Archive | September, 2011

September Reads

30 Sep

A few of this month's reads

With the weather turning cool this month we have spent a lot more time curled up with a good book.  The furniture in our Family Room was recently rearranged to lend itself better to conversations and reading instead of television watching.  🙂  For those of you with little ones might I commend you to keep a large basket of children’s books next to your couch.  I cannot begin to tell you what a joy it is to have books close by when Eli is ready to snuggle up and read.  Here’s a look at this month’s reads:  

Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot.  Hands down this author is one of my absolute favorites.  Few women have impacted my life so deeply.  Whenever I pick up one of her books God always seems to use her writing to speak to me.  Dozens of topics are covered in this book as Elisabeth Elliot shares her beliefs or convictions on them.   Most topics are just a few pages each so it is perfect for those of you in a very busy season of life.  I find myself often reading a few pages in the midst of my day when I need just a tiny bit of refreshment.  Then I think upon what she has said while I work on the task in front of me.  The task goes by much more pleasantly and my mind is engaged thinking deeply about God.     

The Rhythm of Family by Amanda Soule.  This was such an interesting book.  The author speaks a little on each month of the year and then includes a craft or activity that pertains to that month.  How unique and so delightful.  It is packed full of great ideas for your own family.  I received the inspiration and directions for making the Handkerchief Bag from this book.  The author has really encouraged me to be more creative and loving in my mothering and blessing my family.  I probably have her to thank for the many hours I spent playing outside with Eli this summer.   

Playful Learning by Mariah Bruehl.  This was a delightful read about encouraging the creativity of your 4-8 year old.  A little advanced for my son but hopefully I will be able to use some of the ideas to bless others that I know who are in this age group.  I really appreciated how she commends parents to give their children lots of freedom to create and explore. 

The Other 8 Hours by Robert Pagliarini.  The premise of this book is to really consider how you are spending the 8 hours of your day in which you are not sleeping or working.  It really challenged me to be careful of how I am spending my time.  I often reflect upon the fact that there are about a million ways that I could be spending my time.  What I want to be doing is spending my time in the best way possible for my current season of life.  If you are a little more adventuresome the book also includes ideas for starting a business on the side.  Overall a great read. 

A Love that Multiplies by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.  Okay hands down this was my favorite book this month.  This book really allows the reader to see a glimpse into the heart and faith of the famous Duggar family.  I found myself rejoicing with them in what God has done in their life as I read no devoured their book in just a day or so.  They really open up in the book and share many of the trials and joys that they have experienced in the last two years.  🙂   

How to Sew a button and other things your grandmother knew by Erin Brien.  This might have been one of my most disappointing reads this month.  I expected to glean all sorts of helpful hints from the book but there were few things in the book that I found helpful.  Adorable title but the rest of the book is quite a let down.  😦 

Not for Sale by David Batstone.  This was a very sad book about human trafficking which enslaves over 30 million people.  Half of those are children.  The book contains numerous heart wrenching stories about the millions of people who are in fact slaves.  Although not necessarily an enjoyable book I would definitely recommend reading this book. 

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder  Eli and I have continued enjoying the Little House series this month as a read along book. I find myself enjoying it even more than Elijah. I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up taking an audio book from this series on a road trip one day soon.

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney.  This is another audiobook that we have really been enjoying this month.  We’re not quite finished so please don’t share how it ends.  It is the delightful tale of five little children who are poorer than one could even imagine yet they are just delightful.  I secretly wish that I could invite them all over for a playdate.  🙂


Sew a Handkerchief Bag

27 Sep

Pretty and practical.

Now that fall is officially here I have been trying to embrace it.  Honestly I don’t like fall very much because it leads to winter which I just hate.  I have been reminded lately of Daniel 2:21 which tells us about God that “He changes times and season.” In the past week or so these words have often been brought to mind.  I feel challenged to change my attitude to be thankful for the change of seasons rather than be a crab.  I will miss summer but that is no reason to not enjoy fall. 🙂

Notice the zipper which runs down the length of the bag. Nice and handy for refilling with handkerchiefs.


