Monday, April 29, 2013

IJM Update

Hi friends! Just a couple of days left in our Make a Difference for Freedom: IJM campaign. I didn't mention before that I have a good friend who works on the front lines at this organization. He is a former undercover cop, who is using that knowledge and experience to investigate these criminal cases and rescue women and children from horrific bondage. I thought it would be cool to let you know a couple of things that happened this month while we were talking about and giving to IJM.

Early in the month we started getting some updates from the family of our friend, saying an assignment was underway and prayers were appreciated. It was almost a week of continued requests; real-time updates, "Things are happening, please keep praying for safety for the team, and for no tip-offs..."

Then finally this article. The mission was a success! Now it will go on to court as the exceptional legal team puts together all the incriminating evidence to bring about a just sentence.

Just last week I got this update from the IJM facebook page:

Breaking: IJM Cambodia helped rescue girls from 3 brothels. Trafficking survivors safe in good shelter. Suspects arrested, brothels CLOSED. 

Our friend was involved in this assignment as well. Other missions are going on around the world as you read this, but it was amazing to me just to know the awesome work accomplished this month through just one of IJM's investigation and rescue teams. It is an honor to give to this organization and be a tiny part of the good they are doing.

As of right now we have raised $1,000! That money can pay for:

  • 22 days of undercover investigations  OR
  • 8 days of after care for all three of the girls rescued this month  OR
  • 2 weeks of legal advocacy 
I'm so excited that we reached the $1,000 goal! I think it would be even cooler if we could raise another $360. That would mean together we paid for an entire month of investigation! There's a few days left, so if you still wanted to be part of making a difference in April, head over here to give and help us fund a full month of investigation!

After this month you can always find out more and donate at You can also get exciting updates by following IJM on facebook or Twitter.

I'll leave you with one more amazing story from IJM. These stories are both hard to hear and a great picture of God's love for each person and the lengths He goes to to pursue us when we are lost. I'm so glad IJM didn't give up on Suhana. Each young child trapped in this nightmare deserves to be rescued at all costs. We can help make these stories possible!

Ray of Hope

Thanks to everyone who donated to IJM this month, YOU made a difference. Thanks also for taking the time to read my blog and learn more about International Justice Mission.

Have a fantastic day!!
- Haley

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Edible Painting

Just one more reduce, reuse, recycle post to share for now. Another way to reduce waste is just to use things you already have instead of buying something new. For instance, using stuff from the kitchen instead of buying art supplies. I wrote last year about how to carve fingerling potato stamps. Which is really fun and easy, but you can use any kind of fruit or vegetable, or even just left over scraps, sneaking in one more use before you compost them. We tried carrots, celery stick, celery base, and a broccoli base with red and yellow finger paint.

The boys had fun stamping in the paint. By the way, did you know that you can grow celery by just planting the cut-off base? I didn't. We are totally trying this. Check out how at The Burlap Bag.

As I looked at this, I couldn't help thinking those paints looked a lot like ketchup and mustard, which gave me an even better idea...

I raided the fridge for different colored dips.

I used food coloring to turn the ranch blue and the mayonnaise green.

I let Thing One use the veggies to do some stamping.

Then I gave him a tortilla and some basting brushes and let him paint a snack.

Since chocolate was on the palette, he didn't really agonize over the painting part, he was just excited to eat it. He did ask for more things to paint though once the chocolate was gone. This activity took up most of an hour, which for us is pretty long!

Thing Two also got a palette of edible paint, but rather than try to make it a disaster an art project, I just sliced a piece of bread into cubes and let him dip and eat all the colors. It sounds kind of gross, but I think he liked trying all the different colors and flavors, because he didn't really know what to expect. Hope your day is full of color and trying new things!

Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Sharing this @ All For The Boys

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Composting 101

Since it's earth day, let's talk about dirt! A few years ago we decided to start composting. Since we were buying compost to add to our gardens every spring, and we throw away plenty of food scraps we thought we should at least give it a try. Now it's so natural I can't imagine not doing it. Maybe you already compost, but if you don't I thought I'd give you the quick low down on how easy it is. 

