Balance, Structure, and Release

Balance

   At the beginning of this year, I chose the word “balance” to be my theme. I wanted to always strive to find the balance in life. Recently, it’s been all about balancing structure and Release.
Structure is there for my sanity and productivity. I have learned I am not the Type-A woman I admire. I have struggled with keeping dishes washed and laundry folded, floors swept and gardens weeded. Because of this never-ending struggle (it seems), I have prayed and asked God to teach me how I can do better. I’ve shared some of my lessons here when I started the blog. Creating routines for my day was the first step. Then, in January I entered the world of bullet-journaling, and my little existence has not been the same since. With my simple little notebook and pen, I can create structure for any area of my life. Menu? Check. To-do list? Check. Wardrobe planning? Check. Goal setting? Check. All my structure-creating is great, and I feel like it has helped me grow so much, but there’s also another side to the scale.
Release is the element of life that says you can’t plan for everything and some things are more important than plans. Even though I am naturally a more laid back person, I have to be intentional with this, too. I’ve made a variety of resolutions ranging from walking daily to crocheting every evening to taking time to play outside with my toddler. Learning when to release myself from those resolutions is another facet of living intentionally.
That’s why I decided to release myself from my beloved journal and oh-so-structured habit-tracker for a time. My “BuJo” is there if I need it, but I’m trying to fly solo this week without a piece of paper telling me what to do. It’s just a little reset, and I’m taking the time to analyze what things are really important.
I’m also thinking about this blog, how important it is to me, and how I can find the time to write. I may start making time to write some posts, but they may or may not be polished with illustrative and interesting images.
I’m excited to see where my reset takes me, and I’m happy to go back to more structure again soon.
What things have you been learning to release? Structure? Expectations? Fears? What tips do you have on living a more balanced life?

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Get Up, Try Again

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Hello! It’s a new year, and with the New Year, New Year resolutions! One of my resolutions is to write and share on this blog. Why have I been so quiet for so long? A few reasons:

  1. I had a baby, and thus, less leisure time. I can’t seem to organize my time like I want to.
  2. My self-confidence has suffered. Most of the time, I feel like I have no idea what I am doing, and don’t have the confidence to share anything.
  3. I haven’t been inspired. (maybe due to stress, exhaustion, etc.)

But. Like I said. It’s a new year.

I feel like things are changing. Maybe my circumstances aren’t changing, but my attitude is. I’m ready to share again whether I feel confident or not, because the truth is, I will never have all the answers. And when I do think I have finally found the answer, everything changes and I’m out there again, feeling out of control, and looking for the answer.

My motto is to never stop.

I feel like I fail at a lot of the things I attempt to do, but I always get back up. Sometimes I feel like that person in a foot race who keeps on tripping, but keeps getting back up and running her best. (Proverbs 24:16) I want to be that person in the lead. I want to be that perfect house wife. That perfect mom. Yes, even that perfect blogger and artist. At this moment, however, maybe it’s God’s plan to stretch me and train me. Maybe it’s not so important that I feel successful, but more important that I desire to improve, and to do it God’s way.

So if you have stumbled this year—if you are seeing others run past you, accomplishing their goals while you are still at the start line—get up and run on. Don’t hang your head. Don’t give up on being your best. Don’t throw your worthy goals out the window.

Pray, ask for courage, ask for wisdom, ask for focus and vision. Then get up and learn from your mistakes. Maybe you need to adjust your goals to align with God’s will for your life. Maybe you need to cast of some things that are hindering you. (Hebrews 12:1) Maybe you just need to get up and try again.

May God be with you this year!

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via Daily Prompt: Year

Coconut Milk Shampoo

I’ve been searching for a shampoo that I could feel confident that I’m not putting anything in my hair that is harming it and confident that my hair looks clean and healthy. I had three qualifications: 1. It had to be pH balanced 2. free of sulfates 3. and free of silicone. I soon realized I would have to spend a lot of money to buy a shampoo that met my conditions, so I looked for homemade solutions. That ended up not being easy either. The recipes I found were either not pH balanced or left my hair feeling heavy and sticky or just not clean.

