Knock, knock. Is this thing on?

I know it has been a little bit quiet here on the ole blog.  *ahem*

Okay, it has been far too quiet as life got incredibly loud.  Not loud in a bad way, but the kind of loud that has you falling in to bed at night exhausted but smiling.

This family is already loud all on its own, but that is another post for another time.  *grin*

So what’s coming down the pipe?  I am so glad you want to know!

There are posts about field trips, family adventures, big decisions, little blessings, and some giveaways.  Seriously, you are about to be “avalanched” with giveaways.

While I greatly enjoy being able to bless my readers with fantastic products, the best part about doing the review and giveaways is that you and I are promoting and supporting small businesses.  We are getting the word out about a product and a business that will bless a family and allow them to have a better life.  We are supporting a mom who is working from home  while managing a home or a dad who is trying to provide more for his children’s future.

We can be a blessing to those small businesses while blessing our own family and friends with wonderful gifts.

Stay tuned!  The first giveaway begins tomorrow!

All for the glory of God,

~Rhen

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A Collar to Properly Represent

In honor of Samson’s upcoming 5 month birthday on the 8th, I found the perfect collar for our sweet puppy.

Hannah (10) scratching Samson’s favorite spot.

After growing out of everything under the 26″ collar size, we had to step it up a notch and find a collar that not only shows just who Samson is, but it would also  grow with him far longer than just a few inches and a couple of months.

My favorite feature?  The latch!  While expressing his inner superdog is great, I love just how strong and secure the latch.

See this look on his face.  This is the look of contentment knowing that everyone who sees his new collar will fully understand just how super he is!

There, now you have had your daily dose of cuteness.  Just stare into these sweet eyes if you need an extra dash of sweetness!  🙂

All for God’s glory,

~Rhen

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Fall Cleaning

There is a definite nip to the air when I head outside in the morning to feed and water the animals.  A very brisk reminder that cold temperatures on their way.

In the same manner that spring cleaning inside and out when the weather warms up is essential for getting our homes and homesteads “woken up”, fall cleaning helps us to get it all put to bed.

The shimmering leaves of fall. Sigh.

What does my fall cleaning list for outside look like?

Let’s start with the house:

  • clean off all cobwebs, stray wasp nests, and mud dobber nests that are around the eaves and porches
  • clean the windows and screens
  • WD-40 hinges and sliding doors
  • spray peppermint around the doors and windows to repel spiders and bugs who may want to use our house a haven from the cold
  • the potted plants will soon be brought in and the pots need to be cleaned up before their trip inside.
  • put away or finish all of the projects that are on the porches!
  • clean up the patio and the firepit- we will soon be snuggling around a fire and sipping on hot cider

In the gardens:

  • time to pull the few weeds that have sprouted up in the past couple of weeks
  • pull and chicken compost plants that are spent
  • as leaves fall, we will gather some of them and turn them into the garden soil
  • use more of the leaves to put a thick layer of mulch around fall growing plants, fruit trees, and perennials
  • clean and oil all gardening tools
  • put floating row cover ribs over garden area where we will be using it
  • clean out flower boxes and outdoor pots
  • disconnect and drain water hoses
  • put insulating covers on water spigots

Our head rooster what’s in charge.

Around the homestead

  • clean out and deep mulch the chicken house
  • clean out and re-hay the goat/ geese house
  • move old bedding and dig it into the gardens
  • give the brooder box a good cleaning and disinfecting in the sun
  • give the pond area a thorough weed whacking
  • clean off the fallen branches and leaves that are gathering on the chicken house roof and the top of the chicken run.
  • reorganize all of the tools we have been using through-out the warm weather
  • as the leaves fall and the woods clear out, we will gather fallen branches, cut up fallen trees, and give the wooded acres a good underbrush cleaning- almost bonfire time!

A few projects we have listed for this fall while the weather is gorgeous:

  • dismantle old playset and rebuild into a sturdier, nicer one
  • clear a few trees from the edge of the yard and open it up a bit
  • map out a bike/ hiking trail and start getting it cleaned up and clearly marked

Do we share a lot of items for fall cleaning?  What did I miss that is on your list?

All for God’s glory,

~Rhen

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In the homeschool classroom- scavenger hunt!

Our family’s favorite classroom:  God’s great big world!

Today we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and headed outside with our science.  The scavenger hunt assignment in Hannah’s (10) Exploring Creation with Zoology 1:  Flying Creatures by Apologia was the perfect activity.  I had Emily Grace (13) join in.  It really accents her science studies, Botany by Apologia.

