The Titus 2 Homemaker blog deals with the nitty-gritty of life in the trenches as a Christian homeschooling mama attempting to live a healthful lifestyle. The blog offers commiseration, encouragement, and practical ideas rooted in what she is learning on her own journey.
Let’s face it, many Christians today don’t know their Bibles very well. And even if you’re one who does — can we ever know the Bible too well? Often we get caught up in thinking we have to do a lot of “study,” but really the best way to get to know the Scripture well is simply to read it — again and again.
Different approaches may suit different people or different seasons of life. Consider, too, switching up your approach simply for variety, as a different approach may provide you with a different perspective. For instance, a reading plan that’s chronological may help you see things in a way you never have by reading from Genesis to Revelation. Here are a few options:
Jot down anything that jumps out at you. (I also like to keep a running list in my journal of “things to study/look up.” That way I don’t get sidetracked from my current reading.)
Are you having trouble keeping up with a whole reading plan? Try out the Write the Word journals from Cultivate What Matters. (See the video below.) This offers a simple daily format where you copy a brief passage of Scripture and jot down what stands out to you from it.
Besides reading Scripture, it’s good to memorize Scripture, too. In order to memorize verses in the first place, repetition is good. I like to also incorporate as many senses as possible. Say (or read) the verse aloud, so you’re both saying it and hearing it, and move around at the same time, so your body is moving. Putting verses to music helps, too. Review is the trickiest part.
Neighborhoods are starting to look more uniform all the time. With HOA rules making homeowners paint their houses one of only a few basic color choices, it is getting harder to express your personal style. Not being allowed to paint your house neon fuchsia doesn’t limit most creativity, but there is just so much beige and gray on houses anymore. They all often end up looking alike.
That’s where a great garden comes in. By using your garden to express your personal style you can personalize your home’s exterior, just like you do by decorating inside. Interior decorating is quite similar to exterior decorating in that it is an expression of who you are.
Tip One – What is Your Garden Style?
Gardening is an alternative for expressing your personal style, outdoors and indoors. Determining what your personal gardening style is, will be the place to start.
There are several different types of gardens:
Japanese Gardens – with bonsai trees and koi ponds
Modern Gardens – made up of bold lines with strong geometry
Mediterranean Gardens – exuding old world charm
English Gardens – a neat, well organized classic garden
Cottage Gardens – a wild, natural, even overgrown look
Tropical Gardens – to create a lush paradise
Desert Gardens – honoring native plants and landscapes
Eco Friendly Gardens – organic and sustainable
Indoor Gardens – all year long, especially growing dazzling, royal amaryllis for Christmas
Tip Two – Plan your Garden Area
Take the time to set out the area you want to plant.
Use rope to outline curved flower beds.
Use your computer skills.
Every minute you spend thinking about how you want your garden to look will pay off in the end. If you are looking for a well manicured, neat and organized English Garden and you don’t plan well, you may end up with the overgrown, wild Cottage Garden you didn’t want.
Tip Three – Research Your Hardiness Zone
Know when to plant which plants. Some plants are fine with some cold nights. Some thrive on being planted in the fall and then blooming in the spring. It will all just be a waste of time, money, and energy if you plants seeds, bulbs or seedlings at the wrong time of year.
Tip Four – Show Your Style
Flowers, trees, bushes, and even vegetables are like clothes. Don’t just buy what’s on sale. Buy what is going to be perfect for you. Do you love pink? Buy pink fuchsias. Do you love the look of well-manicured bushes? Don’t buy cedar. Add garden gnomes or a statue of Venus. Whatever suits you. Plan your garden from the top, don’t just put seeds or seedlings in as you go along. Unless, of course, that’s your style! [Editor’s note: Remember to plan for the size the plants will be when full-grown, not just the size they are at planting!]
Tip Five – Enhance your Landscape
Some plots of land lend themselves to one style of garden more than another. That doesn’t mean you should ignore your style, but that adding your style to the natural landscape will give you a magnificent combination. Some of this is as obvious as not planting tropical plants in the desert unless you plan to water them hourly. The rest is to look at the flow of the land.