For a while, I used Natural Beauty Cleansing Bar found online at Swanson.com. I loved that it was pH balanced and gentle on hair and skin, but I found it added minutes to my shower as I lathered and lathered before I felt like there was enough to get my hair clean. It is so much easier to use a liquid shampoo. It wasn’t giving me good enough results to be worth the effort.

The Coconut Milk Shampoo method sounded promising, so I tried it. I used a mixture of coconut milk and aloe Vera gel, but it wasn’t effective, and it was too watery to easily be used as a shampoo. Some recipes call for castor oil soap, but I also read that even that good stuff isn’t pH balanced.

I had almost given up on my standards when I decided to try a modified version of the coconut milk recipe. It worked. So now, I’ll share it with you.

 

1 can coconut milk
up to equal parts aloe Vera gel
Natural Beauty Cleansing Bar, grated

  1. Mix coconut milk and aloe Vera gel
  2. Freeze mixture in ice trays to preserve, setting aside 4 Tbs (roughly the amount of two cubes)
  3. Shave approximately 2 Tbs of the cleansing bar and mix with just enough water to dissolve. This may take a few minutes, but it will dissolve.
  4. Mix the dissolved shavings and the coconut milk mixture in a bottle (I used a recycled honey bottle for easy dispensing.)
  5. When shampooing, lather a palm full of shampoo into the hair and scalp and leave in for a few minutes, rinsing with cool water.
  6. Prepare every week for maximum freshness.

I don’t mind that it’s not completely made from scratch because I still trust the ingredients, it’s effective, and the bar is relatively inexpensive.

My hair feels light and clean after using it, and it has been fairly easy for me to stretch my washing intervals. I even did an oil mask one night, and it almost got all the oil out. Maybe three applications would have worked, but I ended up using a drug store shampoo I had on hand. I have also used an apple cider vinegar rinse up to once a week for a little extra love.

I’m hoping that it will help my hair become healthier, thicker, and longer. However, even if I don’t get to see those changes, I like my coconut milk shampoo.

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Intentional Living

    About seven months ago, in May, I wrote this original post on my new blog I intended to be about a homemade capsule wardrobe. Since then, I have realized that, although I still love sewing and creating a capsule wardrobe, my blog thoughts extended beyond those two related topics. After a long break, I decided to move on to a new, broader, blog: The Journey of a Keeper.
    This post, I believe, is still a very good description of my journey to intentional living.

Stitched: Rethinking Homemade

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In January, I started Financial Peace University (Online) by Dave Ramsey. That began my journey to living intentionally. I wrote down goals, I created a budget, and I was intentional with my spending. Having a budget and plans for where we wanted our money to go has help us so much. I only wish we would have started sooner.

Getting on a budget was great, but then I decided I wanted to loose weight. I looked at FitBits and similar gadgets, but they didn’t fit in my budget. Finally I found a budget friendly method to keep me accountable. Enter, MyFitnessPal! Again, I set some goals. I started keeping track of my food and physical activity each day. I became intentional about my health. I wasn’t always consistent, and it certainly wasn’t always easy, but I know I’m creating better habits that will benefit me if I keep it…

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Why I Use a Written Daily Routine

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There have been many stages in my short time as a keeper of a home–The Newly-wed: Everything is new and lovely; The Valley: I’m coasting, but I may or may not be lost; The Game Face: Something’s got to change; The First Home-Owner: Everything is going to be perfect now; (repeat The Valley and The Game Face).

Somewhere in my second phase of “something’s got to change” I read Ruth Soukup’s post about having a morning routine. My problem, however, seemed to be more a “mid-day crisis.” I would find myself wondering from room to room, overwhelmed, not knowing what to do first. The laundry needs to go in the washer, but I want to make my bed first, but shouldn’t I get the dishes washed before my husband gets home, and, oh my, what am I going to cook for supper?

Sometimes it helped to find a quiet, dark corner of the house, curl up, and let the house fairies do their work. I wish.

As I prayed about the stress and feelings of failure, God began guiding me. I remember the first day I created a full daily routine. I felt so lighthearted! I had my day planned out for me, and I no longer had to stress about what to do first or if I had enough time.

And it actually worked!

Then I became pregnant.

