Putting Christ in Christmas

About three years ago I got fed up with commercialized Christmas.  There was no Christ in Christmas.  There was Santa, and inordinate amounts of money on things that no one in their right mind really needed.  There were people getting arrested at Black Friday sales.  There was pushing shoving, and a SERIOUS absence of goodwill toward men, and I had had it!  

I am willing to admit at least part of what pushed me over the edge was that for the second time in two years I found myself expecting a child within days of Christmas.  I found myself relating to Mary in a way I could never have imagined.  I wanted my child to be born into a world where people loved and celebrated the Savior of the world.  I wanted peace on earth.  

I knew there wasn't a whole lot I could do about the peace on earth, but I knew that in our home we could make sure the birth and life of the Savior was central to Christmas.  Stepping back from Santa, malls, and the secularization of Christmas was a bit daunting, but the rewards have been AMAZING!!!

So, in case you are interested (and I hope you are) in bringing Christ more into your Christmas I wanted to share a few of my favorite FREE resources!

Christ Centered Christmas is an amazing blog with TONS of ideas!  One that was new to me, that we're thinking about giving a try this year is their Bethlehem dinner.  We do something similar at Easter, so I'm excited to add this to our Christmas celebration.

I recently stumbled across Christ: The Real Gift of Christmas, and I am in love!  They have music, videos, Christmas traditions, and in the Christmas Resources section under families, there are even games and coloring pages for the little ones.  This is a great one stop shop.

Amy Pak, from Homeschool in the Woods, has generously allowed me to share this link for her Christmas Unit study with you. This has everything from penmanship, to science, and math, all focused on Christmas.  We went through several of her hands on projects last year, and had a wonderful time!!!  I can't thank Amy enough for sharing this with all of you.  (We have since purchased her new "History of Holidays" activity-study, and it is just as amazing!  It includes many of the Christmas activities in addition to more than 12 other holidays.  We have really loved it around here.  I only wish my children were older so we could use ALL of her packs.)  :)

Homeschool Freebie of the Day is one of my favorites, year round, but starting this week they are going to be offering some amazing Christmas resources.  Yesterday they had a great link to free classical Christmas music, and later in the week they are going to be offering different Christmas stories.  

Finally, I realize this doesn't really have anything to do with a Christ centered Christmas, but I wanted to share a little Christmas gift I received recently with my fellow military homeschoolers.  "The Old Schoolhouse" is offering a free one year digital subscription to their magazine for all active duty, retired, and reserve military homeschool families!  They are also throwing in a few other things as well, and you can read all about it here

I hope these resources will bless you as they have blessed me, and that we will all have a Christmas filled with Christ.


Tradition! Tradition!

As excited as I get about Fall, it pales in comparison to how excited I get for Christmas.  Unlike the Grinch I love Christmas, the WHOLE Christmas season!!!  

To me the Christmas season begins when the tree goes up, so I try and have it up the weekend after Thanksgiving. 

With three little people under 5 getting the tree up and keeping the Spirit of Christmas can be a feat.  So that our Christmas doesn't begin in a deluge of tears and angry words, mine and the children's, putting up the tree has become a date night tradtition for Steve and I.  On the appointed night we wait for the children to go to bed, turn on some Christmas music, and then get the tree out and up, with the lights on.  (We add the decorations the next day as a family.)  After the lights are on the tree we usually turn out all of the house lights and just sit and look at it.  Ever since I was a child I've just loved sitting in a dark room and looking at the beautiful little lights on a Christmas tree, I find it so peaceful.

After I've soaked in the peace of the beginning of Christmas, we get out our two little children's nativities and place them under the tree for the little ones to find.  One is wooden, and the other is stuffed, and the children love carrying them around and playing with them all season long.  The next morning they usually come running in to tell us there's a Christmas tree, and then they come back out, and play with their nativities while Bitsy plugs in the tree.  (She loves the lights as much as her momma does.)  

Having the nativity there for them right from the start reminds them that Christmas "doesn't come from a box" and is about the birth of our Savior.  It's such a beautiful, spiritual beginning to our season, and that's the greatest gift we can find, under our tree, or otherwise!

(If you're interested in more Christmas ideas, head over to Someone In Mind, where Erin is going to be doing a series on "Finding Christ in Christmas" all through December.  I'm even going to be doing a guest post for her!)


