Archive for Hospitality

What 20 years of homeschooling has taught me

This summer I find myself re-reading some of the earliest books I ever read on home education. Turning the pages of these old friends makes me nostalgic.  My level of ignorance in the homeschooling department was matched only by my fear of pursing it in those early years.  I hardly knew how to parent, let alone, teach. These book mentors taught me so many principles that were not simply for “education” but for nurturing people.


In my ignorance, I was looking for the “right way” to teach English or Math, but God redirected me and taught me big picture stuff about reaching hearts before minds. I learned that education is a misnomer without nurture and I had five little image bearers to consider.

Let’s start at the very beginning.

You are educating a person and their personhood is worthy of respect and love. That’s what Susan Schaeffer MacCualey explains in For The Children’s Sake. She gets this truth from one of the core tenants of the Charlotte Mason method: children are born persons.

Children are born persons.

This principle that a child is a person and deserves respect as a fully functioning, capable person permeates the Charlotte Mason method.  Schaeffer explains that in order to truly educate a person, you have to respect them enough to give them excellent information and assume that they can digest, process, and draw their own conclusions based on that relationship with the idea.

So correct information alone is not enough.

Methodology Matters

A perfect curriculum in a toxic environment will “educate” a child as the school of hard knocks will educate surely enough. A stove that burns can educate a child. The facts might be correct but the methodology matters and must be right as well. We’ve all heard or lived the horror stories. Teachers who wield fear or humiliation as a weapon. I’ve seen it too many times to count. “Excellence” on the altar of results and the child’s personhood is sacrificed and spirit crushed.


If the atmosphere in the home or school is not filled with love and respect, then what exactly are you trying to teach the child? What’s the point?

Take a small child on your knee. Respect him. Do not see him as something to prune, form, or mold. This is an individual who thinks, acts, and feels. He is a separate human being whose strength lies in who he is, not in who he will become. If his choices made now and in the future are to be good ones, this person must understand reality and see the framework of truth. In the shorthand of language, we call this “knowing.” The child is a person who needs to grow in knowledge…

We are told by many in our generation that this small child is cog in a machine, or even that he is a possession like a pet animal. Many adults now “have” a child in the same way they “have” a washing machine or a collie dog.

We must answer: NO. You are holding a person on your knee, and that is wonderful…

Look well at the child on your knee. In whatever condition you find him, look with reverence. We can only love and serve him and be his friend. We cannot own him. He is not ours.

For The Children’s Sake, pg. 13

Trusting the Method

Looking back, I am so thankful I trusted the wisdom of Charlotte Mason and Susan Schaeffer MacCauley. And if you have young children, I’d encourage you to read For the Children’s Sake,  because no matter what type of education you pursue, the atmosphere must be conducive to the child flourishing. Institutions of learning that seek to control, conform, intimidate, bully, or simply don’t allow the freedom of thought apart from answering multiple choice answers is not nurturing a mind that is interested in the world around them. The WHY of education is as important as the WHAT of education.

What this looked like on a daily basis.

Now that my children are all older and I only have two students at home, I’m more convinced than ever that the Charlotte Mason method works beautifully. It’s a natural and nurturing approach to learning. It still requires careful work and rigorous reading, but it’s never shoved down a child’s throat.

Charlotte Mason wanted the child put in contact with the best books. Nothing dumbed down. First hand accounts and living books were a must. After short lessons, the child was to tell back what they learned from the interaction. She called this narration. It was the precursor to written and oral reports. She insisted that children be exposed to music, nature, and art, things that many children in 19th century London were deficient in. (Amazing that art is still seen as an extra in many schools today!) The goal was education as a life.

It gives me such joy to see my adult children pursue many areas of interest.

My oldest daughter (my homeschooling guinea pig, poor thing!) excels in calligraphy, creative homemaking, and practicing hospitality in her home.

Years of music practice (okay, violin practice was OFTEN painful!!), enjoyment, and exposure produced kids who were interested and who enjoy singing, composing, and practicing together on the piano, violin, or whatever instrument they pull out of the closet.

My son and husband landscape our home and make it beautiful for all of us. My younger daughters enjoy writing, decorating, art, nature, photography, etc…

Early Attempts Were Messy

In the early years, like learning to ride a bicycle, our artistic attempts were messy. Violin intonation was off, sketches were unrecognizable, muffins were burnt, tea cups were broken, milk was spilled, tempers flared, and table manners less than exemplary.



But every shared attempt was accepted, acknowledged, and appreciated as “relationship building.”

(One of my favorite memories is of Matthew as a cute toddler surprising me with a chubby little handful of my red geraniums that he had picked from my planters! Eek!)

If it’s shared, appreciate it, moms. (Your kids don’t have to share their ideas or attempts with you, you know. That’s a trust. Steward it well.)

Simple things are the big things.

Simple things like tea time or reading time allowed us to exchange ideas and see where our kids were coming from while enjoying great literature.