If your land is completely flat, make sure your garden isn’t. Normal interior decorating rules apply, like using odd numbers, and having the taller things in the back.
Starting a garden is much more time consuming and difficult than maintaining one. Once you have your basic plan then each year you can simply add the annual plants you want, while using the perennials as a backdrop. That gives you both variety, and no need to go through the entire planning process every year.
One of the projects I’ve been working on this year is putting together a cookie/treat plate for the Christmas season that’s not so full of junk. I spend the holidays trying to keep my kids from eating an excess of sugar, white flour, and processed foods, and then we take a bunch of processed sweets to the neighbors. That just doesn’t seem very consistent. So I’m working toward having a repertoire of festive treats that are tasty but “cleaner.” And Thrive Life strawberries are the perfect way to make these red — for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc.
NOTE: Thrive Life’s Spring Sale ends today!
Now, you can use a variety of things for the coatings/toppings on these. In fact, I’ll show a few in this post. Chopped nuts, seeds, powdered sugar, cocoa powder (probably blended with a tad bit of powdered sugar to cut the bitterness), some herbs or spices (depending on how adventurous a palate you have!), sprinkles or edible luster dust, etc. But here we’re going to be using fruit powder. (I like this option because it gives a little bit of a tang that complements the sweetness of the chocolate well, rather than being cloying like coating them in sugar.)
If you’re planning far enough in advance, this is a perfect use for that powder that’s left over at the bottom of the can. I haven’t been at this long enough to have that in plentiful supply, so I “made” my own. The great thing about freeze-dried berries is that they’re just the right texture that if you apply some force, they crumble. (That is, they crush to dust when you smash them, but they don’t just smash if you touch them.) For reds, you could probably use raspberries, too. I used strawberries because I prefer them.
This is what I started with — the whole strawberries.
These cans come sealed, and you have to pop and peel the pop top the first time you use them.
(As you may notice from the first picture, there is also a plastic lid, so you can recap the can once it’s been opened.)
That little “do not eat” packet helps protect against moisture.
All I did was put a handful of strawberries in a zip-top bag and then crush them with a meat tenderizer. (Flat. Not the pointy textured kind.)
And then to make the truffles! The nutshell version (more information below) is to melt together oil, cream, and chocolate chips, let the mixture cool until it’s firm enough, then form into balls and roll in the toppings before allowing to firm up some more. The original recipe, from my mom’s cookbook, Everyday Cooking, called for butter and cream, but I substituted coconut oil and coconut cream, so these are dairy-free if you use dairy-free chocolate. (Also, I “fudged” it on the original cream quantity in order to use an “even” carton of coconut cream, and that worked just fine.)
Here are some of the other options we made:
One more note before we get to the actual recipe: I found this chocolate mixture really finicky to work with. The best way I found to form these was to scoop them up in a cookie scoop (the kind with a lever, like a mini ice cream scoop), use my fingers to form the “outside” part of the truffle, then lever them out of the scoop into my small bowl of topping. Rolling them in topping I didn’t have any trouble with, but they didn’t seem to want to roll into balls by hand.
Spring sale! Today through the 23rd, Thrive Life is having its big spring sale,
with items up to 50% off.
One of the key benefits of Thrive Life foods is that they’re quick. Meats, beans, etc. are already cooked and freeze-dried so they need simply to be rehydrated (“refreshed”).
Not only is there no cooking required, there’s no prep time required. Carrots don’t have to be washed, peeled, or cut. Onions don’t have to be chopped. (No tears!) Meat doesn’t have to be trimmed. And this saves time on cleanup, too.
Simple Plate meals are, mostly, cooked, but they save time on planning, food prep, measuring, etc. — and minimize cleanup because of the absence of food prep and measuring.
Today’s Growth from A to Z — Q: Questions — is a little different than most of the others. Most of the posts in the series are areas in which we grow; this one is more of a method for growth.