Since I really enjoy sewing and crafting I have been working on some fall projects in order to have a change of heart.  I’ve also been praying that fall would be a joyful time in our home.  I recently made the handkerchief bag.  I love using handkerchiefs instead of tissues.  Not only are they softer and greener for the environment but they are so pretty.  I always feel so ladylike using a handkerchief.  Yes I really do carry them around in my purse.  I also don’t have to worry about leaving tissues in my pocket (we are notorious about this at our home) and then washing the clothes.  Yuck!  If you’ve ever sat and tediously picked off tiny pieces of tissue you know exactly what I mean.  😉  

Tissues are dispensed one at a time just like a box of Kleenex.


This bag has really simplified using handkerchiefs in our home.  I no longer have to look around or run upstairs to the drawer where they are kept.  We have it hanging on a hook in our small downstairs bathroom.  Having the bag in plain sight has really helped me to remember to use them.  I was amazed at how quickly we went through the dozen or so this bag holds.  (I’ll be sewing up some more soon.) 

Opened view of the back where you insert the handkerchiefs.


I wish I could say the idea was mine but it was not (otherwise I would gladly share the tutorial with you).  I followed the directions step by step in Amanda Soule’s book The Rhythm of Family.  I used a home decor weight fabric and it turned out wonderful.  I made about 8 handkerchiefs 12 X 12 as recommended but found this to be a little large for the bag.  Next time I will probably make them 10 X 10.  (Most of the ones we already had are much smaller than 12 x 12.)  Overall a great fun project which has already helped me look forward to the fall season.

Kentucky Horse Park Trip

25 Sep

We could not have had a better day. So thankful to spend time with family.


Eli loved every minute of our time at the horse park.


The word of the day was "neigh neigh". Absolutely adorable. Everywhere we turned Eli was pointing and saying "neigh, neigh".


Look at this fun chair we found.


What a fun day.


Favorite picture of the day.


Eli being silly on the way home.


We were so thankful to be able to spend our Saturday afternoon at the Kentucky Horse Park.  When I took Brandon home for the first time to meet my parents we actually stopped there and walked around for a while.  I would have never guessed that day that 3 1/2 years later I would be walking around the park with my HUSBAND and almost 2-year-old.  🙂  So blessed and thankful for my family. 

We did end up seeing lots of real horses even though I forgot to take a picture of one.  How funny that all of our pictures are statues of horses.  Oh well.  One highlight of the day was watching the Red Hat Drill Team.  It was composed of 8 women who were all over 50.   I was very impressed.  Who knows maybe in 25 years I’ll join them?

Best Cheesecake Ever

24 Sep

Brandon's First Cheesecake


I nearly fell off my chair last week when the hubby declared he was making a cheesecake.  I can count the times on one hand that my sweet hubby has cooked something and those have mostly been frozen pizza.  🙂  He proceeded to dig around in the kitchen for a while and the result.  Absolutely fantastic!  A+ Brandon I’m so proud.  🙂 


Impressive don't you think?

World’s Best Cheesecake (Ann Foutch style):
You will need an 8 or 9″ Springform pan to make this.  Preheat oven to 350. 
Take 1 pack of Graham Crackers (about 8 or 9) and crush them.  Place in pan.  Sprinkle 2 T of sugar on top.  Melt 1/4 c. butter and pour over top of crumbs to make a crust. 
In a bowl combine: 3 packs of softened cream cheese (you could also sub in some neufchatel cheese for some of the cream cheese), 2 eggs, 1 stick of butter (it needs to be the real stuff) softened, 1 c. sugar and 2 t. vanilla.  Beat well until smooth. 
Pour over top of crust.  Bake 1 hour until a knife inserted comes out clean. 

This recipe happens to be passed down from my wonderful Mom.  It has been made for dozens and dozens of years.  Served at everything from wedding receptions to the Wool Fest.  Enjoy!


Brandon was camera-shy the night he made the cheesecake but I did snap this adorable photo the next day. Priceless. This was Eli's first attempt at dressing like Daddy.

Mail Box Redo

22 Sep

Our lovely new mailbox.


