DIY Herbal Salve

If you can make pancakes, you can make an herbal salve. (If you can’t make pancakes, you probably still can.)

Not only is it easy, making an herbal salve is fun and useful. In the one week since making my first antibacterial green salve, we’ve used it on a mild diaper rash, a not-at-all-mild forehead bump, and a badly skinned knee. Each time I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how soothing the salve seemed to be and how quickly the owie started to heal.

Once you have selected your herbs and infused your herbal oil, it’s time to make a salve.

Make your own antibacterial green salve (it's fun and easy!)

Antibacterial green salve with yarrowlavendercalendula, plantain, clover, and rosemary (Here are some other great herbal choices!) 

DIY Herbal Green Salve

Ingredients & supplies: 

  • Herbal oil
  • Beeswax (approximately 1/4 cup beeswax per 1 cup herbal oil)
  • Cheese cloth OR old, clean tea towel
  • Double broiler or two pots
  • Tins OR glass jars

Instructions: 

  1. Strain the herbal oil through a cheese cloth or tea towel (that you don’t mind getting stained) and measure.
  2. Pour into a double broiler OR a small pot that fits into a slightly larger one. Pour water into the bottom pot and heat over very low heat. You don’t want to burn the oil.
  3. Add beeswax, stirring occasionally until the beeswax is melted.
  4. Test your salve’s consistency by placing a teaspoon of it on a plate in the freezer. After a couple minutes, check to see if it’s your desired thickness. If it’s too thin, add more beeswax. If it’s too thick, add a little olive oil.
  5. Once the salve is the right consistency, pour it into tins or glass jars.
  6. Mark the jars with the contents and date (because, unless your memory is WAY better than mine, you will forget!) and enjoy!

Stored in a cool, dry place the salve lasts a long time. Once it starts to lose it’s color or smell off, discard.

Tips: Want to make an extra potent salve? Once you’ve strained the herbal oil, add fresh dried herbs and pour the strained oil over them. Store in a sunny spot for another two weeks. If condensation forms, wipe dry. Then, strain again and make your extra awesome salve!

 May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2DayWorks for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Our Flexible Revolving Monthly Menu Plan

Last week I shared my impetus for creating a revolving four-week menu plan: to avoid the 6:00 p.m. dinner plan panic, ensure we didn’t eat tacos three times a week, and streamline my day as a new homeschool year dawns.

Since I love looking at friends’ menu plans and borrowing ideas from them, today I thought I’d share a peek at our flexible revolving monthly menu plan.

Week one:

  • Southwestern Chicken & Black Beans (The simplest crockpot meal ever…and one of my favorite! Recipe coming soon.)
  • Lasagna
  • Meatballs/Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes
  • Fish Bouillabaisse/Broiled Tilapia
  • Creamed Chicken on Biscuits

Week two:

  • Tacos (with homemade tortillas if I have the energy!)
  • Black-Eyed Peas with Sausage over Rice
  • Stir Fry/Cashew Chicken with Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
  • Salmon with herbed sweet potatoes 
  • Spinach & Chicken Alfredo/Chicken Tetrazzini

Week three:

  • Enchiladas/Tostadas
  • Shrimp & Grits
  • Homemade Pizza
  • Baked Chicken with mashed potatoes
  • Chicken (or Steak & Ale) Pot Pie

Week four:

Easy alternates/additional ideas:

  • Spaghetti
  • Creamed Eggs on Toast
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Breakfast for Dinner
  • Western Burgers
  • Frittata
  • Hot Chicken Salad

Other alternates/additional ideas:

  • Grilled Entree
  • Chow Mein
  • Hamburger Potato Bake
  • Scalloped Potatoes & Ham
  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches
  • Shepherd’s Pie

Do you follow a menu plan? Any super easy crockpot meals you’d care to share? Pretty please? :) 

 May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2DayWorks for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

Our Simple Homeschool Days

Our fourth week of homeschool is underway. School days have fallen into a nice rhythm and I’ve been constantly reminded how blessed I am to get to stay home with my children and teach them.