Week In Review : Thanksgiving

This week we spent most of our time in the kitchen getting ready for Thanksgiving, and in the excitement I again found myself cameraless (yes, I know it's not a real word) often.  It's to bad too, because for the first time ever I made my own cherry pie filling, and made pumpkin pie with our very own pumpkins, and without the recipe on the back of the can.  June Cleaver, look out!  

Other than Thanksgiving, my favorite activity of the week would have to be having my little ones helping me make mashed potatoes on Wednesday so we could deliver them to a dinner for homeless families in the community.  I loved the joy in their eyes when they told EVERYONE they met, that they were taking potatoes to people who didn't have any.  Bitsy usually invited the people she talked with to come too, and bring something.  I love that giving heart of hers!

 So, here is what I did get pictures of.  There's nothing of any great "educational" value, but there is amazing family building value, and honestly that's one of the reasons I love homeschool.  Sometimes we can put the formal academics aside, and focus on family building and homemaking!
 Lettie wanted to make sure everyone saw that her bib says, "My family is thankful for me!"  At least I assume that's why she kept standing up in her high chair and waving it around at me. 
 Daddy made me this great bird bath out of a table I didn't want anymore, and what I think is supposed to be a lamp shade.  I fell in love with the colors, and wanted it in the yard, so my sweet husband accommodated me.  Manly helped dig it into the ground, and then decided to float his  beach boat in it to make sure it was safe.  Can you tell how proud he is of himself for coming up with the idea to put his boat in there?
 Apparently Lettie was waving her bib at me to tell me she was hungry, because later when I dropped a piece of sweet potato on the floor she laid down like this to lick it up.  Thank goodness I had just cleaned the floor.  :)
 Bitsy spent a good deal of time mothering her new Nutcracker.  (She doesn't know it yet, but he's going to be the centerpiece of her birthday party in a few weeks.)  I loved watching her wrap him up, and carry him carefully around the house, speaking softly to him.  It's that tender heart again!
Saturday we decorated our Christmas tree, because the children and I just couldn't stand it any longer! Everyone had a responsibility.  Daddy and Steven got the star on.
 Lettie guarded the ornaments.  (I'm not even sure why or how she crawled up there, but it made me giggle to see her.)
 Bitsy supervised.  Okay, the truth is Bitsy wanted to touch every ornament, and decorated most of the tree, but when it came time for the star, she wanted NOTHING to do with it, but had a good time sitting and watching.  Gratefully my dear husband didn't get a picture of me trying to put the star on, and it popping off the top of the tree and across the room.  :)  Good times!
 Finally, Lettie kept a very close eye on the singing and dancing mouse ornament.  I think all of the reading and watching of "The Nutcracker" has made her a little leery of mice.  :)

This week we are going to finish up a few lessons on thankfulness and sharing before we move full scale into Christmas on December 1st.  I'll share more of our Christmas school plans later in the week!  

I hope you and your family had a wonderful week of family time and thankfulness!


The Things We're Thankful For

While we waited for our dinner to settle, so we could enjoy our dessert last night, we got out our blessing jar, and read through all of the things we're thankful for.  It was a very sweet moment for me.  The Lord has blessed us with so much to be thankful for, but here is what we wrote down over the last month.

Rainy* days to play together
A free country
To be a mom
Warm beds*** to sleep in
Candy***, umbrellas, and swans

Jesus and the earth
Priesthood, Cooper, and the Lamptey Family
Baby Lettie**, our cars, and pizza
Our home* and being together
Running water

Canning applesauce
Temples** and Trials
Jesus, Adam and Eve, and when we were in heaven
Treats and apples

Jesus when He dies on the cross
Planting a pretty garden that makes the earth even more beautiful
Oranges and nuts*
The Holy Ghost, and how he teaches me*
Bitsy** and Manly*

Our homeschool
Time at home

Grapes and Apples
Pink, Green, and Blue

Plums and Socks
Safety pins, pine cones, peanut butter, fur, rocks, and feathers
Paper and crayons
Coaches, legos, children, and babies

The teachings of Mahonri Moriancumer
The Constitution
Our family's love of the Temple
Heavenly Father
Water and Lemonade
Family History

