It’s Not Too Late To Start Making Vanilla For Christmas Gifts

Just wanted to pop in real quick to mention:

  1. Homemade Vanilla Extract makes a wonderful Christmas gift.
  2. If you start making it within the next couple of weeks, it will be just right by Christmas.
  3. You need to get your supplies now and get ready to brew your vanilla!

Read all the details about How to Make Vanilla Extract.  Order your vanilla beans using the exclusive Heavenly Homemaker discount Olive Nation gives us all.  They have the best quality vanilla beans I’ve found anywhere, and they are very reasonably priced.  Use the code home for 10% off plus free shipping!

How To Make Vanilla Extract

14 Oven-Free Breakfast Ideas for Summer

Have I ever mentioned that we don’t have central air conditioning in our home?  People think we’re crazy.  Well, yeah.  But there are a few important aspects to note about our variety of crazy - and about our lack of central air conditioning:

1.  Our house is over 100 years old and was built to stay cool back before air conditioning was invented.  We have high ceilings, which makes a significant difference.
2.  We have an attic fan that sucks hot air out and pulls cool air in.  (I believe I just told you that our attic fan sucks.)
3.  When a person is used to air conditioning, a person tends to think they need air conditioning.  When a person is not used to air conditioning, a person gets used to not having air conditioning.
4.  I freeze to death when I go to Wal-Mart and other places with air conditioning and freezer sections.  See #3 above.
5.  We have several window air conditioning units.  Remember this?  Ain’t she a beaut?  We haven’t even installed it this summer.  We haven’t been home long enough to care.  But we have that one, another for out guest room, and another for our boys room upstairs.  Window units work great for our needs.

All that to say:  I rarely turn our oven on during hot summer days.  We typically deal with lack of air conditioning just fine – but avoiding the oven makes this much more doable.  Baking muffins, quick breads, and egg casseroles is rarely an option.  Instead, we stick with stove-top meals, toaster oven choices, or smoothies.  Here are some of our favorite oven-free breakfasts, which of course can be made for lunch, snacks, or dinner too.  Breakfast for dinner always rocks.  Kind of like my attic fan sucks.  (Oh, stop it.)

14 Oven Free Breakfast Ideas For Summer

14 Oven-Free Breakfast Ideas for Summer

It’s always fun to throw in the occasional bacon or sausage too, if I have time.  Fresh fruit in the summer time is amazing.  All the delicious berries, nectarines, plums, peaches, melons available – incredible.  Yes indeed, summer time is my very favorite time of year – even without central air conditioning.  :)

What are your favorite oven-free breakfast ideas?

Think About Such Things

How easy it is to read scripture, love it, be fed by it, get a happy feeling from it, find God right there in it…then close the Book, walk away, and forget to live by the Truth we just read.

Don’t kick yourself over it.  We’re never going to “arrive.”  We’re human.  We are fighting an enemy who wants nothing more than to see us struggle.  He knows enough about us to know our weak points, and that’s exactly where he fires his arrows.

That’s why we eagerly read this read this…

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

Great scripture, right?  It’s one of my favorites.  Indeed, we can read it, love it, be fed by it, get a happy feeling from it, find God right there in it, and commit to focus here.  But before we know it, we’re living like this:

Whatever is bothering you, whatever you’re worried about, whatever you have no control over, whatever makes you angry, whatever hurt your feelings, whatever made you sad, whatever may or may not happen, whatever is in the past that you can’t change…think about such things.  Whatever you’ve seen and tried that doesn’t work, keep doing it and remain in that rut of despair.  And overwhelming hopelessness will hold you in bondage.

Been there?  Me too.  It’s painful, pointless, and far too easy to remain in that ugly circle of anxious thoughts that serve only to keep us from peaceful rest in Christ.

It really is possible to re-train our thought life so that we drop-kick the negativity and worry.  We definitely don’t want to stay in this camp, right?  It is not fun here.  It’s cold, muddy, and it rains all the time.  There’s no joy in the prison of fear.  Bleh.  Get me out from under this dark cloud of self pity and bitterness.

