Frugal DIY – Screened Porch Makeover

Several years ago, my sweet husband built a screened porch on the back of our home. From this peaceful porch, I enjoy the songs of birds, the laughter of my children, the rippling of our pond and fountain, peace and tranquility.
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Unfortunately, it became a catchall for yard shoes, pool toys, gardening tools, and pet stuff. Turning it into a comfortable outdoor room was on my to-do list for the future when it fit into the budget. In fact, it’s still on my wish list for the future.DSCN2787It just isn’t in my budget to makeover my porch. However, with a little creativity and frugality, I was able to spruce it up a bit recently. Here are some of the simple and frugal things I did:

I found some old throw pillows and added them to a few of our corner chairs to make them more comfortable.Porch makeover 4

We had an area rug we weren’t using, so I utilized it under our patio table and chairs. It’s a little small, but it works.Porch Makeover 3

We save jars so I have a nice collection for crafting. I made some lanterns utilizing the jars and LED tea lights.Porch makeover jar lanterns

I made a cute chalkboard and sconces with more jars.

Porch Makeover Finished Cabinet

The biggest dilemma was was the shoe rack–it was such an eye sore. I knew I needed to get rid of it. I searched our home for a cabinet or a piece of furniture that we could use to store the shoes. We really didn’t have what I wanted–all I could find were a few old bookshelves. A low buffet style cabinet would have been the perfect fit, so I headed out to Goodwill to see if I could find one. There were no treasures for me that day.

Disappointed, I went back home to the pile of shoes and the shoe rack in the backyard. I really dreaded putting them back in the porch. Then I settled for one of the bookshelves.

With help from my sweet husband, the bookshelf was primed, repainted. Porch Makeover Shelf

Doors and hardware were added along with some distressing, and now we have an adorable little cabinet for shoes and outdoor games.porch cabinet makeover

Sprucing up my favorite place, cost just around $30. Sometimes we just don’t have the resources to bring our ideas to fruition completely, but that’s okay. My porch is lovely. It makes me smile and provides a peaceful atmosphere for me and my family. It’s might not look quite like my dreams, but it is a step in the right direction! Now to enjoy my hummingbirds (please excuse the screen in the picture)… 

porch makeover bird

Trim Healthy Mama on Vacation

Trim Healthy Mama on Vacation

Sunsets, waves, sand, and shells – our family vacation was a restful and blessed getaway. Returning to reality was not so restful, but that’s okay. I am slowly, but surely easing back into my routine with just a few weeks left before we resume homeschooling.

Vacations are moments when you can take a break from the madness or mundane and set off on an adventure. I’m all for a good long lapse in my busy, everyday schedule, but I’ve learned the hard way that there are some things you just don’t want to break from–time with The Lord is one of those things and my healthy lifestyle is the other.

weight loss before and after

I’ve worked too hard to flush my progress down the toilet. After being on plan for over 2 years, I’ve also come to recognize those aches, pains, and moments of just not feeling right are usually contributed by a risky and foolish veer off course. My best friend and I both decided that if we were going to alter our THM lifestyle during vacation that it would probably be best just to allow ourselves some crossovers instead of going off plan.

Since I committed to stay on plan during this vacation, before our camping trip to the beach I began planning a menu and a shopping list. Planning ahead and preparing comes naturally to me. I know it isn’t that way for everyone, but anything worthwhile that you purpose to do in life takes some amount of planning. If you expect to keep everything on course without following a path or a map, you’re going to fall apart when the enemy distracts you–and you know he will.

Depending on the location of your trip and the resources available to you, you may be limited but you just have to get creative. Taking a Saturday or an evening or two of your time to plan ahead will make your trip so much more enjoyable. No one wants to return to reality at the end of vacation, but you’ll be able to handle it better if you’ve stayed the course. Returning from vacation feeling sick, bloated, fatigued, or guilty isn’t going to help you.

