What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Friday, January 09, 2015


Frigid winter days.

I lament, scorn and resent those moments this past fall when I contemplated purchasing a gas insert for the living room but was too much of a skinflint to actually do it.   This non-insulated old house atop a hill whipping in winds of -20 is no pleasant place to be during bitter winter days (and nights).  An inefficient woodstove down in a nasty old farmhouse basement doesn't really cut it.   Right now I have on a shirt, two sweaters and a coat and the tip of my nose still threatens at breaking off.  (Is it still there?)

Our bedroom, being the coldest of all bedrooms upstairs and three stories away from our only heat source, is hardly a welcoming place to lay our weary bones at night.   Our nightly ritual is thus:  Matt and I run quivering into bed and hastily squirm down low, closing off the opening of cold air and hiding our heads under the five quilts that cover our bed while we talk in shivery, quivery voices until our confined breath finally begins to warm us.   Those brave enough (me) take off clothes while writhing under the covers...those not so brave (Matt) threaten that not a speck of cold air can come in while writhing is occurring.

I always like to have ice water next to my bed for when I wake up thirsty and in the morning- the ice is still in a nice tidy cube.

In winter, though I love to read in bed, I can't convince my arms and fingers to be exposed to the bedroom air for any length of time so my reading is done instead during the day, standing by the woodstove or, if I am lucky, in the arms of a tired and napping Matt.

Best place.

In. The. World.

On second thought- it is a rather pleasant place after all.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Resolved: 2015


      If I were to 'name' the year or give it a word, as is so common on the internets (as Matt and I call them), this years' word would be UNCLUTTER.  As you'll see in my list, many of my goals revolve around uncluttering my life.  This year I am in need of some space.  Space in my brain, space in my home, space devoted to worthwhile things and thoughts and void of clutter.  I want to be rid of the excess that only serves to bog me down- both materialistic and otherwise.

I know that I will not meet every single goal written here this year but I know that I hit more than I miss and I wouldn't hit anything if I didn't first aim. 

In order to be more successful, I try always to keep my yearly goals both attainable and measurable.  I love to be able to check things off- and "be kinder, exercise more, etc" are not things that can ever be checked off.  Whether you have been kinder or not, you can always be kinder still.  Also- every month I look back over my goals for the year and make a goal list for that particular month.  In this way, I am able to put my goals in the front of my mind and set myself up for success.

With that said, here are my hopes for 2015~

The Year of Dwindling

* Sort through all clothing bins in Granary.  Get rid of at least 10 bins worth of clothing.  (Sell at yard sale/consignment shops.)  We have too much.  I have clothes for both genders, from newborn on up which I keep for the next baby. But the Lord isn't giving me any babies so...I guess it is time to cut down that supply a bit.  If the Lord ever gives us more children, I will be happy to head out to yard sales to restock if necessary.  ;-)  This is going to be a big job-and if I know myself, a hard one too.

*.Don't buy a skein in 2015.  I have quite the pile of stashed yarns.  Several very generous people have given me yarn throughout the years and I have contributed to my piles too.  This year I am resolved not to buy a single skein of yarn- and to use my stash yarns in as many projects as possible in order to dwindle its' size.  Since the yarns I have are in all different color lots and leftover amounts, it will be challenging to find suitable projects- but I am up for the challenge.  I may even come up with a button- if anyone is interested in joining me.

Sort through all bookshelves.  Sell unwanted books at yard sale and try out selling books on Amazon.

* Downsize school supplies, movies and games never played.  Sell/donate

Get rid of 2 garbage bags of my own clothes that I don't wear but keep around anyway.  (Why do I do this?)  Sell/ donate.

The Year of Strategic Spending
We work hard to spend less than we make, so that we have some excess money to work with throughout the year.  Instead of blowing that excess on cool things or vacations (though sometimes I WISH!), we put it directly toward strategic spending.  Things like home repairs, mortgage principle or necessities that we'd rather pay for outright.   And this year is going to be a doozy of a year.  I don't know how it is going to get done, but I am going to work really hard to get there.  And I remember wondering how we would ever possibly make our financial goals for last year and yet, we DID IT.

