy leaves were insect free, even those exposed to the air. It just goes to show that the principles do work if you actually use them.

Harvest

We enjoyed plenty of summer harvest through the warm months, including different varieties of tomatoes, spinach, squash, and towards the end, pumpkins and butternuts. Next year, we’ll be better at preparing for the upcoming season and planning ahead. We still have time to get seedlings in for the winter, but it will be from seedlings we purchase from the garden store and not our own seeds.

Lessons Learned from Our First Year

Our little garden with the remains of summer's growth

Our little garden with the remains of summer’s growth

  • The soil is a living organism. We need to remember to continue to replenish the cover and check that the soil underneath is damp and rich.
  • While transitioning our garden to this method, we need to still water sometimes through dryer periods until there is adequate nourished soil underneath our wood chips.
  • Healthy soil makes for healthy plants, and less weed and insect problems.
  • Manure and sea weed are great for ongoing soil health!

In 6 months time, I hope to tell you that we’ve found a rhythm to keeping our garden maintained and healthy!

Finally, whether you’ve watched Back to Eden or not just yet, have a read of this great article on ‘How to Grow a ‘Back to Eden’ Garden’. Tell me what you think!

You might also be interested in my other posts on No-Dig Gardening.

Inspiration and Ideas on Pinterest

Inspiration and Ideas on Pinterest

Pinterest is a great place for storing away ideas for just about anything: from learning at home, and crafts and activities, to recipes, natural remedies, DIY projects and more.

I like to have some general boards for things such as Homeschooling, Natural Living and Food, and some more specific Boards for things like ‘Story of the World’, Art How-to’s, gluten-free food, and New Zealand.

Here are some of my own favourite Boards, where I stash away helpful resources for future reference, or just pin beautiful, inspiring or interesting things.  I love to look at the creativity that springs up from people, just as much as I do just tucking away resources for future reference.

Homeschooling

Follow Pinterest Home Educating on Pinterest
Follow Pinterest Nature Study on Pinterest
Follow Pinterest Books for Children on Pinterest

Living and Giving

Follow Pinterest Gift Ideas on Pinterest
Follow Pinterest Justice and Compassion on Pinterest
Follow Pinterest Inspiring People on Pinterest

Whole Family Health

Follow Pinterest Food on Pinterest
Follow Pinterest Family and Parenting on Pinterest
Follow Pinterest Natural Health on Pinterest

Just Because

Follow Pinterest Screen and Sound on Pinterest
Follow Pinterest Ancestral Trails on Pinterest

Here are some of my favourite Boards from others:

Follow Pinterest Best of ‘His Mercy is New’ on Pinterest
Follow Pinterest Art on Pinterest
Follow Pinterest Health and Nutrition on Pinterest

Read other Pinteresting Posts from my Review Crew friends:

Pinteresting

Tips, Treats, Topics and Treasures {February 2014}

Tips, Treats Topics, Treasures

I can hardly believe that the month of February is already gone!  We finished our summer holidays and have been back to homeschool in full swing.  You might remember last month that I wrote that we are changing the pace of life in our family, and being intentional about what we say yes to.  It’s been such a good thing so far and I would love to encourage you again to consider how this might look in your own family.

So on that note, here’s some things to pass on that have caught my attention this past month.

In the Kitchen

A round-up of the most gorgeous ‘real food and allergy friendly’ Valentine treats, but enjoy them year-round.

An easy and yummy version of Paleo Butter Chicken that I’ll be trying this week.

‘Food Matters’ recipe book – this is such a great resource to help you create simple, clean food for your health.

What I’m Reading and Watching

‘Emma – BBC version online (5 parts).  Or at the very least, watch this lovely dance scene.

A beautiful and much loved little boy who lived for 10 days, and how his family captured his life in photos.

I love this version of ‘The Prayer’ with Josh Groban and Celine Dion.

New Discoveries and Good Ideas

Seasons at Home is a stunning print magazine with topics for the whole family, and includes articles on whole food cooking, homemaking, homeschooling, and projects for the home.

‘Take Them a Meal‘ is a great way of organising a meal roster for someone special.  I’ve been part of these many times.  You can see what others are planning, which helps to avoid 7 nights in a row of lasagne. :)

Fun Ideas for your Backyard – I love the idea of growing sunflowers in a circle and creating a space for your kids to play.  Gorgeous!

I cannot tell you how incredibly excited I am about having the opportunity to watch and review this documentary called ‘Captivated’ very soon!  Please take a look at the short clips here and I’ll let you know soon where you can get hold of a copy for yourself.