First, what kinds of food can and can't be composted? Basically anything with fat or grease can NOT be put in the compost: no meat, cheese or oil. We also don't put any breads or grains, since those also attract animals. We DO compost any fruit or veggie peels, pulp, stems, or any that has gone bad (a rotten strawberry or some slimy spinach--throw it in!). Egg shells are great and add needed calcium to the soil, and I've already mentioned this is where our coffee grounds go (unless you're up for a spa treatment). We have learned that if you put a lot of seeds in the compost you will get a lot of seedlings everywhere you spread the compost, so we try not to compost scraps that contain a lot of seeds (like tomato guts and pepper cores). When we first started we were just throwing the food scraps in a plastic strawberry carton but then my mom got us a compost bucket, which is definitely the way to go. 

The top has air vents and a thick filter so air can get in and out but not the smell. We never smell anything, even though this is usually half full of rotting scraps. It's easy to rinse out after emptying, so you can start clean every time.

We made a wood frame in the back corner of the yard for our compost pile. Before adding compost we broke up the dirt under the frame so it would have some looser soil to start with.

 The key to good compost is creating a balance of "wet" and "dry" ingredients. Food scraps are wet, and yard waste (like grass clippings, dry leaves) are dry. Use a shovel to turn the pile over and sift it around a little once or twice a month, just try to keep it loose and airy. Air is your friend! 

We don't compost in the winter, because it's too cold to make trips to the compost pile and too cold for stuff to break down anyway. So we stop after the weather turns really cold, but we still turn over the pile during the winter...on warmer days. Finally in the spring, we use a wire screen to sift it out over a wheel barrow.

The stuff that looks like dirt gets used, and the bigger stuff that's sifted out gets put back into the pile to continue breaking down. The best part is that it's free! Which is great because as any gardener can tell you "cheap as dirt" is totally inaccurate. Good dirt is expensive. We mix this into all the gardens, and then they are ready to plant. Compost is full of nutrients and great for growing veggies, which we will peel and then put those peels in the compost, and then in the spring...well you get the idea. Anyway, between composting and recycling we really don't throw away nearly as much as we used to. Pretty much saving the planet over here. : )

Thanks for reading!

**Don't forget, we are standing for freedom this month. Read here. Change lives here. Thank you!!**

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Earth Day Party

I thought it would be fun to host "an Earth Day party." Thing One loved the the idea; probably because it sounded so much like "a birthday party," anyway who doesn't love a party? I wanted to use recycled materials and do earth-friendly crafts. I like to celebrate Earth day not as a tribute to the planet, but to the One who formed it, in all it's beauty, and entrusted it to us.
For the beauty of the earth,
For the glory of the skies;
For the love which from our birth,
Over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.
           -Folliott S. Pierpiont (1864)

Here's our Earth (play)Day:

I saved up recyclables for quite a while in anticipation. I wanted to use yogurt containers for the kids to start seeds in.

I covered them with a piece of scrapbook paper, secured with double sticky tape,

or wrapped with colorful duct tape. Of course you can just use them as is, but I thought a tiny bit of paper or tape was so easy and made them so much more cheerful.

I cut gallon milk jugs apart. The bottoms became saucers for the planters. I cut a slit in the bottom of each yogurt cup with an exacto knife. Once they were filled with dirt I turned a scissors blade in the slit to expand the slit into a small drainage hole.

The top of the milk jugs became many things. I intended for the kids to use them with plastic eggs or balls to play that scoop and catch game (where you flip the ball out of scoop and the other person catches it with theirs). Thing One can actually catch it sometimes, it's great coordination practice. The kids however thought these made great hats! Too funny.

I had seen these cookie cutter bird feeders at Eighteen25. They were a great preschool activity, the kids just squished the gelatin bird seed into their chosen cookie cutter.

