Global Discovery Vacations

    Returning from vacation can be stressful. Re-entry into the regular routine slow for me. I keep dreaming of the beautiful beach we saw in Gulf Shores, Alabama. It was our first trip there, it definitely won’t be our last. We stayed at the Plantation Resort, part of Global Discovery Vacations. I call it a travel club. The way it works is you pay a one time fee up front to join, then a small yearly fee. We get two weeks a year at any resort they are affiliated with, anywhere in the world for $189.00 per week for a one bedroom suite with kitchen, living room, laundry, etc. You can upgrade to a 2 or 3 bedroom if you choose, but different rates do apply. It has been well worth it to us. We have taken several vacations in the last two years and they have been great. The facilities are clean, quiet, attractive and very serviceable. I keep forgetting to take pictures of the inside of them, my mind is always on the view. I actually felt sorry for the folks back home in the subzero temperatures. It wasn’t that warm while we were in the Gulf area, but even a cold day at the beach is warmer than a subzero day back home. Eye candy for the soul. The resort had several pools both indoors and out. We pretty much had the entire place to ourselves. There were a few other midwesterner’s around during the off season, but not many. The off season is Jan-Feb. Peak…
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Crater of Diamonds State Park

    We are back from our early spring vacation. It’s always hard to get back into the swing of things after a restful time away. I find it takes me at least two or three days for each week we are away, to be able to re-focus and figure out what direction we need to take for to go forward. I need time to catch up on mail, laundry, shopping, and the ever growing email accounts and social media obligations. Time away is necessary, I find, to re-evaluate where you are and which direction you should be going next. I have never failed to come home with a new vision and a clear perspective. There were many years where we didn’t take any vacations as a family, but as our children begin to leave home, we have decided to make family trips a priority. We now make an effort to take at least two trips a year together. The last couple of years, we have concentrated on exploring the beach areas, as I am addicted to warm sands and southern sunshine. This trip was no different, but I will tell you about the beach in my next post. We began our journey by driving south and making a small detour through Arkansas to the Crater of Diamonds State Park. We have never been there before, but it was well worth the trip. Arkansas is a beautiful state. We first read about this park as part of our home schooling journey, in a monthly children’s publication called Which Way USA. It is…
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Confetti Soap

        I recently taught a soap making class. It was so much fun! A group of local home school Mom’s and a few of their kids got together for a time of fellowship and learning. I am not really sure who learned more, me or them. That’s the funny thing about being a speaker, you go in expecting to teach, but come out having been a student. Even if it’s something you have been doing for years, like making your own soap. I would do it again in a heart beat. We spent the entire night discussing soap bases, herbs and essential oils. We debated about different chemicals in the bases, what’s good, what’s not. We even googled a few technical terms for clarification. It was a blast. We experimented with new molds, tested new soap bases, mixed beautiful new colors and tried out new experimental techniques. The results were beautiful. They smelled even better than they looked. My favorite soap of the night was this Confetti Soap. It’s not at all complicated. The basic soap has a combination of 3 Butters, Mango, Shea and Cocoa butter. It’s the first time I have used this product, and I love the way it moisturizes my dry winter skin. The beautiful color comes from adding chopped up bits of Glycerin Soap that I made previously. We simply chopped the soaps into little pieces and added them to the white liquid soap base when it was poured into the mold. How easy is that? I had been working on this…
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Viennese Coffee

      It’s been a lovely holiday week. We have had a “stay-cation”, not going too far from home but instead enjoying our time in luxurious ways. Such as sleeping in late, staying up late, napping, and indulging in all sorts of fantastic holiday treats and spending quality time with family. It seems like days since I had a really good cup of coffee, and today I decided to spend the extra time to make this special Viennese Coffee. I was listening to the public radio station yesterday, and they were playing the most beautiful waltzes straight from the Vienna Symphony by Johann Strauss. Apparently, special music is a New Year’s Day tradition in Vienna. I love these tunes and have frequently played them with our local symphony. There is nothing more relaxing than listening to classical music.  Hearing them being played inspired me to do some research on Vienna and their traditions. The Coffee House is a very important part of culture there, coffees are served with a glass of water on the side and it’s not unusual for people to linger for long periods of time at the local coffee house reading the newspaper, talking, writing, listening to poetry readings or even listening to live musical entertainment. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? I encourage you to spend the last day or two of your holiday week enjoying these simple pleasures. Here’s how to make the best cup of Viennese Coffee you have ever had: Ingredients you will need: 3 cups brewed dark roast coffee 3 tablespoons honey 2…
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10 Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

    I am ready for the Christmas season. The house is decorated, and the cookies are baked, the ham is ready to cook. We are so blessed to have each other, our health and so much more. We have made a few simple gifts to give, but have not purchased gifts this year. This year, we are focused on serving others more than ever before. For this reason, we are very joyful this holiday season. We contributed our family’s normal gift budget to a couple of important causes. We bought a goat for a family in need through World Vision. Each year we “shop” through their catalog to purchase a livestock animal to give to families in need so they can support themselves. It is one of our favorite family traditions. This is the first year I have noticed American children listed among those in need, it’s not just a world wide cause anymore. We contributed through our church to the Advent Conspiracy program, and joined the masses of people who have decided to give more than they spend. Dozens of our local charities as well as many national ones benefited from the funds our church helped to set aside for them. We baked cookies to give away and are serving on Christmas eve at church as well. These are our simple family traditions. There are so many places you can serve no matter how little time or money you have. I asked my fellow bloggers for some ideas on how they are serving this season. Would you like to…
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DIY Candy Cane Soap

