Living Room - The Couch That Won't Die


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Many of you are homeschoolers, so I thought I'd share an article I wrote for our state's homeschool magazine back in 2004. It was two years after our youngest had graduated and I was finally getting around to rearranging the rooms in our house to accomodate the new season of life.

The Couch That Won’t Die
by Lorie Codispoti

Frugal Living is a class that every homeschool student should be able to list on his transcript. It might be considered a bird class (one you fly through) to some, but to others it would be an enrichment class whose rewards would long outlast the final exam.

Like many homeschoolers, we are a one-income family. It’s always been our desire to maintain financial freedom and live within our means. The Lord has adequately supplied for us in this area, and as a result we now have a collection of stories that we plan to tell our grandchildren. The latest entry is the story of our couch that won’t die.

I think I was born with a natural tendency to squeeze a penny so hard that it reaches screaming proportions much like that of a dog whistle, so high that you can’t even hear it. I can remember trying to convince my father that coupons were like money in your pocket.

Frugality began its work in me years ago as I watched my newlywed aunt collect items to decorate her home. She loved old glass bottles and the only way to acquire such treasures frugally was to go on what she called a dig. I had the privilege of accompanying her on several of these adventures. After carefully scouting out an ancient dumpsite, we’d spend hours digging down to the level that housed these valuable relics. We’d squeal like giddy schoolgirls upon each discovery. Dozens of bottles were collected this way, and I left the experience with quite an education about antique glass, not to mention a curious nose for digging.

A desire for treasure hunting is a prerequisite for frugal living, and I love every aspect of the dig. Whether it’s research that I’m engaged in, books that I’m searching for, or reduced canned goods I’m sifting through at the grocery store, treasure hunting always reinforces my motivation to save money and live frugally.

I personally think our family couch should be mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records for its longevity. It has no monetary value, but it has almost reached certifiable antique status. And like most homeschool family couches, it has been well USED. My babies were nursed and read to on it. They learned to read and logged many classroom hours seated upon its cushions. Many fellowship events have overloaded it with more bodies than it was designed to handle. We’ve laughed, cried, prayed, and played on it, and everything from cowboy sheet forts to princess castles has been built upon its sturdy frame. Why, the sick have even been nursed back to health cradled between its arms.

Yet, after all these years and all this use, there continues to remain one outstanding feature about this aging dinosaur that astounds me. There isn’t a worn spot on the fabric anywhere! Honest! Buttons have popped, cushions deflated, stains acquired, and bolt replacements made after spring explosions (an interesting event when guests are visiting), but there is no indication of fabric wear. The Lord has kept this couch from completely wearing out, thereby negating the frugal side of me from justifying a new one, until now.

Seasons change and it’s time for the schoolroom to morph into the den it was designed to be. Both our children have graduated and our home is putting on a new face. For years I have anticipated the day that this couch would finally die. In fact, I have even gleefully envisioned lighting a match to the old thing and watching it burn in the backyard while we roast marshmallows over its coals.

Everything changes, but not everything is changed in the process. I may acquire a new couch to go in my new den, but have I learned the lesson its longevity has to teach me? It’s not frugality, as one might think. Frugal living has been the means, but the underlying purpose of this lesson has been contentment. It’s strange, but I think that in a nostalgic sort of way, I’m going to actually miss this old couch. Maybe I’ve learned that contentment is not something we dig to find like a buried treasure. But rather, it is more of an attitude that one acquires while searching out the treasures in each season of life. I hope to testify, like the apostle Paul, that “I have learned that whatever state I am in to be content.”

Because frugality will always be at the core of my being, I have decided to recycle part of my couch’s oak frame and mount it to the den wall. Long live the Codispoti couch! It will house the quilts I plan to make now that I am a retired homeschool mom. The ashes from the rest of it will be added to my compost pile and possibly pave the way for a new hybrid vegetable—the couch potato. (Sorry! I just had to say that!) Whatever its fate, this old couch will serve as a reminder that Frugal Living’s been a favorite class, and contentment a valuable lesson.

© 2004 The Couch That Won’t Die by Lorie Codispoti. Lorie is a retired homeschool mom. She can be reached at gatesofelloree@yahoo.com H


Kitchen - Fakeaways


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For two weeks now the super-store in our nearby town has been out of paper sandwich bags. I thought that was a little strange, but yesterday my husband stopped by a local grocery store on his way home from work and found that they too were out of brown, paper sandwich bags. What's up with that, I wondered?