Small actions that showed care were encouraged. Cookies were baked, and lemonade squeezed. We oohed and ahhed over ideas and someones attempt at drawing.

Little by little, small interactions cement relationship norms, for good or for bad.

We encouraged family times and traditions. Decorating for holidays together. Traipsing through the woods for Christmas greenery and picking the perfect plaid ribbon for our front door.

We ate dinner nearly EVERY night, making time in our schedule because we believed dinnertime to be sacred.


Ideas were talked about and our values passed down around dinners of spaghetti or garlicky roasted chicken, or bowls of beef soup with LOTS of cheese. We spoke of God in terms of friendship and glory and goodness and read the Bible at the table with our kids.

Of course, our Christian worldview was the basis for all we did (and still do.) We prayed “Thy kingdom come” in general, yes! But we prayed “thy kingdom come” to our family specifically as we lived and honored the teachings of our Savior, Jesus Christ. (We are FAR from perfect so with seven sinners living under one roof and bumping into each other, we really needed grace and enablement and forgiveness many times a day!)

Hospitality was intentionally practiced so we could share our lives and hear stories from different people with different life experiences. Outsiders were always welcomed in.


We’d have missionaries stay with us for days or weeks and our kids would pour into their kids. By their teen years, our kids could entertain without us if someone dropped by. I recall coming home to Emily who had prepared and served shortbread and tea for grandma when she stopped over while I was out.

What does any of this have to do with education, you ask?

Nothing if you’re talking in terms of textbooks or SAT scores.

Everything if you are talking about nurturing children while they learn. Over 20 years of “home education” has taught me that education should be about life and should never suck the life out of children. Education should leave the child wanting to know more, wanting to care more, and interested in the world around them.

Additional books you might enjoy::

Educating the Wholehearted Child

Charlotte Mason: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning

What have you learned about homeschooling that you could share with our community?


*Next post, I’m going to talk about adding the arts to your day, even when you feel unqualified and artistically challenged.

**This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for reading and supporting my blog.


Family Photos and Updates

It’s been a while since I updated this space with family updates so this post will be news-y.

Our biggest life update is that our daughter Emily is engaged to be married to her childhood friend, Sam. Sam surprised her by proposing two days before she was scheduled to leave on a missions trip. Though they haven’t set a date yet, we’re excited for them. Also, please pray for Emily as she travels with the Musical Missions Team again this year.




18447218_10154466345245785_8847105110921616241_nMany have asked how things are going with our foster son. There are really no changes in our situation, but he is doing well and thriving.  He’s learning basic three year old stuff (no means no, whining isn’t acceptable, obey the first time, focus) but I’m also unlocking the pieces to his puzzle, and I’ve come to realize that this little guy is a quality time person who just loves to be right with people. His heart is reached through praise and he lights up as soon as you mention that he obeyed well, or colored well, or did a good job shooting hoops. (He’s in a home with 3 adoring teen girls who are constantly telling him how cute he is and doting over everything he does.) Please just pray for his little heart and that God would meet his every heart-felt need as time goes on.

I’ve been reading Adorned and highly recommend it and also,  The Friendships of Women at the recommendation of a friend. It’s excellent so far and has been liberating in a sense. In a world where women are told that we need to be like men, it’s been a great encouragement to use the gifts of intimacy and connection that women as nurturers generally possess. One statistic I didn’t know from the book: both men and women report feeling connected and encouraged when they spend time in the company of female friends over male friends. Hmm.



Do you find that you read in a certain place? Over the years my reading spot has changed from my couch to the bedroom, and now to this lovely old a chair that a friend gave me. I love opening the breezeway door and hearing the birds in the morning.


I’ve been enjoying my roses and love taking a few blooms inside to pretty up the table.


IMG_5650I also tried my hand at some moisturizer because my skin is changing and it’s hard to find a moisturizer that worked. I had heard so much about the Boom Stick makeup, so I looked at the ingredient list and tried to duplicate it. I REALLY love the way it makes my skin feel. I am “forcing” it on my sisters on Sunday because that’s what good sisters do, and if they like it, I’ll share my recipe here. If it burns or irritates their skin, I’ll post pictures of their “after” results.  JK



I entertained a few times this week and shared my scone recipe.


What are you reading? What creative pursuits have you tried your hand at this week? Are you planning a garden for summer? I’d love to hear your comments, or if you blog, drop your link so we can all visit your “home”.



Weekend Edition

My daughter got married last weekend, so this week has been purposefully quieter for me. I scheduled large chunks of time to catch up on my rest, read, go to the beach with the family, “do lunch” several times in Plymouth, and spend time with a few friends. We also had dinner company several times this week which is always fun and we celebrated my daughter, Emily’s 21st birthday with outings and shopping and lunch and good cake. It was just such an enjoyable week.

This week, we’re back to our normal pace–driving kids to work, play dates, errands, mentoring two younger women, getting ready for another homeschooling year–  but I feel refreshed and up to whatever God calls me to do.

