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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Thoughts from the Past - Lessons I Have Learned


Here is an item I wrote some years ago over on the Home Maker’s Corner:

Lessons I Have Learned

Here are some lessons I have learned over the last number of years. I do not claim that they are the only ones that I have learned, nor that I have learned them well, but I have learned them - some the hard way, and some by observing others. They are also not in order of importance. Perhaps they will edify you.

1. Forgive and forget. Don't carry grudges against others or yourself. Bitterness defiles many. Hebrews 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled… It is also troubling to hear someone else talk about their old grudges against others, so don't do it and avoid listening to those who are filled with grudges or bitterness.

2. Rejoice. Find reasons to be cheerful. If you are saved you have no excuse not to do so. Anticipate blessings. Eagerly look for reasons to be joyful and thankful. Don't wait to be taken by surprise! Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;  Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sew Happy Saturday – Raising A Simple Neckline on A Pattern


I ran across this handy tutorial for raising a simple neckline on a pattern this week.  Here is the tutorial with instructions.  Please note that this method will only work for simple necklines.  Also, if the blouse, dress or jumper does not have a button or zipper opening in the back, you must be careful not to make the opening so small that you can't get your head through it!  "Lady Lydia" also shows how to make new facings to match the new neckline – an important step in altering a neckline.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Am Tired


(Photo taken in 2008)

Ecclesiastes 3:1-3, 6-7  To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…a time to break down, and a time to build up…A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;  A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

This has been an extremely busy year for us, as I mentioned before.  But, it has also been a stressful year for our country in general with much ugly news and some depressing revelations.  In considering life and its variables, I’ve realized there are some things that I’m tired of.  I don’t intend to share all of them here, as some are perhaps too personal.  But, I’d like to discuss a few since some of them will affect this blog in some ways.  Please bear with me and don’t assume the worst. :-)

1) I am getting tired of keeping up with this blog.  I’m not tired of blogging in general, but keeping this updated to the extent I have has become a burden.  It is a weight that is hindering me from running the race with patience.  There are other things I feel are more important that are not getting done.  So.  It has to be adjusted so as not to be such a weight, or it will have to be laid aside.  Hebrews 12:1  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

When something is making us weary in well doing it is a good idea to consider if there is a way to change that.  2 Thessalonians 3:13  But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

2) This blog was not meant to supplant the Home Maker’s Corner, but I feel like it has done this.  There are things I want to write and need to write for the HMC which haven’t gotten done.  I feel that the blog has in some ways gotten in the way.  Also, there is no reason why I can’t write proper articles for the HMC and link to them from here as I’ve done in the past. Maybe I should even link to some of the older articles that might be of use.

The HMC needs some updating and restyling in some places as well.  For those who may not realize it, building and maintaining a web page is a lot more work than blogging – especially blogging through one of the blogging services that provides so much help to make it all work.

3) I want to spend more time doing things with my husband.  He works a lot of hours and I feel the need to make his off time more ours.  He is a computer programmer and I’d like to get a little more idea why it’s his hobby and job (yes, in that order).  I can understand his pleasure in building a house or finishing out a commercial building.  I’d like to see a little bit into his programming world too.  My husband has wanted to teach me CSS (cascading style sheets) and more about html, both of which would be very useful in the building of the HMC.  My brain is lazy.  It prefers to stay in its own familiar ruts.  But, sometimes it is good to “take it by the collar and give it a good shake” and put it on some new track where it can learn and grow in new ways.  I know learning CSS would do this.  And, it would give me more time with my husband. :-)

4) I’m also a bit tired of not getting some things done around here that I’d like to do.  “Needing” to blog is too often an excuse to get online which, because it’s easier to browse and “research” than to actually write, leads too often to not enough getting done. This is a weakness of my own flesh, I know.  But, rethinking how and how much I blog and where my time and energies should go is part of taking back this area of my life. 

