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“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (emphasis mine)
Deuteronomy 6:4-9

I like to use this as the foundation of decorating my home. Scripture is so rich and beautiful that it makes my home so lovely, peaceful, so... ahhhhhhhh to me. I was mulling around the idea to put something up in my dining area to kind of update the room and it wouldn't hurt to see something new after the past year.

I have been watching the blogs and Pinterest posts these past weeks and noticed a trend of chalkboard art. So I got a few new font ideas from here, a free chalkboard background here, and chose a hymn to chalk up!

My family has a tradition where we sing the Doxology as we gather around the dinner table in lieu of a dinner bell or, well, my hollering, "Come eat!".

I noticed that the lyrics were patterned in such a way that I could make four pieces of art that had "praise God/Him" as the repeating theme but that each one could stand on it's own.  But, oh, as a set... lovely.  

Here is what I came up with...

I am pleased with how the layout looks. Now I need to send them off to have some prints made. I am going to look for some interesting framing/mounting ideas. I have been seeing frames, wood, canvas, fabric/burlap... soooooooo many ideas. 

I will get to that and get back with you as I make progress. If you have any ideas I would love to hear them.
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I have always been a fan of Claussen brand pickles but with a large household it wasn't cost effective to keep them around at all. But I have stumbled across a combination of spices by chance (providence - wink wink) that has me giddy with excitement.

My grandmother made the BEST pickles. They were the *best* because they were what we were used to having for a pickle. They were simply pickle cukes, vinegar, salt, garlic cloves and fresh dill. All packed in a crock lined with muslin on the front porch. We would take the lid off, lay back the muslin, dig through a couple inches of fresh dill and garlic to find a treasure swimming beneath... mmmm... the memory is pretty vivid. I canned some pickles years later with my grandmother's recipe only to discover that processed cucumbers don't stay crunchy so that's where Claussen pickles came into the picture.

We had a big wave of cucumbers come on the past week or so and I had to figure out what to do. I didn't really want to dehydrate a bunch of them... I didn't think my year of dill dip was going to warrant such a task so with the previous memory in mind I searched the web for refrigerator pickles. I like to can stuff because it doesn't take up precious refrigerator/freezer space but in this case if I could find the right recipe I would be willing to make some concessions.

I found this one and this one that were the basis of my rendition. There were others that were much more basic that gave me the encouragement just to try the counter top/refrigerator method but ultimately these narrowed the vast playing field of pickle making.

We don't grow pickle sized cukes and I think we let them get a little too large in general so I went ahead and cut them into deli spears and they packed quite lovely.

I only made a couple of jars because I didn't want a bunch of gross tasting pickles on hand if my recipe went awry. But only after the second day I was sure that my concoction was an overwhelming success!!

Here they are pickling away!!

Okay, so here is Settles Pickles (no more Claussen)...

Combine on stove top until all is dissolved:

2 quarts of water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar

I used large pickle jars that a friend gave me from her deli (I think they are about a quart and a half) and in the bottom of each jar I put:

2T minced garlic
2t dill seed
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorn
4 whole cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick crumbled
pinch of red pepper flakes

Pack your cukes in each jar and pour the *cooled* brine over the top to cover the veggie. Give it a gentle couple of flips to get all the spices moving around and let sit on the counter for four days giving them a flip occasionally. Then transfer into the fridge. I've read different accounts of how long they will last - any where from six months to a year. I'll just figure that you're wise enough to make that determination.
I decided to take advantage of a local co-op that was delivering Georgia peaches for a good price. I chose #2 grade for the cheapest option with references from other folks who were pretty pleased with their previous orders. So I plunged into 75 pounds of fruit with my mother-in-law working away with me to successfully process 47 quarts of peachy goodness. Then I decided to do it one more time because the deal was so enticing... only this time I went for an even hundred pounds! But the quality was far from the first and wound up with about the same amount of quarts and with the badly bruised stuff I strained and made Spiced Peach Honey.

The two days of canning did not include *one* photo. It was labor intensive in terms of the constant flow of steps and, well, I just was not in a prettified way to encourage my hubby or boys to click away. Vain... don't judge me...

All this is explain why I DIDN'T can tomatoes. Yup. I was burnt out and just didn't want to. But the garden was yielding an ample supply and we just *couldn't* let them go to waste.