Today, I thought I’d share a few pics from our week and a few links to resources that might refresh and encourage you.

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A little blurry from my iPhone but...

A little blurry from my iPhone but…

Beautiful beach at low tide. The kids love wading in the 12" skim of water and it's perfect for a toddler.

Beautiful beach at low tide. The kids love wading in the 12″ skim of water and it’s perfect for a toddler.

Delish appetizer at Anna's Harborside in Plymouth.

Delish appetizer at Anna’s Harborside.


Really enjoying this book. Love reading about Muller’s prayer life.

My hydrangea tree is in full bloom so my mantle will always have blooms. :)

My hydrangea tree is in full bloom so my mantle will always have blooms. :)

Have you read Delighted in God, the story of George Muller? He is famous for ministering for years and never taking a salary, but trusted God to provide for his needs through prayer.

“For George Muller, putting Biblical prayer principles into practice resulted not only in spectacular answers, but also a growth in an attractive personal holiness. Those who knew him spoke of a ‘smile which so habitually lit up his eyes and played over his features that he left its impress on the lines of his face’. And although he relished a joy which was wholesome and free from malice, nobody was inclined to engage in idle chatter in his presence. They sensed he walked with God.”

I was greatly encouraged to see the ever-important tool of Christian hospitality used to influence the life, ministry, and ideals of George Muller.  In Muller’s early years, as he was still figuring out what God wanted for him to do, he attended a church meeting and was greatly moved by one of the preachers. He said that he didn’t agree with everything the minister said, but he was struck with his earnestness. After the church service, he inquired about the pastor, and the pastor invited him to stay with him for ten days in his home. Mueller recorded, “Through the instrumentality of his brother the Lord bestowed a great blessing upon me, for which I shall have cause to thank Him throughout eternity.” It is said that this man’s 10 day hospitality influenced and shaped Mueller’s ministry.

I Thessalonians 2 talks about Paul’s ministry to the Thessalonians how he had the gospel in the forefront of his mind as he “was among them”, and how he modeled the way to live by his gentle, non-demanding demeanor that wasn’t out for self-glory, and how he was ready to not only share the gospel message, “our own selves.” 

I don’t know about you, but the women who have influenced me the most are the ones who spent time with me and talked through issues and life with me.

If you really desire to disciple anyone, it can’t be from an arms length distance. It’s not when you’re “not busy” or when it’s “convenient.” You don’t talk “at them.” It’s side-by-side, walking through life, giving of your time, so they can see your actions, reactions, traditions, lifestyle, and demeanor. And obviously, a godly lifestyle is the great qualifier for being an effective mentor. Someone who is full of great opinions or strong preferences but who lacks a godly testimony is not helping the cause of Christ. They’re actually making it look bad.

I know I’ve said this before, but your home is the perfect place to minister for the gospel and to encourage younger women to persevere and trust God. It’s one of the most underused tools in the church today and I was blessed to see how influential it was in the life of young George Muller.

Other links you might enjoy::

20 Things Every Married Woman Needs to Know via Joy Forney

This video from Dare for More Ministries on How to Deal with personal attacks.

Stop Saying “I Feel Like”

How Maintainers, Not Innovators, make the world turn.

To Spiritually Float is to Dangerously Drift

That’s about it. Have a great weekend. Let me know what articles you enjoyed and share them with us on our Facebook page or in the comments.

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate Links



The Grace Table

Today I want to talk about one of my favorite topics, hospitality, and the concept of stewarding our homes as grace-giving spaces where others find favor and kindness under our roof (or in our presence) whether they deserve it or not. I want us to envision our kitchen tables as little hospitals, thus hospitality, dispensing grace like medicine to anyone God sends our way.


I know that concept of hospitality can trigger stress. I know that. We immediately begin comparing and think of Martha Stewart. Though hospitality does include meeting the needs of others through work in a physical way, I want to assure you that a hospitable spirit is not something that we conjure up on our own. Rather, it’s the result of and the out-flowing of the unmerited gift of God’s abundant grace towards us. The word grace comes from the Greek charis, hence your kitchen table can become the grace table— the chari-table place for many acts of worship and service.

Here’s how it works: 

God —->freely gives us His unmerited grace—->we receive grace—->we respond to that grace—-> by freely give grace to others.

Grace begets grace.

I found it interesting in my study that another word stems from the Greek word for grace (charis)–the word gratitude. Have you ever noticed that the more alive to grace you are, the more humble you become and the more gratitude becomes your norm?

How can you do anything but PRAISE when you deserve death and hell by choice and action and instead get joint-heir status with the perfect, beloved Son of God? Completely justified. Just as if I’d never sinned. Just as if I’d always obeyed. Mind blowing and praise producing (gratitude!!) all wrapped up in one.

And when we forget what God has done, when we forget that we were the debtor who needed forgiveness, we set out to make our debtors pay. We set out to punish. We are blind, forgetting what kind of person we were. Complaining follows because ingratitude is always the response of someone who thinks they deserve more than they were doled out.