Mystery solved! I read today that sandwich bag sales have risen 25% in the past month. Cash- strapped shoppers have taken to fakeaway lunches these days.

(Fakeaway is defined as, "a homemade meal similar to a take-away meal purchased from a restaurant.")

Fakeaway? The word sounds criminal, doesn't it? Well... "Book 'er, Dan O!" I'm guilty. I've been fake-awaying for years. (Hey, I'm the mom that cleaned and saved those plastic pancake syrup containers and invented the first water bottles for my kids in the early 1990's. Now you can buy it that way at Mac's House of Beef, without the handy handle for belt loops and no-drip, no-lose pop top, of course. Oh! If I'd of only known.)

Truth is, if you think about it, the fast-food industry are the ones who've taken what used to be made at home, mass produced it, and started selling it through a window - in a PAPER BAG! Now, I ask you, where did fakeaways really come from? (That's OURS, girls! We own that origin.) I think someone has their definition backwards, and their origin confused.

There now. I feel so much better now that we've solved the true origin of fakeaways. Now it's time to put out an APB on brown paper sandwich bags and see if I can find some. Funny thing is, I don't even want them to pack lunches with. Duh! I use a lunchbox for that. ;-)


What To Do With Brown Paper Bags

This addendum to the Fakeaways post is in response to your emails asking me what I planned to do with the bags when I found them. (BTW, thanks for writing!)

I like to keep the sandwich sized paper bags on hand for many reasons. First, they make great gift bags. You can decorate them (see link below), or just fold over, punch two holes and tie a raffia bow to secure. Second, dress up a small plant by covering the ugly plastic container it comes in with a paper bag. Roll down the tops (or cut down and trim edges with fancy scissors), fill with a purchased small plant (like a cactus or African violet), tie a bit of raffia just under the rim... and voila, you have a nice table accessory. Third, they make great pages in a homemade card or scrapbook.

One year I made gingerbread paper ornaments for our Christmas tree:

I made two identical cut-outs from the paper bags (use brown paper grocery bags - they're stronger), and an additional cut-out from white quilt batting. I sandwiched the batting between the paper and machine stitched (set on the basting stitch) around the entire edge of the cut out with a thick contrasting color. I decorated the fronts and attached a string loop to hang on the tree.

Here are a few more ideas:

Paper dolls - http://jas.familyfun.go.com/crafts?page=CraftDisplay&craftid=12021

Paper bag gingerbread house - http://www.makingfriends.com/winter/christmas_gingerbread_house.htm

Paper bag flowers - http://www.marthastewart.com/article/paper-bag-flowers

Scherenschnitte - http://www.marthastewart.com/article/paper-cutouts

There's so much you can do that you will find yourself asking for paper instead of plastic at the grocery store, or if you're like me, I save the paper bags that I bring my frozen foods home in. There are just too many good things to use them for to throw them away. Have fun! H


Bathroom - Medicine Free Med Cabinet


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Medicine Free Med Cabinet

(NOTE: This is not medical advice. This is more of a testimony of what has worked for our family over the years.)

Though I've seen the benefits of using an antibiotic, and have helped to support the pharmacutical companies with my fair share of perscription drugs, I am not a fan; nor am I a believer that they are always the best choice. The side effects that I have had to deal with after using some presciption drugs have sometimes been more complicated than the condition that sent me to the doctor to begin with. For the most part, I have tried not to use prescriptions unless I absolutely have to. It is my goal to have a medicine cabinet in the bathroom that is filled with anything but medicine. ;-)

Of course there's always the other extreme: I read once about a Native American mother who used her own urine as drops for her ailing son's earache. I don't know if it worked or not, but I don't live in the Barrens, in a tent, and miles from the nearest clinic, so I think I might have passed on that particular remedy when my kids had an earache.

For most common ailments, like an earache, sore throat, cold, runny nose, etc. I was told once (by a doctor) that if it lasted longer than a week, and nothing we tried at home was helping, then we should probably see a doctor. For the most part, this is the general rule I have followed.