So I checked out this video from Bread Beckers and decided that dehydrated tomatoes turned to powder sounded interesting and... easy.

We gathered up our Amish Paste Tomatoes from the garden and sliced them about what we would do for sandwiches and laid them in a single layer on my two dehydrators. I didn't bother to skin them or anything. Just gave them a good wash - that's all! After letting them go for about 24 hours (on the back porch - didn't want to smell it) I let them cool down to room temp and then pulverized them!

There they go! The smell of the powder was so lovely. There were five trays per dehydrator and I wound up with 15 total trays that gave me 3/4 of a quart of tomato powder.

Pizza Sauce: 1/4c tomato powder, 1/2-3/4 cup of water, 1/2t garlic salt, oregano/basil to taste.

Add to soups. Makes wonderful Spanish Rice according one of my foodie friends. Add to anything to add a little depth of tomato flavor and will thicken a little as it cooks. That pizza sauce would make a great dip as well, don't you think?

Here's a resource for using the tomato powder and I'm guessing this is not at all exhaustive online! Go ahead... pulverize away!!!

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Number four boy is getting ready to turn six this weekend and so he was tasked to make his "birthday list". With his older brother transcribing his wants, it came out like this:

my b-day list

mandalorion battle pack
pharoh's qest flamer runner
scooter ("good" says sam)
spider-man pajamas
Spider-man fuit snack
nerf knife
Star wars figure (anakin and JJ)
ninjago carring bag
star-wars sticker book

powderd sugar
white milk
cinomin toast

the whistle stop

rice and chicken (SOY Sause)
refried beans
boston butt

ice cream

Really?! I picked from the "options" and augmented the "suggestions" and came up with this...

Mama's B-Day List for Sam

Ninjago Bag
Ninjago Sticker Book
Spiderman Pajamas - tell Grandma Settles
Ninjago Figures - Grandma Collins

Pancakes (Nutella or powdered sugar toppings)
Bacon (believe it or not this is a HUGE treat around here...)

Here, I'm drawing a blank...

Boston Butt - because it on the eMeals menu (SCORE!)

Ice Cream Cone Cup Cakes (with Spiderman Flags)

I have never heard him mention a "Ninjago Bag" before but I was kinda excited because I had been thinking of making the boys some shirts with their favorite ninja and figured I could probably do something similar with a bag. And I bought a drop cloth that I made my table runner out of (started out considering making window treatments but caved and just bought some). I had leftover (a lot) and figured I could whip up something pretty basic. And it really didn't take that long! After all the bags and purses that I made this came together pretty quick and easy

Drop Cloth Material:
4.5" x 27.5" for the bag
27.5x3" for the strap

Blue Cotton Fabric:
12.5" x 14.5"

Yellow Cotton Fabric
Black Felt
White Felt

Hem the short side of the big DC material by folding over half and inch and then another one inch and iron. Give it a stitch on the ol' sewing machine. Repeat on the other short side.

Take the blue fabric and iron a 1/4" hem around all four sides.

I went to the Google site for images and typed in in Ninjago Jay and found this image, printed it off and cut it out for a pattern.

I used Wonder Under for the yellow fabric and black felt to make it more stable/durable for each piece (they are small and squirrelly to work with otherwise), ironed them in place and stitched around the edges.

Fold the bag in half to determine where to place the "face" in the middle. Pin and sew a single stitch close to the edge

I considered just leaving it at that but the little white reflections in the eyes really made it seem "finished" so I found this decorative stitch on my machine that did a great job. The other reason was that the blue fabric had a lot of space in the middle that wasn't attached to the bag and I thought it needed to be tacked down somehow (maybe should have used the Wonder Under for this too?) and since the eye reflections were close to the middle it would serve a legitimate purpose as well. Anal? Let's move on...

Now with right sides together match up the hemmed top pin and sew up sides.

When I made this purse I was so jazzed to learn how to make a gusset so I thought it would be fun to do it again for this project. Super easy and looks so "tailored"!

Take the bottom corners and create a triangle by having the seam go down the middle of the triangle from the top apex. Mark two inches down each side, connect the dots and sew along that line. Then trim to about 1/4" - DONE! Cool, huh?

Now iron that seam flat to prepare for the strap.