5) It seems needful to make adjustments to see if this blog can become less of a weight and more focused.  How this will work out I’m not entirely sure yet, but I expect to make changes.  It has wandered some from the kitchen, cooking, and homemaking theme originally intended for  “The Cotton Apron”.  I also feel sometimes like there are not as many Bible studies and spiritual thoughts as there once was.

I really enjoy quilting and sewing but, truth be told, there are a lot of quilting and sewing blogs out there.  I don’t need to add my two cents.  So, the sewing posts will be greatly reduced, if not eventually eliminated, or merged back into the homemaking theme posts.  At this point I’m not projecting how often is enough.  I’m just letting go of it mentally and we’ll see what happens.

6) I also have some long term goals which have been overshadowed by the pressing needs of so many weekly blog posts.  I really want to finish the Laying Aside Weights series.  I have a handful of subjects left that seem appropriate for that.  I also want to do more “Hard Questions” here or on the HMC.  And, last but not least, Lord willing, I want to start publishing some books.  Oh, nothing unusual – mostly compilations of things I’ve already written, photo books and a collection of poems by Annie Johnson Flint. 

All these issues and goals relate entirely or considerably to my own management of time.  My husband has told me I don’t have to post so much.  I can even take a week or more off at a time.  He is right.  But, I also know that with some pruning, weeding, water and encouragement an overgrown plant can become more productive in a better way.  I feel like this blog has become overgrown and it’s time to prune it back.  Also, I’ve been allowing too many weeds of wasted computer time to grow up around it.  It’s time to use the hoe and rake and get some things out of my life.

Thanks for your patience and support at this time. :-)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

He Careth – A Poem


1 Peter 5:6-7  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

He Careth

What can it mean? Is it aught to Him,
That the nights are long and the days are dim?
Can He be touched by the grief I bear,
Which saddens the heart and whitens the hair?
About His throne are eternal calms
And bliss unruffled by any strife--
How can He care for my little life?

And yet, I want Him to care for me,
While I live in this world where sorrows be!
When the lights die down from the path I take,
When strength is feeble and friends forsake,
When love, and music that once did bless,
Have left me in silence and loneliness,
And my life song changes to sobbing prayers,
Then my heart cries out for a God who cares.

O wonderful story of deathless love!
Each child is dear to that heart above;
He fights for me when I cannot fight;
He comforts me in the gloom of night;
He lifts the burden, for He is strong;
He stills the sigh and awakens the song;
The sorrow that bears me down, He bears,
And loves and pardons, because He cares.

Let all who are sad take heart again;
We are not alone in our hours of pain;
Our Father stoops from His throne above;
To soothe and quiet us with His love;
He leaves us not when the storm is high;
And we have safety, for He is nigh;
Can there be trouble, which He doth not share?
Oh, rest in peace, for the Lord will care!

By Marianne Farningham

Hebrews 13:5-6  Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sew Happy Saturday – Tips for Finding Fabric and Other Items


Here is a great blog post by Ros over at Sew Delicious about how to find good prices for fabric and other sewing supplies.  This is definitely a good read for ideas if you want to conserve money and still enjoy sewing and quilting.

Think also about new or newish clothing at garage/yard sales (rummage sales).  Some people will offer clothing at a set price for however much you can stuff into a bag.  Look for good woven cotton clothing (dresses, skirt, shirts, etc.) that can be cut up into quilt pieces or other sewing or crafting projects.

Also, I like to use plain fleece instead of batting and fabric to back some “cuddle quilts”.  If you’d like to try the same method keep your eyes open for fleece blankets or throws marked down after New Years and in late winter.  I got some nice ones a few years ago for a remarkably low price!  Now that I use them for making “cuddle quilts” I probably would buy quite a few if they had workable colors. :-)  NOTE: Even if you don’t sew or quilt, marked down fleece throws and blankets make nice gifts for various occasions, so don’t pass them up just because you don’t want them for sewing.  If you don’t quilt you might get them in several of the same color or large enough to make garments and other fleece items.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Creatures Great and Small – Fainting Goats


These fainting goats belonged to our neighbor in Tennessee.