  We have been hard at work on making Christmas gifts. One of the joys of homeschooling for us over the years has been to learn basic homemaking skills, along with a few skills that are just fun projects. Making soap is just plain fun. It’s an easy project for younger children, and the next thing you know they are 16 years old and begging to help you make soap for gifts. We love Candy Canes at our house and decided to combine the two for our very own DIY Candy Cane Soap. If you didn’t know, sugar has long been known to be an excellent ingredient for smoothing and exfoliating the skin. You can buy sugar scrubs, make your own, or have one professionally done at your local spa. Since we had a bundle of candy canes around the house, they became our inspiration for this holiday soap. We made a couple of different batches, experimenting as we went. I had a bunch of left over glycerin bars from another project, I think it was a 1 lb. bag that we melted on the stove top in an old pan. The first batch was poured into small bars (you can buy molds at the craft store) where we added crushed candy canes to the melted glycerin (center bars). The bars hardened quickly and looked so pretty with the crushed candy in them. So far, so good. Then, we got braver and made a bigger batch, using crushed candy canes in the bottom of a large bread pan, then adding the…
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Arm Knitted Scarf

  I admit defeat. I have given up on my 31 Days of Sewing Series from the month of October. If you want to read what I did accomplish during this series, click here. I will post more updates in the future. I was eager to finish another sewing project, but my sewing machine has broken and needs repairs. The last time I took it in for repair, it was a 3 month wait. Yup. Apparently, fixing sewing machines is a lost art. At least around here it is. Ridiculous. So, I admit that I have once again started something that I am not able to finish. Big surprise, right? I bet you have NEVER DONE THAT. My husband loves to remind me that I struggle in this area. In my defeat, I sat down in front of the TV to watch the Hallmark channel’s Christmas movie marathon and I conquered the Arm Knit Scarf that you see here. It’s super easy and only takes two balls of yarn. It is completely knit on your arms, no needles or hooks involved. If I can do it, so can you. It takes less than 30 minutes, even if you have never knitted in your life. I love how it turned out. Makes up for my lack of success in other areas.       I found this great video with step by step instructions. This gal has very clear pictures and it is easy to follow. I love that she calls it “Arm Knitting for the Clueless“. I definitely fit into that…
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Sewing with Lace: Part 2

    31 Days of Sewing: Day 11 This is the third day of working on this simple lace blouse, Vogue pattern #V8927. There is something about trying to finish a project on a deadline. I remember being up all night sewing when I had a design project due while in college. There were always uncontrollable factors. For example, thread getting caught in the machine that ruins a seam. It must be ripped out and re-sewn. Sometimes more than once. Unexplained mistakes were also a hazard, such as extra fabric getting caught in the seam on the wrong side, an iron that scorches your fabric, or even accidentally cutting a small hole in your finished work. This is the nature of sewing. There are only so many things you can control. The rest is left to the mercy of the universe. Sewing at home doesn’t give you as many outs as a design show room does. In the show room, it’s easy to just recut a garment and start over. At home, you can’t just recut a garment that is messed up, no one can afford to do that. When you sew for yourself you have to just go with the flow of things, and figure out how to minimize the damage. Like today, I was determined to finish this blouse. I had to run to the fabric store for more fabric (this would be the second time) because I forgot to cut two of the facing pieces. Fortunately, they still had the fabric I needed. I got home and…
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Sewing with Lace

31 Days of Sewing: Day 10 This sewing project has taken me more than 3 days. So much for my 31 day sewing goal. I think I need to rename this series 31 posts of sewing. Every time I think I am getting ahead, something comes up and I end up being behind again. My days revolve around doing our home school, making meals, doing laundry, dishes, etc. Then there are the trips to soccer practice, the grocery store, the post office. Not to mention trips to see colleges, going to church, and of course, the fabric store. After all that, it’s time to sit down and get some actual sewing done. First, I make a fire on the porch (my “studio”). Have I mentioned it’s cold out there? Then I can get down to the days work, cutting out the garment of the day. Sometimes I cut out two at a time. After making a cup of tea, I can sit and sew. By this time, it’s typically about 3:00pm. I have a working window of opportunity until about 4:30pm when it’s time to start dinner. By 6:00pm it’s too dark and cold to work on the porch any more. That means there is only about an hour or so of actual work time. Humm…..this could be why I am not accomplishing much these days. This pattern is Vogue #V8927. I loved it the minute I saw it. Something about the combination of the black lace and white crepe made me swoon. I also swooned when I found some…
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Sewing with Peach Skin

Sewing with peach skin is something that many people shy away from.  Peach skin is unique because it has a slightly brushed texture to it that gives it a time worn appearance. Kind of like your favorite faded blue jeans. It just looks like something you have had in your closet forever. 31 Days of Sewing: Day 9 It’s been great to experiment with all new fabrics on the market. Right now there is a wonderful choice of fabrics in the fabric store. There are even more choices online, it can be hard to choose. I prefer buying things in person, I like to touch everything. If it’s coarse or stiff, it’s just not for me. I am super sensitive when it comes having fabric against my skin. The other day I came across a bolt of peach skin fabric in the clearance section at the fabric store. It is so soft, it feels like butter. It also feels like something you would wear forever, until it falls apart. I do a washing test before choosing my fabric for cutting. I always wash the fabric to shrink it before I cut (fabrics can shrink as much as 10% the first time in the laundry). Some fabrics pass the wash test, and some don’t. Because I haven’t cut the garment yet, I am not so concerned about shrinkage, but I do like to see how well it will hold up after washing. I have a couple of cotton broad cloth pieces that I bought to make blouses out of, they looked…
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