I folded the strap fabric in half and made a tube by sewing along the long sides and turned it right side out. Put the seam on the edge and iron. I sewed a straight stitch down each side close to the edges along the long sides and ends (closing the tube).

Now, I centered the end of the strap with the seam and sewed a square with an "x" in the center. At this point in the project my attention was waning and I was willing to put up with several "oh, well" mutterings. Yeah, that's why my projects are small... instant gratification is a major character flaw of mine.

To keep his now loot safer I added some velcro to the top. If I would have planned for this project I thought it would be cool to made the blue face a flap to make it a cool, trendy messenger bag... maybe next time. 

I was marveling over the fact that I had all the supplies to do this - not one time did I have to jet off to the store to get that elusive "one thing". Just goes to show that I have *a lot* of stuff in my cra(p)ft closet. I'm thinking it would be cool to get a blue shirt and put the same "face" on it as well as a pillow case? Overkill? Yeah. 

I did it.

I made my own laundry detergent.

I watched this youtube video and decided that it looked easy enough. And, yes, it's safe for front loaders and septic systems according to various reviews that I read. (I should have kept track of them but I didn't so forgive me for the lack of specific reference here.)

I found every item that I needed at Walmart on the laundry cleaning supply aisle. Here's the cost breakdown for you:

Fels Naptha Laundry Bar                 .97
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda     3.50
Borax                                             3.38
Oxi Clean*                                  14.98
Subtotal                                       22.83
Tax                                                2.23
Total                                            25.06

This is the initial investment for the ingredients. *The Oxi Clean is an optional ingredient and I bought mine at Sam's Club so I wound up with the 11 pound box.

When the cost is broken down to a six gallon recipe it looks like this:

Fels Naptha Laundry Bar                 .97
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda       .25
Borax                                               .35
Oxi Clean*                                      .34
Subtotal                                          1.91
Tax                                                  .19
Total                                              2.10 = .35/gallon

Am I missing something here??? I paid over $12 for a gallon at Sam's!! And I choose the slightly more expensive brand because I don't want any added colors or fragrances. (Yeah, I ask the manufacturer to use less stuff in their product and they charge me more...)


I didn't take photos of the process... it seemed silly to waste the time when the video has already been made. But I will post the recipe and directions if you don't require the visual of a video.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Fels Naptha - one 5.5oz bar
Washing Soda - 1/2c
Borax - 1c
Oxi Clean (optional) - 1/2c

Grate the Fels Naptha and dissolve it on the stove in four cups of water. Don't let the water boil too much and it will require constant attention. Just keep working it until it's completely dissolved - no lumps.

Fill a 5 or 6 gallon bucket with three gallons of hot tap water. I measured it out and then marked the outside of the bucket for future batches. In fact, I wrote the recipe on the side of the bucket as well.

Pour the dissolved laundry bar in the bucket of water and stir to incorporate. Then, add each of the powders making sure that you dissolve each one *completely*. Easy schmeasy.

Cover it and let it cure for 24 hours.

So here's where you find me... I just uncapped the bucket and it's gelled and kinda cool lookin'. One person suggested breaking up the gelled consistency  by giving it a good stir but I took it a little further and used a drill paint stirrer. Funny, huh? The boys (and girl) were happy to assist with the power tools...

At this point I am saving my current laundry dispenser to refill and asking my neighbor if she would save hers for me as well. You are supposed to fill it half way with water and the rest of the way with the laundry detergent. It requires shaking before each use but I think if you blend it up ahead that it won't be so bad according to one review that I read. We'll see, huh?

Well, I guess this will have to be supplemented with reviews on the cleaning power it holds. I'll get back with you after a few loads of laundry. I do at least two a day so it won't be too long. And let me know of you try it too! Happy laundering!!!
"...from the WHERE?" you ask??!

Yes. The Jacuzzi (tm) tub in my master bathroom that I *dreamed* of owning one day. The day is now and it is in the midst of six children. Most people that I talk to refer to this scenario...

A cruel, cruel twist of fate.

First off... I don't believe in "fate" but it sounded dramatic so I went with it. Anyway, you can see where I'm going with this, right? How would I find the time to *use* the thing if I have several children and all the things that go along with taking care of them?

But really I can use it as...

A method of testing my convictions of homeschooling.