First find:  a huge bird’s nest.  Now, normally we would not collect a bird’s nest, but this one was in one of my feed buckets that is stored with our tools and equipment used on our homestead.

We took our little adventure down to the pond.  We passed a gnarly looking tree that offered up one of the other items on the list, a hole in the trunk of a tree.  As you can see, Emily Grace was fully prepared for any surprise attacks from whatever could be lurking in there.  I was so tempted to scream and run just to freak her out.  I didn’t.  This time.

Another item on the list was to find a bird, other than a duck or goose, around the water.  What did we find?  Our chickens.  That works!  Often we will find cranes, but there were none today.

How cool is this prickly looking caterpillar?!  Another item marked off the list!

We spent about half an hour trekking around our property to find everything that we could.  We will continue the hunt after the sun has retired for the day, so that we may have the opportunity to spot a few other items on the list, like bats.  🙂

Being a part of their education is far more than book work.  It is also the joy of getting them out and encouraging them to be hands-on.  Listening to their conversations and bad jokes while on the scavenger hunt was all gravy!

Next up on the science front: bird watching 101.

What is happening in your classroom?

All for God’s glory,

~Rhen 

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Menu Planning- Stepping up our game

If you are like me and look for every great idea to trim your grocery budget, then you have already discovered the awesome grocery budget fat buster of menu planning.

Menu planning alone has not only helped reduce our costs, but is has also reduced food waste and given us far better meal options.  When you know what is being prepared and you have all of the necessary ingredients, then it is not a crapshoot to try and pull a healthy, filling meal together.

Up until a few weeks ago, I was the menu planner.  I checked our pantry and freezer stock to create a menu for the week as well as a grocery list.

Then it it hit me.  I have THREE teenagers and at least 4 of our children can cook!  Why am I the only one making these decisions and getting everything lined up for the week?

Enter in operation FAMILY Meal Planning.

After a little powwow, we came up with a new strategy, not only for meal planning but also for meal preparation.

No longer is it a toss up as to who is going to cook, what they are going to prepare, and on what night will they be doing so.

Here’s how we do it.

Our oldest three, Renee (16), Noah (14), and Emily Grace (13), and the team of Hannah (10) and Dad each take a night to fully plan and prepare dinner for the family.  I take the three nights that they do not claim.

Each one of our chefs-in-training puts together all aspects of the meal and makes sure that we either have the ingredients or they are written on the grocery list.

When I head out to Costco with my list, I know that we will have exactly what need for the week’s breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners.

One of the great, yet unexpected, blessings of having our oldest children plan and prepare meals, they are getting inspired to try new dishes, new veggies, new spices, and new combinations.  Their creative juices are flowing!  {pun intended}

It does my momma heart good to see them researching new dinners to create.  Thank, you Pinterest!

Other blessings we noticed:

  • they are learning that planning ahead to ensure they have everything they need makes the job much easier and faster
  • they are widening their culinary scope and experimenting with new flavors
  • the new recipes are introducing new veggies and fruits
  • they are learning timing and time management to get all parts of the meal ready and on the table at the same time.
  • there has been finally come about a realization that they cannot “graze” in the pantry and fridge all of the time and still have what they need to prepare their meals.
  • bonus, this has worked so well, that they have also taken over lunches.

I love that my older kids will not be dependent on a microwave or takeout to eat in those beginning adult years that are in the very near future.  You never know, this may bring out a passion for cooking and a direction in life one of them never thought about.

Next, I need to get one of them interested in being a chocolatier.  *wink*

In your home, do the parents do all of the cooking?  Do you have teenagers who cook?  If not, now is a great time to start something new and get them interested in preparing fantastic meals and stretching themselves as chefs!

When you were a teenager, what were some of your favorite things to cook?

Mine, steak bites with onion and peppers.  Yum!

All for the glory of God,

~Rhen

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Around the Homestead

I enjoy the chores around our little homestead far too much to label them as “work”!  Feeding and watering the animals, watering and checking on the gardens, and walking our property to make sure that everything is in order is a perfect opportunity to talk with God and soak up His creation.

Some mornings I have a helper or two.

This morning Susannah (6) helped to put fresh hay in the nesting box and check for eggs.

Our chickens free-range during the day and are doing a great job of keeping the bugs down.  They are constantly scratching and pecking throughout the yard and woods.

