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25Aug

How to Go Paper-Free in Your Kitchen

Paper free in Kitchen

A few years ago, I wrote a post sharing about our grocery budget (read how we spend $200/month to feed our family of 4). That post has been the most popular post on this blog, pinned more than 50k times.

With all of those readers, there have been many questions and comments. One of the most common questions I have received involve not using paper products in the kitchen. The response is usually one of 3 things:

  • I could never do that because we have a bigger family, busier schedule, etc.
  • How in the world do you do without paper products in your kitchen?
  • I would love to do that but don’t know where to start.

Honestly, I’ve struggled with how to answer these comments, especially the “how to” type of questions because it doesn’t feel like something we’ve worked at, but just something we do.

However, my husband told me recently that a friend of ours asked that very question, so I thought that I would post about some of the practical logistics of how we make it work.

1. Start Small

If you want to make the switch, but you’re overwhelmed, start small. Choose one area to focus on, and keep at it until it’s your new normal, and then move on to another. Buy one pack of paper plates, cups, napkins, etc. and challenge yourself to make them last longer. Cut out the paper towels and use only cloth. If that feels too hard, start with napkins instead.

Just start somewhere and make baby steps toward where you want to go.

2. Replacing Disposable Items

Cloth Napkins instead of Paper Ones. 

We use cloth napkins. I have slowly built up our collection as I find them at thrift stores, etc. However, you can also get them new of course, like these basic ones for less than $1 each which is my goal price. We use these every day, at every meal.

The biggest problem is that guests sometimes are a bit uncomfortable with using them, since they are usually more accustomed to using paper napkins.

They are small and don’t take up a lot of extra room, so I can easily throw them into the wash with other things.

Dish Towels in place of Paper Towels.

Okay, so they make lots of fancy reusable towels, some even snap together so that you can put them on a roll like paper towels. While that serves the purpose of helping the environment, at around $60 for a set of 10, it’s not so good on the budget!

So, I use basic dish towels instead. I have probably 20-30 dish towels. Many of ours have been gifts (my family loves to give these for Christmas, etc.), or from the dollar store, Walmart, Etc. You can get this set of 12 basic dish towels for less than $10

We use these for everything from drying dishes to wiping up small messes in the kitchen–things most people would use paper towels for. It works for us!

For messier cleaning, I use regular towels and hand towels, along with scrubbers occasionally.

 A note on keeping your dish cloths and dish towels fresh: Every few months (or if you notice odors), wash your dish towels and dish cloths in very hot water. Run one wash with 1 cup of vinegar. Another wash with hot water and 1/2 cup baking soda. For best results, line dry, but you can also use your dryer. This helps cut out build ups.

Glass or Plastic Cups, Bowls & Plates

For drinking, we use mostly glasses, including our children. When we need something portable, or need a lid, I like these plastic double-wall cups with lids and straws. However, we’ve been working to move away from plastic, so I’m looking forward to trying out these stainless steel ones.

We drink mostly water, so we usually keep the same cup throughout the day. Because we’ve done this for years, it works for us.

We use glass plates and bowls at our meals, including the children. The exception to this is that I have some cheaper hard plastic plates that we use for parties, etc. They are similar to these BPA-free ones from preserve or Ikea. They are a bit more than you’d pay for a pack of disposable ones, but you will save money over time as you use them for years to come.

We also use real silverware. We have 2 sets so that we’ll always have enough for guests, so plastic/disposable cutlery is never used in our house.

A note about washing dishes. I am a stay-at-home mom, but I am also a homeschooling mom, and am busy just as we all are. It is not that big of a deal to wash a few extra dishes once you get used to it.

Packing Lunches

My husband takes his work to lunch about 60% of the time. He either uses our glass storage bowls with lids, or plastic containers like these in an insulated lunchbox.