On the Homeschool Front

Candace inspired me with this neat art project, so we did this one around 14 Feb. 

We have this art curriculum, See the Light Shine, coming to our homeschool very soon!  It teaches art techniques and integrates art history and a biblical approach.  I can’t wait for us to get started.

We are continuing through ‘Story of the World’ and really enjoying it.  Don’t forget to visit the SOTW Blog Roll for lots of great ideas from other bloggers for making it memorable and fun.

Hidden Treasures (great reads in the blogosphere)

‘Envision a Positive Future’ – an outstanding post on speaking life into your child from Marcy at ‘Ben and Me’

Cultivating Faithfulness in Homeschooling – a great read at Proverbial Homemaker that you’ll find tremendously encouraging.

7 Faith Considerations When Raising Introverted Kids – I so appreciated this one.  Make sure you bookmark this!

A Few of my Favourite Things

The 51 Most Perfectly Timed Photos Ever.

Celebrating Woman – my Pinterest Board with some fabulous photos of woman around the world.

Quote of the Month

When you articulate your boundaries to people, they have the opportunity to respect your needs and virtues and protect your relationship with them. And when they value and protect the things that are important to you, the relationship flourishes. This is the process that builds trust between you and others. – from ‘The Supernatural Power of Forgiveness’ by Kris Vallotton

Have a great week,

Victoria

{This post may contain affiliate links}

{Shared at The Road to 31, Good Tips Tuesday, Hearts for Home,  Growing Homemakers}

Changing the Pace – taking steps to live a more simple life

Changing the Pace

There’s a flood of e-books, articles and information online these days, giving us insight into how to balance every aspect of our lives, particularly for us mothers that are at home and sometimes also homeschooling our children.  Although there are varying voices on the subject, the loudest one appears to be that we woman can have it all, make a few compromises and take some short-cuts, but still manage to juggle all these balls that are thrown our way.

I’ve felt caught up into the frenzy myself at times, with a mix of worthy goals and some less worthy – to nurture my marriage, successfully raise and teach my children, be actively involved in the lives of others, have some sort of public face so I don’t fade into obscurity, manage a home well, give out of what the Lord has placed in my hands, have Mum time with others outside my home, meetings and functions, write in this space here while ticking all the necessary boxes that I knew nothing about 12 months ago (eg. SEO keywords, pinnable images, and social media promotion)… and so forth.

And then there’s the deepest desire within me to connect more closely with my Creator, the source of all things good in my life.  He has so much he wants to share with me, and yet my own fears of perhaps falling off someone’s radar or not feeling fully satisfied with how things are arranged in my life, has frequently kept me from being still and moving out of the fast pace of modern life to hear His voice.

I love the picture that we have been given in creation, of bees, birds and insects, living out their purpose, but not in a hurry.  There’s a natural rhythm to things, cycles and seasons that continue without toil.  Fruit comes forth from a healthy tree of its own accord, and doesn’t strain or labour to appear.  Aren’t we, those created in the image of God, so much more capable of finding this sort of purpose and peace in our own lives?  To align ourselves with a rhythm and purpose that has peace, sustained rest, and fullness of life?

So I’m at the point now of saying yes more to the things that matter, which inevitably means saying no to other things at times.

  • Yes to more time with Jesus, so no to things that use my time unwisely or that can simply wait.
  • Yes to more time just enjoying the sun with my children, feet in the grass, and breathing fresh air, so no to always managing our day according to the clock.
  • Yes to making our home as our ‘centre’, so no to lots of activity through the week outside the home.
  • Yes to the natural rhythm and pace that my family is best wired to, so no to hurrying my children up all the time.
  • Yes to the ‘hidden’ things that take place out of sight from others: enjoying my children, loving my husband, and cultivating a healthy environment in my home.  So no to excessive social media time, ‘me’ time with friends, blogging things, or putting aside the ministry in my home to do ministry in other places.  [Of course I still want to spend time with my friends and serve the Lord in other places besides my home, but those things need to find their place in this season of my life where my home is where my heart is].

I’m anticipating that in deciding to focus primarily on these hidden years with my children, I might fall off the social scene somewhat, not always make it to events and functions, and perhaps even become forgotten by some if I lose my visibility in their lives.  But I’m choosing to focus on what God is giving me, not what I am losing. I’m going after what He is giving me instead!

I’m finding I’m looking forward to waking up each day, having the kids jump into my lap, homeschooling them (even though daily there are still challenges to overcome), and the end of the day I can’t wait to spend time with Jesus.