When we bought our house I thought the first home improvement item we would work on would be the mailbox.  Who wants to go out to their mailbox everyday with the previous owners last names plastered against the side?  Well I was incredibly wrong.  It didn’t bother us near as much as I thought of.  🙂 We finally did it though over a year later.  Oh well better late than never right? 


Side view.


First I lightly sanded the entire mailbox with sand paper.  (I have no idea what kind I just asked what kind to use at the hardware store and bought it.)  Then I washed the mailbox and let it dry.  Next I covered up everything that I didn’t want to be green (post, newspaper box, and flag).  This was the most time-consuming part.  Then while Eli was sleeping I spray painted the rest of the mailbox.  It was so much easier than I thought it would be.  I applied two coats and let it dry. 

After the paint was completely dry (I waited till the next day) I attached vinyl letters my sweet mother-in-law made for me MONTHS ago.


This project totally makes me want a Cricut bad! Anyone have one they want to give me....


Loving our new mailbox. Sorry there isn't a picture of the before-it was pretty bad. Rust and old stickers peeling off.

Make Homemade Bird Food

18 Sep

We had so much fun making homemade bird food this week.


We have been trying to squeeze in some last-minute summer fun before Fall is officially here.  (I guess we will try embracing fall next week.)  Eli has been absolutely fascinated with all of the geese flying south for the winter.  We spend a lot of time outdoors and every time they fly overhead he cries “geese, geese.”  So precious.  We have a suet feeder hanging in our backyard.  It has been great watching birds enjoy it year round.  I went to purchase some more suet the other day and our store is no longer selling it.  What to do?  Make our own bird food.  🙂   

This activity does make quite a mess if you let your little one stir but that's half the fun right? ( I recommend doing it outside.)


Homemade Bird Food:

  • 1 cup peanut butter melted
  • Add in: 1/2 c. cornmeal, 1/2 c. flour, 1/2 c. oats, 1/2 c. seeds or birdseed (I used sunflower seeds). 
  • Stir together. 



This makes an excellent scooping activity. Here Eli is using a measuring cup to scoop the bird food into an egg carton (I cut the top part off to make it easier).


We took our old suet container and placed our homemade bird food inside. I pressed it firmly with a spatula into the suet container. This recipe makes slightly more than the suet feeder can hold so we ended up filing up the egg carton and placing it along our fence under the trees.


This grin makes it all worth it. So thankful we were able to do this fun activity together.


If you are looking for a simpler bird feeding activity string Cheerios onto a string or pipe cleaner.  Then hang from a tree branch.  🙂 

What activities are you trying to squeeze in before the cold weather hits? 

Clear the Clutter By Christmas Part 1: Entry Way

16 Sep

Before Picture-Yuck! I cannot believe I let it get this bad!


I don’t know about you but I absolutely LOVE Thanksgiving and Christmas.  What could be better than a season of celebrating thankfulness and the birth of Christ?  I love the festivities but most of all I love the chance to visit and celebrate with family.  What I don’t plan on doing this year is spending every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas working myself to death-cleaning, organizing, making gifts, etc.  How may you ask?  By planning ahead big time!  (We’ll see how good it works.)  So far my goal is simple tackle one area of my home each week.  Clear out the clutter and scrub it from top to bottom. 

Invite your children to clean right along side you! Eli had so much fun!


I started my clutter challenge Sept. 1.  The first week I focused on the Entry Way, Front Porch and Coat Closet. 

Coat Closet De-Clutter and Clean:

  1. Remove everything from the closet. 
  2. Wipe down walls, shelves, and sweep floor.
  3. Replace only coats that will be worn this winter.  (We also tried everyone’s coat on to see if any needed to be purchased.  Thankfully none did.) 
  4. Add six extra hangers for guests to hang their coats on.   I also included a few child’s hangers since we often have friends over who have young children.  🙂 
  5. I added a basket for shoes to be kept in and a 3 drawer organizer.  The top drawer holds gloves, second drawer holds mittens and scarves, while the third drawer holds a sheet for the park. 
  6. Add hanging rack to the door.  This is where I keep my baby carriers 🙂 and Brandon’s hats. 

