Tuesday, March 30, 2010

(Frugal) Dyed Eggs

At least 5 years ago, I bought an 8-pack of Wilton paste food coloring at Michael's Craft Store with a 40% off coupon. It couldn't have cost more than a few dollars, and has turned out to be one of my best investments - we use them for homemade play dough, homemade birthday cakes and, of course, dyeing Easter eggs. Pink is the only color that is getting low in the pot, and I think that in another year or so I'll have to buy a solo container of that one. The others are still going strong!

We did this after supper, and after bathtime......

Abigail chose to dress for the occasion, while.....

Hannah took a more casual approach to her attire.

We had an abundance of brown eggs this year; our neighbor boy up the hill stopped by two weeks in a row. I didn't remember from last year whether brown eggs took the dye very well -

but here, Hannah shows that for the stronger colors, at least, they worked just fine! I used the lightest eggs of the two dozen we had on hand, just in case.

Homemade Easter Egg Dye

1 tbs white vinegar per dye color desired
1 cup (approx; just eyeball it) boiling water
paste food coloring- as much as will fit on a toothpick when you scrape it in the pot

Mix vinegar, water and dyes (separately per color) in glass containers (plastic will stain) and stir well. Soak hard boiled eggs in dye bath for a few minutes, and:
You just saved a few dollars on packaged dye! Plus, you can dye eggs any time of year with what you have on hand (red, white & blue? green for St. Pats?). Use the egg carton the eggs came in to hold your finished creations.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thoughts on Easter

The blog post over at Domestic Cents sums up exactly what I'm feeling as we approach Easter...right down to the fact that I've got to get sewing on matching dresses for the girls!!

Since my girls have been old enough to equate pretty much any holiday with candy and toys, I've struggled with the dual meanings of holidays - the meaning the world puts on them and the meaning that we as Christians attach.

I have friends who go to the extreme of having no Easter baskets/eggs/jelly beans, but that isn't for us, and even if we tried it, the girls get mini Easter baskets in their Sunday School class. And truly, dyeing and hunting for hidden eggs is fun! Nothing inherently wrong with that, right? (Provided that the egg dye is homemade or purchased on sale with a coupon, of course!) In fact, I'm looking forward to heading over to Clifton Forge again this year for an Easter Egg-stravaganza (scroll to middle of the page for details) and parade the day before Easter....there's always free, fun things to do here in the Alleghany Highlands...check some of them out here.

But there is something that tugs at my spirit about the duality of holiday celebrations: is it OK to celebrate Easter with sugar? Christmas with wrapping paper? My answer (for now, anyways) lies in the answer to these questions:

Where are our hearts?

Are our hearts at the feet of Jesus when we think about the traditional meaning of the day?

Am I teaching my girls the whole story or just squeezing in a backhanded,

"oh yeah, Jesus rose on Easter"?

Throughout the year am I teaching them that Easter is the day we remember Christ's resurrection from the dead - the only way we could have received forgiveness from sin and freedom from death?

Is it only chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks? Because if that's what it is, its only empty calories - too quickly a memory and grass-stained knees from searching for eggs.

"Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them." (Deuteronomy 11:16)

Hmmm....but read on:

But, if I (we) take the time to constantly -

"train up your children up in the way they should go"


"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds....teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home, and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 11:18,19

Then I think there is room for eating chocolate bunny ears and a handful of Cadbury mini eggs (purchased with ECBs from CVS or with a Catalina from Kroger). I think that once that foundation is built and continually strengthened on a daily basis no matter what the season, you can add a little sugar and sprinkles and not risk that your family will be building an altar that the feet of the Easter Bunny.

I'm sure there are those who won't agree with me - who hold fast to having no involvement in the secular commercialization of the holiday - and there are those who could give a hoot less about the Real Meaning of The Holiday. But this is what is comfortable for our family, and what I have prayerfully considered.

I hope you'll read other perspectives from my 'bloggy friends,' like Nicki at Domestic Cents, above or Alyssa over at Keeping the Kingdom First , who is hosting the "Frugal Easter Eggstravaganza." Click through to the blogs linked to this post for great recipes and frugal ideas pertaining to Easter. In the spirit of the friendship topics of my recent posts, these are women who are valuable resources to me as I consider their ideas and perspectives.

