Friday, March 30, 2012

Twenty Years

The month of March marks 20 years since our family returned home from Uganda, East Africa. The 2 1/2 years we spent in that country are very special to me and it breaks my heart that it has never been possible to return for a visit.

The years I spent in Uganda were formative ones. I grew from a child of 11 to a young adult of 14. My eyes and ears were sharp, always observing the adults around me. I learned much about relationships and missions, and living in a foreign culture. I loved the excitement of a great adventure and Uganda, during the years of 1989-1992 was a great adventure in more ways than one.

We left Uganda quickly, within a few weeks of receiving news of my grandmother's grim cancer diagnosis (thankfully, her few month prognosis turned into 15 years of extended life). It was hard to be torn away so quickly and finally from a place we had grown to love. It would have been hard to bear at that point the knowledge that we would never return (at least not in the 20 years following).

Sometimes I feel sad that living overseas in such a place as Uganda never "happened" to me again. But I am reminded that the whole point of the Christian life is serving Christ and not myself. And, I'm am so happy that I have friends living in Uganda and I can continue to "keep in touch" with this country that touched my life so long ago.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Money Saving Mom's Budget Review

I just finished reviewing the audio version of Crystal Paine's The Money Saving Mom's Budget. This is a great book! Crystal covers topics like: getting back on track financially, how to make a budget, more importantly: how to stick to a budget!, how to get your home organized and thus have a more orderly life, how to save on groceries without couponing, and learning to be content.

For someone who has read Crystal's blog for over four years and has heard or practiced as many budget or money-saving techniques as possible, you would think I might not benefit from this book. Not so! I found this book emotionally re-charging. Have you ever noticed how emotionally draining saving money can be at times? This book helped me to feel excited about finding new ways to save money and better budget the money I do have.

I would recommend this book for "newbies" to the budgeting world, as well as those of you who already know how to do this stuff. It was worth my time to read (listen to) this book.

So what am I taking away from this book this time around? I'm going to try out my bread machine again, look into paperbackswap to see if I can get some of the books I want for almost free, and think seriously about a budget for the "spending money" I earn from my hobbies. And, I'm going to take Crystal's advice and continue to measure my money-saving techniques against the plumb line of how much money per hour certain practices are actually saving me. I don't want to be wasting my time!

If you want to read more reviews of this book, check out this link.

Crystal is also hosting a giveaway. Enter today and save the date-4/5 for Crystal's live webcast!

Note: This post contains affiliate links. And, I was given a free copy of this book to review.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What To Do?

What does one do when you turn around from your dishes to find this face and this problem?

I suppose one can only laugh and smile and inwardly grimace.

Fortunately, the drawing wiped right off and Laura was happily redirected to some paper.

For the most part, having a two year old is pretty fun!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Tea 2012

We celebrated the advent of spring with friends this past week. It seemed very odd to have nearly mid-80F weather while sipping tea and enjoying our lunch. But, we were thankful it wasn't snowing!

The table was so colorful with everything we had to enjoy.

The weather has taken a step back and we are basking in the cool, rain-soaked temperatures of the 60's again.

Have you seen the beautiful blog Small Things? Christina has a giveaway going there today and an interview (not to mention a coupon code!).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

First Trip to the Art Museum Gardens

With this amazing weather we've had, I made an all out effort to get us to one of my favorite places to enjoy in spring: the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

We managed to go for a picnic dinner last Saturday. The kids loved returning to their favorite activity of making fairy houses under the large trees.

This photo reminded me of Rachel in Paris. I have an almost identical looking picture of Rachel at the same age taken on our visit to France.

Laura is hamming it up with the boys.

Everyone was happy for spring to be here.

This picture portrays everyone's personality so well. :)

Last year Laura wasn't walking but this year she can run wherever she wants.

The daffodils were blooming everywhere.

Such bright, cheery faces they have.

And the magnolias are gorgeous. Everywhere we drive they are brightening up the landscape.

What better way to run around than in your bare feet!

I love looking at "Oldfields":

And more lovely flowers.....

And silly boys. Andrew and James are really looking alike these days.

I love this age we are at right now with everyone pretty much in grade school (except for Laura). So much fun but not too grown up.

And a rare picture of Michael and me. I'll have to write more about the trouble I'm having with my eyes. This picture clearly shows it.

Laura loves her Daddy.

Such enthusiasm for life!

I think I'll have to try and hand the camera to Michael sometime.... :) so I can have a picture with Laura too.

Now I just need to find a way to get back to the gardens. More will be blooming every week!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Nightstand

This is how I would love for my nightstand to look 365 days of the year: dejunked, peaceful, with beautiful smelling flowers to brighten my life always sitting there.

The reality: this is what my nightstand normally looks like.