One of the things that prompted me to choose this particular theme is that I was reading the textbook for my life coaching class. (Coaching is all about growth.) And one of the key tools a life coach uses is good questions. You can coach yourself for growth, too, by asking yourself good question. Some examples might include:
What is most important to me?
Do my calendar and to-do list reflect what is important to me?
Where am I now?
Where do I want to be (tomorrow, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now…you can fill in the blank with whatever time frame you like, or keep it general)?
What am I good at?
What are my weaknesses?
What am I passionate about?
What wrong beliefs are holding me back?
Is God pleased with how I invest my time?
If time and money were not limitations, what would I do?
There are numerous others, and the usefulness of some will vary depending on your circumstances, but hopefully you get the idea!
When I was preparing one of my Simple Plate meals recently, I set aside some of the veggies. Mushrooms and green peppers just aren’t “my thing,” so I didn’t want them in the meal I was preparing for myself, but I knew someone else could use them. Looking at what I had on hand, it occurred to me that they’re pizza toppings!
We do homemade pizza once a week, and Thrive Life can make it very easy to add a variety of toppings on a more “individual” basis, because you can prepare small amounts of:
green peppers (or red peppers, if you prefer those)
Because you don’t have to buy a whole pepper, or cry chopping an onion, etc., you can easily add just one or two people’s worth of a given topping. (As for pepperoni, we buy that in a package from the grocery store and store it in the freezer. You can pull out just as many pieces as you need, add them to the pizza frozen, and pop the remainder of the package back in the freezer, so it keeps for a while. The slices are thin enough they thaw out just fine while the pizza cooks.)
(If you really want to go all-in, Thrive Life also has tomato sauce mix, dehydrated cheese, and bread dough mix. I would personally not use these as my go-to options, but they might be worth considering for food storage or if you need something that can travel.)
Our pizza recipe was adapted from an episode of Reading Rainbow years ago, and although there are more impressive dough recipes out there, this one is nice because it’s easy. (My kids make this most Friday nights.)
This easy recipe, adapted from one featured on Reading Rainbow, is easy enough that older kids can make it.
2 c. warm (not hot) water
4+ c. flour (we use whole wheat)
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. instant (quick-rise) yeast
8 oz. tomato sauce
1 Tbsp. oregano, or to taste
4 c. mozzarella cheese, grated/shredded (give or take)
toppings as desired
Mix water, flour, salt, and yeast. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
Punch down and shape into two crusts.
Mix oregano into tomato sauce and spread over pizzas. (We don't usually mix this ahead of time, or use the full can of sauce. We just pour some onto each pizza, dump about 1 tsp. of oregano onto each, then swirl the oregano and sauce together with our clean fingers as we spread it across the crust.)
Top with cheese, then other toppings as desired. Bake at 450 degrees for about 14 minutes (or for 6 minutes on a preheated stone).
If you are short on time, you can let this "sponge." Mix 2 c. warm water with 2 c. flour and the yeast. Let sit (to "sponge") for 15-20 minutes. Mix in salt and remaining flour and follow instructions from AFTER the rising. ("Sponging" substitutes for rising.)
Today’s Growth from A to Z post about Personal Productivity has a little bit of overlap with yesterday’s organization post. In order to be at your most productive, you’ll need the “time” organization in place that we talked about yesterday. What I really want to focus on today, though, is not so much the general ability to manage tasks and keep up with a calendar, but the ability to set and pursue goals so you get a lot of the right things done.
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:15-16
First let’s talk big-picture, and then we’ll get into the nitty-gritty. What really matters? You can’t know what goals are important for you to reach if you don’t know what’s important to you in general. What do you value?
In the busyness of life, this is easy to lose track of. We get so preoccupied with putting out proverbial fires that there isn’t any mental space to think about what’s really important. Charles Hummel called this the “Tyranny of the Urgent.” So set aside some time to stop and think through this. What is important to you?
I’ve been hearing really good things about PowerSheets from Cultivate What Matters. I haven’t gotten to see them yet, myself, because they’re out of stock, but based on what I’ve seen of CWM’s other resources, I believe everything I hear about them. (And they’ll be back in stock on Tuesday!) I understand they do help some with the “nitty-gritty” we’re going to talk about next, but their primary focus is what we’re talking about right now — identifying what matters. (This is designed to be used with your planner; it isn’t a daily planner/calendar system.)