They have to dry overnight, but then you can push them right out, and hang them on your favorite tree.

Then we let the kids choose their containers to plant in and fill them with dirt. They got to choose between green beans, purple beans, or wildflower to plant. 

I soaked the beans for a couple of hours before they planted them, because that's supposed to help them sprout faster.

Once the seeds were all tucked in the dirt, the kids used a cleaned out dressing bottle to water them. This worked great because it comes out in a little stream instead of all over. Plus it was just another thing from the recycle bin. I had cleaned it out thinking it would make a great "water gun" for Thing Two this summer. He's going to have to defend himself from Thing One and I don't think he'll be wielding a squirt gun just yet, but I'm sure he can squeeze this and get something out of it, so it might be enough to at least hold Thing One at a distance!  : ) Anyway it turns out it also makes a good watering can!

We had some lunch and ended with an earth cookie-cake. This is my favorite way to bake cookies. I use the Nestle Toll House recipe, (plus high altitude changes) and just divide it between two round, greased cake pans. Bake for 20 minutes instead of 8 and you have two giant cookies. It's so much faster and easier than regular cookies I have a hard time making them by the spoonful anymore. Plus they turn out soft and chewy every time. My friend frosted it to look like earth.

And we finished up our earth day party, watching The Lorax. It was fun, and always good to get together with friends. But I will say when I planned this mid-April party I did envision us outside, the kids playing in the grass and dirt--you know, enjoying nature. 

Instead we were inside because the great outdoors looked like this. Yes, welcome Spring, how happy we are to see you; how thankful for your warmth. 

I hope you all have a great weekend and maybe do something fun for Earth Day, whatever the earth around you looks like right now.

With all that's happened this week: be safe, and be strong, friends.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
2 Corinthians 4:8

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Garden Decorating

While it is still too cold here to start planting, it's not too early to start working on the garden. I'm indecisive when it comes to interior decorating. It took us about seven years to start hanging things on the walls. Outside though, is a different story. I think it's much easier to bring the garden together, because it doesn't take much; well it didn't take me much. : ) I told you about my red fence. I liked it so much I decided to make it a theme.

We put a mini version in our strawberry patch.

 I found some metal lanterns at the dollar store and also painted them red.

Another section of the mini fence went against our shed to make a back drop for three large pots we added last year.

And we rounded out the red with two large red planters for our patio area. Everywhere you look is a little glimpse of bright red. I think it makes it feel like it all goes together.

Seeing the garden green and growing in these pictures make me so anxious to start planting. Hopefully soon...right after this next snowstorm.

Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Homemade Coffee Scrub

Remember when I told you how to make the best iced coffee at home? Well, as the weather turns warmer, we start to drink all our coffee iced--which means we have a lot of coffee grounds at once. After you soak the grounds for 12 hours to make toddy, you drain the coffee concentrate, but even after squeezing the last precious drops out, the grounds remain very moist because they have soaked so long.    Usually we dump the grounds in our compost pile, but you can also make a great, (almost free) exfoliating hand (and foot) scrub. As long as you like the smell of coffee. Other coffee scrubs I found all use a lot of sugar, like any other sugar scrub, but the beauty of using coffee is that it is already fine, yet rough, perfect for exfoliating. So there's really no need to add sugar. That said, here's my simple coffee scrub recipe:

Exfoliating Cinnamon Coffee Scrub

1 cup used coffee grounds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp water

Start with the used coffee grounds. Mix in the ground cinnamon. You can leave out the cinnamon if you don't like it or replace with any ground spice you like. The spices just help temper the strong coffee scent. You can experiment with adding other scents (cloves? orange zest? rosemary?). Drizzle the grounds with olive oil and mix. Continue to add oil until the grounds have a glossy look rather than matte (about a tablespoon). Scrub will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for two weeks or so. Stir before using as oil will settle to the bottom.