I’m off the treadmill and have my feet on the ground.   I’m planning to enjoy my years with my children.  I don’t want a single regret from this point forward.

Will you join me?

Victoria

Embracing the Season {Guest Post at Whole Family Strong}

Embracing-the-Season- WFS

I’ve recently had the opportunity to write for my friend Jacque at ‘Whole Family Strong’.  I instantly connected to Jacque’s worldview when I first started reading her site.  She has a heart for simple and intentional living, and for living out wellness and wholeness faithfully as a family (make sure you check out her paleo recipes).  I love how Jacque wants to see other families living in fullness also – her website displays these words ‘Spiritually Strong, Physically Strong, Family Strong’.

EMBRACING THE SEASON

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every
activity under the heavens”. 
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Life is full of seasons and rhythms, and ebbs and flows.  

“There are seasons of waiting, of action, of preparation, of joy, of visible ministry, and of quiet and unnoticed acts of service. And then there is time of the faithful, and (immediately) unrewarded ministry in the home. Every season provides opportunity to grow and mature, and every season has a purpose to walk into a greater understanding and revelation of the character and nature of our Creator.”…

[READ MORE AT WHOLE FAMILY STRONG…]

Looking Back and Looking Forward – 1000 Gifts

Looking back and looking forward

2013 was quite a memorable year.  We started the year with a few days holidaying with dear friends, and felt relaxed and full of hope for what lay ahead.  My word for the year: 2013 the year of joy.   I had my joy dares in hand, ready and eager to chronicle our joy gifts from the Father.

I quote this again, as it continues to speak life to my soul:

Joy is who God is.  Joy is the abiding atmosphere of heaven.  Joy is the expression of the kingdom here on earth. And therefore joy is an environment that we should be creating as a community and inhabiting on a personal level – in our homes, in our places of work, we can make those places like heaven. – Graham Cooke

Early February my precious family was hit with illness, husband included, and we negotiated our way through this for many months.  There were some scary nights in there, where I wondered if my children were going to take their next breath.  Those of you who’ve been through something similar know that it’s simply indescribable.

After this, I felt like I was running on a deficit for the remainder of the year, and still am to some extent.  Life continued to bring what it does for many, and didn’t wait for me to be ready – financial challenges, health challenges, relationship challenges, heart challenges.

Maintaining my place of joy became much more difficult than I could have ever anticipated.

But through it all, there were so many beautiful, wonderful, hope-filled, incredible moments.

There were lots of firsts for my youngest child, and even with our third, they are no less special and worthy of celebrating.

There were treasured moments with each of my children, where my eyes were opened to see more of who they are created to be.  Precious.  I love being at home with them.

There were some really enjoyable learning times, and crazy fun-filled moments in our homeschooling.

There was authentic connection with heaven, with the Father’s grace and mercy, and with the soft and loving sound of His voice.

There were those moments with my husband, where we sat looking at each other, completely spent, sometimes in utter disbelief at the most recent wave of challenge, but unspoken love passed between our eyes, as did the firm resolve to never give up on ‘us’.  We have been shaken, but our love runs deeper than ever.

There was one incredible friendship that shone brighter than my worst days, and remains one of the most treasured gifts that I’ve ever received from heaven.  I’m still floored that I’d be worthy of such a tender-hearted, giving, sweet, loving, beautiful friend.

So although the ‘joy journaling’ faded as the year wore on, the overall purpose did not die completely, as today I can remember with thankful heart some ‘big’ joy gifts.  I am blessed.

2014 holds much hope.  I wrote on this just the other day – my word for the year: Spring.

I have little expectation of what might happen in our circumstances.  But I know the Father is already there, and His grace will be sufficient for whatever we will face, whether it be abundant and overflowing, or challenging.

The joy journaling is back at the fore, and once again I have my joy dares printed and ready to go.

Can I encourage you to read my simple and short post on Journaling Joy Gifts, in the hope that you will feel inspired to join the community of joy-seekers?

Be blessed.  And thankful!

Victoria

[You may also like to visit ‘A Holy Experience’ and read Ann’s Grace Plan for 2014].

My friends with The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew are also writing on ‘Looking Back at 2013’ this week.  Have a read of some of their posts and be encouraged [Live on 8th January].

looking-back-at-2013{Linked up at The Homeschool Post – January Blog and Tell}

Rediscovering The Family Meal

Rediscovering The Family Meal

Does anyone else feel that sometimes family mealtimes are chaotic, messy, loud and rushed?  Lately I’ve felt to be a little more intentional about how we set up an environment around our dinner table that promotes relationship, peace, and family, and that also teaches our children to be considerate of others.