Enter “The Fatigued: Nothing else matters but sleep” phase in my house keeping. I felt good about my day if I made supper. Sometimes, however, I was too tired afterwards to enjoy it with my husband, and the couch looked so much better than the food I had just fixed.

When the summer slowed down a little, and I entered my second trimester with a little more energy, I knew it was time to go back to a routine. Why do I benefit so much from having a daily routine?

Personality

First of all, my personality plays a huge part. I always functioned better with structure such as high-school and college. When my time was up to me, I didn’t do as well. I’m laid back, I guess, and don’t have near the natural concept of time that my better half does. Creating a routine with a built in time structure was the best thing I could do for myself.

Habits

A routine was great for helping me create habits such as reading daily or exercising regularly. If I had a time set aside for it, it was harder to ignore or make the old “no time” excuse.

Accomplishment

The sense of accomplishment when I follow my routine is something that keeps me going. It’s so much different than before when I may feel like I worked all day and didn’t get anything done. That feeling comes from not getting the important things done. When those are out of the way, I have time to focus on other things that gives me even a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, such as cleaning out a closet or making a batch of homemade bread.

Consistency

One point Ruth made when talking about a morning routine is that creating habits free up brain power for other decisions. For me, if I don’t have to think about when I’m going to put a load of laundry in the washer, I can think about other things like if I have time to sew this afternoon before my husband gets home. The consistency just makes everything go smoother.

Less Stress

As I mentioned earlier, it was very stressful for me to try to force my laid back brain to focus on time and get everything done and in a timely manner. Yes, I still have dishes pile up if I choose to procrastinate, but even then, I have a plan and a way to get back on track. Even if I go through a period of stress (which I do) it’s much better than the constant stress of knowing I have a problem and not knowing how to fix it.

Creating a successful routine

  1. List the important things: I wrote down everything I needed to do every single day.
  2. Create a variety: My routine does not only consist of housework, but also personal goals and hobbies.
  3. Identify your most productive time: I knew if I tried to do too much early in the morning or after my husband got home from work, I would never get it done.
  4. Know your limitation: Don’t overcrowd your day and set yourself up for failure. Give yourself cushion for emergencies and other activities.

And here is a free printable if you think a daily routine may be for you, too.

Routine Brainstorming Printable

Routine Printable

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When You Lose Sight of Your Purpose

Purpose

“Bloom where you are planted.”

“Be faithful in the little things.”

“Brighten the corner where you are.”

Clichés though they are, these words are good advice we can’t hear too often. Do you know where God has planted you—his beautiful fruit-bearing plant? Do you know where your corner is, and do you know what he wants you to do? Maybe we know the answer, but in an effort to find something great, our greatest daily callings lay forgotten. Or perhaps it’s time to shine our light a little brighter and find opportunities that may be just outside our comfort zone. Why not take some time today to think about where God has placed you and for what purpose?

Where are you planted? This includes where you live, the people you interact with most frequently, the responsibilities you have, and the gifts God has given you. Each have an important part in creating your niche. For example, I’m a wife and soon to be mother, so my greatest responsibility is at home, but where I live has a big impact on what my other responsibilities are and who I interact with. However, no matter where I live, God has given me a unique set of talents and passion that He wants to use for His glory. Like the scripture says, He assigns the members of the body as it seems right to him. He gives the talents. It is our choice to grow the talent and use it.

Where do you live, who do you interact with most frequently, what are your responsibilities, and what gifts has God given you?

I’ve always had the desire to do something for God and be a blessing to others, but when I need to take a step out of my comfort zone, I get confused and intimated. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and think, “What can I do?” I’m learning that as we are faithful to brighten the corner where we are, we learn better where to go when God calls us to step out of our comfort zone a little. Each time we follow his voice, the light in our little corner grows.

When we are faithful to do what we know to do, we learn better where to go when God calls.

It’s hard to write this because, even now, I am only learning, but I know God is leading me, and I can trust Him. Just as my chores as a teenager prepared me to keep my own home, so God works one step at a time. We must be willing and faithful.

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5 Virtues I Want to Teach My Son

5 Virtues Son
I remember those two weeks—those days I counted until I could take a pregnancy test. I remember laying in bed, late at night, praying for the baby God may or may not have blessed us with. I knew God cared for that life more than we could imagine. I remember praying for the health of the tiny new life, asking God to protect, praying for his future, praying for our future, and praying for strength to go forward whether the test was positive or negative.