Springtime.  A nanny and her kid.

Two kids having a good game of butting heads.

I think this was the billy goat, but I’m not sure.

Ahh.  Summer pastures!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Greatest Test – A Poem


Colossians 1:10 –11 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

The Greatest Test

Help me to walk so close to Thee
That those who know me best can see
I live as godly as I pray,
And Christ is real from day to day.

I see some once a day, or year,
To them I blameless might appear,
'Tis easy to be kind and sweet
To people whom we seldom meet.

But in my home are those who see
Too many times the worst of me.
My hymns of praise were best unsung
If He does not control my tongue.

When I am vexed and sorely tried
And my impatience cannot hide,
May no one stumble over me
Because Thy love they failed to see.

But give me, Lord, a life that sings;
And victory over little things.
Give me Thy calm for every fear,
Thy peace for every falling tear.

Make mine, O Lord, thru calm and strife
A gracious and unselfish life:
Help me with those who know me best
For Jesus' sake, to stand the test.

Barbara Ryberg

The greatest test for all of us is how we live daily with those nearest to us.  It is something to think on, to act on and to pray about!

Psalms 119:133  Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sew Happy Saturday – Various and Sundry


Random photo from Quiltcon 2013


Missouri Star Quilt Company News Feature

One of my favorite online quilt stores and one of my favorite quilting tutorial teachers was featured in a news item this week by a Kansas City news station.  I thought it was neat to hear how their small online business and the growing passion for quilting in this country have worked together to rejuvenate a small town in the mid-west of the U.S.  We need more locally run, family businesses.


The Invention of the Sewing Machine by Grace Rogers Cooper

For anyone who might be remotely interested in this, here is a history of the sewing machine.  I have not read this, but for the diehard history buff it might prove interesting. :-)


Some neat (free) tutorials here.  They’re not all quilting stuff, either for those who aren’t so much into quilting.  Click on the titles, not the photos. :-)  (I think I like her Kindle cover better than the one I’m making.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spectacular, Simple Layered Salad


Here is a super easy layered salad that makes a very pretty presentation.

Bottom layer – lettuce leaves
Second layer – yellow tomato wedges
Third and fourth layers – red tomato wedges
Fifth layer – yellow tomato wedges
Sixth layer – sliced banana peppers
Top layer – carrot slivers (or grated carrot)
Sprinkle over all – feta cheese crumbles (or shredded Monterey Jack), fresh oregano leaves and snipped chives.
Serve with an Italian dressing.

For a smaller salad just reduce the number of tomato layers and use a smaller plate.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hard Questions – Are There People God Doesn’t Want “In Church”?


Hosea 4:15 Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORD liveth.

This was written during the time that Israel and eventually Judah went into apostasy in the Old Testament.  The two nations had separated and, as the Lord has revealed in His word, Israel – the northern nation – turned to idolatry immediately when Jeroboam set up golden calves for them to worship.  However, we can learn some principles here, which are upheld by New Testament teaching as well.

God does not want people who are idolaters to swear by His name nor to gather with His true believers.  This is referring not to profanity, but rather to those pretending that they are God-fearing and using the talk of Jehovah-worshippers, when in fact they worship devils and have committed spiritual whoredom.

Jesus said in Matthew 15:8-9,  This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me…

This plays itself out in many ways in our day.  We hear many politicians trying to “talk religion” to get the vote of Christians.  Mormons try to claim they are part of “the Lord’s church” when in fact they believe heresies and blasphemous things about God and their own destiny.  Also, there is no such thing as a “Christian pagan” as some try to claim.   If you are this kind of person – one who professes with your mouth to worship the God of the Bible but your heart is far from God and His truth – you need to stop claiming the name of Jesus Christ and stay away from His church. OR, you need repent and forsake these ungodly things and worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24) – His truth, not your own idea of it. (John 17:17  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.)  God actually doesn’t want you mouthing His words and covenants pretending to be what you are not.  He doesn’t want you joining with His children pretending that you worship Him as they do, when your heart is far from Him.