As Christians, God’s grace transforms our hearts, which transforms our speech, which gives us something worthwhile to say–words of gratitude to God– thanksgiving, praise, and glory-words that point others straight to Christ.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15

The sacrifice of thanksgiving—gratitude—the fruit of our lips.

Obviously, we are not under the Old Testament law, but this is a reference back to the OT sacrificial system, to what were known as “thank offerings”–purely voluntary offerings that could be made to show your heart felt gratitude for all the Lord has done in our lives. And this is what our praise is–voluntary acknowledgement of our great God.

Are you looking for opportunities to serve? Have you considered that you can become a conduits by which God’s grace flows through you to others who:

  • desperately need to see His goodness in an unkind world
  • don’t necessarily deserve or want our favor
  • oppose us
  • despite-fully use us
  • are unlovely and overlooked

Do you see people as sinners made in the image of God? Or do you judge them and categorize them, putting yourself on a little pedestal as you look down your nose at this different breed of sinner than you?

Do you see that heroine addict as a person made in the image of God who doesn’t know His love yet? Someone you might reach?

How about that homeless person? Do you assume all the worst about why he is where he is, or do you try to love him into the Kingdom of God, leading him by the hand?

As women, we have the unique opportunity to speak truth into the lives of other women who need hope and help. This can’t be done if God’s grace is not pulsing through your own spirit.

Our homes can have an impact, and they are one of the most underutilized tools in evangelism today. Invite someone in today.

If you have a kitchen table, or a coffee table, or a dorm room for that matter, I want to encourage you to use these things for the sake of the gospel. Your home can be a little chari-table spot, a bright light in this dark world where you can make a difference for Christ.

Favorite Things Friday

It’s been a while since I did a Favorite Things Friday edition. Did I mention that life has been just a bit busy? All last week was spent searching for a wedding venue for my oldest daughter. {We got one!} It was a tad overwhelming, but, you guys, I made an Excel spreadsheet for this purpose. Peter was surprised and a little proud as he is a spreadsheet kinda guy.

Also, we’re expecting a little snow this weekend, but it’s nothing compared to last year at this time. Remember this!?


What a difference a year makes. Did you realize that it has been one year since Addy’s surgery? She’s doing great by the way!

And, it dawned on me that I never shared “on the blog” that my daughter, Rebekah, got engaged over Thanksgiving to a great guy also named Peter (his website here). So, to remedy that, pictures! We took these at Harvard Yard. We are so excited for them!

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This week, I’m reading a pre-release copy of Sally Clarkson’s newest book,The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming. It’s available Feb. 2nd. This book is right up my ally. I’m only half way through but it has made me want to hug my kids a little tighter and it has given me “permission”–actually, an excuse–to do what I love which it to decorate and make the home a place where everyone wants to be. You can pre-order it, and there are several book studies that you can jump in to soon. Makenzie at Bold Turquoise is planning one, I know. I plan to review it during release week and Tyndale has agreed to do a giveaway here for my readers! Very excited for you guys!

Here are a few of my favorite things that you might also enjoy: enjoy:


Garlicky White Bean Soup from The Nourishing Gourmet. One of my favorite winter soups! Delish with french bread and blue cheese sprinkled on top!

If you’ve never made Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Bourguignon, you are in for a treat. This is THE best.  I made this for dinner this week and made a batch for a friend who just had a baby. She told me it was delish! Thanks, Ina!

We made one of our favorite addictive cookies this week: Molasses Sugar Cookies  Perfect with chai tea on a cold winter’s day. Here’s my DIY Just Like Dunkin Donuts Chai Tea Mix recipe, which is my most pinned recipe ever. Yum.


How to Choose Contentment Right Where You Are by Joy.

This article by Lore about Spiritual Depression: Men as Trees Walking and Being Honest About the Blurry Things. “What is the cure for [spiritual depression]? For the moment I shall give principles only. The first principle is evident: above everything else avoid making premature claim that your blindness is cured.” In the last few months, several women have told me about their lack of desire for anything, including the Word of God. Their honesty is a gift and will help them as they sort through this season. And, as always, God is in the gift–even if He allows a season of struggle.

How Comfort Food Poses As Spiritual Food. This is a great article to read if you are turning to food to fill needs that only God can fill.

This article on hospitality by Jen Wilkin was both humorous and helpful. Don’t wait until your home is perfect to extend hospitality and don’t allow false standards to discourage you from welcoming others into your home. Was it Shauna Neiquist who said that you could just wipe your coffee table off with a baby wipe and be good to go? I can’t remember. 😉 Anywho, she also has this sweet printable if you are interested.



This CamelBak Eddy Insulated Water Bottle is saving my skin right now. I find my skin is so dry if I don’t drink enough in the winter. This helps make it easy.

I’m also loving TAZO: Earl Grey Black Tea right now. Emily makes me a London Fog with the strongly brewed tea, frothed milk and vanilla. So good!