Here are some things that I don’t leave home without when we go camping:

 

EATING OUT

We don’t eat out much whether we are at home or away from home. Between the expense, my children’s food allergies, and my food intolerances, it’s just not something we do often. If we do plan to eat out, I research restaurants before I even leave for the trip so I can scope out the menus for things we can eat.

COOKING

We do a lot of camping, so my sweet husband cooks on the open fire or on a portable grill. I do most of the cooking at home, but when we are on vacation he does most of it. Well, we are a team. I prep and he grills. I usually enjoy cooking, but this does give me a much-needed break.

Breakfasts

For breakfasts I usually make a batch of muffins or coffeecake at home before we leave for the trip. This makes the first morning of vacation chore free so my husband and I can relax. I save at least one serving of these goodies for the last day of our trip as well, which makes the morning we pack much easier and there isn’t much to clean up.

I bring pancake mix or all of the dry THM ingredients in a zipper storage bag rather than bringing all of my separate containers of ingredients. We also eat lots of eggs, bacon, and/or sausage. For our last trip, we also brought cereal and stovetop granola from the THM cookbook. We were able to sprinkle it on our yogurt or eat it with milk. This made a good snack for the beach as well. I also made packets of dry ingredients for the muffin-in-a-bowl recipe. This is a good FP snack, dessert, or breakfast.

Adding all dry ingredients to zipper storage bags is a great way to plan ahead for hot drinks and smoothies. All you have to do is add liquids and/or ice.

Lunch

For lunches, we usually eat leftovers from the dinner before. We also bring sandwich meats, sliced cheese, fruit, veggies, and bread. I make the Nuke Queen bread or Bread in a Mug recipes from the THM cookbook.

Snacks

Snacks are usually packed for the beach pretty quickly by using zipper bags or storage containers. I pack a variety of things like cheese, nuts, raw veggies, greek yogurt, fruit, deli meat. I make THM pudding, gummies, superfood chews from the cookbook before vacation. Of course, I can’t go on vacation without my chocolate! The Skinny Chocolate recipe from the THM cookbook is made from coconut oil, so it melts easily. That isn’t always practical for vacation depending on where you are going and your resources. Even regular chocolate will melt quickly on the beach, so I save my Lily’s chocolate bars for the nights around the campfire when the rest of my family makes s’mores. You could make on-plan s’mores with any THM S cookie recipe, THM marshmallow recipe, and the skinny chocolate. I have done this before, too. I make the cookies ahead of time before I leave for vacation. Josephs pita crackers or any THM cracker recipes from the book are delicious treats as well.

Dinner

Dinners are pretty easy if you stick to meats and veggies on the campfire or grill. We’ve gotten a little more creative and made these yummy meals:

Pulled Pork and Cole Slaw THM recipes – For our first night of vacation, we like to have an easy meal so that we don’t have to cook while we are trying to set up and settle in. On the day before our trip, I put a pork roast in the crockpot and cooked it all day. I packed a prepackaged bag of cole slaw veggies and packed ingredients to make dressing. All we had to do when we were ready to eat that night was mix the dressing and slaw, and warm up the pork in a pan on the grill.

Pizzas on the grill  with side salad – We simply use Joseph’s Pitas, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and our favorite toppings. For my gluten free and soy free children, we used gluten free and soy free tortillas.

Sloppy Joes with veggies – We made the sloppy joe recipe from the THM book by cooking it in a cast iron skillet and had veggies on the side. You could easily make a bun or bread before the trip, but I just had the filling with no bread.

Burgers – I brought a pre-made bun for the burger my husband grilled, and I topped it with a tomato slice, pickles, avocado, and lettuce. Veggies on the side are great, but the burger by itself is pretty filling.

Grilled chicken and veggies – I seasoned chicken with my favorite rub recipe Fiesta Chicken Rub and we had grilled veggies on the side. If you have the room, you could even bring tortillas and your favorite toppings for chicken wraps or tacos.