Our youngest chickens are now beginning to lay eggs.  Can you spot the egg from one of the “new” girls?  *grin*

Unfortunately we had to move the geese up from the pond and into the goat yard.  They kept wandering off of our property and onto our neighbor’s porch where they kept making a mess.  Once we finish the fencing in the final side, they will get to move back to the pond.

All of the gardens are in bloom again.  With fall quickly approaching, everything seems to be trying to send off summer in style!

Just thought I would share my newest garden decorations.  A fantastic buy at Hobby Lobby for 80% off.  I spent only $4.50 for both of them.  Booyah!

While we feed most of the horned tomato worms to the chickens, we do allow the ones covered in wasp eggs to stay on the plants.  They don’t eat the plant and the wasps that hatch out hunt these kinds of pests.

Susannah is a huge help and distracts the goats with a little hay while I get their feed in their dish.  If they are anywhere near their feeding dish while I am trying to fill it, I can’t get to it and end up pouring the feed on their heads.  Silly goats!

Score one for the frugal homesteader in me.  I made this hay rack from left over fencing.   Mark’s Kleins and about fifteen minutes and the girls had a new rack to keep the hay clean and easily accessible for nibbling.

My next homestead projects:  clean out the chicken house and put down a fresh layer of hay,  build a double compost bin with pallets, and move the goose house up from the pond to the goat yard.

What’s happening around your home?  Any new outside projects?

All for God’s glory,

~Rhen

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Spark of Amber Giveaway Winner…

It is a lot of fun to review products, and I greatly enjoy helping small businesses get their names out there, but the best part of hosting giveaways is being able to tell someone that they won.  *grin*

The winner of this gorgeous Baltic amber necklace is…

Lela Ford!

Congratulations, Lela!  I have sent you an email.  Please reply to it within the next 48 hours.

Don’t forget, the holidays are coming up fast and now is a great time to start shopping!  Pop over to Spark of Amber and find some beautiful gifts.

Stay tuned for more great giveaways coming soon!

All for God’s glory,

~Rhen

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101 Reasons I Love My Husband

I love adding to my 101 Reasons I Love My Husband posts.

Each time I go back and read my previous posts, I am reminded of just how blessed I am.

Today’s blessing:  God has given my strong, sweet man the ability to know when I need a hug.

I don’t mean one of those quick squeezes.  I am talking about one of those long, tight hugs that makes the rest of the world and it’s troubles fade away. The kind where you disappear into his chest and feel safe.

There are times when I am feeling beaten down by my day or times when I am a little overwhelmed, and he will stop everything we are working on and grab hold of me.  In that hug God speaks to me and I feel loved and safe and re-energized.  I can once again take on the world.

Have you hugged your sweetie today?

All for God’s glory,

~Rhen

Don’t forget to enter in my latest giveaway- Baltic Amber jewelry from Spark of Amber!

Baltic Amber Review and GIVEAWAY

THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED, but please take a moment and check out the beautiful Baltic Amber at Spark of Amber.

Some women have a “thing” for shoes, while others have a “thing” for purses.  I, on the other hand, have a “thing” for jackets (blazers, wraps, etc) and fun, unique jewelry.

One of my newest pieces of jewelry is a gorgeously earthy necklace created with Baltic Amber, thanks to Julie at Spark of Amber.

Look at this one with hazelwood and Baltic Amber.  Oh.  My.

If I would have known about such beautiful necklaces created just for breastfeeding moms with busy babies, I would have gladly worn them so my little ones would have them to pull on and play with, rather than my jewelry that was not appropriate as babies’ toys!

Spark of Amber has a line of beautiful necklaces and bracelets for teething toddlers.

How about earrings!

They also offer men’s necklaces, pendants, birthstone pendants, rings, keychains, beads for your Pandora bracelet, and much, much MORE!

So, what is Baltic Amber?

Baltic Amber is made of tree sap. The truth is—Baltic Amber is an 100% natural resin, not tree sap. It is found in Lithuania and the Baltic sea region, and is prized for its beauty.

Baltic Amber is found all over the world. The truth is– At least 80% of Baltic Amber is found in the Baltic region (hence the name Baltic Amber).  At Spark of Amber, we only use the highest quality Baltic Amber from Lithuania in our jewelry!

Why wear Baltic Amber?

Baltic Amber is a fossilized resin found in the Baltic Region, primarily in Lithuania. It contains 3-8% of Succinic Acid, long prized for its medicinal qualities. Amazingly, the highest content of the healing Succinic Acid is said to be found in the EXTERNAL layer of the Baltic Amber.