Lanterns and flashlights
Our new dresser, and the Lord's help in finding it
Water, houses, and tea
Painting and paint
Bunnies and Chickens

Modern Revelation
Leaves, pumpkins, and turkeys
That our family can be together forever*
God above and blessings
Snowmen, daddy, logs, laws, and pictures
A dishwasher

Food coloring
Toys and furniture
Lessons and blessings

Being a homemaker
Moms and Dads
Dot paint*, markers, and glue
Food, Birds, and toes

Heavenly Father's plan and Daddy being home during Christmas
Family Home Evening
That daddy has a job, and is willing to work to provide for our family.
Numbers, calendars, and dictionaries
Shoes, clothes, and pots
Our family

I think Bitsy summed it all up when she wrote (and this is exactly as she said it):
"I am grateful for the Church, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and Heavenly Father, and Manly, and Lettie, and Mommy, and Daddy.  I love Jesus very much, but I don't love Satan.

I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and are preparing for a beautiful Christmas season.

(Anything we recorded more than once I marked with an *)


The Happy Pumpkin Cake Dance

Friday night I made this beautiful cake for Saturday morning's breakfast.  
 When revealed to Bitsy on Saturday morning, it evoked this response.  There was dancing, smiling, and a prolonged "EEEEEEEEEE" of joy.  My husband's reaction was much more dignified, but the sentiment was the same.
I got the recipe from my dear friend Theresa, and you can too, because she is GIVING it away along with other recipes and craft projects in her "Fall Joyous Home Journal" through the month of December.  There are tons of other delicious recipes, and cute crafts, including a popcorn maker for dad and the boys to make together.

I first met Theresa two years ago, and she has been an inspiration to me ever since.  She is truly devoted to her family, and to helping other women find joy in homemaking.  She is an amazing lady, and I have been so blessed to have her encouragement in my life.  

I hope you enjoy the recipes, and that you too get to see the happy pumpkin cake dance in your home.  

Oh, and in case you're wondering if the rest of her magazines are worth getting, the answer is a resounding YES!  I have purchased all of them, and they are covered in sticky notes marking favorite projects and recipes.  I also bought the "Christmas Journal," and it is just as amazing as everything else she has created.  You'll see how inspired I was by the Sugarplum Tea after Christmas!


Week In Review: Giving Thanks

The camera seemed to escape me this week, so I don't have a lot of pictures, but I will give you a brief review of what we did.  

We started our week with a lesson on civility, that was a lot of fun, and I wish I had pictures, but somehow I forgot to get some.  You can find the lesson and cutouts hereThe basic overview is that I blew up balloons, and put little paper faces on each one with some tape.  I read a description of each "person" based on their outer appearance, and how others treated them because of that appearance.  Then we popped the balloons, and inside was a little sheet of paper describing the person's spirit, and their longings toward heaven and others.  

The children were quick to pick up on the fact that our outer appearance isn't the best way to make decisions about a person.  We talked about how we are all Heavenly Father's children, no matter what we look like, so we should all be treated with kindness. 

Manly and I did a little autumn sequencing.  First I laid the cut outs in a line and he matched them up with the other set, then he decided to lay them out for me so I could match them. 
 One morning we made baked oatmeal for breakfast, and as I started to add the butter Manly got this gleam in his eye, and said, "OOOOHHHH, butter!  I love butter!"  That's my boy!  He is becoming quite a proficient little stirrer. 
We played a couple of games including this file folder game on prayer.  The little ones LOVED it.  We also did the gratitude riddles and gratitude questions found here after we talked about the ten lepers.  Bitsy and Manly were both surprised and disappointed that only one leper came back, and decided they wanted to always say thank you to God, and others for the gifts they receive.
 And I can't remember why my cute children were doing this, I think they were dancing, but maybe they were showing daddy how mommy runs around acting like a chicken with her head cut off sometimes.  It's hard to say!


The Value of an Education

November is over half way over, and I am happy to say that the goal to fund the scholarship for single parents to LDS Business College has been met, but I have to be honest, I'm not satisfied.

I truly believe one of the greatest gifts a person can receive is an education!

I think that's why I want to see the number of donors, and the number of scholarships rise.  I don't think that 5 one semester scholarships is enough for these single parents.  