Just Do It

The bottom line is to make a commitment and do it.  There are things about our budget that may be difficult at times, but I can say with assurance that this isn’t one of them. My husband and I discussed this recently and we are so happy that we don’t use paper products in our kitchen, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. It may take some getting used to at first, but it was a great choice for us and isn’t difficult at all. And for those of you who’ve said, “that’s easy with only 2 children,” we have friends with larger families who do this as well. It’s very possible for most families.

Give Yourself Grace

Even though we are 99% paper-free in the kitchen, there are still some disposable things we keep on hand. I keep aluminum foil and plastic wrap on hand for the rare occasion that I need it, but it is very rare. I also keep a roll of paper towels for things like draining grease from bacon, hamburger, etc. We literally use about 1 roll of paper towels per year or less.

Occasionally, I will also pull out some paper plates (that my mother-in-law brings when she comes for a visit, and that we’ve had in our cabinet for literally years) for birthday parties, etc.

23Aug

Broken Clocks & False Teachers

Broken Clocks and False Teachers

 

Last week, the battery stopped on one of our clocks. It was perpetually 10:47 in our master bathroom.

It’s always interesting to me the things the Lord uses to bring lessons into our lives, and last week he used our broken clock.  I remembered the saying about broken clocks:

Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

As soon as that thought crossed my mind, the Lord planted another…”it’s kind of like false teachers.”

It is sometimes right

Yep, that quote is completely accurate…even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And false teachers are right about some of the things they say. In fact, most false teachers quote the word of God frequently.  But they also omit things.  They twist things around. They take things out of context.

That is why we should be diligent in comparing everything to God’s word.

Out of Context

The thing about time is that it needs context to make sense. In order for that 10:47 to be accurate, we need the ticking away minute-by-minute. 10:47 in and of itself is meaningless unless it was preceded by 10:46.

Similarly, God’s word is not meant to be picked apart like a salad buffet. I see false teachers doing this all the time, particularly some “prosperity preachers.” They teach that God’s will is for you to be comfortable, happy, and wealthy. In order to come to these conclusions, they omit. They conveniently leave off the less comfortable parts of verses, and focus on the feel-good parts. The focus of these teachers is man. Everything is man-centered, and worldly. Just as the popular book promises, “Your best life now,” these teachings are focused on the temporal and not the eternal.

It’s Most Dangerous when it’s “almost” right

This is so important. Let’s say my clock stops at 11:47. I need to leave at 11:50 to be somewhere. It’s now 12:00, but I glance at my clock, unaware that it’s not working and see that it’s 11:47. As far as I know, I’m not late, I still have 13 minutes to go. Now, if it says 11:47 and I know it’s around 8 am, I can easily see it’s wrong. Likewise, if it says 11:47 and I know it’s around dinner time, I can easily see that it’s wrong. However, when it’s closest to the correct time, I may not be able to easily know that it’s wrong.

This is why false teaching is so dangerous. These teachers aren’t usually teaching something that is straight up obvious. Sometimes, it looks so much like the real thing that we can be deceived. Paul warns us repeatedly about the danger of being deceived by false doctrine. The Bible warns us of a time when people will turn to false teaching in droves:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. -2 Timothy 4:3-5

Don’t be one of the people with itching ears who turns to false doctrine. This world has nothing to compare with the glory of Jesus Christ! The only truth is that which is not hindered by any part of the Bible and lines up with it completely.

Useless and Destructive

The bottom line is this. Like a broken clock, a false doctrine is at best useless and at worst, destructive. False teaching is dangerous.

I recently had a conversation with someone who said you shouldn’t “throw the baby out with the bath water,” when it comes to preachers.

I disagree. False doctrine is dangerous, and not something to trifle with.

The Lord recently convicted me about even sharing quotes from some of those teachers. Yes, sometimes that little quote may be completely accurate and sound, but if the rest of their teaching is not sound, then you shouldn’t share or endorse that teacher.

Protecting Yourself

The best thing that you can do to protect yourself from false teachers is to get in the word!!! You can’t evaluate whether a teaching lines up with the word of God if you don’t know it.