I’ve looked forward to homeschooling since I was a teenager roaming the halls of curriculum conferences and making mental lists of curriculum to revisit when I had kids someday. Now I get to do it.

Homeschooling is more challenging, more fun, more patience-demanding, and more rewarding than I ever dreamt.

We’re following a mostly classical approach, with a strong emphasis on stories (aka Charlotte Mason) with plenty of time to develop their imaginations and “just be kids”.

Here’s a peek into our incredibly simple, but fun, homeschool days.

Painting a map of ancient EgyptMy online search for a large Bible map was futile, so we painted one. (I was going to paint it myself, but this post inspired me to include the kiddos in *my* projects. The map turned out incredible!) 

While the children finish their breakfast, I read aloud to them, straight from the Bible. My goal is to read through the majority of the stories each year, roughly following the church calendar.

Once a week, they attend a Classical Academy and get to learn things that I’m not at all good at (like music, art, and Latin) and do things that are extra fun in a group, like science experiments and history activities.

The other days, the kids line up to recite the Apostle’s Creed and sing a song or two.

After all of five minutes, everyone is dying of thirst, so we take a water break. Parched mouths sated, we sit down around the little school room table to start our “memory hour”.

Memory Hour: 

  • Scripture Memory:  Last year at the Academy, Rose was challenged to learn two verses from Psalms a week. I didn’t think it was possible. It is! Rose and Will can both recite Psalm 1-7, plus many other verses. It’s amazing what a child can learn if you just work on it a few minutes a day! Each day, we review the Psalms and other Scripture passages we’ve already learned using a memory jar, then work on the next passage. We’re continuing through the Psalms this year, though adding in a few additional Scripture passages.
  • Latin: With the resurgence in classical education, Latin-learning has regained popularity. I know all the arguments in favor of Latin, like “English is based on Latin” (around 90% of words with more than two syllables stem from it) and “What English is now, Latin was for almost two millennia”, but what convinced me most of it’s worthwhileness was something Joshua said on a lovely ice cream date in the park (and I paraphrase) “How many children in America actually master a second language well enough to use it? Often it just fades into the back of their brains. Of all the languages to ‘be in the back of a child’s brain’ what better language than Latin?” My good friend Peggy teaches Latin at the Academy and is working on the best Latin curriculum* for kids ever. It’s complete with picture flashcards and engaging Latin stories. During our “memory hour” at home, we review a set or two of flashcards and occasionally listen to Mater Anserina, a beautifully translated collection of Mother Goose rhymes.
  • Poetry:  Still seated around our little school room table, we review and work on poetry. Just like with Scripture memory, I’ve been utterly surprised and pleased with how quickly children can master poems if you just work a little each day. Currently, they’re memorizing Little Things and The Swing.  (I’m almost done compiling an elementary poetry curriculum for my kiddos….more on that soon!)
  • History: This year we’re studying Creation through the Fall of Rome, roughly following Veritas Press’ Ancient Egypt & Old Testament and New Testament, Greece, and Rome outlines. At the Academy, I get to help tell history stories and do history-themed activities. During our memory hour at home, we just listen to the timeline song (with optional worksheets and activities after lunch).
  • Other memory: We usually use up all our time, but if there’s extra, the kids love listening to “memory songs”, like these.

Math

My friend Kathryn introduced us to the Life of Fred math books. We are hooked! The tagline of the series is Math: as serious as it needs to be. Instead of tears and endless hours of copy work, we’re reading stories of Fred, a five-year-old Math professor, and the myriad of ridiculous ways he uses math every day.

We started with the very first book, Apples. In the first three weeks, we’ve laughed and giggled our way through sets, basic algebra terminology, geometric shapes, cardinal numbers, and time-telling, plus basic addition and subtraction.