    After Photo: Coats hung, extra hangers added, and games stored on top shelf.


Don't be afraid to change-up your storage if it isn't working for you. We used a simple shelf last year and it didn't work at all. This year we are trying the basket and drawers which I think will work much better.


All finished! Eli ran into the picture and said cheese. What a ham! Notice the baby carriers hanging behind the door. This is a great place for them-out of sight but very handy.

Clean the Porch:

  • Remove everything from the porch and place in the yard. 
  • Take a broom and sweep the porch ceiling, walls, door, and porch.  Attack those cobwebs! 
  • Wash front door. 
  • Add festive fall rug-Thanks mom!  🙂 
  • Attach fall decorations or wreath-Thanks to my mother-in-law!  🙂
  • Add seating if possible or other decorations.  I added a chair. 
  • Clean windows and window frame. 
  • Replace lightbulbs as necessary.  Clean light fixtures. 
  • Trim bushes. 
  • I still would like to sew a curtain for the window panel by the door.  Something else for the to do list! 🙂 

Inside the entryway:

  • Wash walls and baseboard.  Remove cob webs-hopefully you don’t find any but I did.  🙂 
  • Wash front door. 
  • vacuum and/or shampoo rugs.  Mop hardwood if applicable. 
  • Add decorations to the wall.  I added a family picture frame, cross, and decorative key chain.  Other ideas include a mirror or wall art.  Don’t think that you have to go out and spend money.  Think about decorations in other parts of your home that could be moved around.  🙂 
  • Replace light bulbs as necessary and clean light fixtures. 

    Stand back and admire of all of your hard work. The closet only took 40 minutes to clean top to bottom with a toddler's help.







Fun for Toddlers: Make a Pom Pom Push

15 Sep

Supplies needed: old plastic container, about 30 small pom poms, and scissors. I recommend the Dollar Tree to purchase Pom Poms. A huge bag of 90 was only 1.00


With cold weather fast approaching it is time to get busy making some great activities for your toddlers.  Before we know it playing outside will be a distant memory.  You may remember the Clothespin Drop, Rainbow Rice  or Homemade Playdough from last winter.  These were great ways to beat the winter boredom. 

Very carefully cut a small hole in the top of your lid.

After making a hole show your child how to push the pom poms through the hole.  They will love it! 

Action shot. Eli loves this activity. It keeps him entertained for a long time. It would also lend itself well to situations where Eli needed to be entertained and quiet at the same time.


August Reads

9 Sep

Thankful for lots of time to read this month.


In honor of International Literacy Day yesterday I thought I would take a moment and share my reads for the past month.  🙂  I was able to read a couple more books this month than usual since I went on vacation twice.  All of these books were great!   I highly recommend them all. 

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder: Eli and I actually listened to this in the car this month while driving around.  We spent more time than usual traveling this month and it was wonderful to have such a great story to listen to.  I’m sure I enjoyed it much more than Eli did.  I have such fond memories of curling up in my bed as a little girl while my mom would read me a chapter of this book.  We are looking forward to listening or reading the entire series before Eli grows up!  

Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick: I found this book to be very helpful and yet challenging in regards to my parenting.  This was a great season of my life to read this book as Eli is really beginning to understand things a lot better.  I really desire to do as the book says to give your children grace as you dazzle them with the love of Jesus.  In the back of the book there are specific examples which are just excellent in helping you practically apply grace and the truths of the Gospel to your child.  I’ll be putting this on my list of books to read yearly. 

The Vintage Remedies Guide to Real Food by Jessie Hawkins: A wonderful encouraging book for those seeking to eat more whole/real foods into their diet.  I appreciated how realistic the author was as she encouraged you to make gradual changes in your eating habits and those of your family.  Brandon can attest that sometimes I have a tendency to get overzealous when it comes to whole foods.  🙂  The book also contained a good number of recipes in the second half which I look forward to trying in the coming weeks.