We received a letter from one of the recipients after we donated and she said in part, "I am striving to make a difficult situation better by gaining an education..."  

This is such a personal cause to me, because I know how powerful an education can be, and I know what a struggle it is to complete your education, and I can't imagine the strain of trying to do that while I raised a family.  I especially can't imagine doing it without the support of a spouse.

One of the first stories my husband told me about his mother was of her desire and struggle to go back to college and complete her degree while he was young.  She graduated the same year as his oldest sister.  Their family's pride in her accomplishment was palpable.  I can't imagine if she had had to do this without the physical, emotional, and financial support of her husband.  

In my previous life (the one before marriage and family) I was a domestic violence counselor.  I saw women and children struggle in poverty because they had been prevented from receiving an education.  I saw the discouragement and frustration in women's eyes as we filled out paperwork so they could receive welfare.  They felt worthless, and demeaned.  Many of them didn't want a hand out, they wanted a hand up.  Women like this are trying to get an education to better their families.

I was blessed to complete my degree before I met my sweet husband, and before we started a family, and I am so grateful for that, but I am surrounded by women who haven't had that blessing, and live in fear that something will happen to their husbands as they serve our country, and they will have no way of supporting their families.  I can't imagine the burden that I would feel if I lost my husband and suddenly had to provide for our family, as well as get an education, all while nurturing my children.

During this season of thanks, and giving, I want to encourage you to help give some families a hand up, because really as the parents are blessed with an education, the entire family is lifted.  Please don't think that your donation is to small, or that it won't make a difference.  Whether it is, $1, $5, $10, $100 it ALL makes a difference.  

Let these families know that despite their difficult circumstances people believe in them.  Let them know that despite their obstacles they are of value.  Help change the course of the generations that will be blessed because of this education!  Let's ease a burden.


The Yogurt You've All Been Waiting For!

Ok, well maybe all of you haven't been waiting, but for those of you who have, I really appreciate you patience, and I hope you will find the wait worthwhile.  Our little family seems to be on the mend, so yesterday I was able to make some yogurt, and take some pictures along the way.  Enjoy!

Before we get started, in case you're wondering how I learned to do this, I learned from watching these videos at Everyday Food Storage.net.  The way I make mine varies very little from the way you will see it made there, and in case you are wondering what else you can do with your powdered milk, make her food storage hot fudge sauce.  You'll thank me, you'll thank her, you'll thank anyone near you, because you will be so happy!

Okay, yogurt.  Here we go.  You're going to need:
2 quarts water (8 cups)
Heaping 2 2/3 cups of NON-instant powdered milk
1/2 cup yogurt containing live active cultures  (I personally use Stonyfield plain)
Optional sweetener
Slow cooker
Bath Towel (trust me)

First you are going to add the water and the powdered milk to the slow cooker.  Non-instant powdered milk is very fine, like flour, while instant is puffier, kind of like grape nuts, because it has air added to it.  If you are getting your powdered milk from an LDS cannery, it is non-instant.  You can make this with instant, but you will need double the amount of powdered milk, but I don't think it's as cost effective.   
 Then using a whisk mix it all together.  This can be done with a blender, but I know not everyone owns one, so I wanted you to see that you can do it by hand.  When I use my blender I put about 3 cups of the water in with all of the powdered milk and blend it until it's smooth, and pour it into the slow cooker.  Then I add the remaining water to the blender to get off any milk that may have stuck to the sides, and add that to the slow cooker, and give it all a quick stir.  If you are going to add sweetener this is the time to do it.  (I don't add sweetener, so I can't give you any estimates on how much to add.)
 When you're done mixing it will be a little foamy on top, and that's just fine.  Put the lid on, and turn the heat to low, then go do something fun for 2 1/2 hours.
After 2 1/2 hours unplug your slow cooker, and let it sit with the lid on for 3 hours.  This is to let the milk cool down some so that the bacteria in your yogurt won't be killed when you add it.  You'll notice the foam has mostly dissipated, and their may be a slight brown ring from some milk splashing on the side of the crock, that's all okay. 
 After three hours take about a cup and half of the milk out of the slow cooker and add it to a bowl or a measuring cup.  Add a half of a cup of yogurt to the milk you've pulled out, and mix it with a whisk or a fork until it's well blended.  Then add it all back into the slow cooker and give it a stir.
 Put the lid back on your slow cooker and keeping it unplugged, wrap it up in a towel.  Bitsy says we're tucking the yogurt into bed.  :)  I put the slow cooker on top of the towel, then wrap the sides up, and then the front and back.  It doesn't matter how you do it as long as the towel is completely surrounding the slow cooker to keep the heat in.  Now you just leave it alone for 6-8 hours.  Avoid the temptation to check on it because you don't want to let the heat out, and if you move it to much the whey will separate out.
 I always check mine after six hours, because I live in a slightly warmer environment, and it is almost always done.  You can see it is really well set up here after 6 hours.  If you check it and it's not as thick as you would like just wrap it back up and check on it again later.  Congratulations, you've just made 2 1/2 quarts of yogurt, for about a dollar! 
I store mine in mason jars, but you can store it in any airtight container in the refrigerator.  Make sure and save half of a cup of it so you can use it as the starter for your next batch.  I've made mine for about 6 months now just using 1/2 a cup form my previous batch.  If you notice it is starting to get runny, or not set well, then it's time to buy a new container of yogurt from the store to use as a starter.

