How I Plan To Keep My Kids Reading This Summer

All four of our boys enjoy reading. However, we often find that summertime lends itself to a more flexible or on-the-go schedule which sometimes makes us forget about important activities like reading books (and combing hair).

Last summer we tried offering a fun reading challenge that worked amazingly well. Why wouldn’t it? There were rewards involved.

How did it work? We kept it simple. For every five hours each child read, they received a reward. These were inexpensive and sometimes even free. But they are rare treats for our kids – so they picked up a book frequently.

This summer, our three older boys will be gone more than they are home (mission trip, church camp, church camp, and church camp). During the few weeks they are home, they will be more than welcome to take part in this. However, it is our 10 year-old that is really diving in and taking the challenge. Summer Reading Challenge

I created a fun chart for Malachi – which he promptly put on the fridge. (Again, the other boys will take part too – they just don’t have enough weeks during the summer to warrant a chart.)

Here are some of the rewards we’re offering for 5 hours of reading time:

  • Pick a movie from Redbox.
  • Get an ice cream cone from Runza (89¢ – yes, I can handle that
  • Pick something from the dollar store
  • Go to Captain Red Beard’s with Mom (this is our local coffee shop)
  • Lego surprise ($4.00 mini-figure) You wouldn’t believe how much this motivates Malachi to get to the 5th week of reading 5 hours (25 hours total).
  • Choose a meal for Mom or Dad to make
  • Choose a dessert for Mom or Dad to make
  • Choose a board game (from our stash) for a family game night

If by chance Malachi reads more than five hours in a week, he will be allowed to move on to “the next week.” This chart is flexible because our summer is flexible.

I created two “open” charts for you to download, print, and fill in with rewards that will motivate your own kids if you like.

Summer Reading Challenge Printable Download and Print Summer Reading Challenge Printable 1

Summer Reading Challenge Printable 2

Download and Print Summer Reading Challenge Printable 2

How do your kids do with reading in the summertime? Do they need extra motivation or do they naturally pick up a book and go for it?

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A Surrendered Heart: Don’t Forget!

Welcome to A Surrendered Heart: A Wife’s Journey to Love the Jesus Way. Click on the “Leave a Comment” button on each post to add your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions to the discussion. If you are a newsletter subscriber, please click through to this post on my website to add your comments to the discussion to be read by everyone. I look forward to hearing what you have to say! God be praised for the gift of marriage and for allowing us to grow in Him.

Read Lesson 1:  Why I Married This Guy
Read Lesson 2: So, What Does Your Husband Do?
Read Lesson 3: How Selfish is Your Prayer?
Read Lesson 4: Serve Because I Want To
Read Lesson 5: It’s a Choice

Surrendered Heart Lesson 6

I am an amazing wife and mother when I find myself in a blissfully quiet house, spending time in prayer and in the Word in my living room chair while all of my family sleeps. Indeed. When I am talking to no one, dealing with no issues, not trying to multi-task, not attempting to juggle all of life’s demands – I tell you what. I’ve got a surrendered heart ready to take on the world with all the grace, love, and gentleness called for by Jesus.

And then all the people wake up.

It’s amazing to me how quickly my gentleness turns harsh and my loving spirit turns to frustration when reality hits with answering constant questions, getting food on the table, offering frequent reminders about what should be accomplished around the home, helping with issues, and running interference with squabbles. Life is good, but it is also full and challenging – especially if we are being intentional about serving and parenting and loving well. Not to mention the fact that we live in a fallen world – one in which Satan is working to redirect our focus back toward self so that we forget to look to Jesus.

The battle has already been won, so we’ve no reason to feel defeat. Not even a little bit! But we do need to recognize that our struggle is real. I find that I must constantly talk to God, and continually surrender my will so that I can let the Spirit be at work, just as has been promised.

Being a woman, my thoughts can be ruled by emotions. Therefore, I find that my heart can be pricked in one moment, ready to surrender to the Lord’s work in my life – then the next moment I find myself trying to do it all myself, forgetting the truth from scripture or pulpit or article that I just found so powerful. Thoughts shift, emotions swing, my focus drifts. Ugh, this brain of mine.

All the scripture, articles, inspirational thoughts, and brilliants sermons in the world will do me no good if I only think, “that is beautiful, wonderful, something I really needed to hear” but fail to let God work the truth of the words through my heart and actions.

This is not about me working harder to be a better wife, friend, mother, or person. Not even a little bit. Let me say it again: This is not about me working harder! This is about me choosing to surrender my heart to let God do the work in me.