So far, the concepts have been simple enough that the short drills (aka Your Turn to Play sections) have been sufficient practice. If we ever need more, I’ll use worksheets from Math-U-See or Kahn Academy.

Reading James Herriot's Treasury for Children My cheesy students, reading James Herriot’s Treasury for Children—a sweet and highly recommended collection of veterinary stories

Until this point in our day, we do the schoolwork together. Even Meg enjoys sitting in on the memory and math time, and has picked up so much just by listening and trying to follow along. (Edmund’s attempts at participation are cute, but admittedly distracting. Thankfully he still takes an nice morning nap!) Not until we hit English Arts do we have to split up.

English Arts:

  • Literature: There are few things as fun as getting read to by your child, especially when the stories are enjoyable for adults too! Rose is currently reading James Herriott’s Treasure for Children (and loving it). Also on the literature list are The Cabin Faced WestBeatrice Potter’s CollectionLittle House on the Prairie; The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe….
  • Writing: Last year, at the Academy, Rose amazed me with how well she was able to write stories, but I think I pushed her too hard. This year we’re taking it slowly. Our goal is to have children that can craft good stories like the children in Lewis’ Calormen . We’re using the traditional classical method of retelling, loosely following ideas from IEW.
  • Spelling and Handwriting: While Will works on phonics, Rose pulls out handwriting paper and practices handwriting and spelling. Since Phonics Pathways laid such a good spelling foundation, we’re just using lists like the days of the week to practice spelling while she works on handwriting (a skill that needs some work!)

Phonics Pathways Fun

Will learning to read with Phonics Pathways. Since he’s not quite ready to write yet, he “spells” words with letter tiles. 

Phonics: This spring Will asked me to teach him how to read. I wasn’t sure he was up for it yet, but he kept begging and begging. It seemed cruel to say “no” to that! So we began our reading adventure, cuddled on the couch together. At first it was slow going, but he kept pulling out Phonics Pathways day after day, just as chipper as could be. Now he’s reading three letter words well and cannot wait for each day’s new lesson.

One of the things I love about Phonics Pathways is that it incorporates spelling right into the curriculum. Since he’s working on getting the hang of writing, we made little letter tiles and he gets to “spell” the words with them.

Homeschool Never Stops:  Although our official homeschool day wraps up around lunchtime, one of the things I love most about homeschooling is that the learning never really ends. Bedtime literature with Joshua, nature walks, random map-making projects, and practical home economics blend school and “life” beautifully.

And that’s our homeschool day in a nutshell.

Homeschooling Mamas? What are your days like? 

  May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeWorks for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to some products in this post are my referral links.]

Create a Revolving Monthly Menu Plan That Works

Menu plans. I have a love-hate relationship with them.

They’re so handy to have, but I often don’t take the time to make one for the week until it’s already past 6:00 on Monday evening and I’m scrambling for quick dinner ideas.

After one too many Monday evening “panics”, I realized I needed a new plan. I needed a menu plan that I could use over and over again. A meal plan with enough variety to please the entire family and enough flexibility to work even when a week gets crazy. So I scrapped the weekly menu plan altogether in favor of a revolving four-week menu plan.

Create a Flexible, Revolving Menu Plan (that works)

Not only would a revolving menu plan eliminate the weekly Monday panic, it would help provide greater variety. Though I don’t try to, my natural tendency is to over-serve my personal favorites, like tacos (with fresh tortillas), and neglect others meals altogether.

Joshua rarely complains, but one evening he asked what was for dinner. When I happily told him tacos, I noticed a slight sigh as he said, “Oh? That’s what I thought.” Apparently tacos were making themselves all too frequent guests on the dinner menu.

If you’re like me and want the structure of a menu plan but never manage to get one in place before dinnertime on Monday, here are a few tips to create your own revolving monthly (or six week) meal plan. A meal plan that works for your family.