Psalms 50:16-23  But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.  Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit.  Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.

Shame on the churches who think they are doing God a service by drawing these people into the fellowship of the saints.  Making the church “seeker friendly” has never been God’s intent.  If there is not a difference between the righteous and the unrighteous, what would cause the unrighteous to desire salvation?

Ezekiel 44:23  And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.

What I have quoted so far is primarily in the context of the Old Testament Jewish believers, but there are examples of this in the New Testament as well.  In Acts 16:16-18 we read, And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:  The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. (Obviously Paul did not believe there was such a thing as a “Christian pagan” or “Christian witch”!)

Here we see that Paul was patient for many days.  Why this was, we are not told clearly but, after some time the Apostle Paul became grieved by this damsel possessed with a devil who was giving them “free publicity”.  What she was declaring was the truth, was it not?  They were servants of God and they were showing the way of salvation.  But, there is one main problem and quite possibly a second.

1) She was a known soothsayer – a servant of Satan.  She obviously did not hear their message and repent and believe.  So, although it was not in the assembly of the saints per se, allowing her to continue to follow them and declare who they were was making an association that became quite inappropriate.  …for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14

2) It is quite possible that she was disrupting their efforts.  This is quite common practice for devils and evil spirits.  Our families have seen and heard this in action on more than one occasion.  If the devil cannot stop the preaching of the word, he will try to interrupt it or cause distractions.  Just one example:  A friend of my family’s attended some meetings where pastors were gathered for the sake of edifying one another.  One man at the meetings was handing out dream catchers (for those who don’t know, these are talismans from American Indian spiritism – they are tools of medicine men and have a very real demonic aspect to them.)  Our friend, being from the western region of the U.S. where there is sometimes more awareness of these things, was shocked by this and by the fact that some pastors were accepting them and no one was stopping the man.  Then he observed that during the meetings this same man became a serious disruption during the preaching.  Whenever there was an important point being made this man would begin to scream “Amen” till the words of the speaker were lost, both because of the noise and because of the “show”.  By the end of the meetings, he’d gathered a little crowd of followers who thought he was very “spiritual” and great.

The leaders of this meeting had the opportunity to stop this situation early – especially since it was in the assembly of believers.  By letting the situation go without stopping it, it would have been hard to expose him as a tare at the end without “uprooting” a lot a people who had thought he was “very zealous”. (Matt. 13:29)  Had the leaders had the sense to stop him early it would not have come to this point.

This brings us to one of the important reasons that God does not want these people in His church.  Romans 16:17-18  Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

We who are Christ’s are commanded to mark and avoid these people.  They cause divisions and offences contrary to sound doctrine. But, the reason is – “For” signifies the reason – they serve not the Lord Jesus and they deceive the hearts of the simple with their good words and fair speeches!  Remember?  We are talking about people who draw nigh to God with their mouth and who speak His covenants but their heart is far from Him!  If we tolerate these people in the fellowship of the saints, they will deceive the hearts of the simple.

Now, it is not possible to prevent unbelievers come into the assembly of the believers sometimes.  For this reason the Lord tells us through Paul,  If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. 1 Corinthians 14:23-25

The point here is that if an unbeliever comes in and hears tongues being spoken they will be confused and think the believers are crazy.  But, if they hear the word of prophecy – the preaching of the word – they will be convinced of his need of salvation. How many unsaved people have “gone to church” and decided that the preacher knew all about them and was “preaching right at” them?  This is the power of prophesy that Paul is talking about.  It is the power of the Holy Spirit to bring words through the preacher’s mouth that directly apply to that individual that needs to believe or become more learned in the truth!  And this even though the speaker himself does not know the exact need!

But, this is quite different from a person who comes into the assembly of the believer with the desire to deceive the saints with their “good, godly Christian” words. 