We make it too hard. We overthink. We forget that the work has already been done and that the Father is continually at work and that our only “job” is simply to be. To rest. To trust. To listen. To obey. To receive His gift of peace.

Friends, we can’t forget. Continue to be in the Word. Devour it. Soak it up. Let it seep into your heart so that you can be transformed by it’s power and truth.

Keep focusing on the kingdom – the reason we’re here. The ultimate goal. The power of the cross.

Need to confront an issue? God will give you the wisdom and the words. He promises us this. Want to love your husband and be the godly wife God is calling you to be? Then you surrender your heart and let God do His work through you. Let Him love through you, serve through you, be joyful through you, show patience through you – display all the fruit that is promised through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Then praise God for the way He is working His will in your marriage. As we fix our eyes on Jesus, take up our cross daily, seek His will, ask for His help, and surrender our hearts – our marriages can’t help but be glorious!


I find that meditating on Luke 12 helps re-focus my thoughts on the kingdom. If my treasure (what I choose to think about, dwell on, and work toward) has an earthly focus – my heart will remain in an earthly state of despair. If instead I have a kingdom perspective, surrendering my will to allow the Spirit to work – my heart joins my thoughts in a place of Christ-like peace.

Luke 1234

Download Where Your Treasure Is Printable Here

Take time to pray, meditate on scripture, and listen. What are you learning? What is God teaching you? How is God working in your heart to love your husband the Jesus way?

What God is Teaching Me

Download the What God is Teaching Me Printable Here

Up For Discussion…Share With Us!

  • What lessons has God been teaching you about loving your husband His way?
  • How can you more easily remember Truth from scripture as you hit life head on?
  • How might you need to change your heart focus so that you can be open to hearing God’s will for you?
  • Praise God with me for His work in our lives and in our marriages! He wins, every time! Join me in celebrating this!
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The Most Amazing Cinnamon Smoothie (with a Dairy Free Option)

Be sure to check out these ten great ideas for how to use fresh cinnamon sticks. And now, idea number 11 for how to use fresh cinnamon sticks. Trust me that when I say Amazing Cinnamon Smoothie – I really do mean amazing. Wowza.

Amazing Cinnamon Smoothie 2

When I came across a recipe similar to this, it claimed that the smoothie tasted just like a fresh cinnamon roll. Hmmm, really? Because have you ever had a fresh cinnamon roll?? I mean, nothing is quite the same as a fresh, warm cinnamon roll straight from the oven dripping with gooey… STOP! That’s just not nice to tease people with talk about freshly baked rolls of cinnomony-ness. Not nice at all.

Let’s very quickly focus on the negatives of freshly baked cinnamon rolls so that we can all stop craving them.

  1. They take forever to make. Hours and hours. A very long time.
  2. Making homemade cinnamon rolls creates many, many dirty dishes – not to mention a crusty counter-top.
  3. Cinnamon rolls can be addicting.
  4. Cinnamon rolls are full of empty calories and sugar. Just think of the stomach ache to follow the indulgence. Misery, it is.

Bleh. Ick. Nothankyou. We absolutely do not want a freshly baked cinnamon roll not even a little bit, no way, nuh-uh.

Clearly, I should have gone into psychology because this tactic is working very, very well to make us believe that fresh, hot cinnamon rolls are disgusting.

(Just now I had to look up how to spell psychology so I guess I’ll stick with writing and recipe creations.)

Now how about this Amazing Cinnamon Smoothie? Here are all the positives and the wonderful reasons we should make these instead of cinnamon rolls:

  1. This smoothie can be made in about two short minutes.
  2. Making this smoothie only dirties a blender and a glass. Fine – and a straw if you’re feeling fancy.
  3. Instead of making you say “okay, but I’ll just eat one more” (three times) like fresh hot cinnamon rolls can do – this smoothie is quite satisfying with one delicious glassful.
  4. Every part of this smoothie offers nourishment.

I’m sure none of us want a fresh hot cinnamon roll anymore. I’ve talked us all out of it. Cravings be gone! Right? Right. Absolutely.

Either way, just go make this simple – no sugar added, by the way – Cinnamon Smoothie. It’s super delicious and you really can make it in about two minutes.

Amazing Cinnamon Smoothie

2 cups whole milk or coconut milk
2 ripe, frozen bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Blend ingredients until smooth. Serve right away. Makes about 2 servings. (I’m pretty sure homemade cinnamon roll instructions are just a tad more lengthy. Just sayin’.)