You can also surround yourself with sound theology–friends and preachers in person, or those in the public sphere. Some that I like and recommend:

  • John Piper
  • Paul Washer
  • John MacArthur
  • Elisabeth Elliot

I also like to read from those faithful saints who came before us such as:

  • Charles Spurgeon
  • Oswald Chambers
  • A.W. Tozer
  • R. C. Sproul
  • J. C. Ryle
  • Jonathan Edwards

There are more, of course, but these are a few of my favorites. You can also hear some sermons from my preacher here. 

13Aug

Why I love Novellas (& Some of My Favorites)

collection

It’s no secret that I love to read. However, as a busy mom, it’s hard to find the time to indulge in something that can be time-consuming, and for practical purposes, unproductive.  This is why I’ve been reading more and more novellas lately.

Easier to Read in One Sitting

I’ve always loved to read. In my 30 years, I can’t think of a time in my life when I didn’t love reading. I read whatever I could get my hands on. There was just one problem—I couldn’t stop. I remember being 10 or 12, and there was a light on a pole outside my window. If I held my book just right, I could lie in bed reading, long after bedtime. (I know, I was living on the wild side.)

I still love to read, and I still haven’t quite gained the self-discipline to put the book down. I no longer have to worry about reading in the dark after bedtime, but I do have to worry about being coherent the next day, and staying up till 2 am reading is usually not a good idea.

I know myself too well, and I know that interrupting my book for things like making dinner and going to bed at a reasonable hour is going to be difficult. It’s difficult to find the discipline, and it also seems to mess up the flow of the story for me. I find it harder to get into the story when I’m stopping every 20 pages.

I can usually read a novella in about an hour, or a little more, which makes it easy enough for me to fit into my day.

Less Disappointment

I mentioned recently that I’m getting pickier in the books I read. I’m finding myself disappointed more often lately, and when I’m reading a full-length novel that has taken several hours to finish, it can be very frustrating to feel like I have invested all that time and mental energy in a book that was unsatisfying or downright disappointing.

Novellas take less of that time and mental energy. Yes, I’m still disappointed sometimes, but it was an hour that I “wasted” instead of 4-5.

Great Stories

Before I started reading novellas, I was a bit of a snob about reading only full-length novels. But, as I’ve read more of them, and higher quality ones, I’ve come to realize that there are some great stories to be found in novella form.

Yes, some are rushed and undeveloped. I believe it takes great skill to write a complete and satisfying story in roughly 20-25% of the word count of most novels. However, I have also discovered that some authors are able to do this and do it well.

Now all of this is not to say that I don’t still read full-length novels. I do! I love being able to really get a better feel for the characters and their backgrounds, and a more complete story. I do not want to go the way of our society where we are so into instant gratification that we can’t read a full-length novel. That’s not what I’m talking about. I love novels.

But, sometimes, novellas can be very satisfying, and fit into the schedule a bit easier.

Recommendations:

Barbour Publishing is the best when it comes to novella collections! However, other publishers have begun publishing them more as well, so I thought I’d give you some recommendations of my favorites. Some are available for pre-order, but I was able to get them early as a reviewer.

Most of these books contain 9 stories in each.

Other Historical Romance Collections (most of these contain 3-4 stories each)

The above recommendations are those that I have personally read at least some of the stories from, and I read almost exclusively in the historical Christian Romance genre.

Here are a few options for those who prefer Contemporary or Amish romance. I have not personally read these.

11Aug

Affordable Plus-Size Fashion & Modesty

 

Plus Size Fashion Modesty
This past year, I have made a big change to my wardrobe, making the switch to wear only long skirts instead of pants. I had actually put it off for a while, even though the Lord was convicting me about it, just because I didn’t want to face the backlash and comments I knew would come. But, I committed and did it and I have been so blessed in following the Lord’s leading! But, that’s a story for another day.