I am more of a preventative maintenance person, which means that you have to be a little more pro-active when it comes to the overall health care of your family. There are a host of wonderful resources available for you to read. Here are a few resources that I have found to be extremely helpful over the years:

> Perscription for Nutritional Healing - Second Edition (by James & Phyllis Balch, both doctors)

> Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine - Second Edition (by Michael Murray & Joseph Pizzorno)
> Making the Best of Basics - Chapter 14 (by James Talmage Stevens)
> Foods That Harm Foods That Heal (by Reader's Digest)
> Food Your Miracle Medicine (by Jean Carper)

> Medical Training Institute of America ( Basic Care Bulletins)

Two more things for your medicine chest:

LOG Water

This recipe was given to me by a doctor years ago. It has proven itself with our family, and other's that I have shared it with. In fact, my dear friend, Susan L., affectionately named this concoction, LOG water. Make up a batch of this to take for colds and flus, as well as a preventative for the same.

For Earaches

One of the best things you can do to prevent an earache (and stay off infections) is to put two drops of hydrogen peroxide in each ear after you get out of the shower. If the ear is already hurting try this twice a day and see if it clears up after a couple of days. (You will hear the oxygen bubbles doing their thing, so don't be alarmed.) A pharmacist once told me that he used a drop of rubbing alcohol in each ear after a shower. He said that this is the main ingredient in most ear drops. We've done the alcohol, but I think the peroxide works better if the ear is hurting.

For Urinary Tract Infections

Some woman are more prone to this than others, and once you have a UTI it seems that you are more susceptible to them, unless you make some lifestyle and diet changes. I have found several things that have worked for me.

To prevent a UTI:

~ Keep the sugar intake LOW. Too much sugar throws off your chemical balance and will multiply the bad bacteria and create havoc in your urinary tract.

~ Buy concentrated cranberry juice (not the kind in the grocery that's loaded with sugar). I get this from a health food store. It comes in a 16 oz. bottle and costs about $12. Twice a day I add 1 T. cranberry to a full glass of water and drink it. (After a while the taste isn't so bad.)

~ WATER! Drink LOTS of it and cut back on the sugar drinks.

~ Wipe from front to back after a bowel movement.

~ Don't have intercourse during your period.

~ Bump up your vitamin C and garlic intake.

If it's too late for preventative and you feel the onset of a UTI, here's a good regiment to go on (but ONLY for 3 days - no longer - this is VERY important):

~ Cut ALL red meat, white flour, and sugar completely out of your diet. DON'T cheat on this. All three of these feed the bad bacteria and cause it to multiply rapidly.

~ Drink 16 oz. of water EVERY hour during the day. (You can also do 8 oz. every half hour. Yes, you will pee a lot, but that is a good thing. You need to flush, flush, flush your system.)

~ To 8 of the glasses of water add: 1 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice and 1 T. cranberry concentrate.

~ Eat plain, unflavored, unsweetened yogurt throughout the day.

~ Take Acidopholis (Get this at the health food store and follow directions on label.)

The key here is to starve the bad and multiply the good bacteria.

Note: Antibiotics kill both the good and the bad bacteria. Take Acidopholis after (not during) any antibiotic regiment. This will prevent yeast overgrowth too. (Taking A. while on antibiotics is a waste of time. The antibiotic will kill the good bacteria you are trying to replenish with the A.) H


Kids Room - Baby Feet Decor


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Baby Feet Decor

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation,
and says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" Isaiah 52:7

This sounds odd, and I've never seen it done, but if I were decorating a nursery again, I think I'd use a baby feet theme. Why not? It is my favorite baby part. It's the first thing I want to see when a mother brings that new baby to church. We've all seen those cute little puppy print comforters with matching curtains, and bear paw print sheet sets. There's much to choose from in the world of nursery decor, but nothing is as sweet and adorable as those precious little toes and tiny little feet of a newborn baby.

Think about it. Have you ever seen an ugly pair of baby feet? Never! I've seen some ugly babies, but never have they had ugly feet. There! That settles it. Baby feet wall paper. Tiny photographs of all kinds of baby feet, hung as a collage on the main wall of the nursery. And, if they are your baby's feet, all the more adorable.

God likes feet too; so much so that he mentions them by name and calls them lovely in Isaiah 52:7, "How lovely are the feet of those who bring good news." Have you ever stopped to think about the opportunity your child will have to herald the coming King? Have you ever cuddled and caressed those tiny toes and prayed for those feet to grow up and "bring good news"? May all of our children's feet be referred to, by the Lord, as "lovely."