Amazing Cinnamon Smoothie

If you’re still wanting a homemade cinnamon roll (a real one, like the kind that comes out of a pan in the oven) – I recommend this Whole Wheat Cinnamon Roll recipe. Not that you are. After all, you’re about to get up and make this smoothie.

Click over to this post to learn more about picking up some free cinnamon sticks to use in this recipe and others. You’ll also learn how to make Cinnamon Extract, Cinnamon Infused Sugar, Cinnamon Pancake and Waffle Syrup and much more. :)

Now, raise your hand if you definitely do not want a cinnamon roll. 

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Why I’m Excited About Homeschooling After a Challenging School Year


This was Malachi a couple years ago during a math lesson. 
You’ll want to read the entire story.

As much as I love schooling our kids at home, I will admit that the past homeschool year was one of the most challenging of all the previous 12 years. Some years are just tough – and this one was a doozy.

God is bigger than all of it, proven by the fact that we not only survived – we graduated our oldest child successfully. He ended his high school career with 24 college credits, persevering through some very difficult online courses with overwhelming expectations. There were many learning curves this year with the ACT, FAFSA, scholarship applications, and weighty decisions to be made. Praise God: we did not die (not even a little bit). There were several times I thought we might. But here we are, kicking and smiling and half passed out on the couch.

It goes without saying, then, that the thought of school coming again in the fall has made me feel a bit woozy. School books? I couldn’t stand the thought. Educating children? Not today, please. Bring on summer break! Yesssssssssssssssss!

While I am praising God for the next several weeks of refreshment and revival – I am also thanking Him for what He just provided. This is actually making me excited about taking on another school year. (After a lovely break, of course.) I wasn’t sure it was possible. But what was I thinking? God always provides the encouragement and resources we need so that we can do what He has called us to do.

I just had a chance to look through all of the packages being offered in the 2015 Biggest Homeschooling Sale of the Year (available this week only). It definitely helps awaken my school book interest simply because all of these are marked down up to 90% off. But it’s not just that. These packages contain so many great items that will bless our 2015-2016 school year.

2015 Build Your Bundle Homeschool Sale

My plan is to take advantage of the Buy-Two-Get-One-Free option. That way I’ll be saving even more on the packages I want. I’m finding that I’m very interested in about six of the pre-assembled packages. That means I’ll only have to pay for four of them, and I’ll get two for free. That, along with the already huge discount and the high quality of these educational items is what I find so refreshing and exciting. THIS makes me excited about schooling my kids again in the fall. Thank you, God.

I encourage you to look through the Build Your Bundle offerings to see what works for your family. Even if you don’t homeschool, I believe you’ll find some items or packages that you can use. (I believe we all teach our kids at home, whether we home school or not!)

Here’s how the Build Your Bundle site works:

  1. Look through each bundle package. Add to your cart each pre-assembled bundle you would like.
  2. OR, build your own bundle from the amazing list of books. (Grab any 10 you would like!)
  3. THEN (best yet!), if you like, you can take advantage of the “Buy 2-Get 1 Free” offer. This means that if you buy two pre-assembled bundles, you can pick a third one for free. Or if you buy 2 build-your-bundles, you can get a third one for free.2015 Build Your Bundle Homeschool Sale

These are the six packages I’m looking at getting. (Some of these won’t apply to you, so be sure you look through all the offerings to see what is available!)

Love Unit Studies? This Bundle is awesome - 89% off!2015 Build Your Bundle Homeschool Sale

Middle School Curriculum at a LOW Price - 85% off!

Character Building Bundle  - HUGE Savings!

Even more fun is that each person who purchases even one of the Build Your Bundle options will receive an entire book of bonuses.

Hundreds of Dollars worth of freebies and deals for every customer who makes a purchase!

You’ll want to click here to see all the details of each bundle offer. Take your time. Have a blast. Equip your family and home with all sorts of learning opportunities at a huge discount!

Praise God with me that He always provides exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. He is faithful.

Are you enjoying summer break? Still, does it just make you a little bit excited for next year when you see all these great resources?!

This post contains affiliate links.

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Favorite Things for Summer Giveaway

favorite summer things 2

Want to know my favorite thing about summer? Well let me think…SUNSHINE!!! (You know I love it when I interrupt myself to blurt out my answer.)