Titus 1:10-11 and 16  For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake…16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

In 2 Timothy 3:1-4 we’re given a long list of people who are “all kinds of wicked”, so to speak.  Then in verse 5 it continues, Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.  From. Such. Turn. Away!  Why?  verse 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,  They are creeps who will lead people astray – here silly women, and in Romans 16 the simple.

The Lord tells us in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11,  I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?  But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

So are there people whom God does not want in His church?  Yes.  Those who come in to destroy, to disrupt, to deceive and to lead astray.  Those who mouth words of apparent righteousness, but their hearts are far from God.  Those who profess to know Him, but in works they deny him and they are abominable.  Those who call themselves “Christians” but are living boldly in sin.

It is not just the pastor’s and leading elders’ job to protect the assembly of believers from these things.  Romans 16 is addressed to all the brethren of the church in Rome.  First Corinthians is addressed to the church at Corinth.  And, in 1 Corinthians 5 we see that this is our responsibility in our individual lives and homes as well as the  responsibility of the leaders of the local church.



By the way, I would like to submit to you that God is not impressed with the ideology that says that “The truth is the truth no matter whose mouth we find it in.”  Christians will quote abominable people (Mark Twain, Kahlil Gibron, Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc.) and then make this claim.  Based upon the passage above in Psalm 50, I think it’s safe to say that God most certainly does not agree with this line of reasoning!  The Lord Almighty says that the wicked have no business declaring His covenants.  I hardly think He wants His saints quoting those who hate Him and His word.  “Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.”  This is not a small matter and we all need to be more cautious about our sources of “truth” on spiritual subjects!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sew Happy Saturday – Fun with Five Inch Squares


SusanClaire Mayfield from The Gourmet Quilter really likes working with 5” squares (sold in pre-cuts as “charm packs”).  She has done a number of nifty, (mostly) simple designs with them and kindly made tutorials for us. :-)  I’m sharing some of these today.

Her explanations are simple and to the point.  I personally like her style of teaching.  But, these are obviously for the person who already knows the basics of sewing.  :-)  I have tried to list these roughly in descending order from easy to harder.

Simply Sashed Four Patch – Super simple block.

Rectangles Block

On Point Square Block – She did not know what to call this block, but since the inner square is “on point” (turned diagonally 45 degrees), I’ll title it this way. :-)

Disappearing Nine Patch – She apparently didn’t know the name of this block type either, but that’s what it’s being called here, as you know if you read my post last week.  She is using this method to make an “I spy” quilt, so this is yet another arrangement of the colors and prints.

Wonky Windmills – These are cute. :-)

Let’s Do the Splits – Another simple block that is very versatile and can be arranged in many interesting combinations.

Tumbler Quilt – This shows a simple method for cutting tumbler pieces from 5” squares without any special template.  Useful to know if you like tumblers.  You’d have to adjust the angle for different sizes.

House Block

Three Dimensional Bow-tie Block – This method is also used by Diane McNeil from Design Originals.  However, Mrs. Mayfield uses the placement of color to make a bow tie and leaves the “pockets” open to give a 3D effect to the “bow”, which I think is clever.  :-)  I like this block and intend to try it out for a project I’m working on.

Jewel Box Block


I’m putting these two separately because the whole squares in the blocks are actually 4 1/2” rather than 5”.  She has cut them down to go with half square triangle blocks she made from 5” squares – which makes them measure out at 4 1/2” when sewn.  Because of this, I would be inclined to generally cut the 4 1/2” squares from yardage at the exact size needed unless I was actually working with a pre-cut charm pack and didn’t want to use yardage.

Shoo-Fly Block

Sail Boat Block


I hope you enjoy this selection of ideas.  I want to put some of them to use myself.  It would’ve been nice to make some demos of my own for us to see, but perhaps another day or week.  :-)

EXTRA TIP:  Maybe you would like to try some of these ideas but you don’t have 5” squares on hand and don’t want to spend money on pre-cuts.  When you are cutting out fabric for another project, consider your scraps.  Are there pieces large enough to cut 5” squares?  If so, take a few extra minutes or seconds to cut some.  This way you can build up a nice collection of 5” squares.  You will be able to pull them out and make something when the urge strikes without having to stop and cut! :-)  By having the squares pre-cut your scrap pile will be a little more orderly and projects will move faster. :-)  (I recommend storing them flat in boxes of some sort.  If they are jumbled you’ll end up having to do a lot of ironing before using them.)