* buy a new (to us) van with as much upfront cash as possible since our old one is on its' deathbed.  Praying it waits to die until we can get our tax return back!  :-)  I have been setting aside money for several years to replace our vehicle because I hate (Hate HATE) making car payments.  While I don't know how we'll be able to buy one outright, I'd like to make sure I have as few payments to make as possible.

* Set aside money enough to re-do boys room and then re-do it!  We have to re-do the electrical work (it is the original electric and is scary unreliable),  add insulation to the walls and thus, new walls etc.  Another BIG job.  But necessary.  I am always praying our house doesn't set fire, that's how bad it is.

* Save up enough money to finish the porch in spring.

* Put an extra $200-$300 toward mortgage principle every month in addition to monthly payments.

* I really really really want to replace our couches.  I've been saying that for years but the money I save up for that purpose always goes to another, more pressing need.  I am hoping this is our year.  The springs have been broken for a while now, and the couches have been stained looking, but now the cushions are ripped as well.  LOVELY.

* Update Budget for this year to get all the above (or as much as possible) done.

The Hopestead Goals
( I was pretty overwhelmed with garden things last year so I am keeping things to a minimum here.)

* get pigs

* start own seedlings

* devote some serious attention to strawberry patch (maybe even move it.)

* keep eyes open for deal on fruit trees.  Possibly add pear and apples. 

* Possibly add grapes.

* Replace growing potatoes with growing dried beans.  (Storing potatoes lures the rodents in the house and boy, am I sick of that.  SO done with potatoes.  Beans can be put in jars.  The end.)

 The Me Goals
(These are the ones that I rarely meet- but I just keep chugging along...)

* Exercise 3 times a week- even just for 10-15 minutes a day.

* Personal devotions daily- even just 10-15 minutes a day.   While we are in the Word every day, I rarely make the time for my own private, personal time in the Word.  We are given 24 hours each day- what is 15 minutes?  Why are we here?  To glorify God and enjoy Him.  How can that be done well if I can't even devote 15 minutes a day focused solely on Him?  I'm going to shoot for 5 days a week because I want it to become habit and having skipped days hinders the whole habit formation.

*  Make it a priority to have a date night with Matt once a month

* write 5 letters a month

record books I've read at Good Reads

* Make at least one Christmas gift every month.  (I already know what I will be doing for quite a few people on my list and I have been gathering the supplies with 40% off coupons so for a while it will just be a matter of doing it.  When I have done Christmas making throughout the year before, it has been such a pleasant way to calmly and quietly prepare for Christmas giving.


Saturday, January 03, 2015

Goal Reaching in 2014

I take my yearly goals seriously, I do... 
I  love New Year's resolutions!  
I love this time of year when the whole year is opened up before me with possibility and growth and change.  I love to reflect on how I can make my life more fruitful and to plan accordingly.  And I love, at this time of year, to reflect on how well I did on the previous year's commitments.  I know that not all of them will have been successful- I am not that naive- but it always encourages me to look back and see some progress.

So- let's see how I stacked up to last years' goals.


My hopes for 2014:

 Personal Goals:
  • Have all homeschool arts in place by the first of each month.  (Composer, Artist, Poet of the month.) (stunk at this.)
  • Mail Opa and Aunt Mate notes or pictures at least TWICE a month.  (Once a week is a goal that I can never seem to reach, unfortunately.) (not even close- I think I mailed each of them two packages.  Opa got a note or two extra but that was IT.)
  • Write five other letters each month. (Too bad I can't HALF check it off- I did well at this for probably half the months- toward the end of the year, I was lucky to get 3 out.  Two months I did not write letters at all.)
  • Exercise at least three times a week. (did great for about half the year then my arm began bothering me and I gave up.  It took over 6 months to finally figure out what was wrong with my arm- a displaced rib- so I don't feel bad about not meeting this goal.  I was in too much pain for too long.)
  • Begin writing a book. (does two paragraphs and a lacking outline count?)
  • Get up to send Matt off to work each morning.  
  • Personal Bible reading- 15 minutes each day. (hardly ever.  This is the thing I am most disappointed about.)
  • Decorate the children's rooms, thriftily and handmade.  The childrens' rooms are in tough shape and need to be gutted and repaired with new electrical work and insulation so we didn't do anything cosmetic that cost money.  We did, however, move furniture to make it more inviting and add pictures to the walls and such.
  • Read more fiction.  Not fluffy fiction.   (The reason I got out of fiction in the first place.)Worthwhile fiction.  (Any suggestions?)  Read Wodehouse, Father Brown, and another book about a country woman who moves to the city-but I forget that title.  That's SOMETHING.  I still read a boatload more non-fiction.
  • Begin a new afghan project. 
  • Clear out the bottom of the granary this year.  Matt said it could be "MY SPACE" and that is a lovely thought.  Huge project.  So glad it is done! 
  • Downsize and work to get rid of more clutter.  Specifically, craft supplies I do not use.  Clothing bins in storage we do not need.  Books we do not have room for.  Etc.
  • Finish a sheepskin.
  • Make 1st year albums for Adele' and Judah (Just squeaked that in as a Christmas present for Adele!)

Financial Goals:
  • Save $5,000 for a replacement van.
  • Put our whole tax return toward that cause.
  • Save $1,000 for savings.
  • Put $1,200 toward principle of mortgage (in addition to mortgage payments.) 
  • Matt to add to a bandmill fund as he is able.  (money from logs, etc.)  I don't know whether to check this off or not- We did put money in a bandmill fund- but for some reason- the money for the bandmill always eventually found different homes.
  • replace our dinosaur of a computer before April and Windows XP expires (or whatever that whole hubbub is about.) We did it with a used computer but we did it!

Homestead Goals:
  • Plant two fruit trees.  (Likely, cherry and pear?) I actually planted five!
  • Plant two more blueberry bushes.  I planted four more.
  • Plant a few more rhubarb plants.  (I am doubtful the ones I planted last year made it.)  
  • Plant grapes and make grape trellis.  Okay- the trellis bit is more of my goal for MATT  ;-) Planted two grapes.  We need more.  And no trellis.
  • Divide filbert trees to double (triple?) them.
  • Prune apple trees, roses and lilacs.  I decided against the lilacs.
  • Propogate hydrangeas.
  • Make maple syrup ourselves without the fancy sugar shack.  The redneck way.  :-( (Matt's parents got rid of their syrup house and boiler. *sniff*) Made 2 1/2 gallons.
  • Become an expert cheesemaker. (Okay, maybe EXPERT is pushing it  But GOOD, anyway.)  I can't even tell you how many pounds of cheese I have made.  It is probably almost a hundred by now.  I kid you not.
  • Learn how to milk a cow.  I'll be needing to know that.  HA!  Know this pretty well too.  ;-)
  •  Research and make plans for a root cellar.  (Though the actual making of one will probably be a 2015 thing.)
  • Fence off pasture.
  • Get a new batch of piggle wiggles.  (I miss bacon!)  I still miss bacon!

On Monday, I'll share with you my goals for 2015.  That will give me another day to think about it.

Did you set goals for yourself last year?  How'd you do?

Friday, January 02, 2015

The humbugs

Dishwasher repair crew
A boy and popsicle sticks

Yes, the Christmas card had a bare tushie on it.  It had to happen.

Everyone got Mozzarella for Christmas this year...including the neighbors.

We hosted Christmas Eve for my family and Christmas has not yet come to Matt's side of the family- which left Christmas Day to be all to ourselves.  Bliss.

We have a three present policy at Christmas (one of which is always a book) but the children had been gathering/making/supplying their own presents for everyone as well.  It made for a very sweet and thought-filled gift exchange (and a very full Christmas tree!).

A surprise package in the mail made everyone's day!  Judah had orange lips for a week thanks to Reese's chapstick!  (THANK YOU friend, for your bit 'o happiness in the mailbox to us.)

The majority of our ornaments are birds, or so it seems.

It's the other side of Christmas and a new year is before us.  I am sorry to have missed pretty much the entirety of December here on the blog.  I missed this place...and you all.  I knew that the situation was getting serious when Matt started pestering me to blog again!