I call my technique "Delight/Self Directed Studies". Basically, I teach them to teach themselves and now I can rate/reward my success based on how often/long I get to enjoy my pool of pure relaxation. Again with the dramatics...

I can confidently say that I rate/reward myself very well. Yup, got the wrinkled toes. Not fingers because I've got them above the water reading or playing Sudoku. And then there is the refreshing glass of ice water sitting on the edge with, maybe, a little bowl of pretzels to munch on. Is it weird to have food at the tub? Don't answer that.

Here are my suggestions for those of you who desire some serious tubbing time...

If you are beginning with small children DO NOT spend your money on curriculum. Instead, if you just *have* to spend the money to feel like your doing something for their education, invest it in living books. The ones that have stood the test of time like...

Lamplighter Books

Vision Forum is a fantastic source for G.A. Henty and Ballantyne for boys and Elsie Dinsmore for girls among others.

Don't forget that there are so many books that are available online FREE because they are public domain. Check out Project Gutenburg

I happen to have found Robinson Curriculum in which has all the suggested books on CD for you to print as you need them. They are all public domain so there are no copyright issues. I have been so pleased with all of the books referenced in this collection.

A high quality library is worth the effort. Otherwise, get a library card and save those pennies.

So really, the number one thing to do with babe is READ READ READ to the sweet thing. And then when junior(ette) starts showing an ability to recognize letters then see if it might be time for a structured reading lesson (I've had four babes start reading around four or five).

WARNING: DO NOT LET THOSE LESSONS BE LONGER THAN 15 TO 20 MINUTES PER DAY. That's all those little brains can take! And if you're reading to them they're really getting *that* many more "lessons" and they (and you) don't even realize it!!

Okay, so I know you're going to ask me, "What reading curriculum do you use?" I use Teach Your Child To Read In One Hundred Easy Lessons. I like to refer to it as the "Be Jesus Book" because you read exactly what is printed in red to your budding reader. Success with FOUR children so far. I started out with another curriculum with my oldest that cost my poor husband $350 only to dread singing the same STUPID song every day and no reading happening. Then through divine guidance I found TYCTRIOHEL for $21.95 at my local B&N. I've seen it lately for under $15 through CBD!? This book gets the job done and does not confuse little minds with conceptual grammar that makes no sense even to the English major out there. It just gets them READING.

This is where you're going to have to figure out what works for you. Because if you don't "get it" as the parent/teacher it will drive you CRAZY and you won't care if junior(ette) *ever* reads.

I just want to encourage you to not jump at the first  fancy looking package with all the cute animals and ditties and colorful art. You probably already have a lot of that in all those books your reading to junior(ette) right now anyway!

After you get them reading and making sure they are reading QUALITY books then pretty soon you will find that junior(ette) can pick up any book to find out lots of things and then one day will go looking for the book with the answer to a question they have and then... realize they can operate semi-independantly and eventually you've worked yourself out of a full-time job of "table time" (YAY!!).

It's a process. It will take some time. Enjoy the process.

I really only skimmed the surface of this topic but this is the gist and will probably conjure up more questions. Whatever you do, keep it simple. Don't attempt to mimic public school methods. Don't get caught up in "early" anything. And don't FREAK out if you think it's not happening soon/fast enough.

If you find the right method that works for your home then you will, too, be Homeschooling From The Hot Tub.

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The standard in my routine is to mill my wheat and make loaves of whole wheat yumminess for the family. I started out with making a couple of loaves at a time and have gone to FOUR now to accommodate the increased consumption. But I would like to branch out with more breads.  We use tortillas a lot so that seems like a good place to start, right?


At least with the recipe that I had... It's not that they tasted bad but they were crispy and leathery at the same time - not at all pliable to make a burrito.

So, this batch went to an impromptu, made up concoction that turned out quite tasty!?

Pesto Chicken Pizzas

Spread pesto (I used my homemade goodness created with my husband's home grown fresh garden basil last summer) on the tortilla. 

Sprinkle chicken on that.

Put a few onions on next.

Slice some tomatoes kinda thin and layer them on next.

Then cheese... my husband doesn't ever like to skip cheese.

I sprinkled a little parsley flakes on top of the cheese to make it look "pretty".