To use the scrub: wet hands, then massage 1-2 tablespoon of the coffee scrub thoroughly over hands. Rinse, then pat dry, and massage remaining oil into hands. Then enjoy your soft, naturally moisturized skin! I've also read that since coffee contains so much caffeine you can even experience the awakening affects through your skin. Now that's an afternoon pick me up!

Sit back, enjoy your City Girl Iced Coffee and your soft hands and give the money you didn't spend at Starbucks or the Spa to IJM. : ) Read about our stand for freedom this month here

Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Play-doh Plants

Howdy! I hope you had a great weekend! We enjoyed the sun, worked in the garden, and are now bracing for possibly a foot of snow in the next day or so. Fabulous. I heart global warming, for sure. Speaking of the globe, I said I wanted to have kind of a reduce, reuse, recycle theme this month, with Earth Day coming up and all. Of the three I feel like "reuse" gets neglected most, so today I have a new use for something you have no doubt thrown away (or recycled) at some point; play-doh cans.

Of course it's easy to make your own play-doh at home, so when your old dough dries out you could just refill the cans with a homemade version, or you can follow these steps for cute, colorful flower pots.

Start with empty play-doh cans. Turn them over and punch a hole in the bottom for drainage. I found a screw driver worked perfectly for this. 

Next you want to do a few bands of hot glue on the bottom to connect the container to the top of the top. The top will serve as a saucer, so you need to leave space for the water to drain out. This means make sure not to glue all the way around. 

Once the container is glued to the top, fill with dirt, and plant your seeds. We choose wildflower for the tiny ones and peas for the regular size.

Pretty soon, you'll have some happy sprouts.

Just keep them inside until the snow melts. : ) Have a great week!

- Haley

**Don't forget, we are standing for freedom this month. Read hereGive here. Thank you!!**

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Fun with Crayons

Since Earth Day is in April I thought I would share some reuse and recycle crafts and activities this month. I like the old adage "waste not want not," so I'll be sharing some crafts that give used things a second chance. First up: crayons. We do a fair amount of coloring around here.

When our crayons break or are too small to safely use around Thing Two, we peel them and throw them in a container. 

When we have enough, I chop them up, Thing One sorts them and we melt them into cool new crayons.

We've tried both varying shades of each color, for solid color crayons, or sometimes we mix all the colors together.  I've seen these multicolor crayons for sale in the stores and I always wonder why you would pay $4-5 for one when they are so easy to make with old crayon pieces. There's two ways to make your own molded crayons: oven or stove. If you want a marbled look of a single color or you want to have a multi color crayon, the oven is the way to go. 

Oven Method:
  • place chopped crayon pieces in a heat-proof silicone mold
  • line a baking sheet with foil
  • place the mold on the foil-lined pan and heat at 300ยบ for 10-15 minutes or until completely melted 
  • remove from heat and let sit for five minutes, then if you want to speed  the cooling you can put the mold in the freezer for 30 minutes or until cold. 
  • gently pop the new crayons out of the mold and enjoy!

I like the oven method, because it is not messy or fussy and there's less of a chance of getting burned. Once you've melted crayons in the mold you should set it aside for craft use only, don't use these for food later. : )

Sylicone molds don't come in every shape and size, but candy molds do. However, candy molds are usually plastic and not oven-safe, so you have to melt the wax and then just pour it into the mold. So if you want to make a specialty shape you have to use the stove method. If you want to see step by step how-to you can check out Homemade by Jill's blog post here, she made some awesome race car crayons. In a nut shell here's how:

Stove Method:

Use a clean tin can as a double boiler in a small pot of simmering water. Since you melt down the crayons all together, the colors you put in will all mix into one color. So if you want lots of different colors you have to have lots of tin cans and melt them one at a time or multiple pots of water. Also the tin can is obviously super hot, so you have to be really careful as you pour the wax into the molds. We got these cars and tea pots/cups at a couple different birthday parties, and we made the dinosaurs. A friend did say that not all crayons melt down the same. They tried a batch using only free restaurant crayons and it didn't work out well, so try to make sure you have at least some good ones (Crayola or RoseArt) in there to hold them together.