I've been absent from blogging in part due to the fact that Picasa is ruining all the pictures that I am taking (!?!?!)  This is beyond frustrating for me needless to say, and has resulted in my not even bothering to pick up my camera.  (What is the use if they are ruined later anyway?)  Anyone have this happen to them or know how to fix it? 

The other, more ambiguous reason is that I have spent the last few weeks feeling hollow and melancholic for secret and sundry reasons. I would trudge weakly through days, forlorn and staring blankly ahead while thinking "This must be what forlorn means.  How odd- that I am just staring blankly ahead."  I really did think those things while in the midst of them...I knew that it was happening but I was unable to snap myself out of it, unable to perk up.  I think it a marvelous thing that I have made it to 32 years old without ever having the opportunity to put real, bonafide feelings with the abstract words 'forlorn' and 'dejected'.  But it wasn't fun to experience.  And, when surviving a day seemed like an accomplishment, blogging certainly wasn't on the agenda.

As the joy inches closer and hope slowly fills, I am beginning to feel more like myself.  2014 was a good year, full of tremendous blessings, progress and beauty....but after the December I've had, I am anxious to be done with it.  If ever there were time for a clean slate, it would be now.  If ever a new beginning were necessary- this is it.

Right before Christmas Eve, I painted up a board with chalkboard paint and added it to my kitchen wall.  The wall was very blank and white and needed... something.  I thought a chalkboard would be a nice opportunity to give myself reminders throughout the day of truth.  Quotes, scriptures... things to help me refocus when my focus is all wrong- and the opportunity to beautify the spot that I spend the most time...the kitchen.  I really love it.  I will change it every month at least- maybe every week.  No structured system to keep up~ just whenever the time feels 'right' for a new message.  

The message I have on it now (in my last picture above) is one I will keep up for a bit, I think.  Because it is profoundly encouraging to me in my present circumstances.  Even at the lowest points, God is working.

My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  
II Cor.  12:9

I'll be back soon to share my goals for the new year.  I love new beginnings- no more so than this year- so I am anxious to get on with it!  A whole year ahead of us.  Oh, the possibilities!

Friday, December 12, 2014

You don't know what you've got

There are these infuriating moments in everyones' life that seem as though if everything could go wrong it would- and all at once too.  Usually, if all goes as it should, at the end of things the person is made stronger for it.  Or so I have been telling myself.  

That has been my month of November- December.

It has been nothing earth shattering or life altering...just many things all going wrong at once.

My dryer has not been able to work since spring- which was of little consequence in the summer but now requires curtain rods to be set up between chairs in the school room to hold the gazillion socks that get wet and replaced after snow playing each day and undies hanging all in a row on the curtain rods above windows in the laundry room and clothes hanging from every spare nail down cellar, requiring you to stealthily slump and spin between them to add wood to the woodstove every few hours.
The pile of eggs we use at breakfast time- it's ridiculous.
Our van started acting crazy so I took it to a local guy who told me that it won't pass next inspection (in a few months) without first socking a tidy sum into it (and it is at 150,000 miles and so...a conundrum) so a different vehicle must be in our near future.

Then about a month and a half ago, my oven stopped working entirely.  It miraculously revived just long enough on Adele's birthday to bake a cake for her and then it went back to its silent, black, gasless coma.   A birthday miracle, of sorts.

For several weeks now our computer has been whacked out and shuts down/freezes up very often when I get on it.  It works when I finally get Matt to check it out and then it throws a little fit as soon as he heads off to work.  Thus, no computer for me either.  (Hence, the lack of blogging.)

And then, two days ago the dishwasher quit working too.  It was at this point that my eyes began to glaze over and my neck began to twitch.

All of these things still sit, unrepaired, because the extra money that we have had access to was put toward something different.  (Before, of course, we knew that it would come in handy again...and again...and again.)  This 'something different' is something I would have shared with you by now (because it is very exciting!) had my computer not been being so mean to me.  I will, though, and soon!  (Because it is very exciting!)

Being out of all these conveniences all at once is pretty overwhelming!