How to Start a Home-Based Tutoring business by Beth Lewis: Few of you may realize that we have been praying about the possibility of my starting a tutoring business.  I have worked as a tutor most of my adult life actually and absolutely love it!  I’m one of those nerdy people who thinks there is just nothing better than sitting down and working through complex ACT math questions.  🙂  So far this book has proven to be very helpful in pointing out many different areas that I would not have thought of.  (By the way if you are live near me please pass along my name and contact information if anyone is looking for a tutor.)     🙂 

Sew What Bags by Lexie Barnes:  This sewing book is so cute that it makes me want to start whipping up bags for just about everything in my home.  So far I have made 2 items from this book: a tissue pouch to hold tissues in my purse (ridiculously easy) and a tiny tote made out of dinosaur material for Eli to keep his little tractors in.  He carries the tote around all the time and it is just adorable.  I loved the fact that this book has no patterns to copy and cut out!  You simply cut your material by the given measurements and go.  The book offers many sewing illustrations and is geared a little bit more towards a beginning sewer.  It is a great way to use up fabric scraps as many of the patterns call for less than 1 yard of fabric. 

First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos by MaryAnn Kohl: This book is currently at the top of my wish list of books to own.  I would have never dreamed that someone could write a 150 page book about art activities for kids 1-2.  It has really helped me this past week come up with some great art activities for Eli while the weather has been so yucky.  One of my favorite aspects of the book is the fact that most of the items for the crafts are items you already have in your kitchen.  Love it!  Our current favorite from the book is Jello Painting. 

Doodle Stitching by Aimee Ray: This book just makes me want to get out some fabric and start embroidering.  It comes complete with a cd so that you can enlarge the designs and then print them.  I’m currently having trouble transferring the images so I’m not sure if I am ever going to get that onesie embroidered.  🙂 

What books should I add to this month’s reading list? 

August at Our Home

8 Sep

At Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains. How gorgeous!

If I had to describe August in the Emerson household I would say busy but very blessed.  Our month started off with a trip to Pigeon Forge with my (Amanda’s) family to spend time with Josiah before he left for Iraq.  We rented a house in Pigeon Forge which worked out great.  I thought the highlight of the trip was attending the Dixie Stampede.  Eli sat enthralled for 2 straight hours. 🙂  Dollywood was a close second.  Elijah rode all sorts of kid rides and was just adorable what can I say? 

Brandon and I also went on vacation together.  Our first ever without Eli.  (Our camera broke so sadly no pictures.)  We had an excellent time together at Natural Bridge/Red River Gorge.  Hiking filled up most of our time (we hiked every single Natural Bridge trail) while I also attended my first drive in movie.  It was so weird not having Eli with us!  To many we might have waited a really long time to go on an overnight (Eli is 20 months old) but to us it was just perfect.  Any sooner and I do not think we would have enjoyed it as much as we did.  Another example of how families need to find out what works best for them not for everyone else. 🙂 

Hanging tightly onto the last days of summer.

Aside from all of the trips, we were also blessed with lots of outdoor fun together.  Leisurely walks, trips to the park, and hours spent enjoying our backyard took up the rest of our free time this month.  There were also quite a good number of books read.  😉 

At Josiah's Deployment with my sister Katelyn.

This month my brother Josiah was deployed.  He will be serving in Iraq with the KY National Guard.  Please keep him in your prayers. This of course made up a major part of our month.  We look forward to all that God is going to do in his life during this time. 

This picture captures so much.

 After Josiah’s deployment our month ended on a happy note with another brother-Jacob turning sixteen.  It was quite the party.  It’s so hard to believe he is 16 I must be getting old!  I changed so many of his diapers.  🙂  

The birthday cake I made. Why is it that homemade cakes tastes a hundred times better than store ones?


Just enjoying a little corn hole. One of my favorite parts of the party was just watching everyone enjoy one another.



The "kids" had a great time playing Volleyball. Brandon even joined in.



Even the adults had a great time.



The perfect ending to a great party. Happy Birthday Jake!

As you can see August was quite the busy month in our home but a blessed one at that!  We are so thankful for all of the goodness that God has lavished upon us this month.