What are you reading this winter? What favorite products would you recommend? Are any of you planning your garden yet? Share in the comments and let me know what you’re up to!

*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links at no cost to you.



How I Plan and Prioritize My Weeks

Several of you have told me that you wish you could sit at my kitchen table and see how I plan our busy life so I thought I’d do a post about what that looks like.

For years I’ve used this Weekly Priority Printable that I made for myself.

It’s just to plan the HIGHLIGHTS of our week, not every little task. It’s also a reminder of our IDEALS–how we want to look back at how we spent our life. It’s a run-down of what God calls me to in Titus 2.


For instance, at the end of a week, I want to have spent time in God’s Word. That’s goal #1. I want to intentionally LOVE my husband and children. This includes meals, emotional support, and mutual spiritual encouragement.

I can’t tell you how many times this little sheet has helped me say “NO” to things that were fine and good, but not the best for our family–LIKE every week. It also helps me see the “ebb and flow” of our life–aka–when I’ve over committed myself and need to rest.

Basically, I set aside an hour a week to jot down my “plan.”

  • I print my guidelines.
  • I pray and ask God to guide me as I “plan” and to redirect my plans as He sees fit.
  • I then plan for my devotional time: what I’ll read and study in Scripture and what devotional books I’m going through. I keep an ongoing “What Do I Know about My God? notebook. I also keep a leather bound notebook for all of my Bible study,notes for teaching or speaking, notes from sermons, seminars, or quotes that impacted me.
  • I try to plan a time to connect with Peter. In this season of life it’s usually either a coffee time or just shopping or doing something mundane together so we can talk.
  • I then mark and plan for “special days” like birthdays or anniversaries.
  • I look at the flyers to make our weekly menu based on what’s on sale or in season.
  • I block out school times.
  • I note doctors appointments, weekly lessons or commitments that I have with the kids.
  • I plan to do something fun with the kids.
  • I plan to do good to someone God has put on my heart by either a phone call, note, visit, or coffee run.
  • I note our ministry schedule and plan to invite people in for fellowship/hospitality if our schedule allows.
  • I plan personal ministry times like blogging, encouraging a friend, watching a friend’s kids, “kitchen table counseling” as God gives me time.

When you write this all down, you’ll see right away where you are out of balance or too busy. As you look back, you’ll KNOW that you lived life according to your ideals instead of just living re-actively and haphazardly.

There you have it. Nothing elaborate, but it works for me.

How do you plan your weeks? Do you struggle to say no to good things so that you can live the best life you can? (I highly recommend Sally Clarkson’s Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love, one of my favorite books of 2015!) Feel free to share any great resources with me! I love to hear how you organize your life.


(*Post contains Amazon Affiliate Links at no cost to you.)

Two Favorite DIY Holiday Cheese Spreads

I had a group of friends over this week for fellowship and food and one thing they all had in common was their love for these cheese spreads: Garlic and Herb, and Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Cranberry Spread.


IMG_2577I love this recipe because it’s inexpensive and tastes as good, if not better, than the little tubs of Allouette Garlic and Herb cheese spread.

And the blue cheese cranberry goodness…you can’t get that one in the stores. :)

This is not as pricey as the little tubs, and makes twice as much. It’s a simple, quick treat when paired with crackers and grapes or sliced pears and apples. Enjoy!

To make both:

Combine 3 bricks (8 oz each) with one stick of butter until well blended.

Split mixture in half. You’ll use one half for each recipe below.

For the Garlic and Herb Pub Cheese,

Use one half of your cream cheese butter mixture, and add to it:

1 clove finely minced garlic, 1/2 tsp oregano, and 1/4 tsp each pepper, thyme and basil. Stir well. Let sit an hour to allow flavors to meld.

For the Blue Cheese spread

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/4 cup coarsely chopped Craisins

1/2 cups crumbled Blue Cheese

2T brown sugar

Process the nuts for about 10 seconds until finely chopped . (I use my Ninja for this. It’s my go-to kitchen tool. I hate lugging out the big food processor!)

Put the nuts aside.

Process the Craisins for 5 seconds–just a few pulses. (Or you can chop them with a knife.)

Use one half of your cream cheese mixture butter mixture and add the nuts, Craisins and blue cheese, sugar, stirring until smooth. Let sit for an hour to allow flavors to meld. (You can throw some extra chopped walnuts on the top to make it prettier.)

Serve with a variety of crackers.


Related Posts

Key Lime Cheeseball {Just Like Tastefully Simple’s}

Hospitality 101 {Quick and Easy No Cook Entertaining}

Keeping Traditions {Making Christmas Tags}

6 Money-Saving Tips for Throwing A Graduation Party

I love trying to save money, playing the CVS game, and have been inspired anew after reading Crystal Paine’s book Say Goodbye to Survival Mode.
(I loved Crystal’s story, by the way. Practical, inspiring and manageable.)