The 2018 PowerSheets Intentional Goal Planner - Vimeo
There are a few key elements that make goals work well. Different people have “systematized” these in different ways. One of the most common is “SMART” goals — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. I use three D’s: they have to be Definable, Doable, and have a Deadline.
Larger goals need to be broken up into smaller, interim goals. (For instance, if your goal is “write a book this year,” you might have a goal to “write two chapters this month.”)
Finally, goals need to be reviewed often, so you can see how you’re doing and make adjustments as necessary.
And hold your goals somewhat loosely. It’s okay to drop a goal if you change your mind and decide it isn’t a good fit (at all or in this season of life). Thoughtfully adjusting your priorities is not the same thing as quitting. Also, don’t consider it a failure if you fall short of the ultimate goal. If you make progress, that’s a win — even if that progress is just to gain insight into why other progress isn’t happening so you can adjust for next time. The goal is a tool for you, you’re a not a slave to it.
Thrive Life has a pretty nifty line of products designed to Organize your pantry. I’ve heard that these pantry organizers/can racks were actually the very first Thrive Life products, before we even had food! There are entire larger (freestanding) shelving systems intended to hold primarily #10 cans (like Thrive Life’s Family cans) and the smaller Thrive Life Pantry cans like you see above, with a bit of storage at the top for soup-sized cans.
(By the way, these are part of the Spring Sale April 19-23, and they’re all at least 45% off their regular prices.)
Then there are these smaller organizers meant to go in or on existing cupboards or shelving. Because they’re designed with flexibility in mind, these require some assembly, so let me show you what it looked like putting mine together. It comes as an assortment of pieces like this:
It looks like kind of a lot of parts, but there are really just two pieces, with multiple “copies” of each. There’s the larger “track” piece, and the long narrow pieces the tracks attach to. You start with those. Choose any two, and put them end-to-end.
See how they’re designed to interlock? So lift the one and place it atop the other like so:
And then press it down firmly into place.
For the particular rack I’m assembling, I needed four of these pairs.
Now, put two of these pairs face-to-face.
I want to quickly take a moment to point something out. See how there are not “clean” ends on these; they just end in the same kind of connectors? This is purposeful. It doesn’t matter which two you put together; they all work. And you can put as many of these end-to-end as you need to for your space. You don’t necessarily have to stop at two. (Although there’s a good chance you’ll want more pieces if you’re going longer.)
Okay, now take the first of the track pieces and put it into the set of holes closest to the end, pressing it firmly into place. (Make sure it’s right-side up! The tracks won’t work right if you put them in upside-down.)
Now figure out how far down you need the next one, based on your can size, and press it into place, as well. (Pardon the stuff in the background. I was assembling this on the floor.)
This was the fiddliest bit of the process for me. There’s a little bit of wiggle room for most cans, where you can make the fit really tight, or a bit looser, and still have the cans rest properly on the tracks. And trying to get in everything I wanted to put in here had me taking this off and reattaching them a few times to figure out the spacing. (At the end of this post, I’ll tell you how mine are spaced, to give you a head-start if your cans are the same size as mine.)
I also noticed that the one spot you can’t attach a track is right on the “seam” of the side rails. At one point I had to swap my rows around and recalculate because I was ending up needing one right there.
From here, you just continue spacing and placing your racks until you’re all the way across, and then use the remaining side rails across the top to hold them in place.
(If you had more pieces, you could create another row on top of this.)
Okay, I promised you I’d share the spacing I used here. My cans are in here pretty snugly for the most part, because I wanted to be able to squeeze all four of those rows in. What I’m going to give you is the number of empty holes between the ones the tracks are in. So these numbers don’t count the ones the tracks actually insert into. (Hopefully that makes sense.)
For the pantry can: 19
For the soup can: 14
For the tomato sauce can (8-oz): 10
For the bean cans: 15