I love sunshine coming in through my windows. I love sunshine beaming down on my face. I love warming up in the sunshine. And I love laying in the sunshine, soaking up Vitamin D. (Responsibly, of course. Don’t go all “harmful UV rays” on me. God made the sun, the sun is good, we need Vitamin D from the sun, amen and amen. I don’t overdo it, but still, sunshine is my very favorite thing about summertime.)

Now, women shall not live on sunshine alone. (I mean, we also need butter. Duh.)

In celebration of summer (and sunshine!) (and sure, butter. why not?) – I’ve teamed up with 11 other bloggers to share many chances for you to win some of our very favorite things for summertime. What’s included in our Heavenly Homemakers favorite summer things giveaway?

  • A “Night Owl” Flexi-Clip from Lilla Rose (valued at $14.00)
  • A Half-Tee Tank from Deborah and Co. (valued at $17.99)
  • 1/2 pound of Vanilla Beans from Olive Nation (valued at $39.95)
  • Bug Block Bar, BeeSilk Stick, and Peppermint Lip Balm from MadeOn (valued at $29.10)
  • Stainless Steel Fruit Slicer, Pastry Blender, and Mini Slotted Turner from Paula’s Bread (valued at $24.99)
  • My very own Oh, For Real Cookbook (valued at $25.95)

Altogether, that’s over $150 worth of my favorite items for summertime. You can win all of it!

summer giveaway4

Why are these my favorite things for summer?

  • I keep my hair pulled back in my Lilla Rose Flexi-Clip all summer long.
  • I wear my Half-Tee Tank from Deborah and Co. under my summer dresses and tank tops for modesty and comfort.
  • I start a batch of homemade vanilla extract with Vanilla Beans from Olive Nation in June so that it will be ready to give as gifts at Christmastime.
  • I safely protect my family from mosquito bites with MadeOn’s Bug Block Bar – and I use BeeSilk Stick, and Peppermint Lip Balm every single day of the year.
  • I use a Stainless Steel Fruit Slicer, Pastry Blender, and Mini Slotted Turner from Paula’s Bread for fresh summer produce and fun summer dishes.
  • I use my Oh, For Real Cookbook pretty much alllllll the time.

Simply leave a comment on this post for a chance to win this entire package. I will draw a random winner on Monday, June 1. Be watching for a post stating the winner!

Are you new to Heavenly Homemakers? Sweet! I have the greatest readers ever, and I’d love for you to be one of them. Subscribe (for free!) to receive our daily(ish) newsletter which includes everything from easy real food recipes to encouragement in your marriage or parenting to really ridiculous thoughts that you should read at your own risk.

Here’s my latest craze: coming up with recipes that are delicious but low in sugar. Check out the low sugar treats I’ve come up with so far, then be watching for this Low Sugar Strawberry Cheesecake Parfait recipe coming within the next week or so. It is incredible!

Strawberry Cheesecake Parfait - Coming Soon

See you back here soon!


Want a chance to win even more of these wonderful Favorite Things for Summer Giveaways? Click around on all the blogs below to see what they love about summer and to enter their giveaway too!

1. Thriving Home // 2. Happy Money Saver // 3. Happy Home Fairy // 4. Heavenly Homemakers // 5. Kitchen Stewardship // 6. Nourishing Joy // 7. The Nourishing Home // 8. Intoxicated on Life // 9. Tried and Tasty // 10. The Frugal Girl //11. Mommy Hates Cooking // 12. Stephanie Blue

favorite things summer 1

Here’s a little bit about each of these bloggers:

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 8.26.03 AM

Thriving Home

Friends and stay-at-home moms, Rachel and Polly, began Thriving Home in 2012 as a way to encourage and equip moms in several areas of home life. They share healthy kid-friendly recipes, evangelize about freezer cooking as well as documenting many other topics relating to running a home and family including a few spectacular parenting failures from time to time. Swing by to join in on their crazy journey through parenthood.


Tried and Tasty is a premium and well established recipe blog with a friendly, conversational writing style paired with magazine quality food photography. The recipes are typically very health conscious, with rich and decadent desserts occasionally included for good measure. has a loyal following of ‘foodies’ and is gaining new followers every day thanks to its recipes being featured on the websites of high profile magazines, news outlets, popular Facebook pages, Pinterest boards, and more.

logoHeavenly Homemakers

Laura Coppinger and her husband have four sons ages 10-17. is dedicated to inspiring women daily with healthy (and easy!) recipes, homemaking tips, spiritual encouragement, and good ol’ clean fun.

logoMommy Hates Cooking

Mommy Hates Cooking is a national cooking and lifestyle website that encourages families to take back the dinner table. Through her easy-to-prepare (yet looks like you spent all day in the kitchen) meals and her knack for breaking down meal planning, Kristy has become the busy-mom’s resource for the modern family.