I had a thought. Not a deep one, mind you. But what if you needed an extra $100 dollars a month? There are 30 days in one month which means you’d need to make $3.30 per day of income. Then, I wondered, “How easy would it be to save that much money by clipping coupons?” I would need to find roughly 4 one dollar printable coupons per day on things I already buy. I think it’s doable! For any of you who are looking to pinch pennies, maybe this strategy would work for you as well?


Which leads me to my post. I’ve thrown two graduation parties so far and I’m sharing what I did. Nothing novel or new, but it might just help someone! :)

Six Smart Money-Saving Steps for Throwing a Graduation Party.

Graduation season is just around the corner! If you have a teen who is graduating high school, you likely have two big ticket expenses in your very near future: a graduation party and college bills. And while can’t help on the college bill, I can give you some money-saving tips for throwing a great graduation party without blowing your budget.

The key to staying within your budget is to plan way ahead. Last minute shopping puts you at the mercy of store prices, while planning ahead puts you in control of your budget and make you “Most Likely To Succeed.”

Here are six simple strategies to help you save:


1. Plan your menu early. Decide how simple or elaborate your event will be. Make a detailed list of appetizers, drinks, desserts, utensils, chairs, tents, and anything else you’ll need. This helps you avoid costly last minute surprises.

2. Choose low cost main dishes. $2/per pound is a great price for main dish meats like chicken, beef and ham. Here are some of my favorite inexpensive party meals:

  • Finger sandwich platters. Buy boneless chicken breast on sale for making chicken salad.
  • Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. Remember to use coupons for the hot dogs and buy ground beef when it hits its lowest price.
  • Pulled Pork BBQ. This easily feeds a crowd and whole pork loin is often on sale for $1.99/lb. The night before the event, grease a large crock pot, cut the pork loin in half, put it in the slow cooker and slather with bbq sauce. (I love Sweet Baby Rays. I use a whole bottle.) Cook all night on low. In the morning, shred it, discard any fat, add more sauce and put in tin serving trays. Cover until ready to serve. Warm in oven before serving.
  • Lasagna or Stuffed Shells. Assemble ahead and freeze.
  • Chicken, Broccoli and Ziti Bake.  Delicious served with grated Romano, Ceasar Salad and garlic bread. Yum!
  • Spiral Ham. Plan to buy around Easter when the prices drop.


3. Shop for non-perishables now.  Decide what appetizers you’ll make and begin using coupons to stock pile things like crackers, juice for punch, soda, coffee, chips, pickles, condiments, paper goods, etc. Don’t forget to use coupons for any brownie mixes, cake mixes, or baking supplies you’ll need.

4.  Save money on printed invitations by watching coupon sites for photo deal alerts.  Many sites have great deals on photo printing around Easter. Use a photo of your child, insert text and party information— you’re good to go.

5. Beg, borrow or steal props. (Okay, don’t steal.) Ask family and friends to borrow folding chairs, shade tents, table clothes, crock pots, or even decor. Nobody will mind lending a hand.


Peter made this 9-Square-In-The-Air for the kids out of PVC pipe and rope. It was a hit.

Peter made this 9-Square-In-The-Air for the kids out of PVC pipe and rope. It was a hit.


6. Decorate Well. Even if your menu is simple, the atmosphere of a party is important. Simple, inexpensive decorations will pull your party together and make the day extra festive. Some ideas:

Cans wrapped with twine or colorful yarn. Easy, beautiful.

My friend, Julie, wrapped these cans with twine and colorful yarn. Easy, beautiful.


  • Candles displayed in Mason jars–especially gorgeous at dusk!
  • Flowers tucked into old cans which have been wrapped with colorful yarns.
  • Well-wishes scribbled on an old chalkboard.
  • Childhood photos pinned to a running clothesline. Make sure to include old pictures of your family and friends with your child. It’s fun to remember old times with people you love, and they appreciate being remembered, too.
  • White christmas lights hung in tree branches.

Other tips: 

  • A pitcher of ice water with sliced lemons or oranges are perfect (and pretty!) on a hot day when people are thirsty.
  • Make ice ahead and freeze in ziplock bags. You won’t have to buy ice that day.
  • Ask a camera-savy friend to photograph the day for you. You’ll want to have pictures of the day for that baby book. 😉
  • Buy a journal and ask your guests to pen a few lines of advice to the graduate. This makes a wonderful keepsake.

Don’t forget tissues. You’re gonna need them! :) You get all emotional thinking about them leaving for college. Trust me on this one.


20 Easy, Inexpensive, Warm-Weather Ways to Entertain

Spring and summer are some of the best times to entertain and show hospitality. As the warm weather comes, you can move your party outside and enjoy warm evenings together. Casual barbecue dinners, sitting in the sunshine sipping lemonade with friends or more elegant dining on the patio with votive candles a-twinkling make this my favorite time of the year for hospitality!20 easy ways to entertain lemonade

But, the best kind of entertaining happens when we aren’t frazzled when guests arrive. Gourmet cooking might be your passion, but for the rest of us, I humbly offer these easy ideas that are perfect for the warmer weather that’s ahead of us!