For a good assortment of pre-cut 5” charm packs, visit The Missouri Star Quilt Company.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tips for Saving Money


Photo by Joyous! via Wikimedia Commons

My Australian sister-in-law, Clara V., wrote this sometime back and gave me permission to publish it as well.  There is some very useful advice here, and it is very timely these days!


Growing up, my family was never over-indulged with a flow of cash.  With four daughters and a sick wife, my father was the sole provider and I remember my parents struggling to make ends meet.  Years later things looked up for them - they had no conviction about single young ladies being homemakers, and each of us got a job and paid board and finally my parents started coming out on top of their finances.  As a single young lady, I was not poor, however I made poor choices and before long I ended up with negative bank accounts and debts.  The time when I was doing well had been brief, and here I was back to the familiarity of struggling to make ends meet.  And it has been that way ever since! 

Considering my long history of balancing budgets, I thought I might share some of the tricks I've learned over the years.  This list may include some tips from [my husband’s] side of the family - his parents were missionaries in Africa and once they returned to America, his dad pastored for many years while doing piano tuning on the side, and they too often struggled to make ends meet...

Even if you don't have this struggle with financial hardship, there is a lot to be said for frugal living.  God's Word shows us that God is our provider, it is only through Him that we have what we have.  And, we see  two specific stories that Jesus told that show us that God expects us to be good stewards of what He has given us, rather than squandering or being unfaithful with what He gives us. Read Matthew 25:14-30, and Luke 16:1-8.  As the Lord Himself said, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much." (Luke 16:10)
~ Go shopping the least amount of times possible each month.  We try to do our main shopping once each month - other than that we just drop in to pick up milk and other perishables such as extra fruit & vegetables.  The more times you meander through the store, the more times you are tempted to buy a little extra here or there!  Monthly shopping takes a lot of planning, and some people actually sit down and write a list of menus for a month so they will buy for the exact things they are going to cook.  I tend to just bulk buy the varying ingredients I commonly use and if I have an interest in some unusual recipes, buy the extra ingredients for those too.  The other thing to do is to base your monthly menu on what you are able to find that is marked down rather than sitting down and planning what you will eat before going shopping.
~ Buy in bulk.  You will usually find that bulk buys work out to be less expensive in the long run.  Sometimes this might require you spending a larger amount up front, but the product will last you longer!
I buy meat in bulk packages, then take it home and divide it into the size portions I want, and put them in sealed bags in the freezer - this way we only buy meat once every 3 to 4 months!
~ Take a calculator with you when you do your grocery shopping (a lot of cell phones have inbuilt calculators, which makes it easier)!  Sometimes you will see "specials" or "supersavers" in the store... *beware*  Sometimes these products don't actually save you money!  Sometimes you will notice there are two sizes of a product on the shelf, and one will be marked down and the other won't...  use your calculator (or your head if you are mathematically wired!) to figure out which is actually less expensive dollar per weight.  For example, pasta in a pound package might be marked down to $1.65 and the pasta in a 3 pound package is not marked down but costs $4.50.  Some would say well, of course I buy the marked down product, it has to be less expensive!  Do the math...  you will find that the full-price bulk product still works out to cost less.
Take care to always do the math, because sometimes you will find that the markdown DOES make the product cost less, and then if the smaller size product works out less, you can buy more of them to make up to the same quantity as the bulk product or whatever quantity you need to bulk buy.
~ Don't automatically go for premade goods.  For starters they are often extremely unhealthy, being loaded with msg [monosodium glutamate] to enhance the flavour, or full of other additives and preservatives.  Be adventurous, check through your recipe books or online and make as much as you can from scratch.  If you buy the ingredients in bulk and hand make the foods, you will often find you save money in the long-run.
~ Forget your pride and forget brand names!  Often generic brands or "cheap" brands will produce food that tastes exactly the same as the expensive brands, and at a much lower price!!