Thanks for letting me share this piece of my heart with you!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Friends (part 2)

When Abigail & Hannah want to go to the park, the first thing they say is, "Let's call the Friends!" (Don't worry ma...some of these are old pictures....these kids have GROWN)
For the first few months after we moved to Alleghany County, I have to admit that I became concerned that Hannah and Abigail would end up being such mountain girls that they would develop no friends at all and wouldn't even know what to do when they met people their size.

Then, we discovered the Library and Story Time. One of my first blog posts was about Story Time before because it was such an important part of making me feel connected to the community when we first moved here. Out of this weekly meeting of preschoolers and their moms, I met some great women. I didn't get their permission to post pictures of their kids here, so I won't identify the kids......
And in the interest of confidentiality, I'll disguise the moms' names:
Stacie, Sabrina, Amberr, Kylah, Carma, Lissa, Amandah, Torie.... There. Now you have NO IDEA who they could be.Well, these friends have been true friends not only to me, but also to my kids, via their kids. We've shared parenting successes (and more often failures!), birthday parties, playdates, picnics in the park...we've supported one another as best we could through difficult times...
....we've gone apple and blueberry picking (those of us who woke up in time), overwhelmed a local fast food establishment en masse, declared "what happens on the river stays at the river," hollered at each others' kids (not really)(OK really), discussed politics/grocery bargains/Pampered Chef/31/recipes and - for me, at least, have been an indispensable support group. Girls nights out have been a highlight in our relationships - which reminds me....we're about due for another one! Some homeschool, some don't - we each have talents and hobbies that contribute to the group: a forrester, a frugalista, a politician, a networker, a resaler (is that what it is?), a musician, a business owner (a couple of those), a loyal friend (lots of those) - but more than this, these women are so much more...complex and wonderful personalities with whom I am proud to share friendships.
They might not know it because I've probably never told them, but I am so thankful for each of them - and they have each been an answer to prayer to me - they and their great kids.
Hurray for The Friends!

Friends (part 1)

I'm reminded to be thankful of the friends in my life.....

The other night I was (stalking profiles) on Facebook when a friend messaged me to give her a call - it was 10:30 at night and she had more to say than could fit into a chat box.
The great thing was that we picked up right where we'd left off - supporting one another with struggles in our families and connecting over shared past experiences. We haven't worked together since Hannah was born (five years ago), but the voice on the phone was same. Funny how our lives have taken different directions - she chose the career path and public schools for her daughters while I chose to stay at home and homeschool. Each one of us took a brief, wistful peek at the other's lifestyle, and settled back, happy with our own choice.

My Northern California friend and I also connect regularly - she mails books, music CDs and countless photos online. While we worship the same God, our "faith lifestyles" are different, and I've been challenged to examine my own convictions at times. We saw each other last - was it three years ago? - and hope to get together sometime this year. This friendship means so much to me because it began before I was a teenager and has ebbed and flowed along with the changes in each of our lives. She's one of the first I turn to when I am troubled and need an ear (eyes, really).

Facebook has also made friends out of acquaintances - literally! My Friend List contains folks with whom I had only casual relationships in the past, but have become closer with as we share our experiences in our everyday life now. I'm glad to share my stories and theirs in brief status updates, but also look forward to affirmation, advice and suggestions from "many counselors." And although I've had to whittle and prune my Friend List from time to time, it has served to make it even stronger.

Once transplanted to Alleghany County, I was afraid I wouldn't manage to connect to other women to develop meaningful relationships. As it turned out, the Internet has been a part of this as well. We first used Facebook as a tool to schedule park playdates and birthday party invites - but its also been a tool for encouragement and support.

My heart shudders that a good local friend lost her dear mother-in-law to a drunk driver only weeks ago. As the hurt and sorrow of this tragedy have settled on her family, other local friends have been at the ready to lift her up in prayer, feed her family and gather together to remember this remarkable woman and the loved ones she left behind.

I'm excited for new, developing friendships as well. There's the friend who's shared that she's discovered a God-Shaped Void in her life....homeschoolin' mamas who have much to share of their own experience at the kitchen table....and still others whom the Lord has yet to reveal.

For all of these relationships I am humbled and grateful.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Simple Math


plus this.....
equals this!!
Add two days, and you get this!
She's fine. There's a big black tire mark on the wooden door though; thank goodness the screen door was flung wide open and her daddy-o was in the basement to quickly come to her aid!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Maple Festival text....