What I wanted to talk about today is one of the more frustrating aspects for me–it’s so hard to find good quality and affordable, long skirts! It’s getting harder and harder to find modest clothing these days, and add in being plus-sized and it’s nearly impossible.

I’ve had some good luck at goodwill now and then (yes, I’m a proud goodwill shopper!), but for the most part it has been very difficult to find affordable long skirts.

Which is why I was so excited to learn about the Classic Clothing Store. I was able to try out two of their skirts, and I can’t wait for you to see them!

About Classic Clothing Store

Classic Clothing Store is a family sewing business started in 1987, born out of the need to find modest clothing at a reasonable price.

In their own words:

We are interested in providing modest clothing for women and girls using high quality fabrics and using a combination of styles that are comfortable, classic, and/or traditional.

Classic Clothing Store values modesty and family, and that shows in every article of clothing they make and send out.

About the Clothing

The first thing to note about the clothing is that it is proudly handmade in the USA. That is a rare find these days, and I love supporting a small, family-run company with ethical business practices.

They offer a wide variety of clothing options from blouses to dresses, skirtsaprons, and more for both girls and ladies.  They offer styles that are both timeless classics and more updated.

They even offer quality head coverings (scarves) at the most affordable price I’ve seen.

The same company also makes beautiful old-fashioned (pioneer) clothing, and you can check out their pioneer dress here.

Customizable Options.

One of my favorite things about this company is that their clothing items are fully customizable–fabrics, sizes, lengths, etc. This is a rare find indeed, and just one of the many benefits of working with a smaller business- unbeatable customer service and value.

For my fellow plus-sized readers, they offer sizes up to 3x in most of their items.

The skirts Amy sent me:

3-Tiered Linen Skirt in Essex Tan

essex tan tiered skirt

I’ve been wanting a khaki skirt because the color pretty much goes with anything and everything, and it can be dressed up or down.  At the same time, I needed something durable. I don’t wear skirts just for “dress up” events, but also for every day–housework, garden work, etc.

For example, here I am petting our puppy.  You might remember her from our scare a few months back when we first got her. She’s all healed up now and you can’t really tell from this picture, but she’s grown so much since then! She just loves to have her chin and belly scratched. As my hubby said recently, “I do believe she’d lay there all day if someone would scratch her belly all that time.”

DSC_0483

Anyway, this skirt was the perfect khaki colored skirt for me.  It’s pretty enough to dress up and wear to church, but also durable enough that I don’t feel bad about working in it. The fabric is a very sturdy twill, so it was a bit stiff when I first got it, but very comfortable after a couple of washings, and still very durable.

I might have a slight obsession with tiered prairie skirts lately. I love that they are so comfortable and easy to move in and this one is one of my favorites.

The Full Denim Skirt

denim skirt

Honestly, I’ve never been a huge fan of denim skirts, they’ve always seemed stiff and uncomfortable to me. But that’s before I discovered this denim skirt from the Classic Clothing Store. Mine is made from a very lightweight, soft, yet durable denim fabric. Note: They do offer heavier denim fabrics if you prefer a heavier one–again, that is the beauty of this company, you can customize your piece to get exactly what you want/need.

This skirt is amazing! The wide bottom gives you lots of freedom for moving around, and the fabric is very soft and flowy. Similar to the khaki skirt above, this one is pretty enough to wear to church, but also durable enough and comfortable enough to work in.

A Note About Price

These clothing items at Classic Clothing Store are very affordable, with most items being $25-$35 (some customizing options increase the cost of the items).  If you’re a bargain shopper like myself, that might be more than you would generally pay for an article of clothing.

Confession time: so often I’ve fallen for the trap of thinking that cheapest = the best value. However, as I have grown into our budget more, I’ve learned over and over this is not the case. It’s better to pay a bit more for a quality piece that will fit well and last, than to get the cheapest thing you can find that will either be stuffed to the back of your closet or worn out quickly and need to be replaced.