1. Simple Chips and Salsa:  Find pretty linen napkins that you love. Line a basket with the colorful cloth, fill to the brim with warm tortilla chips and serve with my dad’s amazing salsa recipe here.

2. Soda Floats: In the summer, make root beer floats and serve them with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and a fun striped straw.

3. Movie Night: Initiate a movie night. This is especially great for families with little kids. The kids sit and watch the movie and munch popcorn while the grown ups gab in the kitchen.

4. Game Night: Invite some couples over for some favorite board games and serve simple brownie ice cream sundaes. You can use muffin tins to bake individual brownies in. While they are still warm, push the middle down to form a small indent for ice cream.

5. Pizza Night: Make your own pizza night. Make or buy pizza dough, and let everyone make their own pizza. The toppings are endless: pepper, onion, mushrooms, pepperoni, etc…

6. Coffee Double Date: Dessert and coffee with friends. (Or if you are in the north, iced coffee with friends!)

7. Cheese and Fruit Tray: Make an artisanal cheese and fruit platter. Serve ice tea in stemware and you’ve got an easy table assortment that everyone will pick at while you talk.

8. Use your crock pot. Crock pot meals take the last minute pressure off you as a hostess, and is usually forgiving if guests are late.

9. Frozen Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough: Keep chocolate chip cookie dough in the freezer so you can pull them out in a pinch when company drops in unexpectedly.

10. Soup and Salad: Have a soup and salad get together. Ask each family to bring a different soup. You provide the salad and rolls. Easy.

11. Play Date: Have a young moms play date. Ask the moms to bring snacks for their own kids since they usually have a preference as to what they eat, and you focus on the adult snack. Child proof your house so the moms can relax.

12. Casual Brunch: Have friends over for a casual brunch. Homemade waffles topped with fresh fruit, sausage, orange juice and coffee.

13. Grill Out: Invite friends over for burgers on the grill. Make a platter of toppings like lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion, pickles, bacon, etc. In the warm weather, sit outside and place a candle on your table for atmosphere as the sun goes down. Grill corn on the cob. Delish.

14. Share a slice of your life: When Rebekah came home from her missions trip, we had several couples over for snacks and to view her trip pictures. We shared stories and enjoyed Christian fellowship.

15. Last Minute Meet Up: Initiate a meet-up at the park, beach or local attraction with other moms with young kids. Pack your own lunches, spread a blanket and enjoy the company.

16. Pretty Presentation, but all Pre-Made. You can find so many delish goodies at places like Trader Joe’s.  Again, use your ninja display skills to make something simple look elegant. Crackers topped with mild brie cheese and fruit jam, heat and serve hors d’oeuvres, store bought bruschetta on french bread, brie and cranberry wrapped in phyllo dough.

17. Beach Trip: If you like near the ocean, pack up the kids and a lunch and meet friends for a fun days of sand and sun. (the kids play beautifully at the beach and moms can talk!)

18. Taco Bar: Make your own tacos with all the fixings. Easy and inexpensive and kids love to make these.

19. Baked Potato Bar: Purchase large baked potatoes, bake and serve with lots of toppings including sour cream, cheese, chives, bacon, chili, or whatever you love.

20. Potluck BBQ: Everyone brings their own meat to grill and something to share: baked beans, potato salad, strawberry summer salad, or whatever you love. If you have a large party, ask them to bring their own lawn chairs as well. You provide drinks, plates, meat for your family and something sweet for dessert. Easy way to entertain a crowd.

When you have kids over, consider putting out bubbles, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes or other age appropriate toys that they can enjoy while the adults chat. It makes it easier for the parents and more interesting for the kids.

What are your favorite ways to entertain in the warm weather? Feel free to share in the comments!


Hospitality 101: Quick and Easy: No Cook Entertaining {pt.1}


It’s simply opening your home to others, sharing what you have and being accessible to people.  It means coming out of your comfort zone for a purpose (the gospel) and answering God’s call to “show hospitality without grudging” to one another with a smile.

When we share a meal with someone, there is a closeness that is assumed. You’ve put yourself into a posture of friendship and are showing acceptance. (vs. the coldness of people who are not speaking and would never eat a civil meal together. Think holiday dinners in a family that can’t stand each other. Or consider the racism of the 1950’s where restaurants would announce on the door, “Blacks not Welcome or Served.”) Jesus broke all racial and economic barriers when he ate with publicans and sinners, Jews and Gentiles alike. We see Jesus purposefully eating with the downtrodden of his day and the Pharisees raising their holier than thou eye brows at him.

For whatever reason, food cooked and shared with another person in your home invites intimacy and shows acceptance.

Tim Chester in his book A Meal With Jesus makes the point that the Son of Man…

  • came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
  • came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
  • came eating and drinking.” (Luke 7:34)
The Son of Man came…eating and drinking. Is this significant? I believe it is.