We attended the 51st annual Maple Festival up in Highland County today. Good times! This year we didn't take in as much as we've done in years past, choosing to skip the craft shows and displays over at the school in favor of visiting two sugar camps. We even missed the cloggers at the Highland Center - something Hannah will probably realize around midnight tonight and berate us for in the darkness.

That is, if she ever gets to sleep. We let them each buy their own 100ml jugs of maple syrup and taste them in the car. What was supposed to be a couple of tiny sips turned out to be two big chug-a-lugs by my sugar-lovin' gal. Thank goodness for seatbelt laws - it was the only way to restrain the sugar high she experienced on the way home!

Next year we'll plan more before we go to the festival by reading up on how maple syrup is made. We checked out the only two books on the topic that the Clifton Forge Library had on Friday and didn't get a chance to read them until we were on our way. Since I had to keep a wary eye on Andy's driving and hold on with one hand and shout directions out (slow down! watch that car! they're braking! look over in the field!), it probably wasn't the most effective lesson. And then he got tired of my hollering and made me drive, which really put a damper on learning.

Anyways, we visited the Puffenbarger Farm and Rexrode Farm. Puffenbarger's was a more modern operation - sorry, no pictures - than Rexrode's, but Rexrode's was less crowded (there was a tour bus at the other one!) and we got to talk to the owner for quite awhile. Of course, both farms sold maple fudge, syrup and maple candy, and we freely partook of their offerings. Andy commented that we'll have to expand our Maple Festival Budget next year to accommodate all of our sweet stuff.

On the way home we drove through Blue Grass, Virginia and found ourselves north of Monterrey. It was a bit of a shock when the route we came out on was 220 South - which we wanted - but was named "Potomac River Road." Where we live, 220 is named "Jackson River Road." It was cloudy most of the day, so we couldn't tell what direction we had been travelling. We had been going north rather than south as we'd figured. We must have reached a point where the creeks flowed into the Potomac River, and the river we thought was the Jackson was actually the Potomac. This is significant because we know the Potomac flows into Washington, D.C., and is way off our radar.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy the pictures on the following post*. If you're nearby, the Maple Festival is definitely a fun time for all and a worthwhile destination!

*I typed this blog in Word first and uploaded pictures directly to Blogger second. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to merge the two!

Maple Festival Picutres

Seen along Route 220 in Alleghany County - the entrance to someone's homeplace.
A closer view....

Inside the Monterrey VFD building. Bellies full of hot dogs and maple doughnuts.

At Rexrode's Sugar Orchard. This is the wood-fired evaporator.

Steam going through an open hole in the roof.

Following the plastic tubing between the trees.

A couple of jokers...
Happy girls!

Doesn't that look like a great tree for climbing?

Also at Rexrode's.

It was actually pretty warm. It drizzled a bit, then cleared off and rained some more.

Heading north towards route 220. Excuse the angle, the picture was taken while I was driving.



Sheeps! We saw dozens of sheep and it seemed that sheep and cattle were the main industries out this way. What a beautiful day for a drive.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spring Reading List

The winter continues on. There is hope in the color of the birds that visit our feeders, though. The goldfinches are looking a little more gold, the house finches are cranberry and there have even been a few robins grubbing about under the feeders. It's all a promise of Spring. I won't complain about the snow, unlike friends (and, -ahem- family - immediate family members, to be more precise) here and on Facebook. Growing up in Tidewater the anticipation was so firmly engrained that it remains when the skies grow dark and the temperature is below freezing. We have snow on the ground mainly in the woods and on slopes that receive little sunlight. There are also expanses in shady yards and of course where snowplows did their job. But with temperatures being over 40 for the last several days and a sapphire sky, even I have to admit that it is a nice change.

I've been doing a lot of reading in my usual shotgun blast style. This means I have about 4 texts going on at once. I always think you can learn much about someone with their reply to the question, "what books are on your nightstand?" For the last couple weeks my nightstand has held:

The History of Christianity (Zondervan)

Eats Shoots and Leaves (Truss)

An Amish Gathering - Three Amish Novellas (Wiseman, Fuller & Cameron)

Living with Confidence in a Chaotic World (Jeremiah)

The Man Who Moved a Mountain (Chapman)

A Woman After God's Own Heart (George)

The Message/NASB Parallel Bible

and this month's unread Cooperative Living, Woman's Day, All You (for the coupons!) and Southern Living.