Kitchen Stewardship Chalkboard Logo - BlackKitchen Stewardship

The mission of Kitchen Stewardship is to present healthy living in bite-sized baby steps, challenging people to make positive changes in their kitchens without being overwhelmed, and providing tools to balance a family’s health, budget, time and the environment. Katie Kimball and her team share family-friendly whole foods recipes, weekly challenges, and science-geek research on what’s healthy and what’s not.

logoNourishing Joy

Nourishing Joy is dedicated to real food and natural living. We’re on a mission to equip and inspire parents like you with the tools to make intentional, thoughtful decisions that work for YOUR family easy. Or at least easier.

happyhomefairy facebook pageHappy Home Fairy

Julie Brasington is the creator of Happy Home Fairy, a popular blog focusing on encouraging and equipping moms to choose joy on the parenting journey. She shares easy craft ideas, FREE printables, simple recipes, corny jokes, holiday fun, thoughts on raising her 2 boys, and honest, heartfelt messages to uplift the weary mama. bbb

Happy Money Saver

Happy Money Saver is a website that has a growing population of readers who are passionate about saving money, homesteading, gardening, cooking from scratch, freezer meals, DIY projects and embracing their dreams.

logo3Stephanie Blue

At Stephanie Blue, I blog about my passions: natural living and essential oils. My purpose is to bring hope to moms and help them discover ways to strengthen their families physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

frugal girlThe Frugal Girl

The Frugal Girl is all about living cheerfully (and well!) on less. Get recipes, DIY tips, painting ideas, photography tips, green living inspiration, and more from Kristen, a homeschooling mom of four.

IOL_Header_Design_no_taglineIntoxicated on Life

Intoxicated on Life is a resource for families who are looking to raise healthy families – body, mind, and soul. They cover a wide range of topics from healthy gluten-free recipes, to godly parenting, homeschooling resources, and more!

TNH Grab buttonThe Nourishing Home

The Nourishing Home provides family-friendly GF recipes, free weekly whole food meal plans, helpful cooking tips and techniques, and lots of encouragement to help you in your journey to live a more nourished life.

Leave a comment on this post to enter to win our $150 package of my favorite things for summer. Now let’s all go outside and get us some sunshine. Woohoo…summer!

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Cinnamon Sticks for Summertime ~ 10 Great Uses and 10 FREE Cinnamon Sticks (Through Wednesday Only!!)

cinnamon sticks flower pot 2

I have had the most fun day today. We bid farewell to the last of our graduation guests yesterday (sniff), then I spent the entire day today playing with cinnamon sticks. Say what??! Trust me. I’m pretty sure you’ll want to spend a couple of hours playing with cinnamon sticks too after you read this.

Olive Nation Cinnamon Sticks

My Cinnamon Sticks came from Olive Nation. I could tell a big difference in the quality of their cinnamon sticks – so big a difference that I took a picture of them side by side. Olive Nation’s sticks are bigger, more fragrant, and just overall much, much nicer than others I’ve purchased from other sources. This doesn’t surprise me. Olive Nation products always rise above the rest. (Yet their prices are still reasonable. I love this.)

I typically think of cinnamon sticks as something to use in the fall. This led me to do a little research. What can we do with cinnamon sticks in the summertime?

THIS is the part where I become giddy. I have found so many awesome uses for these this summer! Not to mention I’ve discovered that cinnamon sticks are wonderful for our health. Cinnamon can help lower cholesterol levels, aid in pain relief,  help with digestion, help us avoid bladder infections, and help regulate blood sugar levels. And that’s just the beginning.

10 great ways we should all use Cinnamon Sticks this summer.

Special thanks to my son Asa who used his talent with his brand new camera to help me get some wonderful shots of our cinnamon projects today.

10 Great Uses for Cinnamon Sticks - The Summer Edition

10 Ways to Use Cinnamon Sticks in the Summertime

1. Use Cinnamon Sticks as a Natural Insect Repellent.

Insects don’t like the smell of cinnamon (silly little bugs). Plus they don’t like the feel of powdered cinnamon. Grate a cinnamon stick then sprinkle it around any place (inside or outside) you’re trying to get rid of ants or other annoying bugs. You can even sprinkle it around your kids’ sandbox to keep the bugs away. Brilliant!