List Your Family’s Favorite Recipes

Jot down all the meals your family regularly enjoys. Check with your husband and kiddos to make sure you haven’t missed any favorites recipes.

You’ll likely have way more than enough recipes for four weeks. That’s a good thing.

Think Through Your “Normal” Week

Life fluctuates constantly, but what does a normal week look like for your family?

  • Do you have regular dinner events?
  • How often do you eat out?
  • Host company?
  • Does your husband work late consistently?
  • Do you have late afternoon events that necessitate crockpot or freezer meals?
  • What about church/school/work potlucks?

As I asked myself these questions, I realized the flaw with most my meal planning: it didn’t accurately reflect our weeks.

Since we are usually gone at least one evening each week and I know Joshua would love for me to try new recipes more often, my master plan should reflect that. Instead of planning out seven meals each week, all I needed was five… with a generous list of alternates and extra ideas in case I happen to not have time or ingredients to prepare one of the meals listed.

We also have friends and family over regularly so tried to include one or two meals each week that could very easily be turned into a company dinner.

Organize Your Meals

Once you’ve created your master list of meals and thought through your family’s normal dinner needs, it’s time for the fun part: organizing your meals.

Of course, your family preferences will determine how you divide up your meals, but I picked our favorites from the master list and roughly divided mine into these categories: Mexican, Italian/Eastern, Fish, Chicken, and Vegetarian.

Place seasonal or extra meal ideas onto a back-up/alternate list.

Create an “Easy Alternates” List

Instead of putting the simplest meals (like Breakfast for Dinner, Spaghetti, etc.) into the regular rotation, create a separate list of “Easy Alternates” for those nights when all of life seems to conspire to keep you out of the kitchen until melt-down time and you need something quick and speedy to put on the table.

Test and Tweak Your Menu

Once you’ve created your master monthly menu, test it out. Maybe a few of the recipes will need to be swapped or dropped altogether, or maybe you need to add in an extra week or two to better incorporate all your favorites, but once you have a master menu to work from, making a few tweaks is simple.

Do you use a menu plan? (If you, like me, love looking at friend’s menu plans, you’re in luck! I’ll be sharing mine next week.) 

 May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeWorks for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

Sometimes God Says “No”

“God always answers prayer, Amy. Sometimes He says ‘Yes’, sometimes ‘No’, and sometimes ‘Wait.’”

These were the words of wisdom Amy Carmichael’s mother shared with her when she found Amy in her room heart-broken. Amy had prayed that God would change her brown eyes to blue. When she awoke next morning and looked in the mirror, she was devastated to find He hadn’t.

Though Amy didn’t know why God said “No” then, many years later she found out: blue eyes would have made her missionary work in India as an adult nearly impossible.

Sometimes God says NO

This story came to mind as I stood listening outside the girls’ bedroom. They were happily playing house with little Meg as Rose’s “Mom”. An hour or so before, they had waltzed downstairs decked out as queen and princess.

Something I didn’t believe possible for years to come has already happened. Despite the four-year age gap, Meg and Rose are really good friends.

My thoughts drifted back to my pregnancy with Meg. Rose was already four and I foolishly thought it was just too much of an age gap for sisters to be close until they got older, so I wanted a brother for Will before another girl.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but when the ultrasound revealed a girl, I had a hard time blinking back the tears. Why hadn’t God listened to my prayers? I had such a perfect gender sequence planned out and this was not the right order.

Of course, those silly thoughts melted long ago. I cannot imagine having waited two more years for Meg’s sweet spunky spirit to fill our home, but I still thought it would be at least a decade before she and Rose were close friends.

As their happy giggles broke into my reverie, I realized just how much better God’s plan was than mine. Not only are Rose and Will fast friends, but already the friendship between the two girls is deepening and growing.

When God says “No”, He really does have a better way.

[The story of Amy Carmichael is from one of our favorite children's booksCan Brown Eyes be Made Blue?]

 May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeWalking Redeemed, & Graced Simplicity

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]