When I find myself inwardly grumbling at the unjustice of it all (grin) I realize just how spoiled I really am and have always been.  Dryers are a CONVENIENCE item.  A dishwasher is a CONVENIENCE.  A computer is a CONVENIENCE.  Even an oven makes things easier but isn't necessary for life.  I am not saying that they aren't huge conveniences and that I would ever want to live without them- but once upon a time people did and not only did they survive, they thrived.   Even today- there are millions of people who are somehow living without a computer.  (Can you believe it?)   They are not pivotal for our existence...they don't sustain us in some way.  They make life easier.

And so, even though I live like the wealthiest of all peoples just in the owning of these conveniences, I can fully attest to taking them AND my circumstances in life for granted.  I fully admit I have felt poor and,when I think of all our repairs and upcoming bills- FEEL poor even now.  This coming from the girl who has never lived out of her car, sacrificed her own dinner to feed her children, gone without shoes or slept without blankets or wondered where the next meal would be.

How dare I complain about what I don't have!?

Sometimes, when life gets a little bit too easy (or we forget to see just how easy it really is) maybe it is a good thing to have a reminder, every now and again, that a dryer is a gift from God that makes things easy.  Not just something that sits in the laundry room drying things.  My dishwasher is a gift from God and a huge help to me when I have just made a big meal at the end of the day and the last thing I want to do is clean up all the dishes covering every surface of the kitchen.  I remember that now.  The capabilities to put something raw into an oven and turn out something delicious and warm is an AMAZING feat that shouldn't be taken for granted.  It's amazing, people!


We have so much.  So much.

back when the oven still worked...
Another wonderful realization occurred to me the other day while contemplating all this.  Matt has been very positive and cheerful about it all!  Now, you must know that I am the eternal optimist in this family and Matt is the eternal pessimist. (He may say 'realist' to that point.)  But I tend to think positively and view things with rosy glasses and he tends to get discouraged more easily and focus on the negative things.  But in this case- and completely contrary to our natural tendencies, I have been the one discouraged and he has been the one encouraging me...despite the fact that it will be up to HIM to do the fixing of these things!

Isn't that just so how God works?  When Matt is discouraged, God has allowed me to encourage him.  When I am discouraged, God has enabled Matt to encourage me.   God so ably provides for every one of our needs- physical, spiritual, and emotional.

Sometimes He needs to clear away the excess and take a few things away for our needs to be met in the best way possible...and maybe it isn't the way we first thought.  But God knows just what we need- even when we don't- and He always provides.

I took the children to a show about the Wright Brothers.  It was cheap (meant for school children) and oh.so.fun.

It was for grades 4-8 but even Judah and Adele' sat nicely through the whole thing.
One amazing convenience I was able to replace recently, thanks to a friend who wanted to sell hers, was a sewing machine!  So I have been busily stitching away in the afternoons on my very convenient, very amazing, very wonderful new (to me) sewing machine!  I may not have a working....well, ANYTHING ELSE (wink)...but I have a working sewing machine now!  And boy, am I so thankful for that!  Stitches even the thickest fabrics like it were stitching through butter.  (Thank you again, Michelle!)

St. Nicholas Day
I am woefully behind on all Christmas-making and have now settled on the notion to pare down, pare down rather than stress out, stress out.  I really so enjoy making things at Christmas but it is very unwise to begin just 13 days before Christmas.  The year I did at least one gift a month all year was so...pleasant.  I may do that this coming year again.  I already have a fabulous idea for my in-laws.  When we moved into this house, Gram had a suitcase filled to the brim with strips of fabric (she loved to make log-cabin quilts) and I kept them...for someday.  It just occurred to me that making Gary a quilt from his mothers' strips of fabric would be such a wonderful, sentimental gift that I am sure would greatly touch him.  This is one of those gifts I contemplated (for a second) trying to start and finish before Christmas.  I know, insane.  But for NEXT year....totally doable.

and a chocolate letter- a van der Jagt tradition.
It's been so long since we chatted- what's new in your neck of the woods?  

How are the Christmasy things going?  

Tell me- what blessing in your life do you most take for granted?  Remind me to be thankful for that too, would you?