Another thing that the Lord has given me a big burden for is buying ethically sourced products. Yes, sometimes they are more expensive, but it’s worth the peace of mind in knowing that I am  supporting a family rather than a corporation, and purchasing ethically sourced goods. All of the clothing items from Classic clothing store are proudly handmade in the USA.

Learn More

Follow along with this company and see more of the things they have to offer:

Giveaway

I know that a lot of my readers are moms trying to find quality and affordable modest clothing for their girls to wear. Classic Clothing store has many options for you! In fact, Amy has generously provided me with a size 8 seersucker pleasant blouse to give away to one lucky winner. Isn’t this just darling? Of course, the adorable little girl modeling it doesn’t hurt anything :)

seersucker

To be entered to win this shirt, please leave a comment letting me know why you’d like to win :)

 

08Aug

The Cactus Creek Challenge {Book Review}

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know that I love to read. I am passionate about literacy in general and I love to lose myself in a good book. However, I’m finding myself getting pickier and pickier. My standards are rising, and I’ve found myself frustrated lately with books that I’ve found disappointing…after investing hours and mental energy in reading them.

So, I have a few go-to authors that I know I can count on.

Erica Vetsch is one of those authors for me, which is why I was proud to join her influencer team for her new book, The Cactus Creek Challenge. (You may remember her from the author spotlight I did on her a while back.)

I have thoroughly enjoyed every story or book that I have read from her, and I knew this one would be no different.

The Cactus Creek Challenge

cactus creek challenge

When deciding on a book, I always read the back cover copy for a description of the main premise. When I read the description of The Cactus Creek Challenge, I was immediately intrigued:

Anything he can do, I can do better. At least that was what Cassie Bucknell thought before she pinned on Ben Wilder’s badge and took to patrolling the streets of Cactus Creek, Texas. Cassie has been in love with Ben since primer school, but Ben treats her like a little sister. When they are picked to swap jobs for a month as part of the annual Cactus Creek Challenge in their Texas hometown, the schoolhouse is thrown into an uproar, the jail becomes a temporary bank vault, and Cassie and Ben square off in a battle of wills that becomes a battle for their hearts.

It sounds like a really fun story, and it is!

As you might imagine, there are many humorous mishaps throughout the story as Ben tries his hand at being a school teacher, and Cassie is determined to prove that she can be the sheriff without any help. Cassie and Ben both have a drive to prove themselves–Cassie because she’s in love with Ben and he sees her as a little sister instead of a grown woman, and Ben because he feels he could never live up to his dad, the legendary Obadiah Wilder. It’s fun to see how that drive to prove something plays out for each of them personally and in their relationship.

The children in the story are just darling–even the mischievous twins–and I enjoyed their part in the book.

My favorite part of the story, however, is a bit of a fun twist that is left out of the back cover copy–there are 2 love stories in 1.

Interwoven throughout Ben and Cassie’s story is the story of Jenny and Carl.  Jenny the baker and Carl the livery owner were also chosen to take part in the challenge, and I fell in love with this couple!

They weren’t the main billed romance (as I said, no mention in the back cover copy), but they receive nearly even attention throughout the book and I enjoyed their story even more than that of Ben and Cassie.

Jenny and little Amanda have some things in their past that haunt them and make them fearful of men and relationships, and I love that it’s the big, strong Carl who shows them that all men aren’t cruel or mean.

Except for a bit of suspense toward the end, this book is mostly light hearted and a sweet, easy read. Two great romances, some laughter, and maybe even some tears if you’re sappy like I am… it all makes for a great book.

The Legend of Obadiah Wilder

obadiah wilder

Just for fun, you can also download a free short story–“The Legend of Obadiah Wilder: The Glorious Defeat of the Dickenson Gang.” This dime novel is mentioned in The Cactus Creek Challenge, and you can read it for free. How fun!

 

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