Now, at 32 weeks, I’m counting down the weeks until I can cuddle God’s gift to use close in my arms. When we found out at an ultrasound that we were having a boy, it didn’t take long for me to get excited about all things boy.

Along with the joy, however, comes a strong sense of responsibility. I know we will make mistakes; how can we be good parents despite our humanity? What are the most important things to teach my son? What does the Bible say about young men and the character they should develop?

Honesty:

Honesty is very important to my husband. Theoretically, he knows the value of an honest heart. It is so important for us to be honest with God, ourselves, and others. God can always work with an honest heart, and others can trust an honest heart. Honesty is what makes a man “good,” in my opinion. I want our son to grow in honesty that he may become a good man of God.

Hard Work:

I’m not a man, but I know that a man who will work can respect himself. Others will respect him, too. Culturally and Biblically, hard work is valued. If my husband and I, as a team, can teach our son the value of hard work, I believe he will have a more fulfilling life.

Respect:

This is one that is very important to me. I want to train my son to always be respectful of others. Nothing puts a bitter taste in my mouth like a disrespectful young man/boy. The other side of respect is being respectable. Those who give respect will receive respect. As a mother, I would be proud to watch my son grow up to be respected by others.

Love Wisdom:

I can’t make a list of things I want to teach my son without remembering the wise words of Solomon imploring his son to love wisdom. He says it better than I could: “Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee…she shall be a crown to thy head.”

Generosity:

One thing I love about my husband is his generous heart. I think it is very endearing. Recently, I have also been overwhelmed with the generosity of my friends and family in helping me prepare for this little boy. I want even more to raise a generous son so that I, in some way, can give back to all those who have been so good to me.

Although this is not an exclusive list of the responsibilities I feel in raising a son, I believe if I can teach him these five things, I will not have failed.

But no one said it’s easy to teach a little boy things like honesty and respect!

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My First Spending Freeze and What I’ll Do Different Next Time

There are just a few days left in the Living Well Spending Zero challenge! This is my first spending freeze, and I definitely plan on doing it again! I will, however, do things a little differently.

Everyone is different, that’s why I like Ruth Soukup’s Living Well Spending Zero challenge: it’s completely modifiable. I also love the weekly reflection prompts. Answering the reflection questions help me identify my weaknesses and set new goals.

Summary

Groceries $130 vs. $230+

Household purchases $30 vs. $120+

Spending money $0 vs $50+

total saved this month: $350!

The hardest part about this challenge was groceries. I don’t like not buying food. I like having food. Any food that I might want. I think if I did it again, I could meet my $80-$90 goal.

I think my experience in this challenge was somewhat unique. Like I said in my first reflection, I already feel like I have a pretty tight budget. The other good thing is, I have a written budget. It made tracking my spending and savings so much easier. I really had no surprises. I knew, if I spend this much, I’ll save this much.

The other thing that made my experience unique is that I save. It’s easy to plan for expenses when you have a written budget. At the end of September, I had money set aside for clothes, spending money, and even some for groceries (I hadn’t been grocery shopping the last two weeks of September). I still limited my purchases to items we were already going to buy before I started the challenge just to eliminate any impulse buying.

Finally, there are a few things I will do differently. I think I have unique spending temptations that I should focus on in the challenge. The daily “assignments” were a great inspiration, but I think I can save more money next time if I focus on those things more applicable to me. For example, we spend almost nothing on “entertainment.” Neither do we have daily Starbucks, but I have other weaknesses, such as the grocery store. Next time, I will focus more on:

  1. Making more bread, snacks, and freezer breakfasts
  2. Shopping sales
  3. Making money

This challenge has been such an inspiration to me. I’ve already thought of other ways to challenge myself to grow in the following weeks and months. I’m sure I’ll be sharing those soon.

It’s all part of the journey!

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Week One Reflections: Grocery Shopping Shouldn’t Kill My Budget

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It’s day seven of 31 Days Living Well Spending Zero. I’ve enjoyed the journey so far. Here’s how it went:

Scariest part

I was worried that too much of my spending is necessity and that, in the end, I wouldn’t be able to save much.