Salads – If you have refrigeration, you could easily make salads in a jar using Ball jars. Since the jars seal well, the salads stay fresh for days. You could prepare all of this ahead of time or you could simply make salad on a plate while on the trip.

I know this seems like a lot of preparation, and it was, but if you start early and plan ahead you can make it work. A few weeks before your vacation, you could plan to eat a few of the meals you will have on the trip, double them, and freeze them. Or simply prepare it the week before you leave so that they can safely be stored in the fridge for a few days up to a week before you need them. Be sure to research food safety and storage rules for and check expiration dates.

Making good choices is work no matter how you look at it. Sometimes we’re tempted to take the easy way out and give it to cheating. It’s worth it to take a little time to plan ahead. You deserve to treat your body with wholesome and healthy foods that your bodies needs to rest, relax, and enjoy your vacation.

Well, it’s going to be a while before our next trip so I’m off to enjoy some summer time activities with my children. Then I need to start planning for our next school year. If you are getting read to head out on a getaway with your sweet family, I pray it is a safe and blessed trip. I hope this vacation tips help you stay on plan!

Cream Slush Recipe – THM FP

cream slush

Summer break is here and that means it’s time for lots of fruits and frozen treats! My children have really been craving slushes and ice creams. They have summer fever! We made this strawberry lemonade cream slush, and it was better than the ones I used to purchase at a certain fast food joint! It’s my new favorite dessert!

Cream Slush

6 strawberries

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 doonks stevia

2 tbsp nonfat greek yogurt

10 ice cubes

Add all ingredients into a quality blender (I use this one.) Blend until ice is finely chopped. Enjoy this delicious cream slush on a hot day!

Variations:

Berry Lemonade – Substitute 1/2 cup of blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries for strawberries and this will still be a FP cream slush.

Blue Coconut – Substitute blueberries for strawberries and add a splash of coconut extract.

Fruit Cream Slush – Substitute any frozen fruit for the strawberries and this will make an E slush.

Enjoy!

DIY Boxwood Wreath

God’s creation is so beautiful, and what better way to decorate your home than His masterpieces? I enjoy using fresh flowers and greenery from my yard to decorate, not only because they are beautiful but also because it is inexpensive.

For a long time, I contemplated making my own boxwood wreath but I was a little intimidated. I decided to give it a try this weekend, and I’m so very glad I did. It was one of the easiest and cheapest wreaths I’ve every made, but looks expensive and classic.

To make your own DIY Boxwood wreath, you’ll need:

1 grapevine wreath

boxwood branches

ribbon

wooden letter for monogram

pruning shears

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of wreaths hanging up in my garage. So, I removed the silk flowers from one of the grapevine wreaths I already had. I pruned several branches from the shrubs. Then I decided what direction I wanted all of the branches to lay on the wreath. You want all of the branches to look like they are growing in the same direction. The next step is super simple. I inserted the bottom of the branches into the grapevine wreath working my way all the way around the outer edge of the wreath, then working my way all the way around again until the entire grapevine wreath is covered with boxwood.

Next, I made a bow and attached it to the top center of the wreath. The wooden letter was painted black, but I felt it needed a lighter color to make it stand out. So I painted the wooden letter ivory. Then I used a sanding block to distress the edges of the letter.  Next I attached the letter to the wreath with the streamers from the bow at the top of the wreath.

DIY boxwood wreath www.ruckusandrubies.com

That’s all there is to it! I couldn’t believe how it turned out. It’s a lovely and welcoming addition to our front door.

DIY #boxwood wreath www.ruckus

You may want to use your shears to trim branches on the wreath and make them look more even, but I prefer mine to look more natural so I did not trim it much. To keep the branches fresh, simply spritz them with a little water every couple of days. I hope you enjoy creating the easiest wreath you’ll ever make–this DIY Boxwood wreath!