Want to avoid mosquitoes? Put a small citronella candle inside a jar. Tie or clue cinnamon sticks around the outside of the jar. Light the candle outside while you’re sitting around visiting and enjoying the summer weather. Insects are turned off by the smell of the cinnamon and citronella, and you can enjoy the scent plus the freedom from bugs!

Cinnamon Stick Citronella Candle

2. Treat an insect bite.

Bugs already got to ya? Mix up a little bit of honey and ground cinnamon. It will alleviate pain and itching. At the same time, this honey/cinnamon combination will disinfect the area while moisturizing and healing. Amazing.

3. Make a Cinnamon Stick Flower Pot

This is not only a great way to repel bugs inside and outside – it is super adorable! Hot glue 25-30 cinnamon sticks around a flower pot. Tie a ribbon around the cinnamon sticks to complete the project. I can’t stop staring at my flower pot in all its cuteness!

Cinnamon Stick Flower Pot

4. Make Cinnamon Apple Infused Water for a refreshing detox drink on a warm day.

Or use fresh or frozen pineapple with cinnamon sticks instead. Either way, you’ll have a cool, refreshing drink that is good for your system. Simply slice one apple (any variety) into a quart jar. Add 1-3 cinnamon sticks. Fill jar with water. Allow mixture to sit for a few hours to infuse. Chill and serve.

Refreshing Apple and Cinnamon Infused Detox Water

5. Start a batch of Cinnamon Extract for Christmas gifts.

I am so excited about this one!! After all my years of making Vanilla Extract, I’m venturing out to make other extracts – beginning with Cinnamon Extract. (Watch for other fun extract recipes soon!)

How to Make Cinnamon Extract: Place three cinnamon sticks in one cup of brandy, rum, or vodka. Store in a dark place (such as a kitchen cabinet). Shake the jar about once each day for two weeks. Voila. Merry Cinnamon Extract Christmas to the family this year. (Don’t tell them how easy and inexpensive this is.)

Homemade Cinnamon Extract

6. Make All Natural Cinnamon Orange Cleaning Spray.

Here’s a fresh idea for non-toxic cleaning!

Fill a quart jar about 3/4 full of distilled white vinegar. Add 3-4 cinnamon sticks and 1-2 oranges worth of orange peel. Secure lid. Store in a dark place (such as a kitchen cabinet) for two weeks, then strain out cinnamon sticks and orange peel to transfer liquid to a spray bottle. This is so simple and inexpensive!

And here’s another great cleaning option: Put a Cinnamon Stick into a cleaning bottle with attached sponge (like the purple one pictured below) for a fresh, cleaning fragrance.

Cinnamon Orange All-Purpose Cleaner

7. Grate a piece of cinnamon stick into yogurt or add it to a smoothie for a refreshing summer meal or snack.

What a great way to add deliciousness to a cool treat! You can also grate cinnamon into your coffee or tea.

8. Make Cinnamon Pancake and Waffle Syrup

Yes, yes, yes. Make this. Bottle it up for gifts or enjoy it at your own breakfast table. It is super easy to make and crazy delicious.

Cinnamon Pancake and Waffle Syrup Recipe

1 1/2 cups water
3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 cup sucanat

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Cover and allow mixture to steep for 15 minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks. Store Cinnamon Pancake and Waffle Syrup in a jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Cinnamon Pancake and Waffle Syrup

9. Make Cinnamon Infused Sugar

It does not get any easier than this. I’ll be including a jar of this sugar with my Christmas gifts of Cinnamon Extract. I should also include a loaf of bread and a stick of butter – then my recipients would be set.

Cinnamon Infused Sugar Recipe

1 cinnamon stick
2 cups sugar, brown sugar, or sucanat

Put the cinnamon stick into a jar. Cover it with sugar. Secure a lid on the jar. Shake the jar once each day for two weeks. Use cinnamon infused sugar on buttered toast, in coffee, or any way you would typically use cinnamon sugar. Continue to refill the jar with sugar as the cinnamon stick will continue to flavor it for quite some time.

Cinnamon Infused Sugar

10. Boost your energy!

Feeling tired, lethargic, or low on energy? Pull out a cinnamon stick and give it a whiff. It’ll help you find your focus. Who knew? Easiest energy boost ever. From now on, I’ll be keeping cinnamon sticks at my desk. Hmmm…just took a whiff of one right now. Perfect.

You Can Reuse Cinnamon Sticks

Save $$. Get more than one use out of your cinnamon sticks!