I mentioned that I don't use sweetener, and that's because I like to make yogurt cheese, and use my yogurt as a sour cream substitute, which doesn't work real well when it's sweetened.  My children like it with some granola and fruit added in, but if we have someone who really wants it sweetened I add a little honey and a little vanilla to the bowl as I'm serving it.  

I should also add that I've made yogurt lots of different ways over the last three to four years, and this is my absolute FAVORITE way to do it.  I hope you enjoy it.  Let me know if you have questions.


Gratitude and the Book of Mormon

As I've been thinking about gratitude this month it's really struck me how much perspective and attitude are related to gratitude. 

It seems hard to be thankful when things around us are hard, and if we start to feel discouraged of angry because of the trials we are faced with it is hard to keep the eternal perspective.  I took these two pictures while we were camping in the desert last month to remind me of this.

As I looked down around me, I saw weeds, thorns, dirt, and prickly branches, there didn't really seem to be anything worth rejoicing over.
But then I looked up, and I saw plenty of beauty.
These two pictures were taken from the exact same spot, and the difference is entirely in my perspective.  When we are looking up to the Lord, He can show us the beauty and the blessings right where we are.  Right in the pile of laundry, and dirty dishes, right in the hard time at work, right in the rough patch with our family.  As we thank Him, He will show us how blessed we really are to have the clothes and dishes that need to be washed, to have the job that allows us to provide for our family.

One of my favorite scriptures is 1Nephi 18:16.  Now before I share the scripture with you, let me give you a little background.  At this point Nephi and his family have left Jerusalem leaving all of their wealth there, traveled back to try get the scriptures, then took another trip back to find wives, and finally they've built a boat to travel to the new land, all while living in tents in the wilderness.

"Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions." 

I learn so much from that scripture.  First, I learn to praise the Lord, or give him thanks, at all times and in all things.  I also learn that I shouldn't complain because of my hardships, because if Nephi didn't complain, I've got no reason to.  Nephi was so full of thankfulness that there was no room or time to complain, I think he had the bigger picture in mind, the eternal picture.  He knew to look up.

As I've tried to focus more on my blessings this month, I've been amazed at the ways He has shown me that everything is in His hands.  Every time I try to thank Him for my blessings, He shows me more, and I know that even if I "praise him all the day long" I can never thoroughly thank Him for all that He has given me.  I LOVE looking up!!!

In case you want a little more inspiration to look up, you can read this amazing talk given at the last General Conference.

I think I forgot to mention that the Book of Mormon Forum was going to continue once  a month with a blog hop.  Today is the day!  


Week In Review- Prayer

This week we used the chapters on individual and family prayer from "Behold Your Little Ones" as the base of our learning activities.  