10 Tips for Making Your Home a Sanctuary

10 Tips for Making Your Home a Sanctuary #homemaking #sanctuary #faith www.ruckusandrubies.com #raisinghomemakers

Sanctuary…

The simple utterance of that very word makes your eyes close, your head lift, and your lungs take in a deep breath of air. A sense of tranquility and peace washes over you.

Today I’m sharing 10 tips for making your home a sanctuary over on the Raising Homemakers blog. Take a minute and stop by for a visit: 10 tips for Making Your Home a Sanctuary – Raising Homemakers.

Will We Answer to God for Our Vote?

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Do you think we will have to answer to God for whom we vote in the next election? Do you believe God even cares about the election? These are some questions I’ve been hearing often lately.

It doesn’t take much time or investigation into the God’s Word to find the answers:

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

This one verse sums up so very much. God’s Word commands us to seek FIRST the righteousness of God. Therefore, in choosing for whom to vote, we are commanded to seek a righteous candidate.

What does righteous mean? God’s people are righteous when they are in a right relation with Him, when they enjoy His salvation; when they humbly admit their dependence upon God. They are considered by God as the Judge of the world as righteous when they are being and doing what he requires in His Word.

That is when inspecting fruit comes in–there is a difference between condemning, judging, and inspecting the fruit of ones life. We must research and study the life of a candidate to see what types of fruit they have produced for God’s kingdom.

We should also pray and ask The Lord for help in choosing a candidate. Many will tickle the ears of the people and say whatever they want to get elected.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. Matthew 7:15

For these reasons, it is not easy to choose a candidate. We shouldn’t just jump on the popular candidate bandwagon. We must do our homework, pray, and seek God’s direction.

What if there are no worthy candidates? Well, that’s when even more prayer is needed. We must ask God specifically to lead us to the right candidate and to let us know if we should even vote at all.

Please, don’t fuss at me–I’ve been scolded by so many for this attitude, but at the end of the day I will answer to God for my vote. Many people believe if they don’t vote for the “lesser of the evils” then that gives more votes to the “evil” one. Not so. I believe God’s Word. He said if we seek Him first, He’ll take care of the rest. He said it, I believe it, enough said! Now, let us live what we believe!

So as we approach the 2016 election, please think and pray fervently. Don’t settle. Don’t give your vote to an unworthy candidate, especially one who does not bear the fruit of the Spirit.

We want to be able to stand before God and hear Him say he approves of our decision.

Summer Activities for Your Homeschool Journey

summer homeschool activitiesSummer break is quickly approaching! I don’t know about you, but I could REALLY use a break. It’s been a busy year of trials and triumphs.

Of course I’m always ready for a break, but there should be a purpose for everything we do and it should always be an intentional and beneficial use of our time. At the end of each year, I take stock of our accomplishments and our shortcomings. I contemplate year-round schooling and other schedule options for our homeschool and implement what is best for our situation at that time.
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Let’s face it, taking a summer break isn’t always the most beneficial option. Sometimes children forget what they’ve learned over the course of three months. Then you spend the first part of the following year reviewing what they forgot.
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Here in South Carolina, it’s miserably hot by the beginning of August. The warm pool water isn’t refreshing. When you jump in you feel more like your boiling in a pot rather than swimming in a pool. There are also those famous last words: “I’m bored” that I sometimes hear after only a few weeks of summer break? That is one of my least favorite sayings ever. As a mommy, I would give ANYTHING to be bored. pool-690034_1280To avoid some of these pitfalls of summer, I thought I’d share some of our scheduling tips, games, and activities we’ve used over our 13 years of homeschooling.
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We take a shorter summer break and allow for mini breaks throughout the school year. We take a take eight or nine weeks off in the summer. Then we take a week off in September, several weeks during the holidays, and then another week off for Easter break. We also plan a few long weekends throughout the schedule. A shorter summer usually gives us time to rest, play, re-organize our supplies, choose and shop for the next year’s curriculum, take a trip, tackle a few projects, and maybe even schedule some appointments to get them out of the way before we resume school.
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To keep our lessons fresh in our minds, we will discuss some of the things we learned throughout the school year. We’ll play math games, thinking skills games, and participate in activities that reinforce what we learned and keep our minds fresh for the next school year.  Here are some amazing activities and resources that will turn your summer break into educational fun without your children even knowing it:
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A swimming pool is always a hit, but we can’t all afford an in-ground pool. This is a great option. We’ve bought a few of these over the course of our homeschooling journey. They’ve each lasted about 4 summers.