~ Don't buy fresh fruit and vegetables in bulk unless you are sure you will use it before it perishes.  If you want to buy vegies in bulk, try the frozen vegetable alternative.  You might be surprised to know that frozen vegetables can be more healthy than buying fresh - companies who make frozen vegetable packages are required to use the freshest possible products to freeze, whereas the fresh fruit and vegies in the store might have sat there for several days before you pick it up!  Of course if you can grow your own fruit and vegies, you are even better off!!  :)
~ Set a budget before you go shopping, and try to never go over that set amount!
~ When shopping for clothing or furniture and other such products, you can often find what you want at a secondhand store for a much, much lower price than brand new.  Sometimes you may need to clean things up before they look as nice as you want, but there's nothing like a bit of hard work to make you feel even more pleased with your purchase!  The more work you put into something, the more value it holds!  [Editor’s note: Some second hand stores in the U.S. lately have been raising their prices.  Check around and know your basic prices from the cheaper retail stores.  Why buy something used when you can get a similar item new for the same price?]
~ Avoid eating out at all costs!  Expensive restaurants are just that - expensive and not worth breaking the budget over.  And cheap restaurants or cafes or take-aways often produce food that really isn't as healthy or as tasty as homemade meals!  If you enjoy the experience of eating out because it is different than your own dining table, be adventurous and make your meal and take it out somewhere to a nice park or something!  Picnics are always fun (unless the weather is inclement, of course!)... on days when the weather is wrong for picnicking, why not do something different within your own home?  For example, make yourselves comfortable on the loungeroom [living room] floor with cushions and eat sitting on the floor before the fire.  Either it will make you appreciate your dining table a whole lot more at the next meal, or you will find it fun and different!  You might be able to come up with even more creative ways to make eating a meal different and fun :)
~ Always make the best use of leftovers that you can!  If a lot is leftover, use it for dinner the following day rather than snacks, or freeze your leftover meals and eat them another time when you're short on time to cook!
~ If you're going out for a day adventure, take packed food rather than spending money at convenience eat-outs.  You really will save a lot if you are prepared beforehand.
~ Turn off lights when they don't need to be on, and open windows whenever possible if the weather is better outside than how your house feels - save on your power, cooling and heating bill!  Check for cool breezes outside regularly and open the window rather than leaving your air-conditioner on. 
~ Wash full loads of washing rather than a small load of clothes or linens, and hang your clothes outside to dry whenever possible rather than using the clothes dryer!  God created a sun that will often dry your clothes very well :)
~ If the dishwasher is not full, don't use it!  God gave us arms and washing dishes yourself can save a lot of water!
~ Make your own birthday/greeting cards - store bought ones are often sold at premium prices - whoever you are giving a card to will probably appreciate the time and effort you went to in order to create a personalised card!  Alternatively, recycle cards you have received by cutting out the picture on the front and gluing it on a homemade card!
~ Recycle wrapping paper for gifts!  Sometimes if you carefully remove the wrapping paper on a gift it doesn't look terribly used, or the damage can sometimes be cut off and the paper used on a smaller gift!  This can really cut down on the cost of a gift!
~ Walk rather than drive.  Sometimes I cannot believe how lazy some people are!  I can't believe the way some people drive to their letterbox or just around the corner to run an errand when they could very well have gotten some fresh air and exercise by walking!
~ Never discard old clothes - if they are worn through such that no-one else could ever wear them, they can be handy as rags, or sometimes they can be cut down for other uses - eg. less worn parts could be used to make doll's clothes, quilts, or a range of other creative uses!
~ Don't buy your kids every toy there is, but rather make use of your creativity and imagination and make homemade gifts or buy simple gifts that can be used for a long period of time rather than toys that wear out fast!  Kids do a lot better with a small quantity of toys that require imagination.  If they have a huge range of toys they will often value them less and get bored of them quicker because they don't exercise their imagination!  I rotate my kids' toys - we have two boxes for them and we rotate them rather than them having everything at once.  The more special toys are stored away and brought out for rare occasions so they become more valuable and enjoyable, too.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Trusting – A Poem by Martha Snell Nicholson