Europeans greatly prize beautiful Baltic Amber for its claimed 100% natural anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, and calming properties for babies and toddlers. The healing oils (Succinic Acid) of the Baltic Amber are said to relieve teething pain, tame baby’s irritability, and relieve inflammation in the throat, ear, and stomach.

Authentic Baltic Amber has also been used as a natural/home remedy in many countries as an anti-toxic and anti-bacterial agent, for headaches, for skin irritations, for bronchial conditions, and for throat and thyroid conditions (along with many other uses).

Baltic Amber is very light-weight, making Baltic Amber jewelry extremely comfortable to wear for both children and adults.

At Sparkofamber.com, we offer only the highest quality Baltic Amber teething necklaces, teething bracelets and anklets, and adult jewelry. All shipping within the United States is fast and free.

Have more questions?  Pop over to Spark of Amber and check out all of their links and info.  They even have a YouTube page to share info with you!

There are so many great gift ideas on their website.  We all know people who are having baby showers, getting married, having a birthday, and the big holidays are coming fast!

Now on to the giveaway!

I get to bless one of my readers with the Autumn long Natural Nugget necklace!

Isn’t it beautiful?!

You know me and how I long to keep entries into giveaways I host easy and simple.  Here’s how you do it:

Take a few moments to look at the jewelry at Spark of Amber and tell me in the comments on this post what piece of jewelry you think would make a great gift for someone in your life.  That is it!  One comment below has you entered in to win this gorgeous necklace!

Looking to earn additional entries?  Here is what you can do:

Make sure you leave a separate comment for each entry you earn.

Now on to the rules:

  • This giveaway will run from Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 to Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013.
  • Winner will be drawn via Random.org and announced Thursday (Sept. 12th).
  • Winner will have 48 hours to reply to my email or a new winner will be chosen.
  • Email me if you have any questions- blogyestheyareallmine at yahoo dot com.

All for the glory of God,

~Rhen

Can you see my Baltic Amber necklace?

  

The Almost Overwhelming Urge to Purge and Organize

Recently, I have been overcome with an almost overwhelming urge to purge. I am not talking about that moment when you are stepping over the toys in your living room and you think to yourself, I have got to get rid of a few of these trip hazards.
I am referring to that feeling where you have to control yourself so that you do not end up tossing everything from the house into the back of the truck to go donate.
It is not that the kids have huge amounts of toys or that every room in our house is filled with toys. This desire to purge isn’t even about the toys. It is about everything. It is about boxes of home decor I will never use. It is about books I have no interest in reading (we are not taking about my favorites!). It is about the clothes I know full well I cannot stand and will never wear. It is about kitchen items that do not get used even once a year.

While I would love to simplify the cleaning process and make maintaining that organized kind of clean even easier, there are certain aspects to my life that hinder my ability to purge to that degree.  *wink*

We have chosen to educate our brood at home. There is no way I am getting rid of curriculum with a line of children who will be moving up and using it. In the past year I have donated about half of the curriculum that once filled boxes and tubs. I had to make some hard decisions about what I do or will really use.

We have a large family that ranges from toddlers to teens. Having toys, games, art supplies, and activities for that variety of people does not take up a small amount of space!

We are a homesteading family. There are things that we need and use on a daily basis that are necessary for taking care of our animals, managing our property, and planting and growing large gardens of fruits and vegetables.

I am a soaper.  Specifically, I am a handcrafted goat milk soaper!  I buy my supplies in bulk quantities and I make large batches of soap.  There is always soap in some part of the creating/ drying/ labeling process.

So, what is a girl to do?  Purge AND organize with a plan and a very helpful Hubs!!   Hubs and I have broken each one of these areas (and more) down into a list of “needs”, “wants”, and “donates”.  As we tackle,  we look at the items in front of us and decide which category it goes in.   Once the purge has been completed, it is then time to organize.

That is where I am at now.  Organizing.  It is my favorite part, but it also seems to be the most expensive.  Going to the store to check out their organizing section when you have a huge list of organizing ideas is like going to the grocery store hungry.  It is so hard to control myself!!   To make matters worse, I have been searching Pinterest.  That place feeds my project and organizing addictions!  Good gracious.

So, that is where I am.  Trying to make decisions, come up with ingenious ways to organize materials, and make everything streamlined and hidden.  This would be so much easier with three or four more of me to tackle this list, oh, and winning a shopping spree to a container store would be nice, too!

How about you?  What area would you like to be able to purge and organize to perfection?

All for the glory of God,

~Rhen