There are tons of water toys you can use for learning counting, colors, addition, subtraction, etc:

Math wrap ups are a wonderful way to keep those tables memorized and those hands out of trouble:

There are wrap ups for music and language subjects too!

We all live near historic towns. Take a field trip to one. You can walk through the streets learning history and observing creation. Many towns have wading fountains to keep you cool. There’s always an ice cream parlor nearby so reward your children with a scoop or two of their favorite flavor!

When it’s unbearably hot, have a movie day complete with popcorn and candy. Some local theaters even offer summer movies for a dollar or two.

During those summer afternoon thunderstorms, you could build a blanket fort or set up a tent in the living room, snuggle up and read books all afternoon. Many libraries offer a summer reading reward program.

You can hold a camp out in your own back yard complete with s’mores, water balloons, tent, and nature hunts.

Board games and outdoor games are always a hit with my children, and they don’t usually catch on to the fact that their learning in every subject!

Academics isn’t the only thing we need to teach our children, you know? How about set aside a week or two to learn some life skills? Make it as fun as you can by allowing your children to do some of the meal planning, shopping, cooking, laundry, car washing, yard work, etc. You could even throw in rewards like allowance or prizes for a job well done!

You’d be surprised what educational activities you can find to do over the summer. They’ll turn your summer into a low stress, fun, learning adventure that will benefit the whole family and create memories to last a lifetime!

Honoring God’s Gift to Us–Mothers

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Motherhood—According to Oxford Dictionary, it’s “the state of being a mother”, “a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth”.

What a very boring and unfit definition! It’s so much more than that. It’s unconditional love, unspeakable joy, treasured memories, the most precious time in the life of a woman. It’s ironic that mothers are also the most under-appreciated people on this earth. I’m not just saying that because I am a mother. I truly believe it, and I knew it even before I was a mother. crown-1049927_1920
Read more here at Raising Homemakers.

Fried Chicken Tenders – THM, Low Carb, Gluten Free, Clean Eating

Crispy, juicy, mouthwatering fried chicken – that’s what my sweet grandmama used to make. She lovingly battered each piece and carefully fried them in her pressure cooker. Boy, do I miss that fried chicken. Even more, I miss my sweet grandmama–I wish my children could have known her.

She was an amazing, southern cook. Of course, she didn’t know about Trim Healthy Mama so her fried chicken was not on plan. I love my grandmama more than THM, but I cannot return to my old lifestyle–I’ve come to far and my health is too important. Her recipe also wasn’t gluten free so my oldest and youngest children wouldn’t be able to enjoy it since they are allergic to gluten. My third daughter is allergic to soy, so had my children been born when my grandmama was frying chicken, she would have had to dredge it in gluten free flour and fry it an oil that does not contain soy. I wonder if she would have ever embraced a new way of cooking?

THM Fried Chicken Tenders low carb gluten freeI was craving fried chicken the other day, so I decided to come up with a THM friendly version. I’ll be perfectly honest, it doesn’t taste like my grandmama’s recipe. No matter what I do, I’ll never come close to that flavor perfection. I don’t a pressure cooker, I can’t use regular flour or vegetable oil, and there will just never be another cook like my grandmama.The chicken tenders I fried were the FINEST healthy fried chicken I have ever had. In fact, I don’t know of many recipes for healthy fried chicken, and this is an amazing alternative. The very best thing about it is I can eat it, stay healthy, and lose weight! Not a bad trade off!