I wonder if Mary gazed at Baby Jesus' feet and pondered the many miles He would walk to proclaim salvation to mankind. I wonder if she prayed specifically for the wee little feet of her newborn Son. One day those feet would be washed by the tears and hair of a woman so humbled by Him that everyone in the room would be amazed by her act. Mary knew that her Son was the Christ, but she had no idea that those precious little feet would be pierced by a nail and hung on a cross to bleed for her sin.

You may not know who Virginia Evers is, but I bet you'd recognize the gold (or silver) pin of two tiny feet that she designed. While preparing for a pro-life march in San Diego, on the first anniversary of Roe v. Wade, she saw an ad in her local newspaper that pictured the feet of a 10-week-old fetus. She told her husband that the precious little feet of that baby should be the symbol of the pro-life movement. A few years later Virginia designed the Precious Feet lapel pin and not long after that the symbol was designated the International Pro-Life Symbol.

Job testified in Job 23:11, "My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside." This verse might make a wonderful border in a baby feet themed nursery. It would certainly make a wonderful prayer. May our feet always follow hard after the Lord and may He keep us from turning in any other direction.

What better way to celebrate the gift of life, the joy that a new baby brings, and the grateful hearts of each family member than to decorate the nursery with baby feet. H


Kitchen - Apple Cider and Pumpkin Seeds


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Apple Cider and Pumpkin Seeds

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The colors, the smell of wood stoves burning, the feel of the crisp air, the leaves falling like snowflakes, apples, acorns, pumpkins, and comfort foods that beckon a family to come and enjoy some time together at the end of a busy day.Here's one of our family favorites. This doubles as a wonderful hot beverage and a dessert.

Here's another quick and easy recipe. Pack up a bunch of little snack bags and take them with you when you have a full day of errands and activities. When the munchies hit, the kids will have a healthy, cheap snack to fill their tummies till you get home... and it's an easy clean-up if one of your little ones accidently spills a bag.


Dining Room - It's Not About The Cooking

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Practice hospitality. Live in harmony with one another.

Romans 12:13, 16

It's Not About The Cooking

Confession: I really don't like to cook that much, but I thoroughly enjoy having company. Isn't that crazy? Company and a disdain for cooking - the two just don't seem to go together, do they?

My grandmother was like that too. She didn't like to cook. I'll always remember the day she rattled my ice bin with that shocking confession. This, from the world's greatest cook? How could she say such a thing? It was what she said next that has become a standard in the way I view cooking and serving others. She told me that, although she really didn't like to cook, she really enjoyed people coming together at her home, and that food was a great medium. (If you feed them they will come!)

Grandmother made some of the BEST food I ever ate. She became famous in her small town with her homemade pies (coconut cream was my favorite). My grandfather ran a diner and the both of them worked very hard to provide for their family through the specialties they provided their regular customers. They rose VERY early to prepare the day's menu items. We awoke every morning to see her peeling a 50 lb. bag of potatoes for french fries, and to the wonderful smell of homemade chocolate filling for one of her pies. Grandfather would be in the pantry grinding all the beef for hamburgers and pork for barbeque sandwiches.

Grandmother would go from helping her husband to preparing food for her family, and anyone else that happened down her driveway that day. She decided, as a young woman, that she needed to develop the art of cooking if that was what brought people to her home. That attitude served her very well for many years, and I would venture to guess that not many people ever knew that she really didn't like to cook (until now ;-) ).

Now, contrast that with my mother-in-love, who absolutely LOVES to cook. She relishes the idea of spending a whole day in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove. One of the things I've learned from her is that the wow factor is not in WHAT you make, but in HOW you present it.

She doesn't use complicated recipes. In fact, she is very much a boxed mix and jarred sauce type of cook. What she does have in her favor, and what wows her guests, is her contagious hospitable spirit and entertaining personality. I dare say that if her brownies burned she'd scrape the bottoms off, turn them upside down, slap a huge dollop of whipped topping on each one and top them off with the shavings of a shredded candy bar. You'd think you had just ordered the specialty dessert of the week at some fancy restaurant. She'd enter the dining room with a tray filled, all while laughing and carrying on like nothing had ever burned in the kitchen.

Can you see what my grandmother and my mother-in-love have in common, though their views of cooking are totally different? They both love the idea of their homes bringing people together. Hospitality can be nurtured and developed, whether you love cooking or not.

This attitude is one that I hope to continue perfecting as time goes on and the Lord continues to bring people to our home. Now, where did I put that box of macaroni and cheese? H