I get an idea or a recommendation for a book and, impulsively, get it from the library, E-Bay or Alibris.com and stack it on up. Then I read through it feverishly for a couple nights until another strikes my fancy, and on the stack it goes, replaced by the new text. Eventually, I'll finish them all, become burnt out on reading for awhile and clear off my bookstand for a couple weeks until it all starts back up again. The only book I've recently been unable to finish was Elmer Gantry. It was published in my favorite period of American history (next to our own, of course), the mid-1920s. Updike writes about a narcissistic, unethical, womanizing man who eventually becomes a Methodist minister. It is actually rather depressing when contrasted with The Man Who Moved a Mountain, a true story about a man who dedicated his life to the Lord and ministered in the Blue Ridge mountains in the early 20th century. Besides the uplifting story, the fact that it takes place mostly in Floyd and Carroll Counties, an hour or two south is inspiring. In reading "The Man," I've learned about the culture of Appalachians and have gained valuable insight on the heritage of mountain folk that makes them who they are.

I asked our Associate Pastor, Chris Chesley, if I could borrow a book on the history of the modern church and he loaned me The History of Christianity. Pat Robertson's controversial statements following the Haiti earthquake led me to wonder about the origins of the charismatic movement. Well, I'm stuck in Byzantinium. At least I made it through the early Roman Empire. I have a feeling I'm going to fast forward through much of the Dark Ages, so I can answer my questions. Actually, the sections on the early church movement are fascinating. I had no idea that there was so much controversy - and when you read about it from a historical point of view, it is a miracle that we even hold God's Word in our hands at all. It is a textbook, though, and I tend to get bogged down in the different offshoots of Christianity and 'isms, and besides, it's a pretty thick book and it takes up a lot of space, so I'm going to move it to the top of the stack after I read....

Eats Shoots and Leaves. Are you familiar with this book on punctuation? It's described as "The Runaway #1 British Bestseller." Improper use of punctuation truly irks me and I've often chosen to take the low road and ignore it after getting peculiar looks from friends (like when I recently pointed out to a local coffee shop owner that the proper spelling of the dark Italian coffee is "espresso" and doesn't begin with "ex-" unless it has already been drunk). (And I know that's not punctuation but the illustration is just to give you an idea of what I am up against.) Here again, I've learned that I am indeed right (as I suspected all along) about many of my punctuation choices (it is = it's but the cheese belonging to it = its). But this is punctuation taught in the way I wish I'd been taught in school - the only dryness is the sense of British humor. I'm going to stash it away for a homeschooling text in the years to come.

You might already be aware that I have a thing for Amish and/or Mennonite literature as My Life's One Regret is that I did not grow up in their culture. Sorry mom, but that might actually explain a lot about me, right? An Amish Gathering is on the level of Beverly Lewis' books and was a new fiction offering at Clifton Forge library. I snagged it on my way out, already burdened with a pile of Dr. Seuss and American Indian books for you-know-who, but ja, I would be ferhoodled if I didn't get my Deitch fix.

I'm doing a Bible study with some wonderful ladies (girls? women?) and we're using A Woman After God's Own Heart as a jumping-off point. I really enjoy that book because it touches on so many aspects of a woman's life. From housekeeping (an area in which I certainly need all the help I can get) to being a wife and mother, there are lessons that abound in how to do all while giving glory to God. I'm excited about our Tuesday fellowship. And, due to my short attention span/disorganization/failing memory, I've ordered a second copy of the book. So if anyone wants a paperback copy, please let me know and I'll send it your way. This is how it goes. Told you I was ferhoodled.

Living with Confidence...well, I'm going to get to that review in a later post. Stay tuned.

Finally, I have The Message beside my bed to read Proverbs to the girls and for my own reading in bed. I generally use my Living Bible for quiet time, and I keep that in the kitchen near the rocking chair (and picture window and coffee maker). My NIV "church Bible" is either hanging off the post of my bed in its holder or is in the trunk of my car. Were I a bit more organized, that Bible would be by my bed too and I could make notations like I see in others' Bibles. My grandparents gave Andy and me matching Life Application Study Bibles back when we were first married, making them at least ten years old. It is certainly not as marked up as I'd like it to be. But then, that is not necessarily a sign of a good Christian, now is it?

So, friends, thus ends your visit to Heidi's library for the day. What books do you have on YOUR nightstand? Please comment below!