Someone has said that all throughout scripture we see Jesus either going to a meal, eating a meal, or coming from a meal. In heaven, we’re promised a banquet, a marriage supper. Food is essential to the body, and meets basic needs, but it also weaves a beautiful fabric of community in unlikely places. Food and table fellowship shows unity and oneness. Think of the special moments of your life, and you’ll probably associate at least some of them with food and drink.

I can remember being a frazzled young mom and going to an older woman’s home for lunch. I can’t remember what she served, but she’d have her Bible on the table, and we’d talk about life, and scripture and husbands and kids. The simple treats she served promoted friendship, love and trust. It also was a true ministry to me.

This article on the historic and Biblical aspects of hospitality is too good to not read. God’s people Israel were sojourners. They were wanderers and pilgrims. God met their needs through a nomadic lifestyle. New Testament Christians where often times displaced because of persecution, and depended on the goodness and help of strangers. We are called strangers and pilgrims as well, a reminder that this world is not our final home. Perhaps that’s why God insisted that Israel’s judges deal fairly with the sojourner and alien in the midst of Israel and why God commanded certain laws of protection for the sojourner, giving them the same protection as the widows or fatherless.

So, how can you cultivate a heart for hospitality?

1. Ask God to go with you as you “do hospitality.”  Any ministry will be an abysmal failure if we “go it” alone. When we do good things for the wrong reasons or in our own strength, we’re setting ourself up for burnout, failure, frustration or works that are called “wood, hay, or stubble” in the final analysis. Ask God to lead you when you open your home. Follow Him instead of running ahead of Him.

2. Pray for someone to help, but then be open and joyful when God sends you someone. Be flexible and aware that God is working and that you are an instrument in His hands.

3. Start with what you have. You don’t need to run out and buy new table cloths, candles, glassware, etc…

One of my favorite teachers, Jim Berg, always gives the analogy that God gives us our daily “mana” (daily blessings, trials, conditions, situations, posessions) like he gave it to the children of Israel. He not only gives us what he wants us to have, but he “regulates” our use of it.(like he gave laws about collecting the mana to Israel.) In short, God gives all things and regulates our use of all things. He cares about our attitude when we get His gifts (even when they seem like a trial) and He expects that we’ll use them lawfully, not sinfully or for our own glory or flesh.

So think about it: What has God given you? An apartment? An extra room? A dorm room? A teapot? A tea cup? Use what you have to bring God glory and to encourage or help another person.

Your home doesn’t have to be spotless, but it should be generally orderly and comfortable. I love Money Saving Mom’s free “2-Hour House Cleaning Checklist”.  I’ve used it many times! :)

Simple Ways to Start: {Hint, Don’t Cook!}

1. Consider asking someone over for tea, coffee or lemonade. You can start simple with a plate of store bought tea cookies.

2. Serve ice tea and chips and salsa. You can make a fresh salsa the day before and it is world better than store bought.

Here’s my dad’s recipe for fresh salsa. Some say it’s the best in the world. :)

Dad’s Fresh Salsa

3 lbs. fresh tomatoes, diced into 3/8″ pieces

2 (14 oz) cans Hunts petite diced tomatoes, drained

1 large vidalia onion, diced

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and diced

1/2 pkg fresh cilantro, no stems, chopped

1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained

1 T. oil

vinegar to taste (about 2T-4T)

salt and pepper

1 tsp. crushed basil

1 cup Heinz ketchup (yes, I know it sounds gross, but it’s not. Trust.)

Mix all in a large mixing bowl and refrigerate for 1 hours. Serve with nacho chips. Best salsa you’ve ever had. You can’t stop eating it. :)

3. My favorite: Cheese platters.

Cheese plate

Having cheese and crackers on hand has saved me I don’t know how many times from having nothing to serve guests who pop in! Good cheese can become expensive, but it actually proves economical if you are having company several times in one week, this is a great quick and easy way to entertain.

You’ll need a nice platter or wooden cutting board, enough to fit your cheese on, without crowding.

I typically use four cheeses, because they are easily available at my Walmart: Gouda, smoked cheddar, French Brie and a rich blue cheese. (You can use whatever you prefer.) I place the cheese in cut wedges, and fill in the remaining area with a mixture green and red grapes or other fresh fruit that I have on hand like a handful of blueberries or sliced apple, then place almonds, figs and Craisins in little groups around the fruit. Artfully arrange and serve with an assortment of crackers on the side, and you’re done! Easy and elegant.

Ina Garten has a lovely tutorial in her cookbook which can be found online here.

 Of course, quick and easy platters can come in any form:

Fruit platters: watermelon, grapes, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, artfully arranged.

Antipasto platter: cluster red cherry tomatoes, olives, mozzarella balls drizzled with olive oil, cheese and hot pepper flakes, breadsticks wrapped in priscutto, folded salami, marinated artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms, rustic bread rounds.

These are all things that can be bought in advance and set up in about ten minutes.

What about you? What are your favorite ways to feed people on short notice? Who can you invite in this week?