And Jesus says, “Yes!  I’d be happy to.  In fact, I already did.  I’m right there with you, everywhere you go.  Turn your focus to Me.  I am love.  I am peace.  I am joy.”

Because of the strength we gain when we take our weaknesses to the cross, we’ve got this!  It takes the power of prayer.  We have to intentionally stop the negative, pointless thoughts that want to take over our minds, take them captive, and make them obedient to Christ.  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Because of Jesus, we are living in victory!  Remembering this truth sets our hearts free to focus on all that is true, noble, right, lovely, pure, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

Think About Such Things

Want a daily reminder of these truths from scripture?
Download and print this if you like:  Think About Such Things

Transforming Your Kitchen With Great Deals on Cast Iron

You all know I love using Cast Iron in my kitchen.  Once you learn the benefit of ditching the Teflon, it’s easy to want to throw everything out and start over.  Cast iron is a great alternative to Teflon for non-stick cooking needs.  It’s pricier though, so setting your kitchen up with cast iron is a process.  Check out garage sales, look for sales, and slowly but surely, you can replace your kitchenware for healthier choices.

Here are some great deals I found to share that may help make the transition easier:

I have a big cast iron skillet like this one and use it all the time.  It’s great for scrambled and fried eggs, as well as for cooking meat.  I love it so much!  This Logic Mfg LCC3 10-1/4″, Pre-Seasoned, Cast Iron, Combination Deep Skillet & Shallow Skillet/Griddle With Lid is 47% off at Amazon right now, making it only $34.05.  (No guarantees on how long that price will last.)

lodge skillet with lid

I prefer my skillet with a lid, but having this Universal Housewares Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron 3 Piece Skillet Set is great too since it comes with a variety of sizes for different cooking needs.  This whole set is only $24.99 right now!

cast iron 6

For pancakes, crepes, and hashbrowns, I love the Lodge LPGI3 Pro Grid Cast Iron Grill/Griddle.  ($39.99 – down from $75.00)

cast iron 2

Have you made the switch to cast iron yet?  (P.S.  Cast iron is great for non-stick, but I really love stainless steel cooking pots too.)

This post contains affiliate links.

Gratituesday: Dusting Off the School Books


With all the craziness of our summer, I’ve had very little time to get our upcoming school year organized.  The good news?  This will be our 13th year of homeschooling.  (Whoa.)  I hardly had to order any books at all.  (Praise God for money we didn’t have to spend this year!)  Once I could finally block out several hours of time, I buried myself in our school room, unpacked all the books, and found everything I needed for the year.  (Along with way too much dust.)

school books 2014

We have been digging deep in World History and the Eastern Hemisphere the past few years, as well as learning about missionaries who have served all over the world.  So this year?  We’ll be hitting American History pretty hard.  I’m super excited.  But let me just pause right here to say:

This year, we will have two boys in high school.  Two.  And Asa, our oldest?  He’s going to be a senior.  A senior.  I don’t know how we got here so quickly.  But I do know that it has been one very enjoyable ride.  Never let anyone tell you that it’s too difficult to homeschool all the way through high school.  (You should see all the resources available now.)  These years learning, growing, and memory making with our boys have been invaluable and precious.

So Asa, our high school senior (if I keep saying it, will reality set in?) has worked hard and all but completed all of his high school requirements for graduation.  He already began taking some college classes last year.  This year he will be taking one more class per semester at our local college and several online classes through a community college.  This will get many of his gen-eds out of the way, while saving lots of money, and racking up quite a few college credits.  He’ll also be taking Spanish 4 at home with Rosetta Stone software, doing some ACT prep, and continuing to develop his skills with videography and movie creation.

Justus will be a freshman.  He’ll be finishing the last few CDs in Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1, then start Algebra 2.  He’ll study Physical Science with Apologia and continue with his Spanish lessons (Rosetta Stone rocks).  He’ll work through several English/Grammar/Analogies books, do lots of reading, study American History, and do a smattering of electives like music, P.E., and creative arts.  He’s going to start taking guitar lessons in the fall, which he is very excited about!