We started our week with a little coloring...
 and a little cutting using the flip book in the manual.  We also practiced counting to four since there are four steps to prayer included in the picture.
 We learned that prayer is a form of communication, and discussed other forms of communication, such as telephones, music, reading, writing, dance, and how even our body language can communicate things to people.  We talked about how to call 911 if there is an emergency, and we worked on memorizing our phone number.  I made up a little song to help them remember our phone number, but we also worked on our phone number matching mat.  
I made our mat out of a thin piece of cardboard, and underneath the white cards is our entire phone number, including area code, the matching cards are just index cards cut into quarters with the individual digits written on each one.  To use this I have the individual digits in a pile, and they match them, in order, with the numbers of our phone number written on the cardboard.  We start at the green circle, and stop at the red.  (This activity is based on one included in "Slow and Steady Get Me Ready by June Oberlander.)  In case you're wondering, this isn't even close to our phone number, but I wanted you to see how the activity works.
 What would a lesson on communication be without can phones?  The little ones LOVED making these with daddy, and have been carrying them around "calling" each other all week.
 Bitsy decided to put together this puzzle this week, and it was pretty amazing.  She's never done anything like that before, but she was really determined, and put it together 3 or 4 times in a row.  Then she told me the story she thinks the artist was trying to tell when he drew the picture.
 One of my favorite parts of the week was when we talked about how the scriptures teach us how and when to pray.  We acted out the story of Enos, in The Book of Mormon, going into the woods to hunt, and pray.  Here is the forest.
 And here is our little Enos hunting before he begins praying for the Lord's forgiveness and blessings.  Cute little hunter, isn't he?  :)
 Since reading and writing are part of communication, and we can read the scriptures to learn more about prayer, we practiced some writing in our cornmeal box.  This is a fun way for little ones to practice without a pen and paper, and Bitsy really loved it.
 Manly is still a little to try and form letters, so he used our sandpaper letters to trace them.  He's spent a lot of time tracing letters he sees on paper lately, and really enjoyed the change in texture.
 He also decided he wanted to practice his letters by putting this alphabet puzzle together.  I guess it was a puzzle kind of week, because Bitsy and Manly both got out several puzzles all on their own.
 Since Daddy had the day off for Veteran's Day we went to "live at the Temple" as Bitsy calls it.  There are apartments at the Los Angeles Temple that can be rented overnight for those who will be attending the Temple.  (You can read more about Temples here.)
 They enjoyed looking at the beautiful statues, and as we walked back to the apartment Bitsy turned and said to me, "Mommy, I love the temple, it's my favorite place in the world."  I love teaching from the Nursery Manual, I think we're all learning so much more!
I didn't get any pictures of it yet, but we also have this color by number picture of prayer, so we can work on numbers for Bitsy, and color recognition for Manly.  There is a lot of detail to it, so Manly will just be coloring it however he would like, and Bitsy will color at least one or two spots the appropriate color.  After she's identified each number she can finish it by number if she wants, but I'm not going to force her to finish it that way.



In case you don't speak my second language (miltaryese) that stands for "Sick in Quarters".  Which is what we are around here.  I have three sick children, a husband on a 24 hour post, and mommy clawing at the walls, carpets, and anything else trying not to go down the path to illness.  

So, if you're hear looking for that post I promised about yogurt, I'm so sorry.  As with all of you, my family comes first, and today we sat on the couch and read books and watched movies.  There was no yogurt involved.  I am hoping we will be back on top of things  Monday or Tuesday, and I will make the yogurt then.  (You should be completely hopeful, because every time Bitsy prayed today she asked that we would all be better so she could say her part in the Primary program tomorrow at Church.  I have faith the Lord will answer my little girl's prayers!)

In the mean time, if you are so excited you can't stand it, and you want to have everything on hand to try it as soon as you see how easy it is, I'll give you a list of supplies so you can have them ready.  You will need about 3 cups of powdered NON-instant milk (the NON part is very important), a slow cooker, a great big towel, and 1/2 of a cup of plain or vanilla yogurt that has live active cultures (the live active cultures are absolutely essential).  That's all.  Doesn't this sound easy already? 

Thanks for your patience, we'll be back on our feet in no time!


Happy Veteran's Day

Thank you to all who have served, and all who are serving.  Your service is exemplary to us all.  Happy Veteran's Day, and God bless America!


Service of A Child

"And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."

This week's Wordfull Wednesday post over at Chocolate on My Cranium really got me thinking about children and service.  For the last few months I've been working on thinking of ways to get my young children more involved in service, but now that I really sit down and look at it, it seems maybe I've been missing how they are teaching me to serve. 