I have struggled with this for a long time because I do so much better when my things are organized and decluttered. But, I've just about given up on the nightstand. Reading is one of my most favorite ways to relax and enjoy life and having the books that I am currently reading very close to me is important. And I have decided that is okay.

And, on the odd chance that I have flowers, then I will just shove the books to the floor and deal with the heap by my bed instead. To me, books are my luxury to indulge in......

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Embracing Winter: Celebrate Spring!

This coming week marks the official beginning of spring! Yay! We've made it through the winter. For most of us, it has been a strangely mild winter, and perhaps not as difficult as other years. Nevertheless, I'm sure that we are all rejoicing in the fact that the prelude of spring is in our ears and the whole symphony of nature will soon burst forth in the song of new life and beauty.

Our family celebrates the advent of spring with a tea. This began the first year of our marriage. Living in a little borough of Pittsburgh in a tiny apartment surrounded on all sides by asphalt, I wanted to do something to celebrate that, at least on the calendar, beauty was returning to our world.

Ever since we have continued on the tradition, sometimes elaborately, and sometimes very simply. The items that stay the same year in and year out are strawberries and tea and our spring tablecloth.

(2011) Laura enjoys her first spring tea.

(2010) If the first day of spring falls close to a weekend we have sometimes celebrated on a Sunday.

(2010) Inviting friends to celebrate the first day of spring just adds to the joy.

(2010) Of course we couldn't let the actual day of spring go by without a few strawberries and tea.
(2009) A very rare picture of Andrew sipping tea. He is the only member of the family who doesn't drink hot drinks.

(2009) A glimpse of the spring tablecloth.

(2008) Rachel serving tea: strawberries and toast.

(2005) Our last spring tea in Airdrie, Scotland.

(2003) Andrew's very first spring tea.

(2002) First picture of Rachel enjoying spring tea.

Our winter posts have come to an end. It has been fun to think of ideas to help make winter a more enjoyable time for all of us. I hope you all have a wonderful spring!

Friday, March 16, 2012

My New Hutch!

I've been wanting a hutch for so long! I finally began stalking Craig's List everyday for something that would fit with my taste and budget. I finally found the one! Yay!!!

Last Saturday I drove far away to pick it up and would you believe, after three different arrangement attempts, we fit that hutch in our Toyota Sienna!

I've been slowly putting things into the hutch and I'm looking forward to changing the dish arrangement with the seasons. For now I'm just smiling whenever I walk by.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Colors for Spring

It seems funny to post this picture when it is currently sweltering here in the midwest. I think the temp hit somewhere around 80F today. Personally, I'd like just a little milder spring, but I sure would rather have this than snow right now!

I found this crochet sweater while on the hunt for supplies for my felted flowers. Since it was at least 3 sizes too big, I didn't consider wearing it at first. But, when I tried it on, it seemed to fit -- and that's when I noticed it had already been shrunk. I love it! It is my new favorite thing to wear, that and my blue rose, which is maybe my most favorite thing to wear.

I can't resist blue and yellow together, even though I'm leaning more towards gray and pink this year. Aren't colors such a wonderful gift to us?!!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

308 Maple Street

We've been busy behind the scenes working on a new idea and today was the launch of our new website 308 Maple Street!!!! You'll have to go over and check it out! It's our online shop collection, teaming up with my mom and sister and another friend.

Marissa made a gluten-free flower cake to celebrate and of course we had tea too. She also made the most amazing gluten-free cake pops. Far too irresistible.

While we were all together we began the process of making our presence known.

And of course kept drinking tea....... even Marissa enjoyed ice tea just to be in the spirit of everything.

We hope you will enjoy looking through all our creations!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Embracing Winter: Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

We have, officially, just 8 days left of winter! It already feels like spring (even summer?) outside, here in the midwest. I have to admit that I am a little sorry to see the winter months go. I know my life will soon be on fast forward and I will miss the quieter days of winter. Soon will come the relentless garden and yard work, the constant outdoor play, and the trips to the pool. All good things. Needless to say, I am enjoying these last few weeks of "slower-ness".

But, St. Patrick's Day is ahead this weekend, and it is another great way to brighten up the sometimes dull days of March. Here are some ideas for celebrating:

Some years the only thing we do is wear green shirts on March 17th, but that's still being festive!

One year we made green milk (and the food coloring spurted all over the floor -- what a mess!). The kids are asking for it again.

Irish soda bread is always fun and delicious to make. I haven't yet found a gluten free recipe, but I might try one like this. You can find my normal Irish Soda Bread recipe here.

Eat some good, Irish food, or something green, like asparagus. Check out The Cooks Next Door for these great recipes:

Irish Feast: Corned Beef with Cabbage, Horseradish Sauce, and Guinness Bread
My review of several Irish cookbooks

Making cookies is always fun.........

And of course reading up on history and telling your kids the real story behind St. Patrick's Day. Oh, and Pinterest will be sure to provide plenty of great, green ideas. :)