My husband and I are intentionally looking at how we can build into our family around the meal table.  It’s a value I had growing up, having English parents, and I’d like us to reinforce this in our own family too.

Mealtime is a time to set aside to be together and enjoy some fantastic, nutritious food and conversation together.  Will it be perfect every night?  I doubt it – the kids are young and attention spans are still a work in progress.  But we are growing into this!

Here’s what’s we came up with and have been doing over the last couple of months:

Our Family Mealtimes

  • We are well organised before being seated.
  • The table is cleared of school work and other things, and is transformed into a meal table.
  • We all sit down together, and stay seated for the whole meal.
  • We thank the cook for the meal, even if we don’t like everything on our plates.
  • We give thanks to God for the provision and blessing of our meal.
  • We don’t complain about the food, and give everything a try before leaving it on our plates.
  • We use our table manners: asking to be excused, chewing with our mouths closed, and using please and thank you.
  • We take turns to speak, and listen when someone else is talking.
  • We are supportive, encouraging and loving towards others.
  • We help clear the table and do the dishes.

table setting

Some Of The Challenges

Hopping up and down

I think the trick to the hopping up and down one is to make the meal table attractive to be at.  This means that every excuse to get up is already dealt with (toilet, washing hands, table laid with everything accessible, kids have their water), and the atmosphere at the table is a place of warmth, love, and enjoyment.  You want your children to so look forward to mealtimes!  I think it’s possible!

If everyone gets a turn to talk, and in turn everyone feels encouraged and listened to, they’ll be less likely to wiggle and slide off their chairs.  Or is that just our house?

Busyness

Naturally it makes sense to plan ahead so there’s plenty of time to eat without needing to rush out the door.   I’m getting tough on myself with making arrangements that fall around lunchtime especially, as it’s one of my least favourite things to do to nag the kids to hurry up and eat so we can get in the car.

I’m also learning that I can’t do everything and be there for everyone – right now at this time in my children’s lives, this is what consumes my time and energy.  So the self-inflicted busyness can be dealt with if I just let some things go for now and concentrate my efforts on cultivating a peaceful home, free of rush and chaos, and take the time to just be together.

Food Wars

All I can say on this one is, make sure there’s at least something on your children’s plates that they enjoy.  Don’t let the entire meal be groaned at!  Have a plan to introduce new foods to them one at a time, and possibly get them involved in preparing it.  Make it a fun and enjoyable, and not a battle of the wills.  I learned the hard way on this with my eldest, who was the world’s pickiest eater and now at 8 she eats most foods.

If you’re concerned about them getting enough fruit and vegetables in their diets, get them hooked on homemade smoothies and juices.  The other thing I do is gently steam and puree vegetables, and add them to sauces.

English family

Some Of The Practical Aspects

  • Keep the table clear of distractions such as toys, books and anything that isn’t to do with the meal.
  • Have everything on the table so no-one has to get up to fetch anything.
  • Take your time and enjoy the food and each others company
  • Have everyone take turns to talk about their day, or whatever is on their heart to share.
  • Make setting up and clearing the table a family affair, and be an enthusiastic role model yourself.  If you haven’t already been (joyfully) involving the kids in setting the table, don’t expect them to be enthusiastic straight away but set an example yourself.  Your children will soon follow your example.
  • Make the table attractive and orderly.  We have been setting out a tablecloth, placemats, cloth napkins, condiments, and cutlery.
  • Some quiet background music, perhaps instrumental or classical, might be a nice addition to mealtimes.  If you have to increase your voice to talk over it, it’s too loud.

I’m looking forward to our meal table becoming a place of joyful conversation, where everyone feels valued and heard, and where simplicity and calmness rules over chaos and rush.

Feel free to share your tips!

{Linked up at Frugal Homeschool Friday, Sunday Parenting Party}

Eco Gift Wrapping

Eco-Gift-wrapping-Main-v1-1024x993

I’ve recently written for Heather at Frugal Homeschool Family as part of her series ’25 Frugal Days of Christmas’. 

“The benefits of going paperless in the way we wrap our gifts is not just the money saved from buying wrapping paper, but I believe it is a more responsible way of living where we are considering stewarding our resources with care and consideration.

I love coming up with creative ideas for presenting gifts. It’s amazing what you might have lying around that is unused, or some things to pick up that would otherwise be thrown away.” [read more…]

Visit ‘Frugal Homeschool Family’ and find a list of creative ideas for presenting your gifts without using wrapping paper, or recycling some of the things you probably have lying around the house.

Victoria

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