Elias will be a 7th grader.  Along with American history studies, he’s doing Pre-Algebra with Teaching Textbooks, Spanish with Rosetta Stone, Wordly Wise, grammar, reading and writing assignments, and a variety of science books from our big stash.  He is interested in taking drum lessons – if we can find him a teacher.  And some drums.

Malachi will be a 4th grader.  He’s really taking off with chapter books now, so his shelf (along with his brothers’ shelves) are full of great reading material that enhances our study of American History.  We’ll be going through Grammar Ace with him, as well as having him work through MCP Phonics at his level.  He’ll be journal writing, learning cursive with Getty-Dubay, working through a stack of science books, and doing Teaching Textbooks 4 for math.  He’s also going to work through my Learn to Cook book so that he can learn more basic cooking skills.  We’ve got him all set up to start piano lessons this fall too.  He can’t wait!

Sonlight has been our main curriculum of choice through the years – and I continue to use many of the books they recommend.  Learning through literature is awesome!  Instead of pulling all the books they recommend at every single grade level, I’ve found that it is simple to use their book recommendations and combine grade levels while we study history, geography, and science.  This saves my sanity, and gives us wonderful times of learning all together.  All the subjects will be revisited through the years anyway, so what the younger kids don’t catch the first time around, they’ll catch it when we study it in later grades.  This works great for us.

So there you have it.  The books are finally organized, and I can head out of town again knowing school will be ready for us to start when I get back.  Two weeks until we kick off our school year!  I praise God for this wonderful opportunity to study and learn with my kids.

What are you focusing on right now?  Where is your gratitude focus?  I’d love for you to leave a comment sharing what you’re thankful for this Gratituesday!

Deborah and Co. Discount and Gift Certificate Giveaway

You know how I wear tank tops under my dresses and spaghetti-strap shirts so that I can be more covered?  Many of you asked where I get tank tops like that.  Wait till you see this!

Deborah and Co. is a wonderful company specializing in modest clothing.  They sent me a half-tee tank to try out.  Love, love, love!

deborah and co 3

What’s great about this tank is that it isn’t a full shirt, so it won’t bunch up around your tummy.  It simply serves to provide an extra layer to keep your neck line modest.  This half-tee tank is super comfy.  It comes in black, white, and cream.  I think I need three of every color.  I super love this half-tee tank!  :)  Go take a look at how great these are!

In addition to the half-tee tank, I also got to try out their very popular Rainbow Denim Skirt.  Know what I love best about this skirt?  I’ll be able to wear it year round.  How cute will that be in the winter with boots?

Aaaaaand….they sent me a Floral Scoop Top with Petal Sleeves.  It’s pretty, comfortable, and dressy-yet-casual.  I borrowed the picture off their website so you could see how cute it is on their model.

deborah and co2

I very highly recommend Deborah and Co.  Their clothing is modest, cute, comfortable, and very high quality.  I love everything about what they offer!  Beyond clothing, they have a Little Deborah section on their site you’ll want to check out.  Awesome paper dolls, CDs, DVDs, and embroidery kits.

Today, Deborah and Co. is offering you both a discount and a giveaway!  Through the end of July, get 10% off your entire order when you use the code HH10OFF.   Plus, leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a $40 gift certificate to spend in their shop.

For additional entries, sign up to receive sale information here.  And/or, like Deborah and Co. on Facebook.  Leave an additional comment here for doing each of those tasks.

I will draw a random winner on Friday, July 25.  Be watching for a post stating the winner as you will be responsible for contacting me if your name is chosen.

Menu Plan for the Week ~ How Do I Cook For Three People?

I believe we should label this summer “The Summer of Never Being Home.”  Never is perhaps too strong a word, since in fact, we have been home for a few days here and there in between all the travel and camps.  But we have certainly been away from home more than we’ve been at home.  After a big trip to Nashville, a smaller trip to Oklahoma, two weeks at church camp – I am home for four days before taking off again.