To reuse your cinnamon stick, simply rinse it under hot water then allow it to dry. Run the stick over a grater a few times to release the flavor. Do this up to 5 times before discarding. Way to get a lot of bang for your buck!

A Discount Option:

For high quality, reasonably priced cinnamon sticks, I recommend Olive Nation. They are great to work with us here at Heavenly Homemakers. Here’s what they offer:

  • Use the code home to receive 10% off your entire order.
  • OR, if you spend $50 or more, you can use the code FREESHIP to avoid paying a shipping fee altogether. (Free shipping is always the way to go if you ask me. I love these cinnamon sticks so much and I super love the Olive Nation vanilla beans. I have gifts to make with cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans.)
  • You may only use one coupon code per order, so figure out which is best to go along with your free cinnamon sticks: Get 10% off with the code home; or get free shipping on a $50 order with the code FREESHIP.

A Freebie To Go With These Cinnamon Stick Ideas!

Download a page of free printable labels to go with the gifts you might choose to make: Cinnamon Extract, Cinnamon Sugar, Cinnamon Orange All Purpose Cleaner, and Cinnamon Pancake and Waffle Syrup. Attach them to your jars and bottles, tie with a ribbon, and you’ve got an adorable, inexpensive, and useful gift!

cinnamon printable

Download Your Free Cinnamon Labels Here.

Leave a comment to tell us what you’re going to make first!

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Graduation Party A’ La Awesome

You know how boring I am when it comes to picking paint colors for my walls? (“Eh, should we go with white…or off white?”) That’s pretty much how I think when it comes to throwing parties.

For our son’s graduation party last week, I was thinking of serving something exciting like eh…cake and punch? Thankfully, I teamed up with two other moms for the occasion, celebrating our three graduates together in our church fellowship hall. This meant that the buffet table was amazing and if you can believe it – since mine wasn’t the only brain involved in the planning – the tables featured none other than…decorations. (I mean, I would have at least pulled out some table cloths. Though I would have had a very difficult time choosing between white or off white.)

Aside from pitching in on the overall cost and the work involved in putting something like this together, my only food assignment was to order a cake and cupcakes and to arrange for a popcorn machine.

Check out these cupcakes! We were soooo pleased with these – and would you believe, they were made by a 10 year-old girl who is already running her own business? These trays were completely empty within 30 minutes of the party starting. Obviously, I didn’t order enough. They were incredible cupcakes!

grad party 1

We chose to put a scripture on the cake instead of the graduates names. Asa’s biggest request was that he didn’t want a freaky frosting color that would turn all the guest’s teeth freaky colors. Therefore we went with white frosting with a white border. Hmm. Now I’m wondering if we should have gone with off white. (Relax. I’m kidding.)

grad party 2

The popcorn machine was running the entire two hours of the party, and our friends set up a fun stacked oreo cake.

grad party 3

The most amazing part of the food buffet was the Crostini Bar the other moms came up with. I’d never seen anything like it. It was gorgeous!

grad party 6

The table featured crusty breads, meats, cheeses, dips, spreads, grapes, and meatballs.

grad party 4

See how much better that is than a simple table of cake and punch? Though I will say that I’m noticing several lovely shades of white and off white in the bread baskets there.

grad party 5

Last but not least – my favorite part of our graduation party: Our very own godly graduate:

grad party 7

Asa was so honored by all the people that showed up to celebrate with him that day. Over 200 people came and went. It was every kind of awesome.

I cannot tell you how much we loved this day. God is so good to bless us with such a wonderful celebration with so many wonderful people. I’ve been reveling in the memories all week long (in between taking naps).

So, what’s your favorite: white or off white? (That is soooo not a real question. I just couldn’t resist.)

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A Surrendered Heart: It’s a Choice

Welcome to A Surrendered Heart: A Wife’s Journey to Love the Jesus Way. Click on the “Leave a Comment” button on each post to add your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions to the discussion. If you are a newsletter subscriber, please click through to this post on my website to add your comments to the discussion to be read by everyone. I look forward to hearing what you have to say! God be praised for the gift of marriage and for allowing us to grow in Him.

Read Lesson 1:  Why I Married This Guy
Read Lesson 2: So, What Does Your Husband Do?
Read Lesson 3: How Selfish is Your Prayer?
Read Lesson 4: Serve Because I Want To

Surrendered Heart Lesson 5

My husband is not perfect. (Beginning first with the fact that he chose to marry an imperfect woman. That would be me.)