Most excited about 

I’m really looking forward to treating ourselves with anniversary gifts at the end, but I’m also looking forward to adopting new methods (monthly menus and freezer meals) that will save me money on groceries next month, too.

Biggest struggle 

My biggest struggle was knowing how much food I should allow myself to buy. I had not gone grocery shopping for a couple weeks, so I felt like I was allowed a little more. I hope I didn’t overdo it.

Temptations

Snacks or non necessary groceries. My husband bought some snacks for work, but I can’t blame him. I didn’t provide him with anything else. My goal is to make more homemade snack that he can take.

Worried about

I guess I’m worried that I will overspend on groceries. I don’t really see myself caving anywhere else. I’m used to waiting. I do see us being tempted to eat out if we are in town for too long and get hungry. For those of you who don’t know, I live in rural West Virginia, and going to town means an hour drive over the mountain, and you’re lucky if you don’t get hungry before you get back.

Aha! Moment

Before the challenge, when I sat down and worked out a no-spending budget, and saw how much I really could save, I decided it might be worth it. As far as this week, it was probably when, instead of buying curtains or other things I wanted/needed, I thought about how I could make them instead. Now I’m excited about a few DIY projects.

Most surprising 

It was surprising how easy it was to plan a menu. Also I liked that I could actually look forward to each meal on the menu. It doesn’t feel like I’m sacrificing much there. The other surprise was my grocery bill. I’m still under budget, but I spent more than I thought. I can’t wait to see if I can stay under my budget, which is less than half of what I normally spend each month.

Goals for next week

  1. Spend <$10 on groceries
  2. Bake bread
  3. Make some freezer meals
  4. Prepare some freezer breakfasts for my husband
  5. Make some homemade treats for my husband

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Why I Failed at Meal Planning and Why I’m Trying Again

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I had had a long day. I was tired, not feeling well, and a little down. I wanted nothing more than to sit on the couch and relax. My husband normally does not question my methods, but finally he asked if I was planning on making supper. Yes, I said with a sigh, I was going to make something, I just didn’t know what yet. Then he gently reminded me that we left in a half hour to go to church. I stared at him, not believing that I had forgotten that it was Wednesday. I had thirty min to clean, eat and get around for church, and I didn’t have a plan. I started to cry, and he gave me a hug and said it would be okay. It was, but neither of us forgot the day that I forgot it was Wednesday.

Why I Failed at Meal Planning

When I first moved to West Virginia as a new bride, I had great expectations for meal planning and creating a monthly menu. Honestly, it was a lot harder then because I was new to grocery shopping and full time cooking. I didn’t know the quantities I needed or the staples I could stock up on, so even if I did plan a menu, it was hard to keep the food on hand that I need. It also took some time for me to figure out my husband’s preferences. It took a lot of trial and error to learn what meals we liked and what meals we didn’t.

Why I’m trying again

My meal planning has more or less gone by the wayside, but this weekend, as part of Ruth Soukup’s no spending challenge, I created a menu for the month of October. I’m looking forward to seeing how it works for me. I’m more comfortable in the kitchen now, and I know what meals we like, so I have positive expectations. I’m even looking forward to having a menu:

  1. I am prepared for each meal, which eliminates the frustration of not having the ingredients for that night’s meal.
  2. I can look forward to cooking instead of staring at Pinterest trying to come up with a last minute meal to make do.
  3. I can look forward to a healthy, tasty, homemade meal.
  4. I waste less ingredients and save money grocery shopping.


I like to plan my menus on the iPad calendar. I can easily edit it, and notes, and set it to repeat every year or every month.

When I made my menu, it was helpful to refer to a list of all our favorite meals. Ruth actually included that step in day three of her Living Well Spending Zero challenge. I also took inventory of my pantry and freezer and tried to included ingredients that I haven’t used in a while. I found a tasty looking salmon croquette recipe that might use up the can of salmon I’ve been avoiding. Over all, I’m really looking forward to the meals on this month’s menu, and I plan to continue using monthly menus.

If you were like me, and gave up on making a menu, you might enjoy taking a fresh start. Whether it’s one week, two weeks, or one month, a menu might be an easy fix to grocery and cooking stress.

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