Yeah. They were good. The leftover whole wheat tortillas? Not so much.
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I found this tutorial and couldn't resist. Ugh! So clever! I made a minor change to it and was not disappointed. Basically all that this is is a piece of five or six foot rebar pounded about two feet in the ground and then terra cotta pots threaded onto it. Brilliant! Yes?! I even found the pots in a chocolate color to make it just a little more "mine".

Oh, and just to make it clear... I brought all the supplies home and showed the blog post to my husband and *HE* did all the labor. He doesn't mind this sort of "honey-do". Sweet man.
I'm chatting with a sweet friend of mine last Thursday afternoon and she was wearing this pretty necklace that I couldn't seem to take my eyes off. Then it hits me! I've seen this very necklace on one of my (voluminous) blogs that I follow and then all the questions come flying out of me...

"I LOVE that! Did you make it?"

"Was it easy??"

"You found that on Pinterest, didn't you??!?!" (She is a fellow Pinterest junkie - like me.)

I meekly looked over at my husband this afternoon and asked him if I could make a run to Hobby Lobby.
His face got that defeated look and he quietly said, "Yes." But I knew it really meant things like, "Oh no. How much is this trip going to cost?" or "Doesn't she have everything in that crap, er, CRAFT closet of hers that Hobby Lobby carries??" 

I come home with 20 gauge jewelry wire, and 8mm glass pearl beads. (Well, I brought home a little more than that but for this blog post that's all that is relative.)

And then I opened up this blog post tutorial (the same one that my sweet friend used for her work of loveliness) and went at it. 

It was just as easy as it looked/sounded and here's my sweet Bird Nest Necklace. 

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Remember this post just a little while ago? Well, again, I was going through my blogs and discovered another "gotta try" project and I used the same pretty toile as the cover up for this one...

The blog post was from Annie Get Your Glue Gun and she posted the links to this FREE (yes, F-R-E-E) pattern with instructions. Once I printed the pattern I had to figure out how the pattern-puzzle-pages (say that several times fast...) went together, taped them together, cut them out and then I was off and running.

Last night I got all my fabric out that I needed - my toile and fleece (this is the first time I've sewn with fleece). It feels so soft and snuggly... surely this will be inviting to my new babe in August!! And so this morning I put it together.

I poured over the instructions before I really began and everything seemed pretty straight forward. The only suggestion I would make would be to *not* draw all the locations of the hook and loop pieces but to wait until the snuggler is completed and then line up the pattern (using the finished edge for alignment) and tweak it accordingly. Not a big deal, really. I was fretting over drawing all the lines on the fabrics and it just wound up to make more sense to me this way.

There was only one small spot to slip stitch. I'm not a huge fan of the hand work stuff - I just wanna let the machine do all the work!! So this was not bad at all!

And as I was going to my desk to post this... I couldn't help but snap this comical grin as she ate her chicken and rice soup...

That's gotta make you giggle... a little??

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It was time to "pertify" my house with the latest craze - a wreath. 
And not just any wreath but a BURLAP wreath. 
Okay, so I'm overdoing it a tad...

I have been admiring so many of these wreaths in about every combination possible. So here's my input. Here is one of my favorites from Sweet Passions on a Thrifty Dime. And it even had the right initial.

I gathered together some burlap that I got for cheap a long time ago and picked up some floral pins at Hobby Lobby.

Then I cut some 4 inch squares. I don't know how many it took to fill the wreath in the end... I guess I should have counted. The squares don't have to be perfect or exact. And I saw some tutorials that had the corners rounded. Me? I just wanted instant gratification and omitted any extra step.

 I did a half and half kinda scheme and alternated them. This first way was simply poking the floral pin in the middle of the square...

...and then bunching it up.

The second method was to fold a square in half matching the points together (as shown) and then...

... bringing the outside corners to the pins and hooking them onto it creating a bubble kinda looking thing. (yeah, I'm all about the technical side of explanations...)

Then lay your wreath flat on the table, pin your burlap bunches and bubbles alternately about an inch or so apart on the top. Then continue the inside and outside of the ring. When I was finished I went back and filled in any gap that was showing the straw wreath. The bunches and bubbles seam to give it an extra element of texture and fullness.

I have one more personalization that I am working on so I will be back with a little embellishment in a few days. Stay tuned, okay?