Every day I have to choose how I respond to each imperfection displayed in my husband. When he is forgetful, how will I respond? When he isn’t working within my time frame, how will I respond? When he doesn’t see things from my point of view, how will I respond?

It is way too easy to respond to imperfections with annoyance and frustration. If you’re like me, you’ve found that if you’re annoyed at one thing, it’s very easy to become annoyed with twelve other things too. I certainly don’t need to be a “shrug everything off” wife, offering a giggle and a kiss each time my husband’s human side shows. But nothing justifies my ugly and sinful response. Nothing.

You and I have some choices to make. We can choose to love the Jesus way – in complete surrender – letting the Holy Spirit be at work; or we can take a nice long soak in an ugly puddle of selfishness. Why we would ever choose the latter is beyond me. But because of our human tendency to look inward as we try to problem solve without the help of Jesus, I fear that you and I too often find ourselves plopped right down in that muddy pit.

Too often we can find ourselves in a state of fear, worry, and frustration as we refuse to give up the control that ironically – we don’t even have in the first place. As we make our choices, we need to recognize this truth: When we refuse to let go of control, we are very much out of control. When we let go, surrendering our hearts to Jesus’ control – everything suddenly becomes peaceful. Problems may not vanish, but the peace is there, even if it passes understanding.

So how do we do this? How do we choose the right way? How do we make the choice to love our husband the Jesus way?

Luke 92324

Download Follow Me Printable Here

Two key points come from this verse:

  1. We must deny self.
  2. We must take up our cross daily.

Today. Then again tomorrow. And also the day after that. We have to deny our selfish thoughts and actions daily. Jesus commanded this because He knew that Satan would see to it that our selfish side would constantly fight to win our mind and heart focus. We must make the choice daily to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.

The result? Peace. Joy. Love. The fruit of the Spirit at work in a surrendered heart.

Take some time now to put your godly choices in writing.

Today I Choose

Download Today I Choose Printable Here

If you and I choose to let the Spirit work in our hearts – loving our husbands (and others) the Jesus way will be a peaceful and joyful effort. It is a choice. Which choice will you make?

Up For Discussion…Share With Us!

  • Share some ways you find that it is easy to love your husband!
  • What does it look like to “deny yourself and take up your cross daily?”
  • What ways can you choose to love your husband in a more Christ-like way?
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Low Sugar Lemon Loaf ~ a knock off of a Starbucks knock off

Ever had the Starbucks Lemon Loaf? Me neither. But I’ve seen it in their display case and it looks divine.

Recently I came across a recipe knock-off for the famous loaf. Therefore, I decided to make a knock-off of the knock-off. I’m guessing that by now, this recipe barely even resembles the Starbucks variety – except for the part about it being a loaf and being lemony. But yay for recipe inspiration! My family agrees that this recipe is a keeper.

Pucker up, by the way. This bread packs a wonderful, lemony punch. I don’t recommend that you eat this Lemon Bread with Lemon Water unless you want to make funny faces at your family all through breakfast. Come to think of it – definitely do eat the lemon bread with the lemon water. Take selfies. Report back to me.

Or you could just have this bread with coffee or milk. But that would just be sooooo normal.

Low Sugar Lemon Bread2

Low Sugar Lemon Bread

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup sucanat or brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup melted coconut oil

Stir together dry ingredients. Add eggs, vanilla, lemon juice, melted butter, and melted coconut oil. Mix well and pour into a buttered loaf pan. Bake in a 350° for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Poke hot loaf of bread with said toothpick several times, then pour lemon glaze over the top to coat completely.

Allow the loaf to sit in the pan for 10-15 minutes before removing. Cool on a plate.

Lemon Glaze

3 Tablespoons honey
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir ingredients together in a small saucepan over low heat until well combined. Pour over warm bread.

Low Sugar Lemon Bread

Ever tried the Starbucks Lemon Loaf? (P.S. I don’t even like the taste of Starbucks coffee. Is it just me?)

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54 Ounces of Organic Coconut Oil – As Low as $18.67!

carrington farms coconut oil

Here’s a super price for you on coconut oil that is:

  • organic
  • unrefined (has a light, coconut flavor)
  • cold pressed

If you buy it straight from Amazon today, it is $21.97 – a great price for coconut oil of this quality! But if you add it to your subscribe and save order, you’ll get a 15% discount – making it as low as $18.67. Snatch this up!

Grab your tub of Carrington Farms Extra Virgin Coconut Oil here.

This post contains affiliate links.

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