Where am I going this time?  Oooooh, yay me!  I am blessed to go spend three days with my friend who had a baby a few weeks ago.  I get to love on Mama and Daddy, love on baby, love on baby, love on baby…and maybe do a few dishes and some freezer cooking.  Whatever Mama needs.  I’m very excited.

After I get home, I’ll have two days, then head off again for another quick trip.  Then, our family will all be home together just in time to begin our school year the first full week of August.  Phew!  This has been (and continues to be) one very full summer!

So let’s catch up a little here.  I’ve been online very little in the past two weeks since internet access out at church camp was quite difficult to come by.  I’ve missed you!  Week One at camp found our family in these roles:  Justus and Elias were both campers, Asa was a counselor, and Matt, Malachi, I were helping in the kitchen.  Cooking for 140 campers and staff?  So fun – and completely exhausting.  Wow, and wow some more.

Week two of camp for us was quite different.  It was Senior High session, which meant that Asa was/is now a camper; Justus, Elias, and Malachi were kitchen staff, and Matt and I were Bible class teachers.  The week allowed for much more down-time for Matt and me.  We studied, taught, studied some more, spent time with campers…and took naps and went to bed early every night.  Really, I couldn’t believe how much sleep my body kept asking for.  Apparently, this summer has worn me out more than I realized.  :)  By Thursday, I believe we finally caught up on rest.  It was a great week of refreshment for us.  Matt and I loved team-teaching the youth.  They blessed us so much, and working together in that role was wonderful.

As the week came to an end, Justus and Elias asked if they could please stay for one more week to help in the kitchen.  They loved their role working together with three other middle school boys to keep up with running the dishwasher, wiping tables, filling drink jugs, and doing whatever else the head cook needed them to do.  It’s always fun when you’re working with your friends, right?  (And when you’re having adventures with catching mice in your cabin late at night.  Oh boys.)

Because the head cook said he could certainly still use our boys’ help for the final week of Senior Session, we let them stay.  So three boys are still at camp, and here we are at home with only our youngest, Malachi.  It’s quiet, for sure.

So what to eat, what to eat?  Well, for starters, we came home to find this in our garden:

green beans from garden

Right after Matt brought in the first bunch, we snapped and steamed them – then absolutely pigged out on them.  We could not get enough.  I mean, we did not even take the time to use a fork.  We picked them up and ate them like they were French fries.  No shame.  Wow, they are unbelievably delicious.

For these next few days at home with just the three of us, here is what we’ll be eating.  (You’ll notice there’s no real plan here.  What can I say?  I’m not feeding an army this week, plus I’m planning to leave again in a few days.  Meals will be light and simple.)


Lunches and Dinners:

Here’s to a great week of continued refreshment, playing catch-up, and eating amazing summer produce!

Tell me what you’ve been up to the past few weeks!  What has your summer been like?  Full and busy, or restful and relaxing?












A Few Simple Ingredients…

Mix and Match Real Food Ingredients

Have I told you how much I have loved the Meet and Greet events so far?  And how much it made me want to meet ALL of you!!?!

One of the topics we discussed at the Springfield Meet and Greet was how nice it is that once you have some key, real food ingredients in your kitchen – it suddenly becomes much easier to put healthy, whole food meals on the table.

It’s so true!  If you are just beginning to switch your kitchen to a real food kitchen, rest assured, your job is just about to become much easier!

I took a few minutes to make a list of the top two dozen ingredients I always try to have on hand in my kitchen.  With these ingredients, I can make hundreds of recipes.  Check it out:

  • Wheat or other grains (to grind into flour)
  • Oats
  • Brown Rice
  • Whole Wheat Pasta
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanut Butter (or peanuts to make your own!)
  • Coconut Oil
  • Butter
  • Yeast
  • Sucanat and/or Honey
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Sea Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Minced Onion
  • Garlic Powder
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Veggies (fresh or frozen)
  • Fruit (fresh and frozen)
  • Canned Salmon or Tuna
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Chocolate Chips (these are necessary – don’t you think?!)