You ask how you learn to trust Him?
Dear child, you must just let go!
Let go of your frantic worry,
And the fears which plague you so;
Let go of each black tomorrow
Which you try to live today;
Let go of your fevered planning,
He knoweth all your way.
Fear not lest your slipping fingers
Let go of your Savior too,-
Trusting is only knowing
He’ll not let go of you!

Martha Snell Nicholson

John 10:28-30  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one.


This is a favorite poem of mine.  As with Annie Johnson Flint, I look forward to meeting this sweet lady in heaven.  The precious fragrance that was pressed out of her life of pain in the form of poetry is one of those rare treasures that the Lord brings to us through very few of His vessels.  This is perhaps just as well.  Most of us could not suffer as sweetly and productively as Miss Annie and Mrs. Martha did.  But, what blessings and comfort came to us through their great trials!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tutorials for Disappearing Nine Patch and Some Free Ideas


If you want a simple quilt but are not really looking for something as simplistic and a plain nine patch, this might be a good option for you.  I want to try something along these lines myself sometime.

The disappearing nine patch pattern is quite common now.  I don’t know where it came from, but it is fairly simple and gives some versatility without a lot of monkeyfuss.  When you’re finished it looks like you did a whole lot more work than you actually did. :-)

Here is a written out tutorial with photos by Diane at:

Butterfly Threads - Disappearing Nine Patch Tutorial

Diane says it’s fine to print her instructions for your own use.   I like her style of block a little better because it is more organized color-wise, which makes it easier to create a design that is more orderly.  Personally I like a mix of scrappy and order.

Here is a video tutorial by Jenny Doan from the Missouri Star Quilt Company:

Disappearing Nine Patch Quilt Block Tutorial

She put hers together in a much more scrappy style using a different fabric for all the outside squares and only keeping the middle square consistent.  Her method is also to put the cut block back together in such a manner that there are no seams to match.  This method could be especially nice for a beginner.  If you like the really scrappy look this might suit you well.

Since I love graphics design, I took the time to make a variety of blocks and layouts – partly for my own enjoyment and partly to give us ideas. :-)

These are not actual prints that you can purchase.  I cheated and used photos of my own.  I photo shopped them to make them look a little more like fabrics. :-)  My style is fairly modern, though I like more traditional fabrics, so some of these may look a little different to the traditional minded quilter or viewer.

My examples are based on 5” squares but you can use any size you want.  The larger the squares the quicker it will be done. :-)  It would’ve been nice if I’d made some other color combinations, but I didn’t so this is what you get this time. :-)

Here is the basic nine patch before being divided.  As you can see I used a little different arrangement of colors and prints than the examples the other two ladies used.  Using the solid white in all four side slots would give a very different look to the blocks I’m showing here.  There’s lots of room for imagination, as Diane said! :-)

Here is the basic cut with the solid pink turned to the four outer corners, but with the same central fabrics on the same side.  It might be better to leave the main blocks alternated as they would naturally happen to fall if you just turned the solid squares out, but I did it this way and didn’t feel like redoing the images. ;-)

Block 1

Block 1 tiled

Block 1 tiled with some rotation.

Block 2

Block 2 tiled – I really like this one. :-)

Block 2 tiled with rotation.

Block 3

Block 3 tiled with rotation.  This is my favorite arrangement!

And, to give you an idea how it would look as a quilt (you’d want to make it bigger and add borders):

Yummy! :-)  How pretty would that be with some tulip, pansy and daffodil fabrics for the flowers?  It would be very Dutch flavored, what with those modernistic “windmills”. :-)