Bitsy and Manly are both so compassionate, it amazes me, but I think because she is older Bitsy really goes the extra mile to serve others.  We don't go to a store without her telling at least two people that she likes something about their appearance, whether it is a shirt, a haircut, or shoes.  She is amazing at seeing the beauty in others.  

When we make a treat, she ALWAYS wants to share.  She wants to take a plate of cookies to the neighbors, or share extra play dough we make with her Primary teacher.  Today I had a friend over, and Bitsy offered to share all of her candy with her.  When she is having a snack, and I'm working in the kitchen she never fails to bring me a bite.  

I can't remember the last time she struck up a conversation with a stranger and didn't invite them to our home for dinner.  She is sad when others are sick, or need a meal for some reason, and she isn't able to come with me to help deliver it.  When I am sick while I am pregnant I've never seen a better nurse.  She brings drinks, and snacks, and then offers to "read" me a book.

And that picture up there, that's not an uncommon sight in our home.  Bitsy sees that it's time to vacuum, and she just goes and gets it herself, and will vacuum the entire house if I let her.  She wants to help wash dishes, and care for Lettie, she wants to clean the windows and mirrors.  She wants to make our house a home.

She befriends the lonely, and is completely confused when others don't want to befriend her, and yet she never gets angry when someone ignores her kindness.  She is the first to introduce herself to new neighbors, and every night when Daddy is gone she offers me her favorite dolly, or her panda bears to sleep with, so I don't have to sleep alone.

She doesn't serve because she is going to get praise, or rewards, although sometimes she does.  She serves in her home and in the community around her.  She serves because she truly loves others, and wants to help them and know them.  Without understanding it, she knows that charity is the pure love of Christ, and she's filled with it.  

I have a lot to learn from this sweet daughter of God, and a long way to go to be more like her, but I am grateful for her.  I am so blessed to be her mom! 


Yogurt Cheese

I love food, and food storage, and one of my favorite things to make is yogurt out of my powdered milk, it's fantastic!  It tastes wonderful, and on top of that it is very versatile, I can strain it for an hour or so and have Greek yogurt, or I can strain it for longer and get yogurt cheese.  

You may be wondering what to do with yogurt cheese, and the answer is anything you would do with cream cheese.  Yes, I even use it to make cheesecake!  You can use it on a bagel, or in french toast as well.  

Now that you're curious, let me show you just how easy it is to make.  (Before we begin, I have made my own yogurt for about a year now.  I have NEVER tried this with yogurt from the store.  I would assume it would work the same way, but I haven't done it, so I can't be sure.  If you need to want to know how I make my yogurt, let me know and I'm happy to do a post on that as well.)

Here we go...  First gather your supplies, you need yogurt, a strainer, a bowl or mason jar for the strainer to sit on, a bag of water, or a piece of fruit to weight your yogurt, and a towel, coffee filter, or a piece of cheesecloth to strain with.  I prefer a towel because it is easier to wash than cheesecloth, and I have it on hand.  (We don't drink coffee, so I have no need for filters.)
 Next, set your strainer on top of the bowl, and place the towel inside.
Add your yogurt.  This is about a cup and a half, normally I go more, but I just threw this together to create this post.  This will make between a quarter and a half of a cup of yogurt cheese.
 Fold the towel over the yogurt so none will spill out.
 Add some type of weight.  I use a quart size bag of water, but I always double bag it to make sure it doesn't leak.  You could use an apple or an orange as well.
 After a minute or two if you look in your bowl you should see some of the whey starting to drip out.  If you don't see anything after 5 minutes, and your towel doesn't seem to be getting wet you should add some more weight.  Once you're sure it's dripping, put the whole thing into the refrigerator.
 If you want Greek style yogurt check on it after and hour or two, but if you want yogurt cheese leave it for at least four hours.  Depending on how much whey is in your yogurt it can take 8 hours.  You can see it is at a good spreadable consistency here, and that the towel just peeled away, leaving an impression.
You can store it in a container in the refrigerator for about a week.  (But use common sense, if it smells bad, tastes bad, or is growing mold, throw it out.)  If you bake your own bread, then the whey that you strained out can be stored in a container as well and used in place of water in your bread recipe.

(Andrea, I'm so sorry I didn't get this up last night, the straining time and "life" prevented it, but I hope you enjoy!)


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