Fried Chicken Tenders – THM, Low Carb, Gluten Free, Clean Eating

2 eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup almond milk

1 1/2 cups Trim Healthy Mama Baking Blend found here or here

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

salt and cayenne pepper to taste

1.5-2 lbs fresh chicken tenders

Olive oil, organic found here

Whisk eggs, cream, and almond milk in a shallow dish.  In another shallow dish, mix baking blend and seasonings.  Dip chicken tenders one by one in egg mixture and then dredge them in dry ingredients. For extra breading, dip and dredge again. Heat oil in frying deep skillet or frying pan on medium high heat. You want the oil to cover the entire bottom and up the sides of the chicken tenders, or if you are going to watch them carefully and have a very deep pan, you can use enough oil to cover chicken completely. Gently shake off excess flour off chicken, and fry in oil. This is not a time to multitask, so watch the chicken and turn as one side browns.

THM Fried Chicken Tenders #lowcarb, #glutenfree S,

Depending on your frying method, you may want to then put your tenders in a glass pan in the oven to bake on 325 degrees for about 10 min to ensure the center of the chicken is done.

frying chicken low carb THM

This is a Trim Healthy Mama S or satisfying meal, which means the primary fuel in it is healthy fat. To stay in weight loss mode, serve the chicken with sauteed or raw, non-starchy veggies, zucchini fries, another S or FP recipe from the Trim Healthy Mama cookbook, or top a big salad with your yummy tenders.

Trim Healthy Mama fried chicken salad

Thorns of Encouragement

Thorns of Encouragement #homeschooling #parenting #encouragement #faithSoon our school year will be just another memory. What began nine months ago is quickly coming to an end. Are you like me, feeling as if each year ticks by faster than the last? I mean there are moments during our school year that seem to drag on forever like fractions, anatomy, pre-calculus… (Did you sense a trend? If you guessed we tend to struggle with math and science, you guessed correctly.) However, for the most part it has flown by. Taking the year as a whole, I feel as if it was a blurred whirlwind of events.

My oldest is wrapping up her freshman year of college. I’m in my third year of denial that my middle child is in high school, and this is pretty bad considering she will be a senior this fall. I don’t even want to think about the fact that in 5 short years my two youngest babies will graduate and most likely leave my nest at the same time–double whammy!pink rose closeupI’ve been reflecting on our homeschool journey a lot lately. I remember when we began. Stepping out on faith into the wild unknown of homeschooling was a frightening experience. Time with my precious children was what I always wanted. I knew it wasn’t always going to be rosy, but I had no idea how much time I would spend fussing about the lack of attention span, worrying about silly state education standards, cleaning up messes from science experiments gone wrong, and sweeping up the hair I pulled out during math meltdowns. I spent a lot of time focusing on the thorns instead of smelling the roses.

Even more valuable and memorable was the quality time I spent with my blessings. I didn’t realize how much time we would spend cuddling up on the couch with a good book, laughing at poems and short stories they’d written, teaching the time-honored but not forgotten traditions, crafts, and life skills of yesteryear, marveling and worshiping God and His creation, honoring our ancestors, hugging through the meltdowns, praying through the struggles, and thanking God for the honor and privilege of homeschooling. I am so grateful for these beautiful blossoms in our homeschool.

Now that I think about it, those thorns lead to some delightful blossoms; those moments were well worth it. I would endure the pricks and thorns one million times over to homeschool my children. After all, you can’t have true roses without thorns. They have a God-given purpose. Who am I to question God’s design and plan? Roses are one of God’s most beautiful creations. I can’t imagine avoiding the soft, delicate petals, the lovely fragrance, or the intricate beauty of a rose simply because of the thorns.

It won’t be long and I’ll be reflecting over our summer break and heading into the 2016-2017 school year. Our homeschool journey is moving way too fast for me.  Maybe you feel the same. It is my prayer for us all to take time to enjoy the roses of our homeschooling journey, thorns and all! Roses don’t last forever.