I remember having some Care Bear shaped crayons when we were little and there was something so cool about using a crayon that was something other and just a crayon. It's a fun project and a great way to use up crayons that we would otherwise throw away. Need an art project idea for all your new crayons? Try doing this mosaic method. I think there's a special term for these but I can't remember it. Anyway, the boys love it when we tape a big piece of paper to the floor and I draw crazy squiggles with a black crayon and then Thing One and Thing Two fill in each space with a different color. It's great practice for coloring in the lines without being too intricate and I love how it looks in the end. By doing in on an oversized paper and on the floor we can all work on the piece together and no one is fighting over table space. 

May your world be colorful today, friends. And may you add a little color someone else's. : )
Thanks for reading!
- Haley

**Don't forget, we are standing for freedom this month. Read here. Give here. Thank you!!**

Monday, April 1, 2013

Make a Difference: International Justice Mission

Hi Friends! I am so excited to share this Make a Difference post with you. It has been so fun over the last year to connect with people from across the country and around the world here on my little blog. Even though we may never meet, I feel like we are on the same team, and this month, together we can make a difference. I hope that you will join in to celebrate the awesome things happening through the International Justice Mission. Here's a little about what they do, then I'll tell you what WE can do this month to be part of this amazing, life-changing work!

Over the past few years, lots of organizations have been bringing light to the fact that  slavery is a reality for for millions around the world right now.  I am so thankful for the amazing work of the International Justice Mission standing up against human trafficking around the world. Here's a few facts from IJM's web site.
  • Each year, nearly 2 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade. (UNICEF)
  • Right now an estimated 27 million men, women and children are held as slaves. (Kevin Bales, Disposable People)
  • Trafficking in humans generates profits in excess of 32 billion dollars a year for those who, by force and deception, sell human lives into slavery and sexual bondage. (IJM)

In so many countries this kind of evil goes unpunished and seems unstoppable. This is where IJM comes into play, not only rescuing exploited women and children, but prosecuting the perpetrators, for an outcome of justice. Of course they can't take away the pain that's been inflicted, but they can offer counseling and hope and be sure that these same offenders can not harm others in the future, by fighting for the convictions and punishment that they deserve for their crimes. Sex trade is not the only kind of slavery that IJM works to end. In many countries poor families find themselves with no where to turn, and get trapped in debt bondage for even the smallest loan or debt. IJM helps to rescue families around the world who are being forced to work in debt bondage.

What IJM does is working. In the last four years they've reported this progress:
  • More than 2,000 children, women and men have been freed from slavery 
  • More than 800 women and children have been rescued from forced prostitution 
  • More than 300 individuals have been arrested for trafficking-related offenses 
  • More than 1,000 widows and orphans have returned to homes or land stolen from them 
  • More than 2,500 have received their rightful documentation of citizenship or elevated legal status
I dare you to watch this video without getting goose bumps...

So, here's where we come in: IJM is doing a special campaign to celebrate their 15th birthday. View the Ever Never Again: Make a Difference for Freedom page here. I have set a goal of $1,000. Can we do it? Here's what IJM can do with every dollar we raise:

$45 covers the cost of one day of undercover investigations. 
$240 covers the cost of six days of aftercare for a victim. 
$455 covers the cost of seven days of legal advocacy. 
$2,540 covers the cost of operations for one day in an IJM field office. 
$4,500 covers the cost of one rescue operation for victims of sex trafficking or forced labor slavery. 
$18,500 covers the annual cost for an IJM national lawyer to advocate for the oppressed.

It's a privilege to be part of this work. Thank you so much for reading, and for standing together for freedom! Click here to donate and make a difference today. I will keep you updated, and hope that we can reach our goal of $1,000 by the end of April! Go team! : )
- Haley

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