Click here to see a detailed break-down of where I purchase these ingredients and how much I typically try to spend on them.

So what can I make with the above list of ingredients?  Well, off the top of my head, I can think of spaghetti, mac and cheese, tuna casserole, muffins, pancakes, a few casseroles, stir fry, and pizza.  And if I stood on my head for a while and got more blood flowing, the list could go on and on…

But I won’t.  I’d likely break something (like a wall or my neck) if I tried to stand on my head.

I’d love to hear from you on this!

Have you found that you’re finding your way around your real food kitchen?  Have you discovered your top 24 or so ingredients that help you stay organized in your real food kitchen?  What ingredients would you add to the list I came up with?  What meals have you found to create with your staple, real food ingredients?

This post was originally published April 11, 2013.

And are you with me?  Are chocolate chips a staple ingredient or are they not?! :)

Last Day to Get Our 40 Menu Plan Ideas Packet for 50% Off!

Saturday, July 19 is the final day you’ll be able to get Heavenly Homemaker’s 40 Real Food Menu Plans Packet at half off.  Grab yours now!


The 40 Real Food Menu Plans Downloadable Packet includes 40 (of course) real food, real easy menu plans - 10 for each season of the year.  In each menu plan, you’ll find ideas for all 3 meals each day for an entire week.  No need to follow the menu plan to the letter.  Change them as needed to fit your family’s schedules and preferences.  You’ll find most of the recipes included in the menu plans here on the Heavenly Homemakers website (hyperlinks included on the pages!) or in the Oh, For Real Cookbook.

See some sample pages of 40 Real Food Menu Plans Here.

Last day for the discount!!

40 Real Food Menu Plans Downloadable Packet
(use the code HALFOFF for the discount)

Add to Cart

You Can Freeze a Whole Peach

You Can Freeze a Whole Peach

Stick around here, and you might learn a thing or two from me every once in a while.  But I guarantee that if you stick around here, you’ll learn loads of great information from all my readers!  You all continue to amaze me with all of your cool, helpful, and time-saving knowledge.  Ahhh, I love walking this homemaking journey with all of you.  {wipes a tear with her stained apron}

Here’s the latest comment that had many of us saying, “Really?  You can do that?! I can’t wait to try it!”

On my 10 Healthy and Easy Peach Recipes post, Jenny from DIY Parenting said, “We learned something VERY exciting last year… you can freeze whole peaches! Wash them, let them dry, then put them on a tray whole WITH the skins in the freezer. Once they are frozen solid, put them into freezer bags. Take out one as you need it. While still frozen, you can easily run your hands over the skin under water to remove it (if you want). Then let sit until thawed. This is how we now enjoy peaches, with no added sugar and without canning them, all year long.”

Well now that’s a tip that will save me loads of time and effort.  I decided to try it.  (How many of you did too?)

Into the freezer went some peaches…


Once frozen, I peeled one, just to see how easy it was.  Oh wow, look at how that skin came right off with no effort at all!

For the record, we will generally be eating our peaches with the skin on, but one or two of my kids prefer it skinless – and at this point, I figure, hey whatever gets them to eat a peach, right?

I then sliced the peach into some cottage cheese for a refreshing snack.  It was heaven in a bowl.  And it was practically effortless.


You know what I love best about this freezing peaches whole tip?  (Besides how easy it is – because truly, this process could not get any easier. Unless I send my kids to the freezer with the peaches. Which I will. But besides that.)  I love that the nutrients in the peach are preserved with this method.  Home canned peaches are great, but the cooking process does kill some of the nutrients.  Frozen peaches though?  Straight from tree to freezer, then into a bowl for a snack.  Nourishing, and so juicy and delicious.

Jenny – I’m so thankful you shared this tip.  You’ve changed the way I’ll preserve peaches from now on.

Whatever shall I do with all my extra time??

This post was originally published August 29, 2013.